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A German ICE train.  More about ICEs.

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This page explains how to travel by train from Cologne or Düsseldorf to other key European cities, and how to buy tickets the cheapest way.  Information current for 2022.

bullet pointBefore you buy your tickets...

Take a moment to read these tips for buying European train tickets.  It answers the usual questions, "Do I need to book in advance or can I just buy at the station?", "Can I stop off?", "Are there Senior fares?" and that old favourite, "Should I buy an $800 railpass or just buy a €35 point-to-point ticket online?".  Click here to understand how far ahead you can buy train tickets.

bullet pointEuropean train travel FAQ...

An introduction to European train travel

 

Senior fares (over 60)

 

Guide to Eurail passes (overseas visitors)

Important tips for buying European train tickets

Youth fares (under 26)

 

Guide to Interrail passes (for Europeans)

How to check European train times

Child fares & child age limits

 

Couchettes & sleepers on night trains

Do I need to book in advance?

Luggage on European trains

 

Train seat numbering plans

How far ahead can I book?

Luggage storage at stations

 

Wheelchairs & special needs

Can I stop off on the way?

Taking a bike by train

 

Real-time service updates

Should I travel 1st or 2nd class?

Taking a car by train

 

Hotels & accommodation

How long to allow for connections?

Taking dogs & pets by train

 

Changing stations in Paris by metro or taxi

How early to arrive at the station?

Maps of the European rail network

 

What to do when things go wrong...


Cologne or Düsseldorf to other German towns & cities...

Cologne to Berlin by ICE...

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

2nd class seats.  Larger photo.

 

An ICE2 at Berlin Hbf.  More information about ICE trains.

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

Boarding an ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to London & UK...

Option 1, by Eurostar...

Option 2, by ferry from Hoek van Holland - a useful alternative, cheaper than Eurostar at short notice...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Dublin & Ireland...

Option 1, Düsseldorf or Cologne to Dublin via London & Holyhead - daily departures...

Option 2, Düsseldorf or Cologne to Dublin via Paris & Cherbourg - several times a week...

Irish Ferries' WB Yeats

Sail from Cherbourg to Dublin aboard Irish Ferries' WB YeatsWB Yeats photos courtesy of Irish Ferries.

Irish Ferries' WB Yeats club cabin   Irish Ferries' WB Yeats deluxe cabin

Club cabin on the WB Yeats with shower & toilet.

 

Deluxe cabin on the WB Yeats with shower & toilet...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Paris from €35...
A Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris

A Thalys at Paris Nord.  See panorama photos inside a Thalys trainMore info about Thalys.

1st class (Comfort & Premium) seating on Thalys   2nd class seats on a Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam

1st class (Comfort & Premium) seats, 2+1 across the car...

 

2nd class (Standard) seats, 2+2 across.  Larger photo.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Strasbourg from €32.90...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Lyon, Marseille, Nice & other destinations in France...

Option 1, via Paris - involves changing trains & stations by taxi or metro...

Option 2, to Lyon, Avignon, Aix en Provence & Marseille using the once-a-day direct TGV from Germany - easiest & usually cheapest...

Frankfurt to Marseille TGV

The TGV Duplex from Frankfurt & Mannheim to Lyon & Marseille, seen here at Frankfurt am Main Hbf...

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

The cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes...

 

2nd class seats, this is upper deck seating.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   A TGV Duplex at Frankfurt

1st class seats on the upper deck, with a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right. 360º photo.

 

The TGV to Marseille, boarding at Frankfurt am Main Hbf.  You enter on the lower deck, with 9 stairs up to top deck.

Option 3, changing in Brussels & by-passing Paris...

Option 4, Cologne to Toulon, Cannes, Antibes & Nice, using the Paris-Nice overnight train...

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp from €19.90...
ICE3 second class ICE3 first class High-speed ICE3 train from Cologne to Brussels, at Brussels

ICE3 2nd class.

ICE3 1st class, with leather seats.

ICE at BrusselsSee ICE info.

Second class seats on board a 'Thalys' high-speed train to Cologne 1st class seats on Thalys A Thalys for Amsterdam about to leave Brussels Midi...

2nd class (Standard) seats...

1st class (Comfort or Premium).

Thalys at Brussels.  See Thalys info.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Amsterdam from €19.90...
ICE3 at Amsterdam Centraal

An ICE3M at Amsterdam Centraal.  More information about ICE trains...

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Luxembourg from €19.90...
Double-deck train between Koblenz, Trier & Luxembourg

Koblenz to Luxembourg by double deck regional train.  This is a CFL double-decker at Luxembourg.

1st class on a Koblenz-Luxembourg train   1st class on a Koblenz-Luxembourg train

1st class on the upper deck. Larger photo.

 

2nd class on the upper deck.  Larger photo.

Scenery along the Moselle between Koblenz & Luxembourg

Scenery along the Moselle between Koblenz & Luxembourg in the morning sun, the mists still clearing.  For the best river views, sit on the right hand side of the train going east from Luxembourg, left hand side going west from Koblenz.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Basel, Zurich, Geneva & Switzerland from €39.90...

Option 1, Düsseldorf & Cologne to Basel & Zurich by Nightjet sleeper train - the time-effective overnight option...

AB33 sleeping-car on the Amsterdam-Zurich Nightjet train

The sleeping-car on the (Amsterdam-)Cologne-Zurich sleeper train.  More information about NightjetsWatch the video.

Single-bed sleeper on Amsterdam-Zurich train   Single-bed sleeper on Amsterdam-Zurich train

Single sleeper, washbasin behind door on right. Larger photo.

 

Breakfast next morning.  Larger photo.

Couchette compartment on Amsterdam to Switzerland Nightjet train   Couchette compartment on Amsterdam to Switzerland Nightjet train

4 or 6 berth couchettes, bedding supplied.  Larger photo.

 

Couchette car from Amsterdam arrived at Basel.

Option 2, by high-speed train - the fast daytime option...

A high-speed ICE3 train at Cologne Hbf

An ICE3 at Cologne Hbf.  More information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Option 3, by classic train along the Rhine Valley - the slower scenic option...

EuroCity train from Zurich

EuroCity train at Zurich HB...

2nd class seats on Munich-Zurich EuroCity train   Restaurant car on EC9 Hamburg-Cologne-Zurich train

2nd class seating...  Larger photo.

 

The Swiss restaurant car:  Treat yourself!  Larger photo.

Swiss panorama car, Munich to Zurich train   1st class seats in panorama car, Munich to Zurich train

Panorama car with 1st class seats, available on train EC9, but not EC7.  Make sure you reserve a seat in car 263 as there is just one 1st class panorama car and two other regular 1st class cars.  See advice on booking it.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle seen from the train

Pfalzgrafenstein castle on the Rhine...  See the Rails Down the Rhine page for more information.

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Cologne to Venice from €60...

Option 1, by ICE train to Munich, then Austrian Nightjet sleeper train from Munich to Venice - the most time-effective option!

A high-speed ICE3 train at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE.  This is an ICE3 at Cologne Hbf.  More information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

The Nightjet sleeper train from Munich to Venice at Munich Hbf

Step 2, Munich to Venice by Nightjet sleeper train, seen on platform 12 at Munich HbfMore information about Nightjets.

Nightjet deluxe sleeper, 2-bed   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   4-berth couchette compartment from Cologne to Vienna

2-berth deluxe sleeper.  More info about Nightjet trains.

 

...en suite toilet & shower.

 

4-berth couchettes...

Sunrise as the sleeper train crosses the causeway into Venice

Sunrise as the Munich-Venice Nightjet crosses the causeway over the lagoon into Venice.  Courtesy of Andreas Wiedenhoff.

Option 2, by Nightjet sleeper train to Innsbruck & scenic daytime train to Venice - time-effective and great scenery next day.

The Nightjet sleeper to Vienna at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Düsseldorf or Cologne to Innsbruck by Nightjet.  Above, the Nightjet arrived at Innsbruck Hbf.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

  6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train

Couchette car...

 

6-berth couchettes.

 

4-berth couchettes.

Step 2, Innsbruck to Venice by Austrian EuroCity train.  This is the restaurant car on a EuroCity, arrived at Verona.  You don't need to book a table, just go along and sit down.  Dining on the move as the scenery glides by is one of the pleasures of travelling on trains like this.  More photos & information about these EuroCity trains.

2nd class seats in an open-plan car   Austrian first class seats

2nd class seats, some in open-plan saloons like this, some in 6-seat compartments.

 

1st class leather seats.  You'll also find seats in classic 6-seat compartments..

Austrian restaurant car   Meal in an Austrian restaurant car on a Munich-Verona train

The elegant restaurant car.  Larger photo.

Lunch with wine on board...

Mountains on the Brenner route...

Scenery (and vineyards!) on the Brenner route   Scenery on the Brenner route

Vineyards, mountains and castles south of Brenner as the train heads for Trento & Verona...

Hilltop fortresses seen from the Brenner Pass train

Watch out for hilltop fortresses...  See the Brenner Pass scenery video here.

Option 3, by day trains via the Brenner Pass with overnight stop in Munich - if you prefer day trains & a hotel to sleepers...

A high-speed ICE3 train at Munich Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE...  This is an ICE3 at Munich HbfMore information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Step 2, Munich to Venice by Austrian EuroCity train.  This is the restaurant car on a EuroCity, arrived at Verona.  You don't need to book a table, just go along and sit down.  Dining on the move as the scenery glides by is one of the pleasures of travelling on trains like this.  More photos & information about these EuroCity trains.

Austrian second class seats   Austrian second class seats   Austrian first class seats

Second class seats, mostly in 6-seat compartments with side-corridor like this, but some cars are open-plan saloons...

 

First class leather seats.  On a few trains you'll find 6-seat compartments too....

Mountains on the Brenner route...

Option 4, via Zurich & the Bernina Express through the Swiss Alps - the ultimate scenic route... 

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Cologne to Florence, Rome, Milan, Verona or anywhere else Italy from €39.90...

Option 1, using the Nightjet sleeper train from Munich to Milan, Bologna, Florence & Rome - the most time-effective option...

A high-speed ICE3 train at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE...  This is an ICE3 at Cologne Hbf.  More information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

The Nightjet sleeper from Munich to Rome

Step 2, Munich to Florence or Rome by Nightjet sleeper train, seen here boarding at platform 11 at Munich HbfMore information about Nightjet trains.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photo Video of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchettes   Couchette car on sleeper train

6-berth couchettes...

 

4-berth couchettes...

 

Couchette car on the Nightjet train...

Option 2, by Nightjet sleeper train to Innsbruck & scenic daytime train to Venice - time-effective and great scenery next day.

The Nightjet sleeper at Innsbruck

Step 1, Cologne to Innsbruck by Nightjet sleeper train Above, a Comfortline sleeping-car on the Nightjet train at Innsbruck.  More information about Nightjet trains.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photo Video of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchettes   Couchette car on sleeper train

6-berth couchettes...

 

4-berth couchettes...

 

Couchette car on the Nightjet train...

Step 2, Innsbruck to Verona, Bologna or Venice by Austrian EuroCity train.  This is the restaurant car on a EuroCity from Innsbruck arrived at Verona.  You don't need to book a table, just go along and sit down.  Dining on the move as the scenery glides by is one of the pleasures of travelling on trains like this...

2nd class seats in an open-plan car   Austrian first class seats

2nd class seats, some in open-plan saloons like this, some in 6-seat compartments.

 

1st class leather seats.  You'll also find seats in classic 6-seat compartments..

Austrian restaurant car   Meal in an Austrian restaurant car on a Munich-Verona train

The elegant restaurant car.  Larger photo.

Lunch with wine on board...

Mountains on the Brenner route...

Scenery (and vineyards!) on the Brenner route   Scenery on the Brenner route

Vineyards, mountains and castles south of Brenner as the train heads for Trento & Verona...

Hilltop fortresses seen from the Brenner Pass train

Watch out for hilltop fortresses...  See the Brenner Pass scenery video here.

Option 2, by daytime trains through the Swiss Alps - Cologne to Italy in a single day with great Alpine scenery!

A high-speed ICE3 train at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Basel by ICE...  This is an ICE3 at Cologne Hbf.  More information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Astoro EuroCity train at Milan Centrale

Step 2, by EuroCity train from Basel to Milan through the Alps...  This is a Milan-Basel EuroCity train at Milan Centrale.  More information about Switzerland-Milan trains.

1st class on a Switzerland to Milan Astoro train   ETR610 restaurant car

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

 

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

Lunch on an ETR610 train   1st class seats on an ETR610 train

Lunch in the restaurant car...

 

2nd class.  Larger photo 360 degree photo.

Lake Maggiore, seen from a Milan to Basel train

You'll pass a lake or two.  This is Lake Maggiore, seen from the dining-car of a northbound Milan to Basel train over an excellent lunch of salmon tagliatelle & excellent (but expensive!) Swiss red wine.

Option 3, by day trains via the Brenner Pass with overnight stop in Munich - if you prefer day trains, scenery & a hotel to sleepers...

A high-speed ICE3 train at Munich Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE...  This is an ICE3 at Munich HbfMore information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Step 2, Munich to Verona, Bologna or Venice by Austrian EuroCity train.  This is the restaurant car on a EuroCity train, arrived at Verona.  You don't need to book a table, just go along and sit down.  Dining on the move as the scenery glides by is one of the pleasures of travelling on trains like this.  More photos & information about these EuroCity trains.

2nd class seats in an open-plan car   Austrian first class seats

2nd class seats, some in open-plan saloons like this, some in 6-seat compartments.

 

1st class leather seats.  You'll also find seats in classic 6-seat compartments.

Austrian restaurant car   Meal in an Austrian restaurant car on a Munich-Verona train

The elegant restaurant car.  Larger photo.

Lunch with wine on board...

Mountains on the Brenner route...

Option 3, via Zurich & the Bernina Express through the Swiss Alps - the ultimate scenic route... 

First class seats   Bernina Express panormaic cars

Bernina Express 1st class seats...

 

the Bernina Express uses panoramic carriages...

The train descends from the Bernina Pass

The Bernina Express descends from the Bernina Pass...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Barcelona & Spain from €74...

Option 1, Cologne to Barcelona by high-speed train in a single day.  Overnight in Barcelona.  Onwards to Malaga, Seville, Alicante & so on next morning.

Option 2, Cologne to Spain by high-speed train with overnight stop in Paris...

A Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris

Step 1, Cologne to Paris by Thalys, seen arrived at Paris Nord.  See 360º photos inside ThalysMore info about Thalys.

1st class (Comfort & Premium) seating on Thalys   2nd class seats on a Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam

1st class (Comfort & Premium) seats, 2+1 across the car...

 

2nd class (Standard) seats, 2+2 across.  Larger photo.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

Step 2, Paris to  Barcelona by TGV Duplex, a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-decker.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwave-style hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on the upper deck.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class seats on upper deck, a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants.  The red near the door indicates 1st class, pale green indicates 2nd class.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees...  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CanigouMore photos of what to see on the Paris-Barcelona train journey.

Option 3, Cologne to Paris by Thalys, a French sleeper train to the Spanish border, then onward Spanish trains...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to San Sebastian...
  • Step 2, travel from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Hendaye on the Spanish border by high-speed double-deck TGV Duplex Océane in around 4h40.

    The impressive double-deck TGV Duplex Océane has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.  Hendaye is on the French side of the Spanish border.

    Fares start at €25 in 2nd class or €45 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest prices.

  • Step 3, transfer from Hendaye to San Sebastian by Euskotren metro, every 30 minutes, journey time 37 minutes...

    Simply walk out of Hendaye station and turn right, the little Euskotren station is in a corner of the main station forecourt.  Buy a ticket for €2.75 at the Euskotren station from the machines or staffed counter and hop on the next half-hourly Euskotren metro from Hendaye to San Sebastian Amara station, journey time 37 minutes.  See the Paris to San Sebastian page for more information, photos & tips.

  • For example:

    Leave Cologne Hbf at 06:44 Mondays-Saturdays, change in Paris, arriving Hendaye 16:47.

    Leave Cologne Hbf at 08:43 Saturdays, change in Paris, arriving Hendaye 18:47.

    Leave Cologne Hbf at 08:43 Mondays-Fridays & Sundays, change in Paris, arriving Hendaye 20:47.

  • How to buy tickets...

    Book from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Hendaye at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, more fiddly, no fee).  Booking opens up to 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can select a mobile ticket to show on your smartphone.

    Tip:  If you use www.raileurope.com you can click More options and enter Paris (any station) as a via station with a 1 hour stopover duration, to ensure a robust connection.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Ibiza & Mallorca...

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Lisbon, Porto & Portugal...

Option 1, to Lisbon via Barcelona & Madrid...

Option 2, via San Sebastian, Vigo & Porto - slightly slower, can be cheaper...

  • Day 1, at Hendaye walk out of the station and turn right, walk across the forecourt to the Euskotren station (www.euskotren.eus).  Buy a ticket and hop on the half-hourly local train to San Sebastian.  Hendaye to San Sebastian Amara station takes 37 minutes - Amara (Euskotren) station is 10 minutes walk from the Renfe station.

  • Stay overnight in San Sebastian.  The Pension Regil is close to the old town with great reviews, 10 minutes walk from the Renfe station, 7 minutes walk from the Amara Euskotren station.  If you want something in the old town itself, try the Pension Garibai or Pension Alameda.  If you want to push the boat out, San Sebastian's most venerable hotel (which I can recommend personally, having stayed there) is the Hotel de Londres y Inglaterra, on the sea front.

  • Day 2, travel across Spain from San Sebastian to Vigo on one of these two possible departures:

    Morning departure, every day:  Travel from San Sebastian (Renfe station) to Madrid by Alvia train, leaving San Sebastian at 09:02 and arriving Madrid Chamartin at 13:56.  Then travel from Madrid to Vigo by Alvia train, leaving Madrid Chamartin at 16:00 and arriving Vigo Urzaiz at 20:12.  The comfortable high-speed Alvia trains have a cafe-bar, standard & comfort class.  Vigo Urzaiz station is a 1.1 km 15-minute walk from Vigo Guixar station, see walking map.

    Afternoon departure, Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays only:  Spend the morning in San Sebastian.  An Intercity train leaves San Sebastian (Renfe station) at 12:13 arriving Vitoria/Gasteiz at 13:58.  This is a guaranteed connection into the Barcelona-Galicia Alvia train which leaves Vitoria/Gasteiz at 14:16 on Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays arriving Vigo Guixar at 23:12.

    Tip:  There's a lovely relaxed cafe-bar at San Sebastian Renfe station, accessible from the forecourt or the near-side platform, just north of the main station building, ideal for a cafe con leche before your train.

    San Sebastian to Vigo starts at €23 each way.  The price varies, book ahead for the cheaper prices.

    Book this at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  Booking for Spanish trains normally opens 60 days ahead, but this varies.

    Tip:  If using the daily departure with a change in Madrid, you might need to treat San Sebastian-Madrid & Madrid-Vigo as separate bookings.

  • Stay overnight in Vigo. The NH Collection Vigo hotel & cheaper Hotel Atlantico Vigo are both near the station with great reviews.

  • Day 3, travel from Vigo to Porto by air-conditioned regional train, leaving Vigo at 08:58 arriving Porto Campanhã at 10:20.  If you'd like to spend some time in Vigo, there's a later train leaving Vigo at 19:56 arriving Porto 21:18.

    The fare is €14.80, fixed price.

    This can also be booked at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  Booking normally opens 60 days ahead, but this can vary.

  • Day 3, take any suitable onward train from Porto to Lisbon, for example the 11:40 Alfa Pendular arriving Lisbon Santa Apolonia at 14:30.  Fares start at €15.  Book this at the Portuguese Railways website www.cp.pt (in €) or at Omio.com (in €, £ or $).

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Andorra...

Option 1, Cologne to Andorra in a day...

  • Step 1, travel from Cologne to Paris by Thalys train, leaving Cologne Hbf at 08:43 and arriving Paris Gare du Nord around 12:10.

    High-speed Thalys trains travel at up to 300km/h, with 3 classes, a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, see the Thalys guide.

    Fares start from €35 in 2nd class (standard) or €72 in 1st class (comfort).  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (more fiddly, in €, but no fee).   You print your own ticket or can choose a mobile ticket.

    Change stations in Paris by metro or taxi.  Always allow at least 60 minutes between trains in Paris, but the longer the better.

  • Step 2, travel from Paris to Toulouse by high-speed TGV, leaving Paris Montparnasse at 15:11 arriving Toulouse Matabiau 19:23.

    Fares start at €25 in 2nd class or €45 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (more fiddly, in €, but no fee).   You print your own ticket or can choose a mobile ticket.

    Have dinner in Toulouse...

  • Step 3, travel from Toulouse Matabiau to Andorra la Vella by bus, taking 4 hours, fare €33.

    There are 3 services every day run by Andbus, check times at www.andorrabybus.com.  I'd allow at least an hour between train and bus in Toulouse, just in case of delay.  There's normally a bus leaving Toulouse Matabiau at 20:00 arriving Andorra at midnight.

    The buses leave from bus stand 15 inside the Gare Routière (bus station) immediately outside Toulouse Matabiau station.  Simply walk out of the station onto the forecourt and look to your right.  The bus station is the modern building with the glass-and-blue-framework upper section, see the photos below.

    Book the bus ticket at www.andorrabybus.com.

TGVs to the Spanish border at Paris Montparnasse   1st class on a TGV Atlantique

Take a high-speed TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Toulouse, with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

 

1st class on TGV Atlantique, showing semi-compartments.  Courtesy Rafal Tomasik.

TGV interior by Christian Lacroix, second class   TGV bar car

2nd class seats on the TGV.  Most are unidirectional, some are in bays of 4 like this.  See 360° photo

 

The café-bar car, serving drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  See a typical menu here...

Bus station next to Toulouse Matabiau station   Bus station next to Toulouse Matabiau station

Travel from Toulouse to Andorra by bus, seen at bus stand 15.  The bus station is right next to the rail station.

 

Bus station in Toulouse Matabiau forecourt.  Photos courtesy of Andrew McIntyre.

Option 2, using the Paris-Toulouse-l'Hospitalet overnight train...

  • Step 2, travel from Paris to Toulouse by Intercité de Nuit, leaving Paris Gare d'Austerlitz at 21:45 arriving Toulouse Matabiau at 07:05.

    The Intercité de Nuit has 1st class 4-berth couchettes, 2nd class 6-berth couchettes & 2nd class reclining seats.

    Fares start at €35 in a 2nd class couchette or €65 in a 1st class couchette.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    The Paris-Toulouse night train should run daily all year, but has an annoying habit of opening late for booking, less than the expected 4 months ahead, so don't be too impatient.

    Buy tickets at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com (both easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com (in €, more fiddly, no fee).  Booking opens up to 4 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can choose a mobile ticket.

  • Step 3, travel from Toulouse to Andorra by bus.

    A bus run by Andbus (www.andorrabybus.com) typically leaves Toulouse at 11:00, arriving Andorra la Vella bus station at 15:00.  Check current times at www.andorrabybus.com, I'd allow at least an hour between train and bus in Toulouse in case of delay.

    The bus leaves from bus stand 15 inside the Gare Routière (bus station) immediately outside Toulouse Matabiau station.  Simply walk out of the station onto the forecourt and look to your right.  The bus station is the modern building with the glass-and-blue-framework upper section, see the photos below.

    Book the bus at www.andorrabybus.com.  The fare is around €33 one-way.

Intercite de nuit overnight train in Paris

Paris to Toulouse or l'Hospitalet by Intercité de Nuit, seen here at Paris Gare d'AusterlitzMore information about Intercité de Nuit trains Watch the videoPhoto courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

InterCite de Nuit 1st class couchette, 4-berth   InterCite de Nuit 2nd class couchette, 6-berth   French couchette car corridor

1st class 4-berth couchettes, as recently refurbished.  Courtesy of @Bristol_Phil.  Photo in 2nd class courtesy Dan Chester.

 

2nd class 6-berth couchettes

 

Chilling in the corridor...  Courtesy Dan Chester.

InterCite de Nuit 2nd class upper berth couchettes   InterCite de Nuit couchette

Upper berths, showing compartment lighting & temperature controls.  You can see the normal lock & security deadlock on the door.  Courtesy of Dan Chester.

 

Each couchette comes with a pillow, lightweight sleeping bag, bottled water, amenity kit with ear plugs & eye mask, reading light & power outlet.

Bus station next to Toulouse Matabiau station   Bus station next to Toulouse Matabiau station

Road transport to Andorra...  This is a Toulouse to Andorra bus at Toulouse bus stand 15.

 

The bus station in Toulouse Matabiau forecourt.  Photo courtesy of Andrew McIntyre.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck & Austria from €39.90...

Option 1, by comfortable daytime trains...

  • For Vienna & Linz...

    High-quality ICE-T trains link Düsseldorf & Cologne with Linz & Vienna twice a day:

    Cologne Hbf depart 05:53, Vienna Hbf arrive 14:45.

    Cologne Hbf depart 09:53, Vienna Hbf arrive 18:45.

    It's a chill-out day with a good book and meals in the restaurant car accompanied by a decent weissbier. 

    These trains are superb German ICEs with restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, and they take the scenic Rhine Valley route between Koblenz & Mainz - which just happens to be one of the most scenic main lines in Germany, twisting along the river past mountains, castles, vineyards and river boats and of course the famous legendary Lorelei Rock.  Sit on the left hand side of the train for the river scenery.  See the Rhine Valley scenery video here.

    Fares start at €39.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest prices.

  • For Salzburg, Bischofshofen, St Johann, Klagenfurt...

    A direct EuroCity train with bistro car links Düsseldorf & Cologne with Salzburg, Bischofshofen, St Johan & Klagenfurt every day, leaving Cologne Hbf at 08:17 and arriving Salzburg Hbf at 15:59, with fares from €29.90.

    This train also takes the scenic Rhine Valley route via Koblenz, make sure you sit on the left hand side of the train as the river boats, castles, vineyards and legendary Lorelei Rock roll past.

  • For Innsbruck & St Anton there are various departures with 1 or 2 changes, check times at www.bahn.de.

  • To buy tickets or check train times from anywhere in Germany to anywhere in Austria use the German Railways website www.bahn.de.  I recommend registering when prompted, rather than booking as a guest, so you can always log in and check or re-print all your bookings.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

    Top tip:  Check Austrian Railways www.oebb.at as well, as although fares also start from €29 I've often seen significantly cheaper fares on oebb.at than bahn.de on the same date & train.  You also get a print-at-home ticket.

An ICE train at Vienna Hbf

An ICE-T at Vienna Hbf.  These superb 7-car ICE-T trains run direct from Cologne to Vienna twice a day.

1st class table for two on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train   Lunch in the restaurant car on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train

Table for two in 1st class, my favourite configuration.  There are also tables for four in both classes.

 

Restaurant:  In 1st class you can choose to be served at your seat.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!

ICE-T train, driving cab   ICE-T train, 2nd class

You can see into the cab at each end of the train.

 

Comfortable 2nd class seats on the ICE-T to Vienna...

Scenery from the train

You'll glimpse the Inn and Danube rivers from the Frankfurt-Vienna ICE...

Option 2, by Nightjet sleeper train - the safe, comfortable, time-effective option that saves a hotel bill...

  • A comfortable Nightjet sleeper train leaves Dusseldorf 21:43 & Cologne Hbf 22:16, arriving Wels 07:14, Linz 07:46, Vienna Meidling 09:11 & Vienna Hbf 09:19, with a portion for Innsbruck Hbf arriving 09:14.  For Salzburg, change at Wels onto a railjet train arriving Salzburg Hbf at 08:48.

    Each portion of this comfortable Austrian Nightjet train has an air-conditioned Comfortline sleeping-car with nine 1, 2 & 3-berth standard compartments with washbasin and three 1, 2 or 3-berth deluxe compartments with shower & toilet. There are toilets & a shower at the end of the corridor for passengers in the regular sleepers.  The sleeping-car attendant can serve drinks, snacks & light meals from a room service menu.  The train has couchette cars with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and ordinary seats.  A light breakfast is included in sleepers & couchettes, served in your compartment.  See the Nightjet page for a guide to on-board accommodation, travel tips, photos & video.

  • Fares start at €49.90 in 6-berth couchettes, €59.90 in 4-berth couchettes, €89.90 in a 3-bed sleeper, €109.90 in a 2-bed sleeper or €159.90 in a single-bed sleeper, all per person per berth.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

  • Book this train at www.thetrainline.com (easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee) or at the Austrian Railways website www.oebb.at (in €, a bit more fiddly, same prices). Booking opens up to 6 months ahead and you print your own ticket.

The Nightjet sleeper to Vienna at Cologne Hbf

Düsseldorf or Cologne to Vienna by Nightjet...  Above, the Nightjet to Vienna & Innsbruck is about to leave Cologne Hbf.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes...

 

4-berth couchettes...

 

Couchette car on the Brussels-Vienna Nightjet...

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Cologne & Düsseldorf to Copenhagen, Odense & Denmark from €39.90...
Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train

Step 1, Cologne to Hamburg by Intercity train.  More information about these Intercity trains.

Beef ribs and Spatburgunder red wine on the Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train   2nd class on the Intercity

Lunch in the bistro car...

 

2nd class seats...

Hamburg-Copenhagen train at Hamburg Hbf

Step 2, Hamburg to Copenhagen by Intercity train.  This is the late afternoon Hamburg-Copenhagen IC3 leaving platform 5 at Hamburg Hbf on a busy summer day.  The yellow stripe above the windows indicates first class, located at one end of both 3-car units.  More information about the Hamburg-Copenhagen journey.

A Danish IC3 train at Copenhagen station...   1st class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen

Boarding a Danish IC3 train at Hamburg Hbf...

 

1st class seats on an IC3 train.  Larger photo.

2nd class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen   A Danish IC3 train at Copenhagen station...

2nd class seats on a IC3 train.  Larger photo.

 

An IC3 train to Copenhagen at Hamburg.

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Cologne & Düsseldorf to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö...

Option 1, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Stockholm using the Hamburg-Stockholm sleeper train, starting 1 September 2022 - the time-effective option...

  • Step 1, travel from to Hamburg by ICE train, leaving Cologne Hbf at 16:11 or Düsseldorf at 16:34, arriving Hamburg Altona 20:29.

    The ICE train has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Always allow at least an hour when connecting with a sleeper train you don't want to miss.  Have dinner in Hamburg.

    Fares start at €18.90 in 2nd class or €29.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book this train at the German Railways website www.bahn.de.

    Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted, so you can log on at any time and check or reprint tickets.

  • Step 2, travel from Hamburg to Stockholm by sleeper train, leaving Hamburg Altona at 21:55 & arriving Stockholm Central 09:55 next morning.

    This train started running on 1 September 2022.  Procured by the Swedish government and run by Swedish Railways SJ, the train has sleeping-cars with compact 1 & 2 berth compartments with washbasin, several 1, 2 or 3 bed deluxe compartments with en suite toilet & shower, couchette cars with 4 & 6 berth compartments, and ordinary seats.  The sleeping-cars are former Austrian Railways AB32s, refurbished.  More information about the Hamburg-Stockholm sleeper train.

    Update: This train is initially running only with 4 & 6-berth couchettes. Delivery of refurbished sleeping-cars & formal approval of the seats cars have been delayed.

    Fares start at €44.90 with a couchette in 6-berth, €69.90 with a couchette in 4-berth, €79.90 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or €164.90 with a single-bed sleeper all to yourself.  All prices per person per bed, fares vary like air fares so book ahead.

    Book tickets at either www.sj.se or (as this is a Nightjet partner route) Austrian Railways www.oebb.at.

    Booking opens several months ahead, you print your own ticket or can show it on your smartphone.

Hamburg-StockholmSJ EuroNight at Hamburg Altona   6-berth couchette on the Hamburg-Stockholm SJ night train

The inaugural Hamburg to Stockholm SJ EuroNight train at Hamburg Altona, 1 September 2022.  The author rode this first departure...

6-berth couchettes.

Larger photo.

Couchettes in day mode on the Hamburg-Stockholm train   Hamburg-StockholmSJ EuroNight at Padborg

Couchettes in day mode, en route to Stockholm.  Larger photo.

The inaugural train from Hamburg to Stockholm calls at Padborg, just after entering Denmark.

Scenery from the Hamburg to Stockholm train

Typical Swedish scenery on the morning run into Stockholm...

Option 2, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Stockholm, Gothenburg & Malmö in a single day...

  • It's possible to travel from Cologne to Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmo in a single day.  You'll usually find two services per day, but see what journey options www.bahn.de gives you as times may vary:

    Leave Cologne Hbf at 03:59, change at Hamburg Hbf & Copenhagen arriving Stockholm 19:37;

    Leave Cologne Hbf at 08:11, change at Hamburg Hbf & Copenhagen arriving Stockholm 23:41

    You travel by comfortable InterCity (IC) train with bistro car to Hamburg, Danish intercity train to Copenhagen, then either a 200 km/h Swedish X2000 high-speed train from Copenhagen to Stockholm or a comfortable Öresund train from Copenhagen to Malmo & Gothenburg.  You cross from Denmark to Sweden on the impressive Öresund fixed link.

    Fares start at €56.90 in 2nd class or €79.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Buy tickets at the German Railways website www.bahn.deBooking opens up to 6 months ahead.

    Book from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Malmo, Gothenburg or Stockholm as one transaction.  Don't worry about connections, you will be using a through ticket so will be entitled to travel onwards by later trains (and if necessary, a hotel) if a delay means a connection is missed, under the CIV international conditions of carriage.

    You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

Option 3, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Stockholm, Gothenburg & Malmö with overnight stop in Hamburg...

  • It can be easier and sometimes more time-effective to break up the journey with an overnight hotel stop in Hamburg.  That way you can leave Cologne in the late afternoon or early evening, and travel from Hamburg to Sweden next day.  You can still benefit from the same cheap fares from €59.90.

  • To book, go to www.bahn.de and click Stopover.  Enter Hamburg Hbf in the via box and perhaps 11 hours in the hh:mm stopover box.  Adjust the departure time and stopover period until you get trains which suit you either side of Hamburg.

    You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

  • Suggested hotels in Hamburg across the road from Hamburg Hbf with good reviews include (starting with the cheapest) the Hotel Continental Novum, Hotel Furst Bismarck, Hotel Europaischer Hof (the one I'd pick), Hotel Atlantic Kempinski.

Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train

Step 1, Cologne to Hamburg by Intercity train.  More information about these Intercity trains.

Beef ribs and Spatburgunder red wine on the Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train   2nd class on the Intercity

Lunch in the bistro car...

 

2nd class seats...

Hamburg-Copenhagen train at Copenhagen station

Step 2, Hamburg to Copenhagen by Intercity train seen here at Copenhagen.  More about Hamburg to Copenhagen trains.

2nd class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen   1st class seats on an IC3 train from Hamburg to Copenhagen

2nd class seats on an IC3 train.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an IC3 train.  Larger photo.

An X2000 train at Stockholm Central

Step 3, Copenhagen to Stockholm by tilting 200km/h X2000, seen at Stockholm CentralMore about X2000 trains.

1st class seats on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train 2nd class seats on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train

1st class on an X2000.  Larger photo.

 

2nd class on an X2000.  Larger photo.

Bistro seating area on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train   Bistro seating area on a Copenhagen-Stockholm X2000 train

Bistro seating on an X2000 train. Larger photo.

 

Bistro on an X2000 train. Larger photo.

On the Oresund link!

Crossing the impressive Öresund bridge from Denmark to Sweden...

Option 4, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Gothenburg using Stena Line's Kiel-Gothenburg overnight ferry...

  • Step 1, travel from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Kiel by train, leaving late morning.

    The journey takes around 5h25, you'll typically find a train leaving Cologne Hbf around 11:00 or Düsseldorf around 11:30 with 1 easy change at Hamburg Hbf.  However, you should book the ferry first and confirm ferry times, then book a train that arrives at Kiel Hbf around 2 hours before the ferry sails.

    Book the train at the German Railways site www.bahn.de.

    You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted, so you can log on at any time and check or reprint tickets.

    In Kiel, the ferry terminal is 750m from the station, a 9-minute walk, see walking map.

  • Step 2, sail overnight from Kiel to Gothenburg by Stena Line ferry.

    The ferry normally sails at 18:45 and arrives around 09:15, but times may vary so check online.

    The ferry is a floating hotel with restaurants & bars, all passengers travel in a cosy private cabin with en suite toilet & shower.  You can add dinner & breakfast to your ticket when you book.

    Fares vary, you might pay €39 per passenger as basic fare plus €75-€89 per cabin for a private 1 or 2 bed room.

    Book the ferry at www.stenaline.com and print your own ticket or show it on your phone.

    In Gothenburg, the ferry terminal is a short taxi ride (or 4.3 km 53-minute walk) from Goteborg Central station, see walking map.

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Cologne & Düsseldorf to Oslo & Norway...

Option 1, via Hamburg & Copenhagen - by train all the way...

Option 2, Cologne & Dusseldorf to Oslo via the Kiel-Oslo Color Line cruise ferry - the most luxurious way to Oslo...

  • Day 1, travel from Cologne or Dusseldorf to Kiel on a very early morning train, for example leaving Cologne Hbf at 06:12.

    Fares start at €18.90 in 2nd class or €49.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest prices.

    Buy tickets at the German Railways website www.bahn.de.  Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

  • In Kiel it's just a 5-6 minute walk from Kiel Hbf to the Color Line ferry terminal, but allow several hours between trains and ferry for the ferry check-in and in case of any delay.

  • Day 1, sail from Kiel to Oslo by luxurious overnight Color Line ferry, with a full range of en suite cabins, suites, bars, restaurants and lounges.  The m/v Magic or m/v Fantasy normally sails at 14:00 arriving Oslo at 10:00 next morning (day 2).

    Check times & buy tickets using the Direct Ferries website or www.colorline.com.  You print your own ticket.

    Make sure you're on deck next morning as the ship sails through spectacular scenery up Oslo Fjord.  The ship docks at the modern Color Line terminal about 2 km from the city centre.  Color Line provide transfer buses to Oslo Sentral station costing 55 krone, or there are plenty of taxis.  If you have little luggage it's possible to walk.  See map of Oslo showing ferry terminal.

Germany to Oslo Color Line ferry at Kiel

This photo is taken from the exit of Kiel station, so you can see how close the ferry is.  It's a 5-6 minute walk across the harbour, with a street lift up to a connecting walkway which takes you to the ferry terminal. If you have reserved one of what Color Line call their "5 star suites", check in at the desk rather than the machines and you'll be directed to a special lounge to wait with free tea, coffee, juice, snacks & WiFi.  You'll also have priority boarding of the ship.  Photos courtesy of Andrew Leo.

Boarding the ferry in Kiel

Boarding the Color Line ferry to Oslo in Kiel...

Kiel to Oslo ferry, Color Class suite   Kiel to Oslo ferry, restaurant

A 5 Star Suite on the ferry...

 

More cruise liner than ferry!  The restaurant.

View from Color Line ferry to Oslo

Wake up to this....

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Cologne & Düsseldorf to Helsinki & Finland...

Option 1, by direct ferry from Germany to Helsinki - the easiest option...

Finnlines sail from Travemünde in Germany to Helsinki every day, boarding from 22:30 to 24:00 and arriving Helsinki Vuosaari ferry terminal at 09:00 2 nights later.  First go to www.finnlines.com to check sailing dates, times & to book the ferry.  Then travel as follows:

  • Step 1, travel from Cologne to Lübeck Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal.

    Take an InterCity or ICE train from Cologne Hbf to Hamburg Hbf, then take a local train from Hamburg Hbf to Lübeck, these run every 30 minutes during the day, hourly in the evening, journey time 42-43 minutes.

    At Lübeck, leave the station and follow the signs to the ZOB bus station.  Lübeck is a good place for dinner with plenty of bars & restaurants in the old town 5 minutes walk from the bus station.

    Now take a bus from Lübeck bus station to Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal (this is not the same stop as Travemünde Skandinavienkai), the bus ride takes 28 minutes, the last bus goes around 21:00.

    You can check journey times from Cologne to Travemünde Skandinavienkai Terminal at the German Railways website, just use this link to bahn.de as it has the bus times in its database as well as the trains, or you can find bus information at www.xn--sv-lbeck-95a.de.

  • Step 2, sail from Travemünde to Helsinki with Finnlines.

    At the terminal, walk into the unassuming building next to the bus stop for check in.  You're looking for a large building marked HafenHaus and with a green neon Check in sign by the front door.  After check-in, you go downstairs to a large waiting hall, with a bar/cafe open until 10pm, toilets and a large supermarket open until 01:30 selling alcohol and chocolate.

    Check-in normally opens at 21:00 and the ship boards from 22:30 to 24:00, foot passengers are driven onto the car deck in a minibus.  The ship sails at 03:00 arriving at Helsinki Vuosaari ferry terminal outside Helsinki at 09:00 the following day (2 nights from Hamburg).

    The ship may not be quite as glamorous as some other cruise ferries on the Baltic, but it has all the essentials:  Comfortable cabins with private shower & toilet and free internet access (but not WiFi, so bring a network cable), restaurant, shop, bar, sundeck, and (naturally, being Finnish) a sauna.  It's a very civilised way to travel.

  • Step 3, transfer from the Vuosaari ferry terminal to central Helsinki.  Helsinki's new Hansa Ferry Terminal in the Vuosaari Harbour is 16 km east of central Helsinki.  There is a bus connection (bus 90B) between Vuosaari harbour and Vuosaari metro station.  Take the metro from Vuosaari into central Helsinki, journey time 25 minutes.  Map of Helsinki showing Vuosaari.

Finnlines Star class ferry to Helsinki   Cabin on the Finnlines ferry to Helsinki

One of Finnlines 3 star class ferries to Helsinki.  Courtesy of Finnlines.

 

Cabin on the ferry...

Option 2, travel to Stockholm and take a ferry from there...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Prague from €29.90...

Option 1, by daytime train - the leisurely same-day option...

  • Buy tickets at the German Railways website www.bahn.deBooking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

    Tip:  It's a good idea to click Stopover and enter Berlin Hbf as a via station, then it'll just show this route via Berlin with high-quality trains, look for easy options with just 1 change.  See suggested hotels in Prague.

    Tip:  Stopover in Berlin?   You normally seem to get an hour between trains in Berlin, which is enough to nip out to see the Reichstag 10 minutes walk from Berlin Hbf or the Brandenburg gate, 5 minutes walk further on.  But you can build in a longer stopover if you want, either a few hours or an overnight stop.  Simply click Stopover and enter Berlin Hbf then enter a suitable stopover duration.  For a few hours stop, select an early departure time from Cologne or Düsseldorf.

  • This is the easiest and most scenic daytime option, with the chance for a stopover in Berlin, but for sheer cheapness, see option 3 below...

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

Step 1, Dusseldorf or Cologne to Berlin by ICE2.  These are 2nd class seats. Larger photo.

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

Boarding an ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

EuroCity train to Prague about to leave Berlin

Step 2, Berlin to Prague by EuroCity train, seen here boarding in Berlin...

First class on Prague to Budapest traiin   2nd class compartment on Prague to Budapest traiin

1st class seats...

 

2nd class seats in a compartment car...

Czech restaurant car on a Berlin to Prague train   Lunch in the restaurant car between Berlin & Prague

So civilised!  A meal in the Czech restaurant car as the Berlin-Prague express snakes along the beautiful Elbe river south of Dresden.  Most Berlin-Prague trains use Czech carriages like this, a few use Hungarian air-conditioned carriages.  See more photos, tips & info for the Berlin to Prague train ridePhoto courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

More cliffs along the river Elbe

Scenery along the Elbe river between Dresden & Prague...

Option 2, by daytime trains with overnight stop in Berlin from €39 - a time-effective option with an evening in Berlin...

  • Day 1, take a comfortable high-speed ICE train from Cologne Hbf to Berlin Hbf in 4h22...

    Trains leave every hour, you can usually leave Cologne as late as 19:27 arriving Berlin at 00:10, but by all means book an earlier train and spend a pleasant evening in Berlin.

  • Fares start at €29.90 in 2nd class or €59.90 in 1st class, with overnight stop included.  Fares vary like air fares so book ahead.

  • Buy tickets at the German Railways website www.bahn.de like this:

    Enter Cologne or Dusseldorf to Prague, then click Stopover and enter Berlin Hbf and a stopover duration of (say) 10 hours.  In fact, I've set up this special link to bahn.de for you with the necessary parameters, just enter your date of travel and adjust the departure time from Cologne and stopover duration in Berlin to get the trains you want on both days.  In the search results, look for journeys with just 1 change marked ICE,ECBooking opens up to 6 months ahead.

Option 3, the cheapest option via Nuremburg & Cheb...

Cheb station, en route from Brussels to Prague

The easy & relaxed interchange at Cheb...  The red train on the right is the German regional train arrived from Nuremberg.  You cross to the blue Czech train on the left about to leave for Prague - although always check the departure boards as sometimes a faster train to Prague goes from an adjacent platform.

The City Night Line sleeper train from Cologne to Prague was discontinued in December 2016.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Cesky Krumlov & other Czech destinations...

  • You can book from Cologne or Düsseldorf to almost anywhere in the Czech Republic using the German Railways website www.bahn.de.

    Fares start at €37.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.

    Booking opens up to 6 months ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted, so you can log on at any time and check or reprint tickets.  

    Tip:  It's an all-day ride from Cologne or Düsseldorf to the Czech Republic, so select a morning departure time to do it all in one day.

    Tip:  You might prefer breaking up a long journey with an overnight stop, perhaps Nuremberg, if your route goes that way.  To get an overnight stop, click Stopover and enter Nuremberg, with a suitable stopover duration, say 11 hours, or up to 48 hours.

    Tip:  Also check times & prices using the Czech Railways website www.cd.cz.

  • For Cesky Krumlov (a lovely town, and the second most-visited place in the Czech Republic, see the Cesky Krumlov page) you need to book to Ceske Budejovice, not Cesky Krumlov, because the branch line between Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov is run by private operator GWTR and German Railways cannot ticket that part.

    So book from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Ceske Budejovice at www.bahn.de from €37.90, then buy the local ticket from Ceske Budejovice to Cesky Krumlov either at the station in Ceske Budejovice from the distinctive green and orange ticket kiosk in the main hall, or on board the train using the self-service ticket machines, contactless cards accepted.  You can check train times from Ceske Budejovice to Cesky Krumlov at www.gwtr.cz.

  • For Karlovy Vary or Plzen, book at www.bahn.de, looking for 3-change options via Frankfurt, Nuremberg & Cheb from €37.90.

  • For Brno, book Cologne or Düsseldorf to Brno at www.bahn.de.  It tends to route you via Vienna, as this is slightly quicker.  By all means click Stopover and enter Prague, this can be cheaper.  By adding a stopover duration of a suitable number of hours, you can have an overnight stop there.

    The most time-effective option from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Brno is to take the Nightjet sleeper train to Vienna overnight as shown above, allow at least an hour between trains in Vienna, then take a Vienna-Brno train booked at either www.thetrainline.com (sells both Regiojet & ÖBB/CD trains), www.oebb.at (ÖBB/CD trains only) or www.regiojet.com (Regiojet trains only).

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Bratislava & Slovakia from €39.90...

Option 1, by daytime train... 

An ICE train at Vienna Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Vienna by ICE-T train with restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi...

1st class table for two on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train   Lunch in the restaurant car on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train

Table for two in 1st class, my favourite configuration.  There are also tables for four in both classes.

 

Lunch in the restaurant.  In 1st class you can choose to be served at your seat.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!

ICE-T train, driving cab   ICE-T train, 2nd class

You can see into the cab at each end of the train.

 

Comfortable 2nd class seats on the ICE-T to Vienna...

Scenery from the train

You'll glimpse the Inn and Danube rivers from the Frankfurt-Vienna ICE...

The train from Vienna to Bratislava...   Inside the hourly train from Vienna to Bratislava...

Step 2, Vienna to Bratislava by hourly regional express train.  More about these Vienna-Bratislava trains.

Option 2, by sleeper train...

The Nightjet sleeper to Vienna at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Düsseldorf or Cologne to Vienna by Nightjet.  Above, the Nightjet about to leave Cologne Hbf.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on sleeper train

6-berth couchettes...

 

4-berth couchettes...

 

Couchette car on a Nightjet...

The train from Vienna to Bratislava...   Inside the hourly train from Vienna to Bratislava...

Step 2, Vienna to Bratislava by hourly regional express train.  More about these Vienna-Bratislava trains.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Budapest from €39.90...

Option 1, using the Munich-Budapest sleeper train - the most time-effective option...

A high-speed ICE3 train at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE.  This is an ICE3 at Cologne HbfMore information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

The sleeper train Kalman Imre from Munich to  Budapest

Step 2, Munich to Budapest by sleeper train.  This is the Kalman Imre boarding on platform 12 at Munich Hbf.  More information about this train.

The sleeper train from Zurich to Budapest   4-berth couchettes on train to Budapest   6-berth couchettes on train to Budapest

2 bed sleeper, can also be set up as 1 or 3 bed.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

6-berth couchettes.

Option 2, by daytime trains - the leisurely daytime option...

An ICE train at Vienna Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Vienna by ICE-T train with restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi...

1st class table for two on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train   Lunch in the restaurant car on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train

Table for two in 1st class, my favourite configuration.  There are also tables for four in both classes.

 

Restaurant.  In 1st class you can choose to be served at your seat.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!

ICE-T train, driving cab   ICE-T train, 2nd class

You can see into the cab at each end of the train.

 

Comfortable 2nd class seats on the ICE-T to Vienna...

Scenery from the train

You'll glimpse the Inn and Danube rivers from the Frankfurt-Vienna ICE...

A railjet train about to leave Vienna

Step 2, Vienna to Budapest by railjet, seen about to leave Vienna Hbf.  More information about railjets.

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

Restaurant.  In 1st & business you're served at your seat.

First class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

Option 2, by sleeper train via Vienna - another time-effective option...

The Nightjet sleeper to Vienna at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Düsseldorf or Cologne to Vienna by Nightjet, seen here at Cologne Hbf.

Nightjet deluxe 2-berth sleeper   Nightjet deluxe sleeper in day mode   Nightjet deluxe sleeper toilet & shower   Nightjet standard (economy) sleeper

Deluxe sleeper.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3-bed room.  Larger photoVideo of deluxe room

 

The same deluxe sleeper in evening/morning mode with beds folded away, seats folded out.  Larger photo.

 

Deluxe rooms have a compact shower & toilet, towels & hair/body wash provided.  Larger photo.

 

Standard sleeper set up as 2-berth, washstand open.  It can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Larger photo.

6-berth couchettes   4-berth couchette on Nightjet train   Couchette car on Brussels-Vienna sleeper

6-berth couchettes...

 

4-berth couchettes...

 

Couchette car on a Nightjet...

EuroCity train from Vienna to Budapest, at Budapest Keleti

Step 2, Vienna to Budapest by EuroCity train.

1st class seats on a Hungarian EuroCity train   2nd class seats on a Hungarian EuroCity train

1st class is usually in 6-seat compartments.  Larger photo.

 

2nd class, open-plan saloon type, modernised.  Larger photo.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Bucharest & Romania from €99...

Option 1, via Vienna - the fastest & most comfortable option...

An ICE train at Vienna Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Vienna by ICE-T train with restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi...

1st class table for two on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train   Lunch in the restaurant car on the Berlin to Vienna ICE train

Table for two in 1st class, my favourite configuration.  There are also tables for four in both classes.

 

Restaurant.  In 1st class you can choose to be served at your seat.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!

ICE-T train, driving cab   ICE-T train, 2nd class

You can see into the cab at each end of the train.

 

Comfortable 2nd class seats on the ICE-T to Vienna...

Scenery from the train

You'll glimpse the Inn and Danube rivers from the Frankfurt-Vienna ICE...

Dacia Express sleeper at Vienna   Dacia Express sleeper at Vienna

Step 2, Vienna to Romania on the Dacia Express.  The Dacia has an air-conditioned Romanian sleeping-car of their most modern type.  Each compartment can be sold as a single, double or triple.  Most have a washbasin, two compartments have a shower & toilet.  Beds fold away to form a private sitting room for day use.  Sleeper photo courtesy of @PaliparanDotCom.  Larger photo.

Romanian couchette car from Vienna to Bucharest   Dacia Express couchette car

The Dacia Express couchette car, boarding at Vienna Hbf.  There is one Romanian couchette car with 4 & 6-berth compartments, bedding provided.  Larger photo.

Scenery in Transylvania

Transylvania:  The Dacia Express crosses rural Transylvania.  Courtesy of @PaliparanDotCom

  Couchette car on the Ister EuroNight train from Budapest to Bucharest

Enjoy dinner and a beer in the bar car, as a bar-bistro is attached to the Dacia Express in Romania between Bucharest & Simeria.  Photos courtesy of @PaliparanDotCom & @_DiningCar.

Dacia Express Carpathian mountains

The Carpathian mountains:  Almost Alpine scenery between Brasov & Bucharest...  Courtesy of @PaliparanDotCom

Option 2, via Budapest...

2-berth sleeper on the Ister   The Ister at Bucharest Nord

A 1, 2 or 3-bed sleeper with washbasin.  Larger photo.

 

The sleeping-car (vagon de dormit) on the westbound Ister at Bucharest.  Sleepers convert from beds to private sitting rooms for day use.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.

Couchette car on the Ister EuroNight train from Budapest to Bucharest   Romanian couchette car from Vienna to Bucharest

The vagon cuseta (couchette car) on the westbound Ister, boarding at Bucharest.  Couchettes convert from bunks at night to seats by day.  Courtesy of @AndyBTravels, DiscoverByRail.com .

 

4 or 6-berth couchettes.  Larger photo.

Option 3, with overnight stop in Budapest - if you prefer daytime trains & hotel to sleepers...

The daytime train from Budapest to Bucharest

The daytime train from Budapest to Bucharest has modern air-conditioned Romanian carriages.  Three cars travel all the way, additional cars are attached whilst in Hungary, and additional cars and a bar car are attached between Drobeta Turnu Severin & Bucharest.

The 'Transylvania' train to Brasov about to leave Budapest   2nd class on the Budapest to Bucharest train

On the left, the daytime train to Bucharest is about to leave Budapest Keleti...

 

Comfortable 2nd class seats on the Budapest to Bucharest train.  There are power outlets under the tables.  Larger photo.

Bar stools on the Budapest to Bucharest train   Bar car on the Budapest to Bucharest train

A bar car is attached between Drobeta Turnu Severin & Bucharest.  Photos courtesy of @AndyBTravels, DiscoverByRail.com.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Ljubljana & Zagreb from €37.90...

Option 1, by daytime train...

Option 2, by daytime train with overnight stop in Munich...

A railjet train about to leave Munich Hbf

The 08:17 departure from Munich is a smart Austrian railjet across Austria to Villach on the Austrian-Slovenian border...  This is a railjet about to leave Munich Hbf...

Business class seats on a railjet train   Railjet restaurant car

Business class.  About.

 

Restaurant car.

First class seats on a railjet train   Economy class seats on a railjet train

First class.

 

Economy class.

  Premium class seats on the Munich-Vienna RailJet train   Railjet restaurant car

Railjet first class, with black leather seats...

 

Business class...

 

The restaurant...

Scenery in the Austrian Alps between Munich & Ljubljana

Through the Austrian Alps...  Clinging to the mountainside high in the Austrian Alps, the railjet snakes along between snow-capped mountains, absolutely wonderful.,,

If you use the morning train from Munich, there's a quick & simple cross-platform change of train at Villach onto a Slovenian & Croatian train called the Sava...

  2nd class seats on the Munich-Zagreb train

...along the Sava river in Slovenia.  Now across the border in Slovenia, the EuroCity train runs along the pretty River Sava all the way to Ljubljana & Zagreb...

 

Comfortable seats:  The 2nd class seats in the Slovenian cars are arranged 2+1 abreast, the same as 1st class!

The EuroCity train 'Sava' from Munich to Ljubljana & Zagreb  

The EuroCity train Sava, arrived at Zagreb.

 

More scenery along the Sava between Ljubljana & Zagreb.

Option 3, using the Munch-Ljubljana-Zagreb sleeper train - the time-effective option....

A high-speed ICE3 train at Cologne Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE.  This is an ICE3 at Cologne HbfMore information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

The 'Lisinski' sleeper train from Munic to Zagreb, boarding in Munich

Step 2, Munich to Ljubljana & Zagreb by sleeper train.  Above, the air-conditioned Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb is boarding on platform 12 at Munich Hbf.  It has 10 compartments with washbasin, each of which can be used as 1, 2 or 3 berth, with toilets at the end of the corridor.  Compartments convert to a private sitting room for evening or morning use.  A light breakfast is included in the sleeper fare.  The Croatian couchette car is the next vehicle to the right, also modern & air-conditioned with 4 & 6 bunk compartments, ideal for families.  Couchettes convert from bunks to seats for evening or morning use.

Sleeper compartment in the Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb   Sleeper compartment in the Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb   4 or 6-berth couchettes on train from Munich to Zagreb

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper.

 

Set up as a single-berth.

 

4 or 6-berth couchettes. 360º photo.

Scenery between Ljubljana & Zagreb

Wake up to scenery like this between Ljubljana & Zagreb, along the river Sava...

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Belgrade, Sofia, Montenegro...

Option 1, to Belgrade & beyond using the Munich-Zagreb sleeper...

A high-speed ICE3 train at Munich Hbf

Step 1, Cologne to Munich by ICE.  This is an ICE3 at Munich HbfMore information about ICE trains.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Proper china, metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant area on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

The 'Lisinski' sleeper train from Munic to Zagreb, boarding in Munich

Step 2, Munich to Zagreb by sleeper train.  Above, the air-conditioned Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb is boarding on platform 12 at Munich Hbf.  It has 10 compartments with washbasin, each of which can be used as 1, 2 or 3 berth, with toilets at the end of the corridor.  Compartments convert to a private sitting room for evening or morning use.  A light breakfast is included in the sleeper fare.  The Croatian couchette car is the next vehicle to the right, also modern & air-conditioned with 4 & 6 bunk compartments, ideal for families.  Couchettes convert from bunks to seats for evening or morning use.

Sleeper compartment in the Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb   Sleeper compartment in the Croatian sleeping-car from Munich to Zagreb   4 or 6-berth couchettes on train from Munich to Zagreb

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper.

 

Set up as a single-berth.

 

4 or 6-berth couchettes. 360º photo.

Scenery between Ljubljana, Zagreb & Belgrade

Wake up to scenery like this between Ljubljana & Zagreb, along the river Sava...

2nd class seats in a Serbian air-conditioned train   The train from Belgrade to Zagreb & Zurich, about to leave Belgrade

Step 3, Zagreb to Belgrade on the daily train.  Above, Serbian air-conditioned cars.

Option 2, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Sofia via Bucharest - currently the easiest option for Sofia...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Warsaw from €37.90...

Option 1, Cologne to Warsaw in a single day from €37.90 - the leisurely daytime option...

Option 2, Cologne to Warsaw with overnight stop in Berlin - time-effective & a chance to see Berlin...

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

Step 1, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Berlin by ICE2 with power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  This is 2nd class.  Larger photo.

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

An ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

Berlin to Warsaw train at Berlin

Step 2, Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train, seen here at Berlin Hbf...

1st class compartment on a Berlin to Warsaw train.   2nd class car on the Berlin to Warsaw train

1st class compartment...

 

2nd class.  Some seats are in compartments.

Bistro-restaurant car on the Berlin-Warsaw Express

The restaurant car on a Berlin-Warsaw express.  You don't need to reserve a table, just go along and sit down.  A steward will take your order...  These photos courtesy of DiscoverbyRail.comLarger photo.

 

The bar...

 

Decent food, served on proper china...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Wroclaw, Katowice & Krakow from €37.90...

Option 1, Cologne to Krakow by daytime trains a single day - Mondays-Saturdays only...

  • Step 1, travel from Cologne to Berlin by ICE train with restaurant car & free WiFi, leaving Cologne Hbf at 04:26 & arriving Berlin Hbf 09:10.

    You've now time for breakfast in Berlin, and perhaps a wander to the Reichstag & Brandenburg Gate, 15 minutes walk from the station.

    Note that a later 06:17 departure is possible from Cologne every day of the week with a 27-minute connection in Berlin, but a 25+ minute delay would mean missing the once-a-day train to Krakow.  So I recommend sticking with the earlier train, running Mondays-Saturdays only, in spite of the early start!  However, with a through ticket you are entitled to later onward travel at no charge if there's a delay and missed connection, so you could risk it if you liked.

  • Step 2, travel from Berlin to Krakow by EuroCity train Wawel with leaving Berlin Hbf at 10:39 and arriving Wroclaw 14:52, Katowice 16:57 & Krakow Glowny at 17:52.  The Wawel is comfortable & air-conditioned with restaurant car, treat yourself to lunch and a beer or two.

  • Fares start at €37.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest prices.

  • Buy tickets at the German Railways website www.bahn.deTip:  Click Stopover, enter Berlin Hbf with a stopover duration of 45 minutes.  This gets you the robust connection in Berlin as recommended above.  Booking to Poland normally opens 60 days ahead.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.  I recommend registering when prompted so you can log in & check your bookings or re-print tickets at any time.

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

Step 1, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Berlin by ICE2 with power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  This is 2nd class.  Larger photo

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

An ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

Berlin to Warsaw train at Berlin Hbf

Step 2, Berlin to Krakow by EuroCity train WawelThis is the Wawel on platform 11 at Berlin Hbf.

2nd class car on the Berlin to Warsaw train   1st class compartment on a Berlin to Warsaw train.

2nd class.  Some seats are in compartments.

 

1st class on the Wawel.

Bistro-restaurant car on the Berlin-Warsaw Express

The restaurant car on a Berlin-Warsaw express.  You don't need to reserve a table, just go along and sit down.  A steward will take your order...  These photos courtesy of DiscoverbyRail.comLarger photo.

 

The bar...

 

Decent food, served on proper china...

Option 2, Cologne to Krakow with overnight stop in Berlin - time-effective & a chance to see Berlin...

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Vilnius. Riga, Tallinn...

Option 1, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Lithuania with overnight stop & morning free in Warsaw...

  • Day 2, travel from Warsaw to Kaunas & Vilnius, leaving Warsaw at lunchtime, changing at Bialystok and arriving Kaunas in Lithuania in the evening, with connections to Vilnius, see the Warsaw to Vilnius page for details.  Warsaw-Vilnius costs around €24.

  • Day 3, for onward travel from Vilnius to Riga, see here.

  • Day 4, for onward travel from Riga to Tallinn, see here.

Option 2, Cologne or Düsseldorf to Lithuania with overnight stop in Berlin - faster, Sundays-Fridays only, with a very early start from Berlin...

  • Day 1, travel from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Berlin on any afternoon or early evening high-speed ICE train.

    You can leave Cologne Hbf as late as 18:48 on most days, arriving Berlin Hbf around 23:04, but by all means take an earlier train and spend a pleasant evening in Berlin.  The high-speed ICE has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

  • Stay overnight in Berlin.  The 3-star InterCity Hotel (my favourite) or Meininger Hotel are right next to Berlin Hbf, a 10-minute walk from the Reichstag or 15 minutes from the Brandenburg Gate, relatively inexpensive with good reviews.  The Steigenberger Hotel is more upmarket, also right next to the station with great reviews.  If you want to push the boat out, the famous & historic Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin is next to the Brandenburg Gate.  If you're on a tight budget, the cheaper Motel One Berlin-Hbf is behind the station or see www.hostelworld.com.

  • Day 2, travel from Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train leaving Berlin Hbf at 05:43 Mondays-Saturdays only arriving Warsaw Centralna at 11:42.

    The Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity train is a comfortable air-conditioned Polish train with trolley refreshment service and a restaurant car serving drinks, snacks and meals.  Treat yourself to a cooked breakfast the restaurant car.

    Cologne or Düsseldorf to Warsaw starts at €37.90 in 2nd class or €56.90 in 1st class.

    Buy tickets from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Warsaw at the German Railways website www.bahn.de.  To get the overnight stop in Berlin, click Stopover, enter Berlin Hbf and a suitable stopover duration, say 10 hours.  Adjust departure time & stopover duration to get the trains you want either side of Berlin, a little trial & error may be required.

    Tip: You may be able to buy a through ticket from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Bialystok covering both the Cologne-Berlin-Warsaw & Warsaw-Bialystok trains for almost the same price as Cologne to Warsaw.  In which case, you just need to buy a Bialystok-Kaunas/Vilnius ticket at the station in Warsaw, or on board the train.

  • Day 2, travel from Warsaw to Kaunas & Vilnius, leaving Warsaw at lunchtime, changing at Bialystok and arriving Kaunas in Lithuania in the evening, with connections to Vilnius, see the Warsaw to Vilnius page for details.  Warsaw-Vilnius costs around €24.

  • Day 3, for onward travel from Vilnius to Riga in Latvia, see here.

  • Day 4, for onward travel from Riga to Tallinn in Estonia, see here.

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Kiev & Ukraine...

Option 1, using the Warsaw-Kiev sleeper...

The Warsaw to Kiev train at Warsaw Centralna

A Ukrainian sleeping-car on the Kiev Express at Warsaw CentralnaCourtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment   Each compartment has a washbasin   The Kiev Express

1, 2 or 3-bed sleeper...

 

Washbasin...

 

Kiev Express...

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Cologne or Düsseldorf to Moscow, St Petersburg & Russia...

Option 1, using the daily Warsaw-Moscow sleeper train - suspended due to sanctions...

The train from Warsaw to Moscow uses Russian air-conditioned sleeping-cars, pictured below, with compartments which can be used as 1st class 2-berth or 2nd class 4-berth (shown below right), with a shower & toilets at the end of the corridor.  See panorama photo inside one of the new Russian sleepers.

A modern Russian sleeping-car of the sort used on the Polonez   A 2-berth or 4-berth compartment in daytime mode

Option 2, using the Berlin-Moscow Strizh (Swift) Talgo sleeper train, twice a week, suspended due to sanctions...

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow.  It's a Spanish-built articulated Talgo train - note the relatively small size of each car, with just one axle between each pair of cars.  Photos courtesy of Jaap van Ginkel.

2-bed sleeper with washbasin, night   2-bed sleeper with washbasin, day mode   Complimentary toiletry pack in a Strizh sleeper

Standard 2-berth sleeper with washbasin, in night-time & daytime modes...

 

Complimentary toiletry pack...

Option 4, via Kiev avoiding Belarus and any issues crossing Belarus to reach Moscow...

  • Day 1, travel from Cologne or Düsseldorf to Berlin on any afternoon or early evening high-speed ICE train.

    You can leave Cologne Hbf as late as 18:48 on most days, arriving Berlin Hbf around 23:04, but by all means take an earlier train and spend a pleasant evening in Berlin.  The high-speed ICE has a restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

  • Stay overnight in Berlin.  The 3-star InterCity Hotel (my favourite) or Meininger Hotel are right next to Berlin Hbf, a 10-minute walk from the Reichstag or 15 minutes from the Brandenburg Gate, relatively inexpensive with good reviews.  The Steigenberger Hotel is more upmarket, also right next to the station with great reviews.  If you want to push the boat out, the famous & historic Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin is next to the Brandenburg Gate.  If you're on a tight budget, the cheaper Motel One Berlin-Hbf is behind the station or see www.hostelworld.com.

  • Day 2 morning, travel from Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train leaving Berlin Hbf at 09:38 every day and arriving Warsaw Centralna at 15:45. 

    Tip:  If you book the earlier 05:43 departure from Berlin on Mondays-Saturdays arriving Warsaw at 11:42 you'll have time to explore the city, see Warsaw Centralna station & city information.  Warsaw's historic old town is a 30 minute walk from Centralna station - if you fancy a modest splurge, the celebrated Ufukiera restaurant (www.ufukiera.pl) is excellent and right on the square in the heart of Warsaw's old town.  The Palace of Culture (a wedding cake style Soviet skyscraper and distinctive Warsaw landmark, www.pkin.pl) is right next to the station and has a viewing terrace on the 30th floor.

    Fares from Cologne or Dusseldorf to Warsaw start at €37.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.  Fares vary like air fares, so book ahead.

    Book from Cologne or Dusseldorf to Warsaw at the German Railways website www.bahn.de.  Booking to Poland normally opens 60 days ahead.  To build in the overnight stop in Berlin, click Stopover and enter Berlin Hbf and the number of hours stopover you want, say 12:00.  Adjust the departure time and the Berlin stopover duration to get the trains you want, with a little trial and error.  I have set up this link to bahn.de for you, just enter your own date of travel and the number of passengers.  You print your own ticket or can show it on your laptop or smartphone.

  • Day 2 evening, travel from Warsaw to Kiev on the Kiev Express, leaving Warsaw Wschodnia at 17:48 & arriving Kiev at 11:00 next morning.

    This train has comfortable Ukrainian 1, 2 & 3 bed sleepers with washbasin.  There's no restaurant car, so take a picnic and some wine or beer.

    The fare is around €46 in a 3-bed sleeper if you manage to book via the Ukrainian Railways website.  If you have to book via Polrail it costs around €57 including a bed in a 3-berth sleeper, €66 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper or €110 in a single-bed sleeper all to yourself.

    To buy tickets, first see if you can book online with Ukrainian Railways at booking.uz.gov.ua/en - but please, please, please read the important notes here which explain how to book this train using that website.  If that doesn't work for you, book with reliable Polish agency Polrail at booking.polrail.com.  Tickets can be collected in Warsaw or (at extra charge) shipped to any address worldwide.  Polrail are also pretty good at arranging the return reservation back from Kiev as they have close contacts with Ukrainian Railways.

  • Day 3, take an overnight sleeper train from Kiev to Moscow.  There are several night trains and times vary by date, but there's usually one leaving Kiev at 19:36 and arriving in Moscow Kievskaya station next morning at 10:13 (day 4 from Cologne).  2-berth & 4-berth sleepers are available.  No problems have been reported by westerners travelling from Kiev to Moscow on these trains.

    These trains may be affected by Covid-19 restrictions.

    Book Warsaw-Kiev and Kiev-Moscow, contact reliable Polish ticketing agency www.polrail.com.  Tickets are collected in Warsaw.

    Alternatively, you can book Warsaw to Kiev then Kiev to Moscow at the Ukrainian Railways website booking.uz.gov.ua/en, although there are only very few berths from Warsaw to Kiev made available online, see the explanation & instructions on the London to Kiev page.  For the Kiev to Moscow booking you should book from Kyiv to Moskva Kievskaya.  You collect the Kiev-Moscow tickets at the station in Kiev.  Feedback appreciated!

  • You'll still need a Russian visa, but you don't go through Belarus if you go this way.

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Cologne & Düsseldorf to Athens, Corfu & Greece...

Option 1, Cologne to Athens by train & ferry via Italy - the leisurely option with an Adriatic cruise thrown in...

A 2 or 4 berth cabin on the Italy-Greece ferry  

2 or 4-berth cabin with private toilet & shower.

 

Relaxing on deck...

The ferry from Bari to Greece at sea

At sea, passing Cephalonia & Ithaca.  This is what travel to Greece should be like!

Option 2, Cologne to Athens overland by train via Munich & Belgrade - a rail adventure across the Balkans...

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Cologne & Düsseldorf to Istanbul & Turkey...

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bullet pointHotels in Cologne & other cities

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Suggested hotels near the station in Cologne...

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...

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bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com.

UK flagYou can use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

A Curve card saves on foreign transaction fees...

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month at time of writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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