ICE train at Berlin Hbf

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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

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

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Luxembourg from €19.90...

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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 option...

Option 2, by high-speed train - the 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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

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

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

EuroCity train from Zurich

EuroCity train at Zurich HB...

2nd class seats on Munich-Zurich EuroCity train   Restaurant car on Zurich to Munich 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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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.

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 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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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...

Important:  Due to trackwork, the Munich-Florence/Rome/Milan Nightjet won't run during the month of July 2022.

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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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...

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...

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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

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

ETR610 EuroCity train to Milan at Zurich HB

Step 2, Basel to Milan by EuroCity train.  This is an Astoro train at Zurich.  More information about these EuroCity trains.

1st class table for two   1st class seats on an ETR610 train

2nd class table for four, ideal for families...

 

1st class seats, 2+1 across car width.  See larger photo.

Lake Maggiore, seen from a Milan to Basel train   Lunch in the Swiss-run restaurant car of the 11:25 Milan to Basel

You'll pass a lake or two...  This is Lake Maggiore, seen from the dining-car of a Milan to Basel EuroCity 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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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.

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 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...

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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...

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Cologne or Dusseldorf to Andorra...

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

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...

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 video.

InterCite de Nuit couchette   Refurbished French 2nd class 6-berth couchettes   Refurbished French 1st class 4-berth couchettes

Couchette with sleeping-bag & mineral water

 

2nd class 6-berth couchettes...

 

1st class 4-berth couchettes...

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...

Cologne to Vienna ICE-T train

An ICE-T at Frankfurt (Main) 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...

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...

Standard sleeper, set up as a single   Standard sleeper, beds folded away, sofa folded out.   Hamburg-Stockholm night train

Standard sleeper, set up as a single, shown in both night & daytime modes whilst the AB32 sleeping-car was in service with ÖBB.  AB32s have 13 narrow standard compartments.  Above right, an artist's impression of the new livery, courtesy of SJ.

Deluxe sleeper, day   Deluxe sleeper, shower   Deluxe sleeper, night-time

Deluxe sleeper, taken whilst the AB32 sleeping-car was in service with ÖBB.  AB32s have just 2 deluxe compartments.

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

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

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.

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.

125 mph tilting 'SJ2000' from Copenhagen to Stockholm, at Copenhagen station SJ2000 2nd class seats

Step 3, Copenhagen to Stockholm by X2000 train seen here at Copenhagen main station...

 

2nd class seats on an X2000 train from Copenhagen to Stockholm.  Larger photo.

SJ2000 train   SJ2000 buffet car seating area   SJ2000 self-service buffet car.

X2000 bistro car...

 

X2000 bistro car seating area.  Larger photo.

 

Bistro self-service...

Winter scenery fro a Copenhagen-Stockholm train

Winter scenery from a train between Copenhagen & Stockholm. Courtesy of Radoslav Sharapanov

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

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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...

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:

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...

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...

2nd class compartment on Berlin to Prague traiin   First class on Berlin to Prague EuroCity traiin

2nd class seats in classic compartments...

 

1st class seats in an open-plan 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.

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

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...

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

Option 1, by daytime train... 

ICE-T arrived at Leipzig 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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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...

Cologne to Vienna ICE-T train

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 from Vienna to Budapest, arrived at Budapest Keleti

Step 2, Vienna to Budapest. This is a railjet train arrived on platform 9 at Budapest's historic Keleti stationMore information about railjets.

Business class on the Vienna to Venice train   Business class on the Vienna to Venice train

Economy (2nd) class...  Larger photo.

 

First class...  Larger photo.

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...

Cologne to Vienna ICE-T train

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 sleeping-car

The Dacia Express has an air-conditioned Romanian sleeping-car, seen here at Bucharest.  You can check the train formation at www.vagonweb.cz Courtesy of @PaliparanDotCom

Washbasin   Dacia Express sleeper compartment   Romanian couchette car from Vienna to Bucharest

Sleepers:  Each compartment can be sold as a single, double (as here) or triple.  Most compartments have a washbasin as shown here, two compartments have an en suite shower & toilet.  Beds fold away to form a private sitting room for day use.  Larger photo.

 

Couchettes:  4 & 6-berth, bedding is provided.  Larger photo.

Dacia Express couchette car

The Dacia Express has one couchette car, seen here at Bucharest.  Courtesy of @PaliparanDotCom

Scenery in Transylvania

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

Dacia Express bar-bistro car

The Dacia Express en route to Bucharest...  Photo 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...

Railjet train at Vienna Hbf   Railjet train standard class

Railjet is Austrian Railways premier train...  More photos & information about Railjet trains

 

Economy class on railjet, in open saloons with large windows.  Some seats around tables, most unidirectional.

  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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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 & Belgrade

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

Food is served on china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant 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...

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 new Berlin-Moscow Strizh (Swift) Talgo sleeper train, twice a week...

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 - 10% discount with code seat61.

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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