Update 19 January 2016: London Spezial tickets have been renamed by Deutsche Bahn and are now called "Sparpreis Europa London" tickets, so this is what to look out for in Loco2 search results
Thanks to our integration with German national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, it's now easier to browse options for travelling from London to Berlin by train. We've always sold tickets for the excellent sleeper train via Paris, but until now we haven't had access to the much coveted London Spezial tickets which promise trains from London to Berlin or any other German city for €59 one-way.
We've spent the few days getting to grips with all the new and exciting European train routes and tickets we can get our hands on. In this post we share the cheap train tickets we've discovered. Think Bargain Hunt, but with trains.
From London there are two major routes to Berlin to choose between, one by day and another overnight:
1. During the day: London to Berlin via Brussels and Cologne
Taking the train from London to Berlin is a straightforward journey with just two connections, and at 9hrs long it can be done in a day if you wish. It's a Eurostar from London to Brussels, from where onward high-speed ICE services connect you to Cologne, and then onward to Berlin. Although it includes two changes, you'll only be switching platforms, and not stations in Brussels and Cologne, so there's minimum hassle. There are power sockets on board if you want to work on the train. It's possible to buy a one-way fare for this route between London and Berlin for €59 one-way, see below for precise instructions about how to find the ticket.
2. Overnight: London to Berlin via Paris
This sleeper option takes a little longer (around 12 hours) but may be preferable because you spend the vast majority of the journey, well, sound asleep. Once again, your journey begins with Eurostar - this time to Paris - where you'll change stations and trains. It's a 5 minute walk from Gare du Nord to Gare Est, where the City Night Line to Berlin departs, rolling into Berlin the following morning. This route is slightly more expensive (around £82) but your train acts as a hotel for the night!
For more detailed information about the routes, head over to our Trains to Berlin booking guide.
We've worked out how to find the cheapest tickets between London and Berlin for both of the above routes. Some of them include tickets wholly from Deutsche Bahn, others from Eurostar and City Night Line, but you can do it all on Loco2, even if the route you eventually choose is a combination of them all. If you use our basket functionality, it's possible to pick and choose whichever bits you want and buy them in one transaction. As always, search well in advance for the best chance of finding the advertised fares.
1. How to find a London Spezial ticket for €59
This is possible if you can find a Second Class Saver fare, also known as a London Spezial ticket, on the London-Berlin route. These are limited edition tickets - negotiated by Deutsche Bahn with Eurostar - available on just a few trains departing London in the morning. Unsurprisingly, they sell out fast!
The London Spezial is valid for the Eurostar portion of your trip and your onward connection to Berlin, or indeed anywhere in Germany. Tickets start at €59 (around £50) in Standard Class or €109 in First Class. Alas, there's no discount for a return journey with return prices simply double the single fare. There are limited numbers of these tickets - restricted by the number of seats allocated on each eligible Eurostar train - and as they sell out, the price goes up in increments of €10. So once all the €59 seats are gone, there will be €69 seats, then €79...you get the picture. The upshot is, buy as early as possible.
At the moment the following scheduled Eurostar services are eligible for London Spezial fares:
Mondays-Fridays: Departing London at 06:50
Mondays-Saturdays: Departing London at 10:58
Sundays: Departing London at 08:58
Tickets come on sale 90 (occasionally 91) days in advance. Use the booking tool in our Berlin guide to search and book 90 days from today, or set an early-bird reminder if your dates are way off and we'll email when booking opens. Search for trains leaving at 6am to catch the first train of the day. Also, watch out for the 19.34 departure, which although it shows the €59 ticket (and may be preselected as the cheapest ticket on the page), has an overnight stop in Brussels.
The London Spezial is also available on trains from: London to Frankfurt, Hanover and Cologne, among others. The first leg, on board the Eurostar, is the same but the onward route will vary. For example, London-Frankfurt and London-Cologne only have one change of trains in Brussels.
How to find a Belgium Spezial ticket for €39
If you can't find a London Spezial - split your search and try a Belgium Spezial
If, despite your best efforts, your London Spezial ticket search is in vain, there is another sneaky way that you may be able to save money, and even travel on the same trains! In addition to the London Spezial, there is another fare called the Belgium Spezial. This is €39 one-way in Standard or €89 First Class and works in the same way. It's available on a couple of trains departing Brussels Midi (the Eurostar terminal is part of the same station) every day, and is valid on ICE trains, via Cologne, to Berlin or any other Germany city.
At the moment the following scheduled ICE services are eligible for Belgium Spezial fares:
Mondays-Fridays: Departing Brussels at 10:25, 14.25 & 18.25
Saturdays & Sunday: Departing Brussels at 14.25 & 18.25
So, if you missed out on the straight London-Berlin route, split your journey. Search for trains to Brussels first, select a suitable ticket and pop it in your basket (it will be reserved for 30 mins). Then search for trains from Brussels to Berlin and look out for the above scheduled services. Select a connecting train and put both parts in your basket, making sure you leave enough time to change trains. You can pay for both tickets in one transaction, even though they're from different operators. If you manage to get the cheapest Belgium Spezial (€39) and the cheapest Eurostar ticket (£39) the total will come to just shy of £75 (subject to exchange rate). #Win!
The Belgium Spezial ticket is one of the Europa Spezial fares that are available on short distance, cross-border trains between Germany and other European countries. I've just had a little look and found Amsterdam -Cologne trains and Vienna to Munich for €29 but we'll pen a separate post about these soon.
2. How to find Sleeper train tickets for £82.50
If all this sounds too much like hard work, consider the alternative route via Paris on board the City Night Line sleeper train. The Paris-Berlin costs £43.50 for a bunk in a 6-berth couchette, or you can upgrade to a sleeper if you're feeling flash. Combine with a London to Paris Eurostar (best price £39) and you've got yourself an overnight bargain. The City Night Line is an excellent sleeper train. I went to Berlin last year and came home on the City Night Line so this is a personal recommendation.
The City Night Line departs from Paris Est, which is walking distance from Gare du Nord (where the Eurostar arrives) so changing trains is a cinch. You can book it 90 days in advance, by searching for trains departing London in the afternoon, and trains departing Paris in the evening. At the moment the night train is only available on weekdays. And for some reason it sometimes doesn't appear in a London-Berlin search on Loco2 at the moment so you may need to split your journey (as before) and put the two parts into your basket if it doesn't show up.
The same train stops at Saarbrücken, Göttingen and Hanover on its way to Berlin. And in the opposite direction, departs Berlin Hbf around 8pm to make the return trip, arriving in Paris at a very civilised 9.30 in the morning. Just in time for a coffee and croissant in Paris before taking the Eurostar back to London. N.b. The CNL isn't running from 25th Jan - 25th Feb due to engineering works.
If anyone has other experiences on this route or tip for finding these tickets. Please share them in the comments below and we'll add them to the post.