When considering “interrailing”, most people conjure up an image of backpacking students travelling throughout the sunny summer months. What many people do not recognise is that interrailing is also a fantastic way to travel throughout the festive season. For those unfamiliar with the term, interrailing is a unique and personalised method of travel. Just one pass opens up 33 European countries for exploration, and all journeys are made via train. 

There are endless benefits to travelling this way. The sense of freedom awarded through the extent of choice available, means that travellers are in control of their journeys. Interrailing is also very customer friendly, with an easy-to-use paper/mobile pass. This is accompanied by a convenient “Rail Planner” app, which makes planning your trip (relatively) stress free. Moreover, the main beneficiaries are budget-concerned students. Interrailing Is a cost effective form of travel, with subsidised youth prices available for those aged under 27. 

Of course, travelling between countries by train alone can be time-consuming compared to the speed of air travel. However, this issue is declining with the increasingly popular and efficient high-speed rail lines, with some as fast as 300 kilometres per hour! Additionally, the con of a longer journey is outweighed by the environmental benefits. When comparing carbon emissions, train travel virtually always comes out ahead of air travel, and often by a lot. Even using hybrid travel for longer routes (a flight then train or vise versa), will significantly lower your environmental impact. Interrailing means you can visit several locations in one trip, with lower costs and a lower carbon footprint too.  

If you are planning to celebrate the festive season by visiting traditional European Christmas markets, interrailing could facilitate this trip! Europe has many different options; a quick online search of the ‘best Christmas markets’ brings up almost exclusively European destinations, each as beautiful and festive as the next! Interrailing removes the dilemma of choosing a single destination by providing an opportunity to visit numerous winter wonderlands, all under one easy-to-use pass! 

Detailed below are two European routes, which are especially popular during the festive months, according to a survey of 173,620 travellers.

The first route begins at Govone and Asti. Here, travellers can experience the largest Christmas market in Italy, specialising in artisanal craft. The next destination is Basel, which hosts three traditional markets in the centre of the city. This journey itself is amazing. Beginning with a train from Switzerland to Italy, you are surrounded by rural winter landscapes and snowy mountains – a vista you don’t get on a plane thousands of metres in the air! From Basel, the route heads east to Munich to experience authentic German markets dating back to the 14th century. Vienna’s “Magic of Advent” follows, where you can witness the mesmerising light displays outside of the monumental town hall. The next stop is Budapest – hosting the best European Christmas Market for 2022, according to the EBD survey. Finally, this trip terminates in Zagreb, ending this winter excursion in the only destination consecutively awarded the title of “Best Christmas Market in Europe ” three times. 

The alternate route heads north, beginning in Brussels with the vast “Winter Wonders” event, which features more than 200 festive attractions. After, it proceeds to Germany for the Leipzig Markets- one of the oldest in the country- before heading east to Wroclaw. This may not appear to be the most obvious destination in Poland, with Krakow dominating the festive scene. However, smaller Polish cities, like Wroclaw, transform into winter wonderlands during this time of the year, only their beauty is often admired by fewer people. This is a great destination for travellers who prefer discovering rural towns rather than bigger European cities. 

Venturing further north into the Balkans, the route stops first in Vilnius. The city hosts two large markets, a Christmas train, and a showstopper of a tree. Then you progress to Tallinn to wonder at the first Christmas tree ever displayed in Europe! Finally, the journey ends in Porvoo. Just half an hour out of the Finnish southern capital, it offers just as much history and festive cheer, but is less touristy and also cheaper. Optionally, the trip could be extended with a journey on the “Santa Claus Express”, which travels from the nearby Helsinki to snow-covered Lapland in the north- the official homeland of Santa! 

In both routes, a 7 days in 1 month pass would cover exploring all 6 locations, as well as both an outbound and inbound journey back to your home destination. If you live in the UK, this return journey could be used to stop off at one of the UK’s own wonderful Christmas markets, such as those in London, Manchester and Edinburgh among many others. This interrail pass offers an unrivalled chance to visit at least 6 countries for approximately £250! Moreover, each of these seven travel days offers unlimited train use within a 24 hour period – meaning you could visit multiple cities, or even countries, using only one travel day!

The routes suggested here require both significant financial and time commitments. However, there is the ability to adjust the journey to your own preferences, with a variety of pass options available. For example, the 4 days in 1 month pass could be used for a much shorter trip, costing approximately £162. The freedom of interrailing is unrivalled and any trip can be tailored to suit your personal needs. For support in creating your own trip, see the following resources linked below: