My wife and I will be in Europe (Munich, Lucerne, Vienna, Prague) from just before Christmas to just after New Year's.

If I have done my research right - it looks like trains will be running all of those days. But on holidays, they'll just run less frequently. Does that sound right?

We will spend Christmas day going from Munich -> Lucerne via train (assuming above is true).

  • Doh! One more question ... would you recommend getting our train tickets in advance? I was thinking yes for the Christmas day train travel, otherwise waiting. – WhensMyNextTrip Nov 2 '16 at 2:48
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    Welcome! We don't really do itinerary planning type things here (everybody wants to see different things), but your question about the frequency of the trains on Christmas day is on topic. I've edited your question to just the part about the trains. – Greg Hewgill Nov 2 '16 at 2:56
  • Aha, thank you! Sorry for the off-topic post and edit. – WhensMyNextTrip Nov 2 '16 at 3:24
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    Some train tickets are significantly cheaper if you purchase them sufficiently far in advance, so it's worth evaluating that option if you're confident enough your plans won't change. – Zach Lipton Nov 2 '16 at 7:18

In Germany and probably also Austria, most trains stop running sometime early to late evening on both the 24th and the 31st of December. Service will not be resumed until Christmas Day or New Year’s Day morning. Typically, nobody will be outside on the evening of Christmas Eve unless it is on the way to church and back again. Plan accordingly. On timetables in Germany, trains that do not run on these days are typically marked with a small symbol which is explained in the legend as:

Nicht 24. und 31.12.

Depending on region and company, the morning and afternoon trains on the 24th and 31st will either run as on Saturdays or something between Saturday and weekday service. (In 2016, the 24th and 31st happen to be Saturdays, so there will only be Saturday service, anyway. If the 24th/31st happen to be Sunday, there will be a Sunday service with late connections reduced.)

On Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, trains run like on Sundays with a few not so important exceptions (e.g. certain trains that effectively only run pre-first day of the week and don’t run if Monday is a public holiday).

Local bus companies will follow pretty much the same rules; however, it can be tedious to find out which buses exactly run on those days.

For any leg that is in Germany and that you book via Deutsche Bahn, I would always recommend pre-booking as soon as possible as there is a limited number of special saver fares for as little as €19 on short legs. If you pre-book, you are bound to a train but you can also easily reserve seats (seat reservations are optional in Germany). The most comfortable option from far away would be their website bahn.de, in my opinion.

I am not sure how many people will travel on Christmas Day. In my experience, most people will travel home (or on holiday) on the days leading up to Christmas Eve which is when pre-booking and reserving should definitely be done. Thus, there shouldn’t be that many people travelling on Christmas Day. However, it is also the beginning of Christmas holidays after the main Christmas celebrations (Christmas is celebrated on the 24th in German-speaking countries), so the second wave on their way to winter holidays could be populating the trains.

As far as I am informed, there is no benefit to pre-booking Swiss and Austrian train tickets — but that information of mine could already be outdated.

  • Travelling on the 23rd and 24th without a reservation on DB is horrible. Or if your carriage goes away. Or in general, when people are stacked inside the train. On the 24th around noon the ICEs are more tightly packed then the Berlin S-Bahn at rush hour. – simbabque Nov 2 '16 at 13:07
  • Its wrong that all trains will stop. There are trains but less frequent. Check timetables! – frlan Nov 2 '16 at 13:33
  • @frlan Hence ‘most’. – Jan Nov 2 '16 at 14:16
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    @Jan "Most" is still a strange way to put it. Any given train is liable to have a slightly different schedule but that's it. Checking a route I know in Switzerland, trains run through the night between the 24th and 25th, this year with a Saturday schedule so actually even later than on a regular weekday, with a 3 min change to one train (!) Between the 25th and 26th, the last train is a 01:20, with regular schedule resuming at 04:20. – Relaxed Nov 2 '16 at 16:22
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    I would like to add that not only any train within Germany, but also trips that end or start in Germany (towards Austria and Switzerland) can be prebooked on bahn.de with sometimes very cheap prices. – drat Nov 28 '16 at 1:24

Trains basically run through the holidays in all the countries you mentioned. The timetable is different, even from a regular bank holiday, let alone from a regular weekday, with fewer commuter trains, slightly different schedules and possibly even some extra long-distance trains but you will in any case find many many trains on these days.

Booking in advance, if at all possible, is strongly advisable, both to save money (especially in Germany, not so much in Switzerland) and because some trains can get very busy and either sell out (when seat reservation is mandatory) or have no more seats (when it is not and you are allowed to travel without a seat).

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    "Trains in Europe basically run through the holidays." Where in Europe? There are no trains in the UK on Christmas day. – David Richerby Nov 2 '16 at 16:50
  • @DavidRicherby All the countries mentioned in the question, among many others (edited my answer to reflect that). But: No train at all on Christmas day? Anywhere in the UK? TBH, that's news to me, I haven't checked each and every country but I have never seen anything like it anywhere in continental Europe. – Relaxed Nov 2 '16 at 17:06
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    Just above the list of train companies, this page from the UK's National Rail says "there are no train services running on Christmas Day and only certain services will run on Boxing Day [26th December]." – David Richerby Nov 2 '16 at 17:39
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    In the UK, trains stop running early evening on Christmas Eve, and don't start again until the 2nd of January. There is normally major engineering work undertaken during this period. Network Rail (the infrastructure operator) believe that few people want to travel during Christmas; most of them will get to where they want to be before Christmas Eve. – CSM Nov 2 '16 at 20:55

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