The London to Istanbul Train: A Full Guide 2023

Embark on an epic adventure! Discover the ultimate guide to the London to Istanbul train journey in 2023. Uncover hidden gems and breathtaking sights. Get ready for an unforgettable experience!

Imagine stepping onto a train in the bustling heart of London and disembarking in the historic city of Istanbul. This is not a flight of fancy, but a journey that could be made possible with the right infrastructure and planning. In this article, we will explore the feasibility of such a train route, consider alternative paths, and even provide a map of the potential journey.

The Possibility of a London-Istanbul Train

The Potential for a Direct Route

The idea of a direct train service between London and Istanbul is not far-fetched. The infrastructure for such a route largely exists, thanks to the extensive rail networks in Europe and Turkey. The primary challenge lies in coordinating the various national rail services and ensuring the necessary international agreements are in place.

The benefits of such a service would be significant. It would provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to air travel, offer unique views of the European and Turkish landscapes, and potentially boost tourism and business ties between the UK and Turkey.

Alternative routes to go from London to Istanbul by train

As of now, there is no direct train service between London and Istanbul. However, it is possible to travel between the two cities by train, albeit with multiple transfers.

  • Take the Eurostar from London to Brussels.
  • Change to a Deutsche Bahn train to Munich.
  • Board an ÖBB Nightjet to Budapest.
  • Finally, take a Turkish State Railways train to Istanbul.

The entire journey takes approximately three days, depending on the specific trains and connections.

While the most direct route between London and Istanbul would pass through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria, there are several alternative routes that could be considered.

The Southern Route

One alternative would be a southern route passing through Italy and Greece. This would involve taking the Eurostar from London to Paris, a TGV to Milan, a Trenitalia train to Bari, a ferry to Patras in Greece, and finally a train to Istanbul. This route would offer stunning views of the Mediterranean and the opportunity to pass through historic cities like Rome and Athens.

The Northern Route

Another alternative would be a northern route passing through Poland and Ukraine. This would involve taking the Eurostar from London to Brussels, a Deutsche Bahn train to Berlin, a PKP Intercity train to Warsaw, a Ukrainian Railways train to Lviv, and finally a train to Istanbul. This route would offer a unique journey through the heart of Eastern Europe.

What to see and do along the way

The London-Istanbul Train route offers plenty of opportunities to explore different cities and sights along the way. Here are some of the highlights:

  • In Paris, you can visit the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and many other landmarks of the French capital.
  • In Munich, you can enjoy the Bavarian culture and cuisine at one of the many gardens or visit the Marienplatz square and the Nymphenburg Palace.
  • In Zagreb, you can stroll around the historic Upper Town and Lower Town or visit the Museum of Broken Relationships and the Zagreb Cathedral.
  • In Belgrade, you can admire the Kalemegdan Fortress and Park or explore the lively nightlife and music scene of the Serbian capital.
  • In Sofia, you can see the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the National Palace of Culture and the Boyana Church.
  • In Istanbul, you can marvel at the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and many other attractions of the Turkish metropolis.

Travelling By Train Vs A Flight

Here is a comparison of travelling by train from London to Istanbul and travelling by airplane, based on web search results:

Mode of transportPriceTime
Train€125.006 days
Airplane£693 hours, 37 minutes

As you can see, travelling by airplane is much cheaper and faster than travelling by train. However, travelling by train offers a more scenic and adventurous experience, as you can explore different cities and cultures along the way.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your budget, preferences and schedule.

Do you ned Turkish Visa?

British citizens do not need a Turkish visa for visits of up to 90 days in any 180-day period for tourist or business purposes. However, if you plan to stay longer than 90 days, work, study or reside in Turkey, you will need to apply for a visa or a residence permit before you travel or before your 90-day stay has elapsed. 

You can check the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more information on visa and permit requirements. You can also use the Republic of Turkey Electronic Visa Application System to apply for an e-Visa if you are eligible

FAQs about a Potential London-Istanbul Train

  1. Q: Is there currently a direct train from London to Istanbul? A: No, there isn’t a direct train connecting the two cities at present. However, alternative routes can be explored to envision a potential connection.
  2. Q: What are the advantages of a London-Istanbul train journey? A: A London-Istanbul train journey would provide a unique opportunity to experience diverse landscapes, cultures, and historical sites while enjoying the comfort and leisure of rail travel.
  3. Q: Would a London-Istanbul train route offer scenic views? A: Absolutely! Whether traveling through the Balkans or along the Mediterranean, passengers would be treated to breathtaking vistas, from rolling countryside to picturesque coastlines.
  4. Q: Are there any plans to establish a direct train connection between London and Istanbul? A: While there may not be concrete plans at the moment, the potential for a London-Istanbul train route has been the subject of discussions among rail enthusiasts and travel advocates.
  5. Q: How long would a London-Istanbul train journey take? A: The duration of the journey would depend on the chosen route and any stops along the way. However, it is envisioned that the adventure would span several days, allowing ample time for exploration and relaxation.
  6. Q: What kind of amenities and services would be available on a London-Istanbul train? A: Passengers can expect a range of amenities, including comfortable cabins, dining cars offering delectable cuisine, observation lounges to admire the scenery, and opportunities for cultural enrichment through onboard activities.


While a direct train service from London to Istanbul is not currently available, the potential for such a route is clear. With the right planning and international cooperation, it could become a reality, offering a unique and environmentally friendly way to travel between these two historic cities.

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