Fastest journey8hr 56m
It is very easy to travel by train from London to Berlin. The journey requires two simple changes of train, the first at Brussels Midi and the second at Cologne Hauptbahnhof. The timings are such that, if you are quick, you’ll have time to take a quick look at Cologne’s famous cathedral when changing trains there; the cathedral is right by the Hauptbahnhof.
The journey starts with a high-speed run from London to Brussels on Eurostar. 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 the London to Berlin route 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 three journey legs.
If you leave London later in the day, it is also possible to take an overnight train from Cologne to Berlin. Tickets for the rail journey from London to Berlin go on sale three months prior to travel.
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