Köln / Cologne / Koeln to Hamburg by train

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

Despite being one of Germany's busiest railway routes, there is no high speed line between Cologne/Köln and Hamburg, this part of country is so densely populated that it would send constructions costs into the stratosphere.

Though ICE trains are increasingly being switched to this route, as they have a more comfortable ambience than the IC trains and they also convey restaurant cars.



Option 1: taking the IC, EC or ICE trains

Travel Information

Final Destination: Hamburg-Altona (or Kiel or Lubeck or Westerland)

Most trains also call at: Bremen

All of these trains will call at two stations adjacent to Hamburg city centre; Hamburg Hbf and Hamburg Dammtor
So it can be worthwhile working out which of these stations in the city, will suit your needs best, before making the journey.

The different trains and routes:

Despite there being no high speed lines between Koln/Cologne and Hamburg, most of the trains between the two cities are ICE trains and multiple times of ICE trains are now used on these departures.

Two of the trains in the timetable, the departures which typically leave at 17:09 and 19:09 are EC trains as these trains will have commenced their journeys in Switzerland; so you may find yourself on a Swiss train.

The trains between Koln/Cologne and Hamburg also take one of two routes:

  • via Dusseldorf and Essen, or
  • via Wuppertal.
    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.

1 or 2 x trains per hour


Book early and save: Yes

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

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

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

Reservations are highly recommended for this journey, book a 1st class ticket and your seat will be assigned, but not if you book 2nd class or will be travelling with a rail pass
This is one of Germany's busiest rail services.

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.

Trainline from €17.90

Trainline 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.

Save A Train from €17.90

Save A Train Guide

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.

On this journey

Journey Features

Not High SpeedScenic - No

Good to Know

The train which typically departs daily at 16:04 is designated as an ICE -Sprinter and it is this train which has a journey time of around 3hr 45 mins, because it makes fewer station calls than any other departure.
Though up to five other daily departures have a journey time of around 3hr 50min because they are non-stop between Munster and Hamburg, so don't divert off the direct route to call in Bremen.

Option 2: taking the Flixtrains

Travel Information

Final Destination Hamburg Hbf

All trains also call at: [Hamburg-Harburg]https://goo.gl/maps/phvNgorBuZRdtiDM8)

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

The timetable


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 *
Take the stress out of your journey Everything planned to your specification, so sit back and relax… Try Concierge

Please support ShowMeTheJourney

Help keep us advertising and paywall free!


This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.

We’re striving not to let anything get in the way of providing the most useful service possible, hence a facility has been set up with DonorBox which can be used to support the running costs and make improvements.

Instead of advertising or paywalls, your financial support will make a positive difference to delivering an enhanced service, as there’s a lot of ideas which we want to make happen.

So if you have found the info provided here to be useful, please consider saying thank you.

See if there’s a unique journey guide for your trip, featuring info on the trains, tickets & stations.
Leaving From
Going To

This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.