Fastest journey14hr 22m
Travelling by train from London to Copenhagen is just about possible in a single day. Our advice is to build a stopover into your journey. Cologne or Hamburg are obvious choices, but if you prefer to stay in a smaller city then Bremen or Lubeck are good options. During the final part of the journey, from Hamburg to Copenhagen, the entire train is shunted onto a ferry for a 45-min ride across the Baltic.
Your journey starts with a high-speed ride on Eurostar from London to Brussels, where you change onto an ICE or Thalys train for the onward journey to Cologne. From Cologne you’ll take an ICE, IC or EuroCity service to Hamburg. The final section takes you from Hamburg via Lubeck to the Baltic coast at Puttgarden, where your train rolls onto the ship to Denmark.
Tickets normally go on sale 3 months prior to travel and that’s the moment to book if you are keen to get the best deal. If you are planning a stopover en route, remember to build that into your itinerary as you book.
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 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