Fastest journey8hr 42m
The train journey from London to Hamburg is very easy. Eurostar trains from London connect very efficiently at Brussels Midi station with Deutsche Bahn ICE high-speed trains bound for Frankfurt-am-Main. Passengers for Hamburg take this train as far as Cologne Hauptbahnhof, changing there onto a direct train to Hamburg.
There are many other options for travelling by train from London to Hamburg. Some passengers trim the Cologne to Hamburg journey time by travelling via Hannover, but that requires an extra change of train. There are routes via Paris and yet others which use Thalys trains for the Brussels to Cologne leg, but these are invariably more expensive than itineraries which rely on Deutsche Bahn services from Brussels to Cologne.
Rail tickets from London to Hamburg via Brussels normally go on sale three months prior to travel. On your journey from London to Hamburg by train, you’ll speed across the territory of four countries: England, France, Belgium and Germany. As the latter three countries are all members of Schengen, there is little by way of border formalities.
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.