In recent years, interrailing has become a traveling rite of passage, and a favorable choice for intrepid travelers wishing to experience the cultural sights and bustling nightlife of European cities. Whether you’re a student on a tight budget or you just fancy seeing the sites of Europe via train, there’s a version of interrailing to suit everyone.
Many European cities have excellent transport links, making exploring local restaurants and historical landmarks easier. Portugal’s coastal city of Porto benefits from its fantastic public transport network, giving tourists a fast and inexpensive way to explore the city's sights. Alternatively, by taking a 24-hour trip around Vienna with Interrail, you can fill your day with incredible art galleries, palaces, and cozy cafes.
To help make your interrailing trip one to remember, this index has analyzed European cities on various factors, including hostels, safety scores, and nightlife, to reveal the European destinations you should be adding to your itinerary.
Europe’s best cities for interrailing
1. Barcelona, Spain - Interrailing City Score: 8.48 out of 10
Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Spain ranks as the best European city for interrailing, with a score of 8.48 out of 10. Barcelona’s whimsical modernist architecture attracts travelers from all over the globe. The city is famed for its 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell.
Barcelona scored highly for its number of attractions in the city (46.46 per km2); tourists to the city can enjoy the charming Gothic Quarter and monumental churches. The city also scored highly for its proportion of restaurants (97.55 per km2), and nightlife variety, with 5.24 bars and clubs per km2. Barcelona furthermore proved popular amongst those searching for breaks in the city, with 437,000,000 Google searches in the last year.
Barcelona Saints is the central railway station in the city and is considered one of the most utilized transport hubs in Spain. It is the primary station for national and international arrivals and is therefore a popular choice for interrailing.
2. Porto, Portugal - Interrailing City Score: 8.22 out of 10
Porto, Portugal, ranks as the second-best European city for interrailing, with a score of 8.22 out of 10. Interrailing in Portugal is arguably one of the best ways to discover its amazing beaches, coastal areas, and wine regions.
Porto scored high for its number of restaurants (50.6 per km2), and attractions (31.39 per km2). Porto is also recognized as being a safe destination for travelers, with a safety index score of 64.55/100.
With Portugal’s efficient railway links, those on an interrailing adventure can take the train from Porto in the north to the sunny Algarve in the south. The central station, Porto Campanha, is a modern station that serves the main lines.
3. Paris, France - Interrailing City Score: 8.04 out of 10
Ranking as the third best city for interrailing in Europe is Paris, with a score of 8.04 out of 10. Paris is notably a city of romance for lovers and adventurers alike, however, it is also a popular destination for those wanting to travel by train.
Paris is arguably one of the culinary capitals of Europe, and perhaps even the world, home to a wide variety of restaurants (168.09 per km2). The city also boasts a series of world-class attractions (77.34 per km2), including the iconic Eiffel Tower, and Disney Land Paris.
Paris’ railway stations were built in the 1800s to the early 1900s, and as a result, they maintain an authentic vintage feel. You can catch the Eurostar to London, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands from The Gare du Nord, an ideal station for interrailing opportunities.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands - Interrailing City Score: 7.63 out of 10
Ranking as the fourth best European destination for interrailing is Amsterdam, Netherlands scoring 7.63 out of 10. Amsterdam is best known for its bustling nightlife, and for housing more bikes than citizens! It also maintains the title of having more crooked houses than anywhere in the world.
The city has the highest safety index score out of our top five cities (67.61/100), making it an inviting destination for travelers. Amsterdam likewise scored well for its proportion of attractions (13.78 per km2), including the iconic Van Gogh Museum.
Amsterdam Centraal Station is the city’s primary transport hub, providing quick access to the center, and effortless access to the city’s sights and hostels. The station is also connected to the city’s bus, tram, metro, and ferry services.
5. Milan, Italy - Interrailing City Score: 7.56 out of 10
Milan, Italy, ranks as the fifth-best European city for interrailing, with a score of 7.56 out of 10. The city is famous for its forces in the field of art, design, and fashion, maintaining a rich history throughout.
Milan scored highly for its restaurants (42.86 per km2) and its variety of nightlife (1.62 per km2). Milan is also one of the most in-demand European cities for travelers, with 109.2 million Google searches for the city in the last year.
Europe’s best interrailing city for hostel availability
Barcelona, Spain - Total Number of Hostels: 85
Barcelona, Spain, has a fantastic selection of hostels for interrailing travelers, including Casa Gracia, which is a popular choice for solo travelers. In total, the city boasts 85 hostel options, many of which offer superb amenities, such as free WiFi, swimming pools, and breakfast buffets.
Europe’s best interrailing city for attractions
Vienna, Austria - Total Number of Attractions: 12,397
Vienna, Austria, has by far the most variety of attractions on our list, with a total of 12,397 attractions to choose from. If you travel by rail to Vienna this year, you certainly won’t be short on things to do. Popular attractions include the Sigmund Freud Museum, Hofburg Palace, and Schönbrunn Palace.
Europe’s best interrailing city for dining
London, United Kingdom - Total Number of Restaurants: 20,199
London has a huge 20,199 restaurants to choose from, including a wide variety of fine-dining experiences, bistro pubs, and Instagrammable street food vendors. From Soho to Covent Garden, there are plenty of different options to tantalize your taste buds.
Europe’s best interrailing city for nightlife
London, United Kingdom - Total Number of Bars & Clubs: 1,060
London once again takes the crown, this time for its nightlife scene. The city's neighborhoods are packed with bars, pubs, terraces, and exclusive clubs. The city has a total of 1,060 nightclubs and bars to dance the night away, and its nightlife is among the best in the UK. London’s Soho is at the heart of London’s club scene and is well-known for its 24-hour party scene.
Europe’s safest interrailing city
Zurich, Switzerland - Safety Index Score: 81.75
Zurich, Switzerland is the safest city on our list, with a safety index score of 81.75. The city maintains low crime rates and its warm and welcoming culture saw the city rank as the fifth safest in the world, by Numbeo in 2021.
Europe’s most in-demand interrailing city
Barcelona, Spain - Total Google Searches: 437,000,000 searches
Barcelona, Spain, possesses the largest volume of Google searches out of all cities on our list. From December 2021 to November 2022, Barcelona was searched 437 million times, demonstrating its prospective popularity among travelers.
This research studied Europe’s top city-break destinations, using Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destinations Index 2021, and taking each city’s total area size (km2).
The number of hostels
Hostelworld was used to find the total number of hostels in each city. This data is accurate as of 02/12/2022.
The number of attractions, restaurants, and bars & clubs
Tripadvisor was used to navigate to each city’s attractions, restaurants, and nightlife pages to find the total number for each factor. This data is accurate as of 02/12/2022.
Safety Index Score (by country)
Each city’s safety index score was found using Numbeo’s Current Safety Index by City. This data is accurate as of 06/12/2022.
Google Keyword Planner was used to find the total annual searches between December 2021 to November 2022 for each city. This data is accurate as of 20/12/2022.
All factors were combined to get an overall normalized score out of ten to find the Best Interrailing Cities in Europe. The top-scoring city for each factor, in total, was ranked to find the best city for hostels, restaurants, nightlife, safety, and Google search demand.