Interlaken to Amsterdam by night train

Staff member: Shariah // Trip date: Nov 2017

Swiss cheese, chocolates and Alps that rise above a lush valley with two crystal clear lakes that look as if they are mirrors placed on the ground, reflecting the sky and all that falls beneath it. I wouldn't blame you if you thought I was describing Heaven, I mean Interlaken may very well be as close as we can get to Heaven on Earth... Well besides the food costs of course haha!
Switzerland may be lacking in the affordable food department, but the pristine scenery and kind locals certainly make up for it.

 

In my short time in Interlaken, I was able to travel up the Jungfraujoch, indulge in some local cuisine and explore the township itself. But like many good things, my time in Interlaken had come to an end and it was time to move on to my next destination, Amsterdam. I decided to break the journey up by overnighting in Lucerne, this also gave me some extra time to say goodbye to Switzerland.

 

I used one of the Inter Regio Express services to travel to Lucerne and used my first class Eurail Global Flexi pass to board the train. I had made sure to reserve seats prior to travel as I wanted guaranteed seating so that I wasn't left standing for a few hours. Swiss trains are not compulsory to reserve unless they are Swiss Scenic trains, but you definitely want to reserve seats so that the journey is more comfortable. With this particular train, if you have indeed reserved seats on board, the seat numbers will be lit up in blue and will say they are reserved - This helps to let all passengers without reservations know that they cannot take your seats.

 

One of the hardest things I have found with travelling by train is that it is really difficult to capture the beautiful scenery as you pass by. The photos either turn out blurry or you can see the lights reflected in the windows. So take it from me, sit back, relax and just live in and enjoy the moment! Sometimes the best memories aren't captured on a camera, sometimes they are the stories you have for yourself and only yourself.

 

Much like the previous Golden Pass Line train I had taken from Montreux to Zweisimmen, this too began to ascend above the lakes and wind through the Swiss Mountain ranges. I started to see less greenery as we travelled further. Soon we welcomed snow-covered villages, Icicles hanging from boulders, half frozen creeks and waterfalls and children outside playing as the snow fell.
After an hour and a half into the journey, I noticed we had made a descent into another valley where there was less snow but so many green pastures filled with little flowers, homes here and there and a few cows with the large cow bells hanging from their necks. I wish I could tell you what the scenery looked liked as we pulled into Lucerne, but I found the seats to be quite cozy and ended up having a nap! All I could remember was the platforms being very long and how busy the station was.

 

Once you walk out of the station you will find Lake Lucerne to be straight ahead of you and The Kappelbrucke is really close by, you cannot miss it if you walk straight out of the station and cross over the few roads so that you're standing in front of the Lake (It should be to your left). Lucerne can be very chilly in November, so make sure to pack thermals and gloves!

 

After spending only one night in Lucerne, I have made sure to put this beautiful city on my bucket list so I can tackle Mt. Pilatus by taking the steepest cogwheel up to the summit! Rail Plus does offer this itself, but I just didn't give myself enough time here to enjoy it - silly me!

 

My final day in Switzerland had come and it was time to farewell this beautiful nation. It was safe to say that I wasn't ready and my partner had to drag me back to the station! I had a departure in the evening which was due to travel to Zurich. From Zurich, I would board my first overnight service to Hamburg, Germany. Once in Hamburg, I had two trains to take in order to reach Amsterdam.

 

Now, as my overnight journey departed from Zurich at 08:00 pm, I knew they would not be serving dinner as that is too late for dinner and most passengers would be going to sleep soon. I decided instead to have dinner from one of the eateries within Lucerne station. I found a little cheap Japanese place in the lower level of the station that served hot and cold dishes, across from here was a small little superette where I bought a few snacks for our next train journey.

 

The train journey through to Zurich was yet another Inter Regio service but a previous model to the one I had travelled on to reach Lucerne. It was just as comfortable and had the same configuration, just an earlier equipment type. When travelling by night, you don't see much scenery, except for the lit villages you pass by. When you use train services in the evenings, it certainly pays to bring a good book with you or have your device full of games and music so that the travel time passes by faster.

 

When arriving into Zurich, I found the station to be incredibly busy but still quite easy to navigate. There is plenty of food within the station and if you have trouble finding a departure board so you know which platform to be on, don't be afraid to ask someone in the station. The Swiss don't bite and are a very friendly people.

 

FINALLY! This has been the part of my Europe extravaganza that I have been waiting for the most - My overnight train to Hamburg! I had booked a double deluxe sleeper for my partner and I as this compartment has a toilette and shower inside, so no sharing or waiting for others to use the bathroom facilities. Now, with all double rooms onboard NightJet services, they are upper and lower berth, much like a bunk bed. The shower and toilet facilities and overall the room itself are very humble and quite small. Of course, the sleeper compartments on board are not going to be like a hotel room, it is a train, after all, so do keep that in mind if you travel via an overnight train.

 

Once we found our sleeper, we had complimentary wine, water and snacks waiting for us, as well as slippers and a bath mat size towelette that I used as a shower mat. We also had a menu for breakfast where 6 items were included in the costs of our sleeper, anything further would be additional costs. So we ticked off our chosen items and the stewardess collected our menus shortly after checking our passes and reservations. The stewardess also took our passes and reservations and held onto them until breakfast was served the following day, 1 hour prior to our arrival.

 

I decided I would test out the shower before settling into bed and found it a tad confusing, so I enlisted the help of my partner. My partner found that the shower and basin work the same, there is a dial that allows you to choose your ideal temperature and a separate button that you press to have the water turn on. When in the shower, you receive a high pressured blast of water that lasts for about 45 seconds. In between each blast of water, I suppose you're meant to lather yourself up with soap and I'm also guessing they only allow for short periods of water to come through so that you don't flood the bathroom. After my quick shower I settled into bed and fell asleep incredibly fast, I put this down to the subtle rocking of the train that lulled me into a deep sleep.

 

I awoke in the morning to my alarm so that we were prepared for breakfast, which was quite filling. It was early in the morning where the sun was just starting to rise, so the sky was filled with streaks of pink and orange, while the forest we were travelling through looked as if the trees had been set on fire by the red and orange leaves littered in the branches.

 

Once in Hamburg, we found our connecting train to Hannover was just across the platform from the one we had arrived on, so it was really easy to make the transfer. This service was an ICE sprinter train and was only an hour long. I was still a little tired so I decided to nap on this train.
Once we arrived in Hannover, we then took an elevator down to the lower level so we could find our next platform, which ended up being the very same one we had come from.

 

Our final train to Amsterdam was an ICE regional express train where our first class seats were within a compartment of 6 seats - 3 seats on each side with a table in the middle. There were two other travellers within the compartment who also happened to be Kiwis on their first overseas trip. We spent so much time talking about home and the countries we had travelled through, that we missed much of the scenery outside. During this time of the day, the weather had turned a bit sour and there was torrential rain, so it was a bit hard to see outside anyway. Luckily for us though, the weather cleared up just as we arrived into Amsterdam Central.

 

I found exiting the station to be a little confusing for a first timer as I saw a lot of passengers exiting through gates where they held down either a card or ticket to exit. There was an information desk just opposite these gates and they let me know that it was just for local travellers who had something similar to a London Oyster card, so it was perfectly fine to just walk through.
As soon as you get out of the station, you will see that the main road is bustling with people, cars, bikes and trams - so you will definitely want to take a taxi if your hotel is a 15-minute walk from the station! Some of the taxis in Amsterdam accept cards and some simply don't have the EFTPOS terminal at all, so make sure to ask what method you can use for payment before you get in.

 

Finally making it to Amsterdam was a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to cycle through the city, visit Vondelpark and take a cruise through the canals. Although I didn't get around to doing the cruise, I definitely had a blast cycling through the canals and Vondelpark. Usually your hotel will promote where you can rent bikes and if not, you can always ask the receptionist as chances are they most likely got to work on a bike.

 

Out of all 5 trains that it took to get to Amsterdam, my top two favourites was the Inter Regio Express service from Interlaken to Lucerne and the NightJet service from Zurich to Hamburg. I loved the Inter Regio Express service for the scenery that rolled by and the comfortable seats on board. The NightJet service was an experience in itself and completely different to anything I have done. Although the double deluxe room was a bit pokey, I enjoyed myself nonetheless and would 100% recommend you consider travelling by a NightJet service or any other overnight train in general! It's an experience in itself and can sometimes save you more money rather than booking a hotel.

 

Happy rail travels to you all and hopefully you too get to experience an overnight service as well!

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