An ICE departs from Koln Hbf

Hamburg to Köln / Cologne / Koeln by train

How to take the rail journey from Hamburg to Cologne / Köln

Despite this being one of Germany's busiest railway routes there is no high speed line between Hamburg and Köln / Cologne.
Hence a wide variety of trains both share the route and have comparable journey times.



Option 1: taking the IC or EC or ICE trains

Travel Information

Final Destination: Munchen or Nurnberg or Basel (or other destinations in Switzerland)

The ICE trains and the EC train commence their journeys at Hamburg-Altona station and they all call at Hamburg-Dammtor before they arrive at Hamburg Hbf.

So it can be a good idea to look up the starting point of your journey and then book tickets from the most convenient station; only Hamburg Hbf has connections with the U-Bahn (subway).

Though the IC trains tend to only depart from Hamburg Hbf.

1 x train per hour


Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings open: 6 months ahead of the travel date

When making an online booking, check that you’re looking at info for the direct trains.

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

On the DB Bahn booking site look for journeys that have 0 in the Chg. column

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

Seat 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; this is one of Germany's busiest rail services.

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 (in £s)

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.

Save A Train from €17.90

Save A Train Guide

Happy rail from €17.90

Happy rail 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.

On this journey

Journey Features

Not High SpeedScenic - No

Good to Know

Despite there being no high speed lines between Hamburg and Koln/Cologne the majority of the trains on this route are ICE trains, they travel on the high-speed line which is to the south of Koln

Two of the morning departures are EC trains heading to Switzerland; and Swiss and not German IC trains are used.

The lack of a high speed line means that it doesn't matter which type of train you take in terms of journey time.
Though what does matter slightly is which of the two routes between Dortmund and Koln that these trains take.
Trains that travel via Wuppertal are slightly faster than those which travel via Essen, but the time difference is marginal; so it's not worth targeting the trains that travel via Wuppertal.

Whether a train travels via Wuppertal or Essen also makes no difference to the ticket price.

Though some of the trains, including the daily IC train make their first station call in Munster, so they're around 15 mins faster because they don't divert off the direct route in order to call at Bremen.

The departure at 16:10 is a 'Sprinter' service which is the fastest train of the day with a journey time of 3hr 49min, it is non-stop to Essen.

Option 2: taking the FlixTrans

Travel Information

Final Destination: Koln

All trains also call at: Hamburg-Harburg and Dusseldorf

Monday = 1 x train
Thursday = 1 x train
Friday = 2 x trains
Saturday = 1 x train
Sunday = 2 x trains


Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open: up to 3 months ahead

Something to be aware of when booking tickets for journeys by FlixTrain is that Flix is predominantly a bus operator, so the train travel options for booking tickets are listed alongside the bus travel options; also some of the info around ticket exchanges and FAQs in general can point at the FlixBus website.
To make a it easier to hone in on a train journey it can be a good idea to look up the timetables to check the departure times which suit and then keep these times in mind looking for your rail ticket(s).

Much of the general advice around booking and using rail tickets in Germany doesn't apply to journeys by FlixTrain.
Tickets booked with DB, the German national rail operator, can't be used on FlixTrains, as Flix has used its own terms and conditions and set its own policies for how its tickets can be booked and used.

What are particularly different from DB is the reservation / seat selection on FlixTrain and how tickets can be exchanged (how tickets can be exchanged on FlixTrain also applies to FlixBus).

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
Flix *
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