The train is the best way to get around Europe. Trains are spacious, go everywhere, and leave on the hour to most European destinations.
Taking the train is an easy way to travel, with frequent departures on busy routes. When you take into account the time it takes to get out to many European airports, you'll often find the train quicker than flying. This is especially the case with fast trains such as the Belgian Thalys, the French TGV, the German ICE along with the Eurostar which connects London to Paris within three hours via the Channel Tunnel. Rather than blow your cash on flying and arrive on the outskirts of town, you can take the train and arrive right in the centre of the city.
Although the train is an easy way to travel, there are some things you need to know:
Many trains require a supplement, above the regular ticket price. This is almost always the case with couchette and sleeper trains and many high-speed trains, although sometimes what appears to be a regular train will also charge a supplement. Italian trains are notorious for charging supplements whenever they feel like it. I was once charged a €5.20 supplement on a €1.50 half-hour trip from Padua to Venice, now I always check first to see if I need to pay a supplement. In many countries trains which require a supplement are marked on the timetable in red.
Many European trains split in two parts half-way through the journey with the two halves ending up in different destinations. Each carriage should carry a sign indicating the stops en-route with the destination station clearly marked. Make sure you get on the right carriage and be careful when you go for a walk.
Always stock up on food and wine at the supermarket before getting on the train. Food costs a fortune on the train and sharing food is a great way to make new friends.
It's worth paying the extra money to make a reservation on Italian trains, which are often booked full. It's not unusual to have to stand for three hours or so on the busier routes.
If you've have a rail pass with a limited number of days such as the Eurail Flexipass, make the most of it by only using it in the more expensive countries. Trains are most expensive in the Scandinavian countries, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria and the cheapest in Italy and eastern Europe. Also avoid using your pass on weekends in Germany when normally expensive trains are a bargain with Deutsche Bahn's Happy Weekend Ticket.