Night trains are making a comeback in Europe. When I found out, new direct train routes from the Netherlands to Switzerland were up and running again, I had to explore and try for myself. That is why I took the Amsterdam to Basel night train for a weekend break to explore more of Basel. There is a standard direct daytime Amsterdam to Basel train connection, but I decided to take the Amsterdam to Zurich night train.
Obviously, the daytime train is faster, and also a bit cheaper than the night sleeper train. But I wanted to maximize my time in Switzerland and not take too much vacation time. What is better than to climb aboard a night train in the evening, sleep and wake up in a new country? You can start exploring right away, early in the morning.
On the return journey, we had the whole Sunday to explore Switzerland and Basel, have dinner, and then board the night train from Basel to Amsterdam for the return journey home. On Monday morning, I was back at my desk job again!
I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.
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What is the Amsterdam to Zurich night train?
This overnight train route is operated by ÖBB Nightjet (an Austrian company). It connects Amsterdam, in the Netherlands with top destinations in Switzerland, (Basel and Zurich) and South Germany (München) and Austria (Vienna and Innsbruck).
This post focuses on my experiences on the night train from Amsterdam to Zurich, but most of the practical information and experiences can be applied to the other routes too.
The main feature of this night train is that it is a direct train from Amsterdam to Zurich. No switching trains on windswept railway stations, but you can stay comfortable in your seat or bed.
You’ll leave in the evening and arrive, well-rested, early morning in Switzerland. You don’t have to book a hotel for the night, but can start exploring immediately!
The night train from Amsterdam to Zurich has ‘regular’ standard compartments, that look like any train you’ll take during the day. Here, you’ll book a regular seat and you’ll have to stay seated in your seat.
At the front or the back of the train, the Nightjet carriages are added. These consist of 6-person seating compartments, couchette compartments that sleep 2, 4, or 6 people in bunk beds, and sleeping compartments with beds for 1, 2, or 3 persons.
My experiences with the night train from Arnhem to Basel
As it was more convenient for us, we boarded the night train in Arnhem. There were already some people on the train and we quickly settled in and lay down.
On the journey to Basel, we slept in the two top bunks. I was really tired but wasn’t very comfortable as it was very hot in the compartment. I did doze off in between stops and woke up bright and early just before we entered Switzerland.
After breakfast, it was already time to deboard the train! We had a nice elaborate breakfast in Basel, stored our luggage and went on exploring for the day. We used Basel as a base and went to Colmar and Strasbourg in France.
And the return journey, we spend the whole day in Bern, before returning back to Basel. Close to the train station, we had a lovely dinner and some after-dinner drinks before we picked up our luggage.
On the return journey, we had the two lower bunks. These were a bit more comfortable and I slept all through the night. Around 8 am I woke up and we were still in Germany. This gave us some more time to relax, and truly wake up.
All in all, it was a long, whirlwind weekend trip in Switzerland. Due to the times of train arriving and departing, you really have full days to explore which is perfect if your vacation days are limited!
Stops on the Nightjet train from the Netherlands to Switzerland
Although the Amsterdam to Zurich Nightjet night train is a direct train, it does stop a lot on the way. This makes for good connections within the Netherlands but you can also travel to the south of Germany and don’t have to continue all the way through to Switzerland.
I’ll briefly list the different stops below:
Amsterdam – the start of the night train to Zurich
Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands is the starting point for the night train to Switzerland. Here, at Amsterdam Central Station, the long train to Switzerland is waiting for you. The train departs at 8.28 pm on most days.
Arrive a little early to admire the stunning architecture of the station. And you’ll have plenty of time to find your compartment and make your bed!
Other stops in the Netherlands: Utrecht and Arnhem
You don’t have to be in Amsterdam to catch this sleeper train to Basel. The night train also stops conveniently at Utrecht Central Station and Arnhem Central Station.
Crossing the Netherlands in the middle, there will always be a departure point within 1 to 1.5 hours. I boarded the train in Arnhem and there was plenty of time to settle in for the night.
Stops in Germany on the night train to Switzerland
In Germany, the train stops at a lot of stations.
- Frankfurt (Main)
- Baden-Baden (your gateway to the north of the Black Forest)
- Freiburg (Breisgau) (the south of the Black Forest)
Amsterdam to Basel night train stop
And then, after almost 10 hours, the train pulls into Switzerland. First stop, right after the border is Basel SBB, the main train station of Basel.
The train is scheduled to arrive here at 6.20 am, which is insanely early.
TIP: Take your time de-boarding the train in Basel and cross the street for a nice breakfast at Confiserie Bachmann. They have great pastries, delicious cappuccino and spacious bathrooms downstairs to freshen up a bit. They open every day at 6 am (except on Sundays, then they open at 8 am).
Zurich Switzerland – the final destination of the sleeper train from Amsterdam
After Basel, the night train from Amsterdam continues to Zurich HB, the main train station in Zurich. If everything goes to plan, you’re scheduled to arrive here at 8.05 am, which is a much more acceptable time. Most coffee shops, bakeries and cafes will be open by now.
Why you should take the sleeper train from Amsterdam to Basel
For me, any kind of train is new and exciting. But I also find the sleeper trains in Europe a bit nostalgic and romantic. There is something really soothing about sleeping on a train and waking up in a whole new world.
If we leave all these romantic feelings behind, we can focus on the practical side of things.
Day train vs night train
When you want to travel from Amsterdam to Switzerland quickly, you’ll take the day train. Fast direct German ICE trains bring you in 7 hours from the capital of the Netherlands to the north of Switzerland.
You’ll whizz through Germany with stunning views of the river Rhine and arrive in the afternoon in Basel.
If you can’t catch the direct train, you can take any of the other trains in the direction of Basel or Zurich. Depending on the route you’ll have to switch trains at least once.
But switching twice or up to 5 or 7 times is also possible. These trains might take up from 7.5 hours to 12 hours in total. You’ll lose a full day of travel.
But you can jump on the night train from Amsterdam to Basel. It runs daily and it is also a direct train. During the night it takes 10 hours and you can choose several different types of seats, sleeping compartments and beds.
You’ll depart the Netherlands in the evening, and arrive bright and early in Switzerland!
Costs for the night train to Switzerland from the Netherlands
As with all tickets for trains or planes, you’ll need to book in advance to score cheaper tickets.
When you just book a seat on the train, you can find 2nd class tickets for €39.90 ($40) from Amsterdam to Zurich or Basel. If you wish to upgrade to 1st class, you’ll pay €56.90 ($57). Not bad for an 800-900 km journey.
But prices go up quickly depending on the dates and connections.
If you don’t want to take full advantage of the night train and arrive well-rested in Switzerland, you want to book one of the sleeper or couchette compartments.
Obviously, the beds in sleeper compartments are more comfortable and shared with fewer people. But they are also the most expensive ones.
If you choose the 6-person couchette compartments, you pay more than a regular seat, but less than the sleeper compartments. Upgrade for €10 to a 4-person couchette and you’ll get a bit more comfort.
What is it like sleeping on the night train to Zurich
But what is it actually like sleeping on the night train? Can you sleep at all?
Now, I’m overweight and quite tall, so the sleeping bunk bed was a bit narrow for me and I just barely fit lengthwise. If you’re over 1.80m/ 5.9 ft, then it might be a bit tight.
I stayed in a 4-person sleeping couchette, which meant the middle bunk beds were not used, giving more room and fewer people to share the compartment with.
On the onward journey to Switzerland, I stayed in the top bunk bed, and on the return journey home to the Netherlands, I slept in the bottom bunk bed. I slept much better on the lower bed than at the top.
The train was rocking us to sleep, the curtains blocked out the lights from the stations and overall it was really quiet on board the train to Basel.
In the morning, we were served a small breakfast (coffee or tea, 2 bread rolls, and jam) and I was pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness of the washroom.
Normal seats for the night
On the night train to Basel, there are seating carriages. They have a toilet in each carriage and compartments with 6 seats. All the trains in Europe used to be like this before they moved to more modern open carriages with rows and rows of seats.
3 Seats are facing the direction of the train, and the other 3 seats are opposite and face the other way. If you have long legs, it might be a struggle to stash them. And when you’re seated at the window seat and you have to go to the toilet, it does involve some crawling over other people’s legs.
These are the cheapest tickets for the train to Switzerland and you’ll share them with other people. If you want more privacy, you can pay a little bit extra for a private compartment for 1-3 people.
The sleeping compartments are the most comfortable and offer you a good night’s sleep before you’ll arrive in Switzerland. But they are also the most expensive as they offer more privacy and luxury.
The sleeping compartments are for 1,2 or 3 persons. If you book 1 bed, you’ll share with others, unless you pay a premium fee for a private compartment.
Inside the compartment, there is a small wash basin, but no toilet. They can be found in the carriage. The breakfast options are more elaborate and you get an aperitif when you board the train. Cheers!
2, 4 or 6-bunkbed sleeping compartments
I guess this is the most booked option as it is both comfortable and affordable if you book ahead of time. This compartment doesn’t have a wash basin, just 2×3 bunkbeds and more than enough storage space for all your gear.
I peeked inside the compartments with 6 beds in use and this seemed very crowded. Especially the middle bed is very confined and you’ll have little room to do anything but lay down.
If you upgrade to the 4-bed compartment, things are a bit more spacious and with fewer people on a small surface area.
In the couchette compartment, you’ll get a small breakfast and a bottle of water.
If you travel solo as a woman on a sleeper train in Europe, your safety is a huge concern. It is good to know you can book a specific ladies-only-compartment.
You still share the couchette, but you will not be sleeping as a solo female traveler with 5 other strange men in a compartment.
On the sleeper train to Basel, you’ll also find a spacious compartment for wheelchair users and their companions.
Both the ladies-only as well as the wheelchair-user compartment can not be booked online but must be requested via the service center.
How to book your ticket for the night train from Amsterdam to Zurich
Have you ever tried calling an international train service center? Personally, I was never successful in comparing the times, dates, prices and options over the phone.
The good news is: you can easily book a ticket for the night train to Zurich online! Either on your smartphone via the app or on their desktop website, tickets can be booked 180 days in advance.
The earlier you book, the lower the price and more options are available for the sleeping compartments.
But how does it work?
- Head over to the official website to book your train tickets to Basel or Zurich.
- Select your departure train station and destination Basel or Zurich
- Select a date, anywhere between now and 180 days
- You need to look for the direct connection train (no transfers) and the Nightjet logo
There are usually two options. If you want to book only a seat, you’ll select the top option. If you want to see your choice in sleeping or couchette compartments, you’ll select the Nightjet option.
From here, you’ll select the sleeping options
- Select which type of bed you want. Prices are mentioned. If a couchette or sleeper compartment is not mentioned, it means they are not (yet or anymore) available for booking online.
- Select the type of ticket you want. If you choose the regular ticket, you’ll have a non-refundable and non-exchangeable ticket. Flex tickets are more expensive, but they do offer more flexibility if your travel plans change.
- Optional, you can select the return journey for the train from Basel to Amsterdam.
- Pay for your purchase and get the tickets and confirmation via e-mail. Have a safe journey!
Practical tips for a weekend by night train to Basel
Did you know the night train runs every day? After exploring Amsterdam or taking the train for day trips from Amsterdam, you can set out to explore more of Europe.
You can easily depart Amsterdam at 8.30 pm and arrive on Saturday morning in Basel at 6.20 am and Zurich at 8 am.
The return train from Zurich departs at 10 pm and at 11.15 pm from Basel. It arrives back in Amsterdam at 10 am on Monday morning.
This makes for a perfect weekend break without taking any time off work. Depart on Thursday evening for a long weekend in Switzerland, with only 1 day off!
What to pack on the sleeper train to Switzerland or back to the Netherlands
When the train departs from the Netherlands, it is already quite late. Depending on the type of sleeping arrangements, it is most comfortable to head straight for bed.
Comfortable sleeping clothes are key, but make sure you can also be dressed appropriately in case you have to run to the bathroom.
Wear, or bring a pair, of easy slip-on shoes or house slippers for midnight or early morning trips to the bathroom.
Each bed comes with a pillow, sheets, and blankets. The compartments also have heating but depending on your preferences, it easily gets too hot or too cold. And an extra sweater or cool shirt might be valuable to bring.
Consider bringing a sleeping mask to block out any lights, and earplugs or headphones to block out noises.
Can I bring luggage on the night train to Switzerland?
If you’re traveling across Europe by train, or plan to stay in Switzerland for a longer period of time, you might want to bring some extra luggage.
Please note that luggage space is limited onboard the sleeper trains in Europe. But I found there is always room to stash something if you’re creative.
It’s best to bring a backpack or flexible sporting goods bag, at least not bulky and sturdy suitcases that only fit a certain big space.
A final note about this night train to Basel
I loved our journey on the night train to Basel and it was very practical for a time-optimized weekend trip to Basel. However, there are some notes to keep in mind.
- You’ll arrive early morning in either Basel or Zurich. Hotels, B&B,s and other accommodations are usually not open for check-in this early.
- At both Basel and Zurich train stations, you can store your luggage in self-service luggage boxes for an affordable fee.
- Please plan more than enough time for onward travel and other plans. Delays are very common and 1 to 2 hours are not unusual. If the train is more than 1 hour late, you can claim for compensation of your ticket. The process is very easy and quick.
- Switzerland is in Europe but not part of the Euro-zone, exchange your money for Swiss Francs. Switzerland is usually also not included in any data-roaming plans for your mobile phone provider. Check before you go or buy a Swiss data plan.
Useful links for this train journey to Switzerland
This train journey was a whole new experience for me and I absolutely loved it. If you feel the same, here are some practical links to get you started:
- More information from the official website for the train to Basel and Zurich is here.
- Book your train tickets only from the official website, for Basel here, and for Zurich here.
- Find a good hotel near Amsterdam Central station
- Find a hotel in Basel Switzerland, and get the free BaselCard
- Find the best hotel in Zurich
- Purchase your Zurich Card to discover the city
What do you think? Would you book the night train to Basel for a weekend trip to Switzerland? Do you feel you have all the information you need to book your Amsterdam to Zurich night train? Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.