Interrailing Europe Routes with Kids
As promised, I’ve finally got round to reviewing our 3 week Interrail route. I think it’s taken me this long to recover. We ticked off 5 wonderful European countries and countless cities and whilst it wasn’t a traditional relaxing family holiday, we learnt so much about ourselves and the places we visited.
“The trains always arrive at your station, the question is which one will you take?”
Mehmet Murat ildan
If you haven’t read it already then you might want to start with my first post on planning an Interrail adventure with kids. It covers most of the things you’ll need to know before you go like planning your route and booking your reservations. And if you’re looking for general advise on European train travel check out these awesome Interrail tips.
This 3 week Interrail route guide contains affiliate links. This means I receive a small fee if you book via this post. At no extra cost to you.
We chose a 5 day global pass for this 3 week Interrail route. This meant we could travel on any 5 days during a two week period. Although we had a three week holiday it was actually better value doing it this way and then flying back home from Milan. If we took trains on any of the days outside of our allotted 5, I just bought the tickets separately which worked out cheaper than upgrading to a 7 day pass.
Interrailing has a different name if you’re buying from outside of Europe, it’s Eurail but all the rules are the same.
Our Interrailing Itinerary
Day one: UK – Belgium
We left the UK, getting a train from our local station, Lichfield, down to London then boarded the Eurostar to Brussels. The Eurostar hub was absolutely packed, and it took a long time to navigate through customs which I really hadn’t expected. Give yourself plenty of time, most of of the trains we caught were “jump on and off” but the Eurostar requires you go through passport control.
We arrived in Brussels in the late afternoon so just enough time to enjoy a beer at a small festival in Brussels Park (which we stumbled on by accident!). Then it was a taxi to the wonderful Radisson Red Brussels, our home for the next three nights. You can read about ten epic things to do in Brussels with kids here.
Time travelling – 7 hours.
Day 2 – Brussels
The Radisson Red is in the Parliament Quarter so in the height of summer, the area is pretty deserted. We decided to walk to the main attractions from the hotel which was pleasant enough and only took half an hour.
We also managed to spend some time in The Grand Place, Brussels elaborate main square.
Time on trains – none! Whoop whoop!
Day 3 Brussels
This was my favourite day in Brussels, we took the train (again) from the centre about half an hour out of the city and arrived at the stunning Atomium. Built for the 1958 World Trade Fair, this is a huge structure modelled on an atom. Beautiful from the outside and so much fun from the inside as you climb and ride ever higher. Read more about our visit to the Atomium here.
Next it was a visit to mini Europe, a model village (the most elaborate one I’ve ever seen) featuring over 350 of Europes most iconic landmarks. A perfect way to introduce our daughter to the whole of Europe.
Time on Trains – half hour each way
Day 4 Brussels – Utrecht
After a fairly early start to the day we boarded our next train to Utrecht at 9.30am. We ended up changing in Rotterdam and the whole journey took around 2 and a half hours arriving in Utrecht at lunch time.
Our original plan was to head straight into Amsterdam but found Utrecht so charming we stayed there for the afternoon. Read why we fell in love with this city in my post about why Utrecht makes a great alternative to Amsterdam for a city break in The Netherlands.
Time on Trains – 2.5 hours
Day 5 Utrecht – Amsterdam – Utrecht
We chose to stay at the Apollo Hotel in Utrecht due to its close proximity to the main train station. All we had to do we walk through the shopping centre (stopping for a breakfast waffle on the way) and we were there. Meaning we could catch an early train to Amsterdam.
We crammed plenty into our time in the city, visiting the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark. Read all about our 24 hours in Amsterdam here. I’d love to go back for longer but considering how much cheaper the hotels in Utrecht are compared to those in Amsterdam, I was really pleased with how well it worked out.
Time on trains – half an hour each way.
Day 6 Amsterdam – Prague
This was the first of our really long train journeys so not particularly exciting. We started our day at 7am to ensure we made our train on time and didn’t arrive at our hotel until gone 9pm. A very tiring day.
The hotel in Prague was absolutely awful. No aircon, rude staff and uncomfortable beds. I should have had a delivery from the Prague tourist board waiting for me at the hotel which the hotel swore had never arrived. I later discovered this was hand delivered. So Prague did not start well for us.
Time on Trains – a whopping 11 hours.
Day 7 – One week into our 3 week Interrail route – Prague
We obviously weren’t going to let a poor hotel hold us back so made the most of our first day in Prague. We spent our morning wandering through the old town and exploring the main square. Prague really is such a pretty and historic city.
We visited the Lego museum, the Gallery of Steel Figures, Hamleys and a lovely modern art gallery. Before heading back to our sweltering hotel.
Day 8 Prague
Our second full day in Prague was a brilliant opportunity for my daughter to learn about the violent past of Central Europe. We took a tour around the Old Town Hall and visited the famous astronomical Clock.
In the afternoon we took part in a walking tour around the city, learning all about the famous buildings we passed and ended our day crossing the Charles Bridge to explore the other side of the city. You can read more in my ultimate guide to Prague with kids.
Time Traveling – walking, walking and more walking
Day 9 Prague – Innsbruck
This was probably the prettiest train journey of them all. Leaving the countryside of the Czech Republic to the mountains of Austria. We left the hotel at 8am and made it to our change at Linz at about half one. Finally arriving in Innsbruck at 5pm.
The second train of the day was very busy. Innsbruck is a University city and was full of American students studying there mid-week. Exploring the rest of Europe with their Eurail passes over the weekends. We got chatting to a couple of them. Discussing our adventures, getting Innsbruck recommendations and raving about how great European train travel is. They were absolutely lovely with Piper and I just knew I was going to love Austria..
We had booked into the Hotel Sailer, an absolute joy after our hotel in Prague and just a 5 minutes’ walk from the Central Train station so dumped our bags and headed out for dinner to a pizza place the students we met on the train had recommended. We had a quick stroll around the pretty city of Innsbruck before a nightcap at our hotel and bed.
Time on Trains – A pretty exhausting 9 hours.
Day 10 Innsbruck
If I had to choose one, I would say this was my absolute favourite day of the whole trip. Ideal coming about half way through our 3 week interrail route. Innsbruck is the most amazing city. Full of quaint buildings, surrounded by the Austrian Alps and right on the river Inn. I totally fell in love with the place. I think we were all craving a bit of green after all the busy cities we had visited.
After a pretty lazy start to our day we headed into the mountains. To head up the Nordkette mountain by funicular and cable car. A completely amazing experience and one I recommend for everyone at least once. You can read more about our trip up the Nordkette and see more pictures here.
Dinner was a typically Austria meal of schnitzel and dumplings then an early night before another day of traveling.
Time traveling – the most fun hour up a mountain!
Day 11 Innsbruck – Milan – Bologna
Going from a pretty much perfect day to a rather stressful one was a shock to our system. By this point we were all exhausted by the traveling. Everyone’s feet were blistered, muscles were sore from lugging around all that baggage and tempers were starting to fray.
We arrived at Innsbruck station in plenty of time only to discover that the train had been cancelled and we had to get a bus. I hadn’t booked reservations for this one so had to do it at the Station. Which worked out well, otherwise we’d have been waiting around for a non-existent train. Communication here was a huge issue. The ticket operator didn’t seem particularly concerned about me freaking out that there was no train. And I couldn’t really understand he was telling me there was a bus. Did I mention we were all a bit tired and grumpy at this point! When I finally worked it out and asked where to catch the bus he waved in the general direction of the front of the station and moved on to the next person.
The only bus of the trip!
We ended up waiting outside the station for about 20 minutes before asking a passer by out of desperation. They directed us to the back of the station. We raced there and jumped on the bus in the nick of time.
Although I was dreading the bus journey, it actually made a pleasant change to all the trains. The seats were pretty big and it was all nice and clean. The drive towards Italy was stunning.
We jumped on a train at the Italian border to Verona where we changed to the train to Milan. Italian trains were probably the best we’d been on. First class really was first class. Large seats, complimentary water and snacks and pretty much empty.
We had to pick up our hire car in Milan as that’s where Mr AWTYK would be flying home from. But our next stop was Bologna. Milan train station is absolutely breath-taking but insanely busy. It was hot hot hot. So warm in fact that our suitcase wheels sank into the tarmac as we were trying to figure out where to pick up our hire car. We got a bit lost but eventually found it after a 15 minute wander.
The drive to Bologna took about 2 and a half hours. Milan traffic was a total nightmare but once you hit the motorways it’s really straight forward. We arrived at the Zanhotel Europa hotel in Bologna just before six and of course headed straight out to try some Italian food, it was absolute heaven!
Time traveling – 10 hours by bus, train and car, phew!
Day 12 Bologna
Bologna was another city that really surprised us, it’s small enough to be completely walkable and somehow feels homely. The historic architecture is mind-blowing and the squares surrounded by outdoor restaurants, fresh produce shops and gelato stalls are exactly how you picture Italy. Check out everything you need to know about visiting Bologna with kids here.
We started the day early as we wanted to climb the Due Torri, the leaning tower of Bologna before the day heated up too much. This is 498 shaky wooden spiral steps going up 97 metres. For me it was terrifying but totally exhilarating. And the views from the top and the sense of achievement were 100% worth it. Read more about our trip up the two towers in Bologna here.
The afternoon was spent exploring Bologna before heading out into the countryside to visit the University of Gelato to try their family Gelato making experience. I think this was the highlight of the trip for Piper. Not only did she get to make her own but she got to try the many other delicious flavours available. She was in heaven.
Then it was an hour and a half drive into the Tuscan Countryside to our next hotel, the Demidoff Country Resort in Vaglia for a bit of well-deserved R and R. Read my full Review of the Demidoff County Hotel here.
Time traveling – an easy hour and a half drive
Day 13 Tuscany
Day 13 was very much a rest day. We played in the hotel pool, both indoor and out, read books, strolled the grounds. Before heading into the local town for dinner. The Ristorante Zocchi would become a firm favourite of the trip.
Not much to say really but as you can imagine, it was just what we needed!
Time traveling – A big fat zero!
Day 14 Pisa
The first thing Piper said when I told her she would be spending time in Italy was “Can we visit the leaning Tower?”. I think she has been studying it at school and seen all those illusions of people holding it up. Needless to say, we had to find time for it in our 3 week schedule.
Pisa is just over an hour and a half drive from the Demidoff hotel. So we gave ourselves a lazy start and arrived just after 11am. Parking anywhere near the tower is a nightmare. We eventually found a space on a side road and walked the rest of the way.
The whole area was packed as you can imagine. Making those fun selfies Piper had dreamed of pretty tricky. But we tried our best. The tower and Duomo is absolutely beautiful, we didn’t climb it this time as the queues were just too long. I think I even preferred the leaning tower in Bologna. As there isn’t much else to do in Pisa, we jumped back in the car back to the hotel for another afternoon of pool time. Then back to our favourite Italian restaurant for dinner.
Time traveling – 3 hours to Pisa and back
Day 15 Viareggio
Finally the beach! Somehow it just doesn’t feel like a holiday without a day at the beach. So we drove the hour and a half to the beach town of Viareggio. This is where the Italians go to summer and it’s absolutely beautiful. The beach is long and sandy with high end shops and restaurants bordering it. We booked in to the Bagno Marco Polo beach club. So we had a little changing room to use and store our stuff. We played in their pool, built sandcastles and swam in the sea.
The beach was probably the busiest I’ve ever been to but it was so worth the visit. We ate at one of the beachside restaurants before heading back to our hotel, sandy, salty and totally rejuvenated.
Time traveling – 3 hours in the car
Day 16 Pratalino Park
This was one of those places you’d never know about unless you’re in the area. We stumbled on it by accident having passed the sign on the way in and out of the village where we were staying.
The park is so difficult to describe. Full of large scale artwork, old ruins, lakes, play areas and even a small restaurant. We spent a good few hours exploring the area and highly recommend it if you make it to Tuscany.
Time traveling – very little
Day 17 Siena and San Gimignano
One of the reasons we chose to spend time in Tuscany rather than heading further south were the beautiful hill towns. I had heard so much about them and they did not disappoint. We started in Siena, a pretty small town, an hour and a half from our hotel. Parking here is a total nightmare (as seems to be the case around the whole area). So we only stayed for a couple of hours visiting the churches and wandering the cobbled streets.
Then it was back into the car for the half hour drive up into the hills to San Gimignano, one of the most popular walled towns in the area. We parked at the bottom of the hill. Then spent around 20 minutes walking up to the gates of the town. The views on the way were stunning.
Once in the walls we mooched around the sweet (and oh so Italian) boutiques. Ate ice-cream, stopped for an ice cold glass of wine and drank from the well for luck. It would have been a truly perfect place to spend a day if it wasn’t just so busy. As you can probably tell, I absolutely love Tuscany, check out my 7 reasons to take the kids to Tuscany post to see why.
Time traveling – just over 3 hours round trip although we did get lost on the way back to the hotel!
Day 18 Milan
This was the day Mr AWTYK had to fly home for work. We checked out of the Demidoff and he dropped Piper and I at the train station near the airport for us to head back to Milan.
We checked into our final hotel, the Best Western Plus Hotel Galles, a 20 minute walk from the central train station. We made use of their indoor pool and spa before a room service dinner and bed.
Read my full guide to visiting Milan with kids for some more ideas on things to do in the city.
Time traveling – around two hours drive and train
Day 19 Milan
We spent the day wandering the streets of Milan, feeling a little lost. It’s a beautiful city but the main parts are just a little too busy. We walked the hour from our hotel to the Cathedral. In hind sight we should have just taken the tube. Unfortunately we couldn’t even find a restaurant quiet enough to get a table for lunch. I wasn’t too disappointed as all the restaurants in this area are ridiculously over-priced and unfriendly.
We walked back to our hotel (another hour), exploring some shops on the way. Out of desperation we stopped for food at a roadside restaurant. The food was awful, reheated and still frozen in the middle. I was sick in their toilets after. Then Piper noticed someone trying to pickpocket from my back pack in a busy shop. Needless to say this was not our best day.
I love walking when we’re on city breaks. I find it’s the best way to ensure you don’t miss anything. But in the Italian summer heat this was too much even for us.
Time traveling – endless hours of walking.
Day 20 Como
This was another favourite day for us. We caught the train from Milan to the town of Como on the banks of Lake Como. The train only took half an hour from Milan. And is within easy walking distance of all the sights of Como.
The town is beautiful and the lake stunning. We wandered across the walkway into the middle of the lake. Played in the splash fountains and strolled around the town. We also had one of the best meals of the trip overlooking the water. The portions were huge and as you can see, a little ambitious for this little traveller. Make sure you read my post about how to visit Como in one day.
Time traveling – just an hour on the train.
Day 21 Milan
On our final day we headed to the Lombardy region of Milan to visit the National Museum of Science and Technology. It’s not as interactive as some of the other science museums we’ve visited. But we still enjoyed the exhibits and the building is stunning. We ate dinner at the California Bakery next door to the museum. Which was delightful and jumped on the train back to the hotel. Then a quick swim before packing our bags for our return home.
Time traveling – less than half an hour
Day 22 the end of our 3 week Interrail route – Home
We checked out and took a taxi back to the station for the trip to the airport. The airport express is quick and easy and far cheaper than a taxi. The station is about a five minute walk to the terminal. We arrived back in Birmingham at around half six. Totally exhausted but with millions of new happy memories. And with a new found appreciation of the diversity of Europe and all it has to offer.
Time traveling – 9 hours of planes, trains and automobiles.
Interailing Europe Costs
How much 3 weeks interrailing cost us
Because this is always what I want to know when I read about any travellers big adventure. Exactly how much does it cost to spend three weeks traveling through Europe with a child. Then I can work out if I can actually afford it!
Total for our family of three for three weeks staying in 4 star accommodation in August.
Reservations on top of tickets £300
Car hire £200
Total cost. Just over £3,000. This does not include food or attraction but not bad considering how much we packed in.
Total distance travelled. This 3 week interrail route covered almost 4,000 km by train, car and plane.
Total time traveling. A jaw dropping 65 hours
Our 3 week Interrail route Journey Map
This European 3 week Interrail route was pretty perfect for us but we really did cram it in. If we were to repeat it then I would definitely plan in some quieter days. More in the countryside between all the city breaks. By the time we made it to Tuscany, all we wanted to do was relax and couldn’t face another city!
So for the ultimate test of a good adventure, would we do it again? Absolutely! It took us all a few weeks to recover. It’s hard to plan and the travel seems never ending but it was such an amazing experience to share as a family I would happily hop back on a train and explore all the parts of Europe we missed this time.
Make sure you pin this post if you’re planning your own 3 week Interrail route across Europe.