Fastest journey11hr 53m
If you want to travel by train from Bath to Berlin, there’s a very good daytime option. It takes about 12 hrs 30 mins from city centre to city centre. You’ll see a great sweep of Europe along the way.
The journey starts with a fast run up to London where you change stations, boarding the Eurostar to Brussels at St Pancras. In the Belgian capital, you change onto a German ICE train for the onward hop to Cologne. Thalys trains also ply the Brussels to Cologne route, but the cheapest fares on all routes from southern England to Berlin require that you use the ICE rather than Thalys for the Brussels to Cologne leg. In Cologne you join a comfortable Berlin-bound German ICE for the longest of the four journey legs.
If you leave later in the day, it is also possible to take an overnight train from Cologne to Berlin. Tickets for the rail journey from Bath to Berlin go on sale about 12 weeks prior to travel, and that is the time to purchase your ticket if you are looking for a bargain fare.
Bath to London
Most fast trains from Bath Spa take between 85 and 95 minutes for the 170-km journey to London Paddington, making three or four intermediate stops along the way. This is a very pleasant ride. You may catch a glimpse of the Uffington White Horse as the train skirts the Berkshire Downs. Later, the railway follows the beautiful Thames Valley downstream. On the approach into London you’ll see Windsor Castle away to your right.
The diesel trains on this journey are British Rail high speed trains (HST). They may not be the youngest, but they are extremely comfortable and have large windows – perfect for sightseeing on a route which has some great scenery.
London interchange: London Paddington to London St. Pancras International
The quickest way to travel between London Paddington and St. Pancras International is on the Circle (yellow) or Hammersmith & City (pink) line on the London Underground. Though it seems counter-intuitive, when you alight from the train at London Paddington station, turn away from the main station concourse and follow the platform to the back of the station (follow the pink line on the floor!). Climb a short set of stairs onto a footbridge at the end of the platform, and follow signs to Circle line via King's Cross. All eastbound trains on the Circle or Hammersmith & City lines call at 'Kings Cross St. Pancras' Underground station where you'll be signposted to Eurostar departures.
London to Brussels
Board a Eurostar service from London St Pancras to Brussels. Little more than an hour after leaving London you’ll already be in northern France, speeding through Flanders fields towards Lille Europe, where almost all Brussels-bound Eurostar trains make an intermediate stop. Some trains make up to three additional stops – at Ebbsfleet, Ashford and Calais.
From Lille, it is just 35 minutes to Brussels, where Eurostar trains terminate at Brussels Midi station. Trains run every five minutes from Brussels Midi to Brussels Central (for the city centre). Your Eurostar ticket is valid for this short onward hop within Brussels.
Remember to factor in at least half an hour for Eurostar’s airline-style baggage check prior to boarding your train. This is a light-touch security scan, and there are no restrictions on taking liquids on board Eurostar trains.
Brussels to Cologne
From Brussels-Midi there are up to nine high-speed trains to Cologne each day – a mix of Thalys and ICE services. The journey takes just under two hours and most trains make just a couple of stops along the way.
The first part of the journey from Brussels traverses the flat lands of Brabant to reach Liège-Guillemins station. East from Liège, the train joins a new high-speed line which cuts in tunnels through hilly country to reach the German border just before Aachen. Beyond Aachen, the train traverses flat terrain to reach the Rhineland city of Cologne, where you arrive at the city’s main station (the Hauptbahnhof), located on the west bank of the Rhine right by Cologne Cathedral.
Cologne to Berlin
ICE trains leave Cologne Hauptbahnhof once each hour for Berlin. Depending on the route and stopping pattern, the journey to Berlin Hauptbahnhof takes between 4 hrs 15 mins and 4 hrs 40 mins. In addition to these regular fast ICE services, there is also a slower overnight train from Cologne to Berlin.
Most of the ICE trains follow the Wupper Valley east, but occasional trains (including the overnight service) take a more northerly route through the Ruhr region to reach the North German Plain. The route then tracks east across generally flat terrain to reach the German capital. In Berlin the ICE trains usually serve three different stations: Spandau, Hauptbahnhof and Gesundbrunnen. Hauptbahnhof is the best place to alight for the city centre; it also offers the widest range of onward train connections.
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Image credits: Michal Bednarek