Fastest journey9hr 7m
There’s no longer a direct Cologne to Copenhagen train, but this is still a very easy journey with one simple change of train in Hamburg. Tickets are released for sale three months in advance, and that’s the time to book for the best deals.
The first stretch of your journey from Cologne to Copenhagen is usually with a German ICE train from Cologne to Hamburg where you change for the direct EuroCity service to Copenhagen. At certain times IC or EuroCity trains may substitute for ICEs on the first leg to Hamburg, but on this route that makes no difference to the journey time.
During the second leg of the journey, from Hamburg to Copenhagen, the entire train is shunted onto a ferry for a 45-min ride across the Baltic. If you can possibly contrive to do that last stretch in daylight, you’re in for a very memorable experience.
Cologne to Hamburg
The four-hour journey from Cologne to Hamburg wins no prizes for exceptional scenery. Hourly trains on this route cross the Ruhr industrial region and then track north-east across the North German Plain, pausing in Bremen before heading east to Hamburg. Most trains make about eight intermediate stops on the run from Cologne Hauptbahnhof to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. Several types of train serve this route. There are German ICE and IC services, the occasional Swiss EuroCity and also trains run by private operator HKX.
At certain times, Loco2 will show additional options from Cologne to Hamburg via Hannover. Distance-wise this route is longer, but the journey via Hannover fills occasional gaps in the timetable and takes no longer than the direct trains.
Hamburg to Copenhagen
The journey by train from Hamburg to Copenhagen takes just under five hours. Running north-east from Hamburg the first stop is at the beautiful city of Lubeck. The route then takes in some fine Baltic scenery. The highlight is a short sea crossing on a ferry from Puttgarden in Germany to Rødby in Denmark. Your train rolls onto the ferry with passengers on board. You then have free run of the ship, with time to have a meal on board or stroll on deck, before rejoining the train as the ship docks at Rødby. The ride through Denmark from Rødby to Copenhagen takes two hours with four stops along the way.
There are four year-round trains each day on this route, supplemented during the spring and summer months by up to three additional EuroCity trains each day. All services leave from Hamburg Hauptbahnhof and arrive at the centrally located Hovedbanegård in Copenhagen.
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Image credits: Nyhavn Waterfront, Copenhagen by Dennis Jarvis