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 construction 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.
When travelling between most cities by train there is only one logical option, though on other journeys there is a choice between different trains or alternative routes. If different options are available you can use the info to decide which is best for you.
3hr 45min - 4hr 10mins (approx)
1 or 2 x trains per hour
ShowMeTheJourney earns a small commission on Trainline ticket sales. It can be a particularly good option for: Comparing different train services; Booking international journeys with connections; Travelling between the UK to destinations beyond Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris - and for international travellers who don't reside in western Europe.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 trains between Koln/Cologne and Hamburg also take one of two routes:
Whether a train travels via Wuppertal or Essen also makes no difference to the ticket price.
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 now ICE trains and multiple types 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 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.
Book early and save: Yes
Online bookings usually open: up to 6 months ahead of the travel date - but this period of time is shorter when looking up journeys in August to October.
A choice of tickets
Four types of tickets are available:
Two types of discounted tickets, which will be cheaper the further ahead you book - Sparpreis and Super Sparpreis
Two types of non-discounted ticket - Flexpreis and Flexpreis Plus
A key difference between these types of tickets is refunds:
The other key difference is that both types of Sparpreis tickets are only valid on the specific departures selected when booking, but both types of Flexpreis tickets live up to their name, as they can be used on any departure on your travel date.
Note that none of the tickets can be exchanged to a different departure.
There's no need for this to be available for Flexpreis tickets, as they aren't train departure specific.
If you book a Sparpreis ticket and want to travel by a different departure you can refund it and then use the travel voucher towards the cost of the new booking.
Super Sparpreis tickets can't be exchanged or refunded.
When travelling to and from the major cities, the Sparpreis, Flexpreis and Flexpreis Plus tickets also include 'City tickets', which can be used on public transport between locations in the city centre and the stations in Cologne and Hamburg..
Seat reservations are optional on ICE trains for journeys within Germany.
They cost €4.90 when travelling in 2nd Class and €5.90 when travelling in 1st class.
Specific seats can be selected from seating plans - you don't have to accept the seat(s) that you will be automatically offered.
They are included within the cost of booking 1st class Flexpreis tickets and both 1st and 2nd class Flexpreis Plus tickets.
Though despite seats being automatically assigned when booking these three types of ticket - and these tickets being valid on any departure, you will need to pay to re-book the reservations, if you subsequently decide to travel on an alternative train.
So because you won't save by booking these types of tickets in advance, it can be a good idea to wait until you are sure when you will want to travel.
When booking Super Sparpreis, Sparpreis and 2nd class Flexpreis tickets, you have the option of purchasing seat reservations later.
It can be worth re-looking up a journey a week or two ahead of travel, because the DB website will indicate how busy a departure will be.
Though typically this is one of Germany's busiest rail routes
1st Class tickets
No matter what type of ticket booked, if you choose to travel 1st class, you will have access to the same seating areas on the train, ICE trains do not have Business or Executive lounges.
Though only those who have booked 1st class Flexpreis or Flexpreis Plus tickets can access the DB Lounges at the major stations.
Booking on the DB website
When looking for tickets from Köln Hbf on the DB website type ‘K‘ or 'COLOGNE' into the ‘from‘ box and not ‘Ko‘.
To see all the combinations of trains and journey options, some of which may be cheaper, take off the 'fastest connections' default.
Trains departing at different times can be cheaper than others leaving on the same day, so if you can be flexible with your departure time use the 'best prices' tool - at the top right on the list of journey options.
3hr 55min (approx)
Not Every Day
Monday = 1 x train
Thursday = 1 x train
Friday = 2 x trains
Saturday = 1 x train
Sunday = 2 x trains
Final Destination Hamburg Hbf
All trains also call at: Hamburg-Harburg
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.
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