An ICE departs from Koln Hbf

Frankfurt to Köln / Cologne / Koeln by train

How to take the rail journey from Frankfurt (Main) to Köln / Cologne

When taking a train from Frankfurt (Main) to Cologne / Köln there are three things to keep in mind.

  1. The route: Most of the trains rush along Germany's fastest high speed line, but some trains still take the slower, but much more beautiful route through the Rhine Gorge and Bonn.
  2. The location of your ultimate destination: Most of the fast trains which take the high-speed route now arrive at a secondary station in Cologne / Köln, located on the east bank of the River Rhine.
    Other trains, including all those on the slower route, arrive at the city's main station, Koln Hbf.
  3. Price: The popularity of a departure and not the route it takes, or the station it arrives at, are what most greatly affects the cost of taking each specific train.
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Routes

Option 1: taking the high speed route

Travel Information

Final Destination: Bruxelles or Dortmund or Amsterdam (or others)

All trains also call at: Frankfurt Flughafen/Airport

Some trains also call at: Seigburg/Bonn - which has connections to Bonn city centre.

A significant recent timetable change is that most of the trains taking the Frankfurt to Amsterdam have been permanently re-routed so that they call at the secondary station, Koln Messe/Deutz station; which is some distance from the city centre over on the east bank of the River Rhine.

As a result the majority of these trains on the high speed route don't call at the city's main station, Koln Hbf, it is primarily the trains heading on to Bruxelles which now provide the fastest city centre to city centre services.
So in some hours there can be a departure to Koln Messe/Deutz, but not Koln Hbf.

Though if you take a train to Koln Messe/Deutz, there are simple and frequent connections available into trains on to Koln Hbf station; and this can be a cheaper option than taking a direct train to Koln Hbf.
Though be aware that the connection at Koln Messe/Deutz station isn't step-free, so can be awkward if you have heavy luggage etc.

Though if you want to arrive at Koln Hbf station and are happy to trade a slower journey time for a much more scenic trip, then an option is to take the Option 2 journeys.

To Koln Hbf:
Monday to Saturday = 9 x trains per day
Sunday = 10 x trains

To Koln Messe-Deutz:
up to 25 x trains per day

Tickets

Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open: 6 months ahead of the travel date

When looking for tickets to Köln on DB, the German national railways booking service, type ‘K‘ into the ‘to box and not ‘Ko‘;  do so and you will be able to see journeys that arrive at both Köln Hbf and Köln Messe/Deutz stations.

Tickets for journeys to Koln Messe/Deutz can also be cheaper than those to Koln Hbf; and it can also be easier to book a journey which involves changing trains at Koln Messe/Deutz

Some ICE trains have much longer journeys as they take the non-high speed (but much more scenic) route via Koblenz and Mainz.
If you want to take the fastest direct trains to Koln Hbf, on the DB Bahn booking site look for journeys that have:

  • 0 in the Chg. column
  • A journey time of between 1 hour and 1hr 20 min

Use the earlier/later buttons to search for the cheapest ticket prices.

Reservations:

Book 1st class ticket journey tickets and your seat reservation is included - but they're optional when booking 2nd class tickets, or if you will be travelling with a 1st or 2nd class rail pass.

Opting to reserve is particularly recommended if you will be travelling at business hours on this route

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
DB from €17.90

DB Guide

DB is the national railway operator in Germany, so its website can be used for booking journeys by German express trains; the ICE and IC trains and it doesn't charge booking fees.
It also sells tickets for journeys by direct trains on all international routes from Germany regardless of whether DB is operating the train service.

It also sells an extensive range of end-to-end journeys which involve making connections both within Germany and in neighboring countries, but journeys between Germany and Britain cannot be booked on DB.

A key feature of DB website worth keeping mind is that it offers 1st class ticket purchasers complimentary seat reservations on journeys both within and to/from Germany.
Seat reservations for daytime in both 1st and 2nd class can also be booked separately from tickets.

Two types of ticket have recently been made available;

  1. Cheaper 'Young' tickets which can only be booked by those aged 15-26 on the travel date.
  2. Flexi Plus tickets, which are now the most expensive type of ticket, but they're the only type of 2nd class tickets which DO include a seat reservation.
Omio from €17.90

Omio Guide

Omio is an online ticket agency which offers tickets for rail journeys in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.

The three key advantages of using Omio are

  • it offers prices in multiple currencies
  • it usually offers price comparison with other modes of travel including flights and buses
  • when visiting Europe, you can book journeys in multiple countries in one transaction.

The disadvantage of booking with Omio is that it often adds a booking fee to the final price; therefore when it does so without offering a price advantage, SMTJ doesn't tend to offer Omio as a booking option.

SaveATrain from €17.90

SaveATrain Guide

Happyrail from €17.90

Happyrail Guide

Happy Rail is a Netherlands rail ticket agency which sells tickets for both national and international journeys within a range of countries including Belgium France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

HappyRail doesn't charge booking fees in the conventional sense, but if you're not Dutch you can expect to pay additional transaction fees, which will be added to the total cost.
That's because the most common form of online payment used in The Netherlands is 'iDEAL' and HappyRail doesn't charge a transaction fee for 'iDEAL' payments, but only Dutch residents can sign up to 'iDEAL'.
Other forms of payment include Visa debit cards will incur a fee.

Trainline from €17.90

Trainline Guide

On this journey

Journey Features

High Speed

Good to Know

The fastest trains only make one station call during the journey at Frankfurt Flughafen, but other trains can make up to three other station calls.

The view from the line between Frankfurt Flughafen and Seigburg/Bonn The view from the line between Frankfurt Flughafen and Seigburg/Bonn

These trains travel at up to 285 km/h on Germany's fastest high speed line between Frankfurt Flughafen and Siegburg/Bonn.

The video was taking on a train travelling in the opposite direction, but it gives a sense of  what a thrill this train ride can be - this is a journey when it's especially obvious that you're travelling on a high speed train!

Option 2: taking the slower, but more scenic route

Travel Information

Final Destination: Hamburg or Hannover (or others)

All trains also call at: Koblenz and Bonn

These trains follow the most spectacular route taken by German express trains, namely the journey through the Upper Rhine River valley.

10 x trains per day

Tickets

Book these tickets only if you specifically want to take the trains that travel the longer, but much more scenic route via Koblenz through the Upper Rhine Valley.

Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open: 6 months ahead of the travel date

When looking for tickets to Köln on DB type ‘K‘ into the ‘to‘ box and not ‘Ko‘.

Check that you’re looking at booking info for the direct trains.

On the DB Bahn booking site look for journeys that have:

  • 0 in the Chg. column
  • A journey time of over 2hr 15mins, this longer journey time is for the trains taking this route via Bonn.
Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
DB Bahn from €17.90

DB Bahn Guide

DB is the national railway operator in Germany, so its website can be used for booking journeys by German express trains; the ICE and IC trains and it doesn't charge booking fees.
It also sells tickets for journeys by direct trains on all international routes from Germany regardless of whether DB is operating the train service.

It also sells an extensive range of end-to-end journeys which involve making connections both within Germany and in neighboring countries, but journeys between Germany and Britain cannot be booked on DB.

A key feature of DB website worth keeping mind is that it offers 1st class ticket purchasers complimentary seat reservations on journeys both within and to/from Germany.

Seat reservations for daytime in both 1st and 2nd class can also be booked separately from tickets.

Omio from €17.90

Omio Guide

Omio is an online ticket agency which offers tickets for rail journeys in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.

The three key advantages of using Omio are

  • it offers prices in multiple currencies
  • it usually offers price comparison with other modes of travel including flights and buses
  • when visiting Europe, you can book journeys in multiple countries in one transaction.

The disadvantage of booking with Omio is that it often adds a booking fee to the final price; therefore when it does so without offering a price advantage, SMTJ doesn't tend to offer Omio as a booking option.

SaveATrain from €17.90

SaveATrain Guide

Happyrail from €17.90

Happyrail Guide

Happy Rail is a Netherlands rail ticket agency which sells tickets for both national and international journeys within a range of countries including Belgium France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

HappyRail doesn't charge booking fees in the conventional sense, but if you're not Dutch you can expect to pay additional transaction fees, which will be added to the total cost.
That's because the most common form of online payment used in The Netherlands is 'iDEAL' and HappyRail doesn't charge a transaction fee for 'iDEAL' payments, but only Dutch residents can sign up to 'iDEAL'.
Other forms of payment include Visa debit cards will incur a fee.

Trainline from €17.90

Trainline Guide

On this journey

Journey Features

Scenic - YesRiver viewsNot High Speed

Good to Know

Note that none of the trains on this route typically call at Koln Messe/Deutz, they all arrive at Koln Hbf.

The Rhine Valley comes into view when the train reaches Bingen The Rhine Valley comes into view when the train reaches Bingen
A highlight is when the train circles around the Lorelei rock A highlight is when the train circles around the Lorelei rock
The train will race the river boats The train will race the river boats
The best of the views are over to the right The best of the views are over to the right
The pick of the views are between Boppard and Koblenz The pick of the views are between Boppard and Koblenz
Though the river will still be in view north of Koblenz Though the river will still be in view north of Koblenz

Step on board for the most spectacular journey taken by German express trains!

After Bingen there are some fabulous views of The Rhine Gorge from the right of the train, when facing the direction of travel.

After Boppard the train will travel right by the river for the final part of the journey all the way to Koblenz; the views of the valley aren't quite as spectacular north of Boppard, but they're still fabulous!

This part of the journey is a delight, you can't miss the endless parade of boats travelling up and down the river and look out for the multitude of castles perched on top of the hills.

As our images show, this is a journey which can be worth taking for the sake of making the trip, even if the weather isn't absolutely perfect.

(The video clips were taken from a train travelling in the opposite direction)

This journey is also so fabulous that it's also included on Thrillist's guide to Europe's Most Beautiful Train Rides and on Go Go Places' list of Europe's Most Scenic Train Rides AND on Far And Wide's list of the Most Remarkable Train Journeys in Europe.

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