ICE Trains (an overview)

Germany's ICE trains are amongst the top tier European trains and our guide to travelling by them, explains the differences between the six different types of ICE train, the routes they take and what you can expect on board.

There are now 6 types of ICE train in service, so click on these six inks below to access more info if you know which type of train you will be travelling by.

ICE 1      l         ICE 2


ICE 3 (403/406)*
      l         ICE T


ICE 3 (407)**
   l         ICE 4 

*Technically the 403 and 406 trains are different, but from a passenger perspective, they are virtually identical, but the 406 trains are used on the routes between Germany and both Belgium and The Netherlands.

**These trains are mainly used on the DB-SNCF services on the Frankfurt (Main) ↔ Paris routes.

Summary of differences in the on board experiences:

On our journey guides we strive to make the distinction between specific types of ICE train being used on each route.

We do this because the on-board experience varies depending on which type of ICE train you will be used for your journey.

ICE trains are generally fabulous, but being on an ICE1 train can feel very different to travelling on an ICE-T train etc.

What all ICE trains have in common:

All ICE trains have:

(1) A bistro bar serving drinks, snacks and hot/cold light meals.

(2) An at seat service in 1st class (but note that the food/drink is not complimentary)

(3) 'Quiet' and 'Phone' zones within the train.

Travellers are not supposed to use their phones in 'Quiet' coaches/zones, the conductor or your fellow passengers will ask you not to do so.

Mobile phone usage is permitted in the 'Phone zones', but in effect this means any seat on the train, that's NOT located in a Quiet Zone'

If you know that you'll want to use your mobile device during your journey, you can specifically request a 'seat in a 'Phone zone' - and conversely you can book a seat in a 'Quiet Zone' if you don't want to be disturbed by mobile phone usage.

If you haven't reserved, you'll be less likely to be aware of these 'zones' when boarding a train and looking for seats.
You may unwittingly find a seat available, which happens to be in a 'mobile' or 'quiet' coach, when either of these zones may not have been your preference.

So look for the symbols on the outside and the inside of the trains - though we have made multiple journeys by ICE trains, without being aware of the existence of these zones, asl can be seen on one of the images above, thevsignage can be quite subtle.

The differences between the types of ICE train:

The key differences between the different types of ICE trains can be summarised as:

Restaurant cars = ICE 1 and ICE 3 (407)* and ICE 4 trains
*restaurant cars are not available on the more common types of ICE 3 trains

Compartment seats available to all passengers = not on ICE 2 or ICE 4 trains

End of train lounges = ICE 3  (403 and 406) and ICE T trains

Family compartments = not on ICE 2 trains

Bike racks = only on ICE 4 trains (non-folding bikes cannot be taken on the other types of ICE train).

Train per route summary:

This is not a comprehensive list, it's a summary of the type of ICE train USUALLY used on each of these  routes - in both directions

Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Munchen:
all departures by ICE 1 trains

Berlin - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Bern - Interlaken:
all departures by ICE 1 trains

Berlin - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) (Sud) - Frankfurt Airport:
all departures by ICE 1 trains

Berlin - Hannover - Hamm - Dortmund - Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf:
all departures by ICE 2 trains

Berlin - Hannover - Hamm - Wupppertal - Koln/Cologne hbf:
all departures by ICE 2 trains

Berlin - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna:
all departures by ICE T trains

ICE 'Sprinter' Service: Berlin  - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main):
all departures by ICE 3 (403) trains

ICE 'Sprinter' Service: Berlin  - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Munchen:
all departures by ICE 3 (403) trains

Hamburg - Berlin - Leipzig - Erfurt - Nurnberg - Munchen:
most departures by ICE 4 trains
some departures by ICE T trains (to be replaced  by ICE 4 trains by the end of 2019)

Hamburg/Bremen - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen:
most departures by ICE 4 trains
some departures by ICE-T or ICE 2 trains, the departures which serve both Bremen and Hamburg
a few departures by ICE 1 trains - to be replaced by ICE 4 trains before the end of 2019.

Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart:
some departures by ICE 4 trains
some departures by ICE 1 trains

Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kalrsruhe - Basel - Zurich/Interlaken:
all departures by ICE 1 trains

Hamburg - Hannover - Kassel - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna:
all departures by ICE T trains

Hamburg - Bremen - Dortmund - Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne (Messe-Deutz) - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart
all departures by ICE 3 (403) trains

Amsterdam - Utrecht - Arnhem - Oberhausen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main):
all departures by ICE 3 (406) trains

Bruxelles - Liege - Aachen - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main):
all departures by ICE 3 (406) trains

Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne (Messe-Deutz) - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen:
all departures by ICE 3 (403) trains

Dortmund - Wuppertal - Koln/Cologne (Messe-Deutz)  - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Munchen:
most departures by ICE 3 (403) trains
a few departures by ICE 3 (407) trains

Dortmund - Wuppertal - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Augsburg - Munchen:
most departures by ICE 3 (403) trains
a few departures by ICE 3 (407) trains

Essen - Duisburg - Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim - Stuttgart - Augsburg -  Munchen:
most departures by ICE 3 (403) trains
some departures by ICE 4 traiins
a few departures by ICE 3 (407) trains

Koln/Cologne hbf - Frankfurt Airport - Mannheim -  Kalrsruhe - Basel:
all departures by ICE 3 (403) trains

Koln/Cologne - Koblenz - Frankfurt Airport - Frankfurt (Main) - Wurzburg - Nurnberg - Regensburg - Linz - Wien/Vienna:
all departures by ICE T trains

Dresden - Leipzig - Erfurt - Frankfurt (Main) - Frankfurt Airport - Weisbaden:
all departures by ICE T trains

Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Kaiserlautern - Saarbrucken - Paris:
some departures by ICE 3 (407) trains*

Frankfurt (Main) - Mannheim - Karlsruhe - Strasbourg - Paris:
some departures by ICE 3 (407) trains*

*other departures on these routes are by French TGV Duplex trains.

Tickets: 

Reservations are now included when booking 1st class journeys by ICE trains.

However, in 2nd class (and for rail pass users in 1st class and 2nd class) they're available, but optional.

They can be added when making a booking or purchased separately either online or at the station - at a ticket desk or at a DB ticket machine.

If you have not reserved the availability of seats is NOT guaranteed - if need be walk through the train to find available seats.

Also worth knowing about seat reservations on ICE trains: 

In addition to ensuring that you can remain in one seat for your entire journey, there are THREE less obvious benefits of making a reservation, if you will be travelling 2nd class.
(And when booking 1st class tickets, these three things are also worth keeping in mind).

(1) You can select between options for the location of your seat, which in addition to window or aisle seats, can include compartment seats and seats at tables.

(2) You can choose in which 'zone' on the train that you wish to travel by - 'Quiet', 'Mobile' or 'Standard'.

(3) You can usually choose specific seats on a seating plan and if you will be travelling on an ICE 1 or ICE 4 train, you will also be able to ensure your seat is facing forwards.

Though if you have opted to face forwards, be aware that ICE trains reverse direction when calling at the hbf stations in Frankfurt (Main), Leipzig and Stuttgart and that also applies to most trains which call at Koln Hbf.

Our general guides to train travel:

Click on these titles below to access more useful information about how to travel on European trains;

An overview of train travel in Germany

How to buy tickets for German train journeys


Travelling ON the trains in Germany

Travelling on European daytime trains

Travelling on European overnight trains

International train routes to/from Germany

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