Since driving is so overrated, ditch the wheel and instead see Europe by train. Rather than worrying about getting lost or parking, you can experience those romantic notions of a journey by railway – think the Hogwarts Express, not Strangers on a Train – with a single ticket that works at nearly all European stations. So many cities are accessible by train, but travelers tend to gravitate toward the major European capitals like London and Paris. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path – or track, if you will – consider adding a few of these smaller cities to your interrailing itinerary.
San Sebastián– Spain
San Sebastián is coastal town with a relaxed resort feel. Step off the train and into this Bay of Biscay spot full of idyllic beaches, seaside bars, and unforgettable architecture. Snack on pintxo (small dishes similar to tapas) at bars like Gandarias or Paco Bueno. Swim in the waters off of Playa de Gros, or just soak up the sun.
Hossegor – France
Surfing might not be the first adventure that comes to mind when you think of France, but Hossegor (also known as Soorts-Hossegor) is one the best places to catch waves. La Nord and La Sud are just a couple of the town’s famous beaches. If surfing isn’t your style, you can wander the cobbled streets in the search of delicious food and your next Instagram post. Find both a delicious snack and a photo op at the Patisserie Du Gulf, a mouthwatering pastry shop.
Bamberg – Germany
There are so many wonderful German cities you can stop at on your epic interrailing journey. Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich are probably what first pop into your head, but since this list is off-the-beaten track, our suggestion is Bamberg. This German town, with its Baroque architecture and riverfront location, looks like it wandered over from the pages of a fairytale. Bamberg is so unique it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for more than 20 years. Stop in the traditional Bavarian brewery Mahr’s Brau. Sip on your drink of choice in the beer garden, or pull up a stool at the bar to enjoy some pub food. You’ll also want to see Bamberg’s breathtaking, and fragrant, Rose Garden at the New Residence.
Wroclaw - Poland
Wroclaw is another waterfront town to add to your interrailing bucket list. Situated along the River Oder in Western Poland, this city is a culturally diverse destination. Wroclaw has undergone numerous name changes and belonged to several different countries throughout its history. Today, you can explore the city’s remaining Medieval and Gothic architecture. Wroclaw’s Old Town Hall dates back to the 13th century. Eat at the hall’s restaurant, visit its museum, and maybe even catch a concert.
Alnwick – England
What is a trip across Europe without seeing at least one castle? Tucked away in Northumberland, Alnwick is a small town with a big castle. Alnwick Castle might even look familiar. It served as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films. After exploring the castle, venture upwards to the Treehouse Restaurant. Bookworms will want to stop at Barter Books, a cozy and absolutely enormous bookshop.
Roubaix – France
People’s hearts and minds are often filled with Paris when they think of France, and who could blame them? Certainly spend some time in the French capital, but don’t let that stop you from venturing out into the rest of this gorgeous country. On the interrailing trip of your dreams, think about stopping in Roubaix. This French city has all of the stunning architecture and charming scenery you would expect of a European town with the benefit of being under the radar of the average tourist. Be sure to stop La Piscine, an art deco pool that has been transformed into a museum.
Zwolle – Netherlands
Climb to the top of the Peperbustoren in Zwolle. This soaring tower is a part of the Basilica of Our Lady, and it offers you a panoramic view of this Dutch city. From your bird’s eye view, see if you can spot the sprawling Wezenlanden Park or the Museum de Fundatie, an art hot spot. Get a bite at Hofvlietvilla that serves up fresh, delicious meals on a waterfront terrace.
Lake Bohinj – Slovenia
Europe is such a diverse, but an easily traversable continent. You can feel like you are entering completely different worlds on a single interrailing trip. If you want your trip to take you somewhere out of the hustle and bustle of cities, there is no better place than Lake Bohinj. This spot in Slovenia centers around a crystal clear lake, as the name suggests. But, you will also find yourself surrounded by the Julian Alps and lush green forests. You can hike, bike, horseback ride, swim, and fall in love with nature at Lake Bohinj.
Matera – Italy
Matera is most well-known for its sassi, cave dwellings. Materia is sometimes even known as the City of Rocks. No longer inhabited, these curious dwellings carved into a gorge are open to exploration. This unique feature led to Matera’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you find yourself in Matera in July, you can join the Festa Della Bruna. This annual festival involves an elaborate procession and a spectacular fireworks show.
Zell am See – Austria
For those of you who do want to get behind the wheel at some point during your interrailing adventure, Zell am See is the place to do it. The Grossglockner High Alpine Road takes you on a winding trip through the mountains. You can also hike the road for a more leisurely exploration of the sprawling view. The city’s mountainous view is made all the more beautiful by the crystalline Lake Zell. Wintertime visitors will find themselves in a skiing paradise, while the warm weather months will keep you outdoors hiking, biking, and exploring.