Köln / Cologne / Koeln to Lyon by train

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

When looking up a journey by train from north-west Germany to central and southern France most of the options on the ticket booking services will involve taking a Thalys train from Köln to Paris and then a TGV on from Paris to Lyon.
However that routing involves an awkward cross Paris transfer, which can be avoided when following the two journey options set out below.
So they're worth looking out for when travelling by train between these areas of Europe.



Option 1: travelling via Bruxelles

Travel Information

Look up a Koln to Lyon train journey and you will see a myriad of options, many of which involve travelling via Paris.

Travelling via Paris can be cheaper, but it also includes the transfer between stations across Paris.

The ticks in the box for taking this route are:

  • it's fastest
  • you can connect in Bruxelles and avoid the transfer across Paris
  • the time to make the transfer between trains at Midi station is at least 40-45mins, so catching the train on to Lyon shouldn't be a problem.

Though if you want to set off from Koln/Cologne around midday, then travelling via Lyon becomes the better option for avoiding Paris when taking this journey.

2 or 3* x optimum connections per day

*Depart Koln daily at 07:42 and 09:42

Additional connection departs Friday and Sunday only at 16:47.

Change trains in: Bruxelles/Brussels


Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open: 3 months ahead of the travel date

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
B-Europe *

B-Europe Guide

B-Europe is the website provided by Belgium's national railway operator for the sale of international rail journeys from and to Belgium.
Therefore tickets can be booked for the following international train services to/from Belgium

  • Eurostar
  • IC trains to France, Luxembourg and The Netherlands
  • ICE trains to Germany
  • Thalys trains to Germany, The Netherlands and Paris
  • TGV trains to destination in France other than Paris
    B-Europe offers a 'Best Fares' policy for journey by these trains.

It also sells international end-to-end journeys solely by train, with connections outside of Belgium, if you will be heading to popular destinations in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.

Users of Eurail and InterRail passes can also book seat reservations on the Eurostar and Thalys services without paying booking fees.

Journey Features

Scenic - NoHigh Speed (partial journey)

Good to Know

Final Destination: BruxellesMidi/Brussel Zuid

All trains also call at:  Aachen

Between Koln and Aachen Between Koln and Aachen
Between Aachen and Liege Between Aachen and Liege
Between Liege and Brussels Between Liege and Brussels

For virtually the entire train journey from Koln to Bruxelles the trains, will either be travelling at up to 290 km/h on purpose built high speed lines, or up to 200km/h on section of railway, that has been re-engineered to allow trains to travel faster.

It is a journey of six distinct phases:

  1. Between Koln and Aachen the trains travel at up to 200 km/h on a re-engineered stretch of railway.
  2. Then for most of the the 25 min journey between Aachen and Liege the train will travel at up to 290 km/h on a high speed line; this is also the most scenic part of the trip.
  3. Then for around five minutes after departure from Liege, the train will travel fairly slowly on a route which ascends from the city.
  4. Next up is the HS2 Belgian high speed route as far as Leuven, in theory the ICE and Thalys trains can accelerate back up to around 290 km/h on this part of the trip.
  5. From Leuven to just north of Brussel-Nord station the maximum speed is 200 km/h.
  6. For most of the journey between Brussel-Nord and Brussel-Zuid the railway crosses the city centre in a tunnel.

Journey Features

Scenic - NoHigh Speed (total journey)

Good to Know

You can avoid having to make the transfer across Paris from the Gare Du Nord to the Gare De Lyon by taking these direct trains from Bruxelles to Lyon.

Final Destination: Marseille; Montpellier or Lyon

All trains also call at: Aeroport CDG; Marne La Valléé (for Disneyland Paris)

You will be travelling at high speed for virtually the entire train trip!

The trains will reverse direction on departure from Lille Europe station.

Option 2: travelling via Mannheim

Travel Information

The journey time is an hour longer than the journey you will be initially offered by the ticket agents
Set off from Koln/Cologne on the 12:54 train, which will usually be heading to Basel, and you'll have only 16mins in Mannheim to connect into the only direct train of the day on to Lyon.
So making that connection in time is a gamble.

Hence our recommendation is to extend the journey time by an hour; the 'Ticketing Info' below explains how.
If you set off from Koln/Cologne at 11:55, on a train heading to Munchen, you'll then have more than an hour to make the connection in Mannheim.

1 x connection per day

Change trains in: Mannheim


Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings open: 4 months ahead of the travel date

When looking up this journey DB the recommendation is to extend the 'duration of transfer' in order to take the pressure off making a comparatively timed connection in Mannheim.

How to do this is explained on this guide to using the DB (German national railways) website to book tickets.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
DB from €39.90

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.

Journey Features

High Speed (partial journey)

Good to Know

Final Destination: Munchen Hbf or Basel SBB

These trains travel on the high speed line between Seigburg/Bonn and Frankfurt Flughafen,
The timetable is split, so that in even hours the train to Mannheim will be continuing on to Basel, but in odd hours the trains from Koln to Mannheim will be heading to Munchen/Munich.

Hence many of the journey options for train journeys by ICE between Koln and destinations to the south of Mannheim, involve making a transfer between trains in Mannheim.

Journey Features

High Speed (partial journey)

Good to Know

Final Destination: Marseille

Train also calls at: Mulhouse: Avignon TGV; Aix-en-Provence TGV.

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