Fastest journey22hr 2m
It is easy to take the train from London to Ljubljana. Many travellers opt to break the journey with an overnight stop, but it can be done without a stop in about 22 hours. The most obvious route, the one we describe below, is from London via Paris to Munich, connecting there onto a night train direct to Ljubljana. You can also travel from London via Brussels and Frankfurt to join the same night train in Munich. Another good route from London is via Paris and Zurich, from where there is also a direct overnight service to Ljubljana.
The journey via Paris and Munich kicks off with a high-speed run on Eurostar from London to Paris. In the French capital, it is an easy walk to the Gare de l’Est, where you join a French TGV train to Munich.
Bookings for the journey from London to Ljubljana normally open three months in advance. It pays to book early if you are keen to get the best fares.
London to Paris
Board a Eurostar service from London to Paris. There are upwards of 15 trains to Paris from London each day with departures at least hourly from the beautifully restored station at St Pancras in London. The fastest trains speed to Paris in just 2 hrs 16 mins, with slower services taking up to 20 mins longer to reach the Gare du Nord in Paris. The first part of the journey from London sweeps through Thameside landscapes and rural Kent to reach the Channel Tunnel. Little more than an hour after leaving London you'll already be in northern France, tracking south through Flanders fields towards Paris.
Remember to factor in at least half an hour for Eurostar's airline-style baggage check prior to boarding your train. There is a luggage and body scan and you'll be asked to show your passport. There are no restrictions on taking liquids on board Eurostar trains.
Paris interchange: Paris Nord to Paris Est
It is an easy ten-minute walk from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Or if you have lots of luggage consider a (very short) taxi ride for around €10. There’s really no point going by Métro.
If you’re on foot, exit the station from the main entrance and turn left onto Rue de Dunkerque. Walk along the Rue de Dunkerque, crossing Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis and Rue La Fayette, still continuing on Dunkerque. You’ll come to a T-junction where you turn right into Rue d’Alsace. Follow Rue d’Alsace (you’ll now see the platforms of Gare de l’Est below you to your left) to the flight of pedestrian steps which leads down to the side entrance of Gare de l’Est. Beware of the hustlers who often hang around the steps soliciting donations and offering to carry your luggage.
The route above is the quickest, but for step-free access to Gare de l’Est here’s a slightly longer alternative. Leave the main front entrance of the Gare du Nord and walk straight ahead down Boulevard de Denain (which runs down beside the Café Terminus Nord). Follow Denain to Boulevard de Magenta, turning left onto it. Take the third left onto Rue de 8 Mai 1945 and walk along to the front of the Gare de l’Est.
Paris to Munich
The year-round once-daily direct train from Paris to Munich departs from the Gare de l’Est in Paris and arrives at Munich Hauptbahnhof. On a small number of peak travel dates in 2017, there is a second direct train on this route. A new high-speed line in France opened in 2016, bringing the journey time for the direct Paris to Munich train down to just over five and a half hours. There are several additional Paris to Munich options each day, all requiring a change of train in Stuttgart, Mannheim. Karlsruhe or Frankfurt.
The direct TGV from Paris to Munich tracks east on the high-speed line from Paris towards the German border, sometimes touching 320 kph along the way. After a brief stop in Strasbourg the train crosses the River Rhine and then continues south-east to Stuttgart, where the train reverses. From there it is another two hours with stops in Ulm and Augsburg to Munich Hauptbahnhof, where there is an excellent range of onward connections to destinations in Bavaria, Austria and beyond.
Munich to Ljubljana (night train)
Late every evening, a multicoloured rake of carriages pulls out of Munich Hauptbahnhof, carrying overnight travellers to destinations which include Venice, Budapest and Zagreb. The Ljubljana-bound carriages are detached from the main train in Salzburg and then travel on through the Alps by night to reach the Slovenian capital at around six the following morning. This night train offers a choice of seats, couchettes and sleepers – all in comfortable Croatian carriages. The train is named after the 19th-century Croatian composer Vatroslav Lisinski.
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Image credits: Mirci