London to Berlin by train is a well-traveled route, guaranteed to throw up a mix of backpackers, commuters, German businessmen and those on their way to Eastern Europe and beyond. The journey used to take passengers via Brussels, entailing a gloomy 2-hour wait in the midnight wasteland of Brussels Midi, with the night growing colder and the huddled passengers more surreal. Now, however, changing train schedules have made the course far more civilized. Travelers can catch a 4pm Eurostar from London’s St Pancras, be in Paris by 7.15pm, walk a gentle ten minutes from Gare du Nord to Gare de l’est and jump aboard the 8.05 (8.20 at weekends) to Berlin. And for those with a bit of a penchant for Paris, there is always the option of taking an earlier Eurostar and doing some shopping en route.
The night train ‘Perseus’ is part of German railway’s City Night Line service. It’s one of those great continental trains – tall, hulking and with a wide range of travel options. Backpackers on a budget can opt for a cheap-seat and snug-up under a jacket for a night of youthful endurance. Those with slightly more to spare can go for a bed in a couchette, a sleeper, or for the very decadent, a deluxe sleeper complete with an ensuit shower and breakfast in bed.
Most trains have a restaurant car (complete with white table cloths and miniature shaded lamps), so after boarding, guests can relax with a leisurely glass before stretching out and drifting off as Europe races past outside. 45 minutes before arrival, the train guard tours the sleeping cars giving morning wakeup calls allowing passengers time to pack up and be fresh and ready to step out in Berlin. Trains arrive into Berlin Hauptbahnhof at around 8am. Travelers are in time for one of Berlin’s hearty breakfasts, and commuters can make it into work.
The best way to book tickets is online. www.raileurope.co.uk is the cheapest place and also allows for a flexible ticket. Avoid entering a straight through London to Berlin route and instead book London to Paris and Paris to Berlin as two separate journeys. This is cheaper and allows you more flexibility with your timing. Tickets for the Eurostar open 120 days before travel; the night train booking usually opens 90 days before, however, this year due to engineering works in France, some dates are opening around 60 days before.
Eurostar prices start at £69 return and rise quite steeply from there. On the night train, Saver tickets range from a seat at £76 return, to couchettes at £102, to one bed deluxe sleepers at £296. There are also Savings Fare tickets that are sometimes available, which are cheaper, and Full Price Flexible Returns that are considerably more expensive. Those traveling with a rail pass will be expected to pay a supplement.
Couchettes are probably the most comfortable, economic option – beds are in compartments of 4 or 6. Travelers are recommended to go for a higher rather than a lower bunk as this offers more privacy.
image copyright Wolfgang Scholvien via http://press.visitberlin.de/en/article/film-photo