Traveller's Guide: Germany by train

A single Eurostar ticket will now take you as far as Munich. The implications for British travellers are profound, says William Cook

Eurostar is in its 20th year, and at last has started doing something that many travellers would have expected years ago: selling tickets from London to cities in Germany. The tickets include the Eurostar segment to Paris or Brussels and the connecting sector with Deutsche Bahn (German Railways).

The project is starting on a small scale: you have to choose from six German cities. Aachen, Bonn, Cologne and Dusseldorf all start at £49.50 single; Frankfurt from £79.50; and Munich from £97.50. The trip to Munich takes 10 hours from London, but you can reach Aachen in under four.

While Deutsche Bahn has long offered a wide range of destinations with print-at-home tickets, the fact that Eurostar is now selling Germany on its website and by phone is likely to spur a lot more interest in travelling to this fascinating nation by train.

And this is only the beginning. From 2016, Deutsche Bahn will be running direct services to Germany from St Pancras, making a train trip from London to Cologne almost as easy as a journey to Glasgow.

Long term, the political implications are profound. Historically, it's always been easier for Britons to travel around Britain than it has been for us to go abroad. Even foreign air travel hasn't changed this much, what with the time and trouble it takes to get to (and through) the bigger British airports. How will it change perceptions – and political persuasions – once Londoners can get to Frankfurt as easily as they can get to Edinburgh? In countries such as the Benelux states, where local trains criss-cross borders, national boundaries now seem almost irrelevant.

Travelling around Germany by train is almost always an uninterrupted pleasure. Tickets are affordable, prices are easy to understand and the carriages are clean and comfy. Interconnecting services are coordinated, even when the state network intersects with private steam trains. And trains nearly always run on time.

Germany's train journeys can be epic, too: from Hamburg to Rügen, along the windswept Baltic coast; from Cologne to Frankfurt, along the steep banks of the Rhine; Leipzig's futuristic Hauptbahnhof, like a scene from Fritz Lang's Metropolis; Berlin's Zoo Station, like a film-noir setting. The German nation was unified by its railways. Maybe that's one reason why its trains and stations still feel such a special part of Germany today.

If you're planning a Teutonic jaunt with Eurostar, the tips below should help you choose the right trip. These six single-ticket destinations comprise a good cross-section of western Germany. And if you'd rather venture further east, to Berlin or beyond, through tickets are already available from Deutsche Bahn (08718 808 066; bahn.com). Ask for a London-Spezial. Prices start from €59 one way.

Aachen

Aachen, the westernmost city, is the gateway to modern Germany, Yet most travellers pass straight through. They don't know what they're missing. A thousand years ago this was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and amid the drab post-war architecture some spectacular remnants of that golden age remain. Charlemagne is entombed in Aachen's Byzantine cathedral (00 49 241 4770 90; aachendom.de).

Aachen is a spa town established by the Romans, and is still renowned for its mineral waters. Visit bad-aachen.de for details.

Built on the foundations of Charlemagne's palace, Aachen's medieval Rathaus (00 49 241 4320; aachen.de; €5) is more stately home than town hall. Its walls are adorned with portraits of winners of the Charlemagne Prize for European Unity, including Churchill, Edward Heath and Tony Blair.

A palatial remnant of the Second Reich, the Pullman Hotel Quellenhof (00 49 241 91320; pullmanhotels.com) has doubles from €106, room only, with use of the gym and pool.

The city's culture is reflected in its colourful annual carnival The city's culture is reflected in its colourful annual carnival Cologne

Cologne's Gothic cathedral dominates the city skyline – even if you're not stopping, the view from the railway will quicken your pulse.

The city's Catholic culture is reflected in its colourful annual carnival. This year's festivities (koelnerkarneval.de) run from 27 February to 4 March, the highlight of which is "Rose Monday" on 3 March, two days before Ash Wednesday.

The city's distinctive heritage is also echoed in its dialect (which even other Germans often struggle to understand), and in local dishes such as himmel un aad – literally "heaven and earth", actually black pudding with apple and mashed potato.

Meanwhile, the Ludwig Museum (00 49 221 221 26165; museum-ludwig.de; €11) on Heinrich Boll Platz boasts the largest collection of Pop Art outside the United States, as well as works by Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.

A contemporary hotel artfully crammed into a water tower, Hotel im Wasserturm (00 49 221 200 80; hotel-im-wasserturm.de) has doubles from €130 including breakfast and minibar.

Dusseldorf

Modern, brisk and businesslike, Dusseldorf isn't the prettiest of cities, but at weekends it is full of life – especially in the atmospheric bars and cafés along the right bank of the Rhine.

It's an energetic place, with a youthful, fashionable population – Königsallee is one of Europe's smartest shopping streets. Gehry's Rheinhafen Centre – a haphazard huddle of high-rise buildings which looks as if it's about to topple over into the river – symbolises the creative verve of this upbeat metropolis.

Close by, in the heart of the redeveloped harbour district, the sleek high rise Hyatt Regency (00 49 211 9134 1234; dusseldorf-regency.hyatt.com) has doubles from €175, room only.

For something more traditional, Dusseldorf's Kunstpalast (00 49 211 899 0200; smkp.de; €5) at Ehrenhof 4-5 has a superb spread of Old Masters, from Giovanni Bellini to Paul Rubens, plus German artists such as Lovis Corinth and Joseph Beuys.

Bonn

For 40 years, provincial Bonn was Europe's most unlikely capital – seat of the West German government throughout the Cold War. When Berlin was reinstated as the capital of a united Germany, John Le Carré's "Small Town in Germany" sank back into relative obscurity.

Far too small and sleepy to feel like a proper capital, it's now resumed its rightful role as a lively university town, in a tranquil setting on the west bank of the Rhine. If you're here in September, don't miss the Beethoven Festival (beethovenfest.de; 6 September- 3 October), an annual celebration of the life and legacy of Bonn's most famous son.

Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (00 49 228 91650; hdg.de; free) at Willy Brandt Allee 14 is a dynamic museum that charts the dramatic history of West Germany. A handsome Jugendstil villa in nearby Bad Godesberg, Villa Godesberg (00 49 228 830 060; villa-godesberg.de) offers double rooms from €160, including breakfast.

Munich's three Pinakothek Museums cover the entire history of European art Munich's three Pinakothek Museums cover the entire history of European art Munich

Never mind the Oktoberfest. For a few weeks each autumn (starting 20 September this year), the city is invaded by rotund men in lederhosen. At other times, Bavaria's capital is a highly sophisticated place. Its three Pinakothek Museums cover the history of European art, and its pedestrianised city centre is full of upmarket shops and restaurants.

However it's the landscape on its doorstep that makes Munich so special. On a clear day you can see the Alps from the city centre, and the lakes of Ammersee and Starnbergersee are half an hour away by U-Bahn.

The Allianz Arena (00 49 89 6993 1222; allianz-arena.de) at Werner Heilenberg Allee 25 is home to Bayern and one of the world's great football stadiums (tours €12). Tickets for 1860, Munich's other team, are a bit easier to come by.

Rocco Forte's five-star Charles Hotel (00 49 89 544 5550; roccofortehotels.com) has doubles from €270, room only.

Frankfurt

Often unfairly denigrated as a boring business destination, Frankfurt rewards visitors who bother to look beyond its corporate downtown. Sachsenhausen is the district to head for if you want to escape the merchant bankers. Beyond the museums on the waterfront (everything from ethnology to photography) are some authentic hideaways. Frankfurt is also home to two hotels in the quirky 25hours chain: 25hours The Goldman (00 49 69 40 58 68 90; 25hours-hotels.com; doubles from €67 room only) and 25hours by Levi's (00 49 69 25 66 770; doubles from €71).

Adolf Wagner (00 49 69 61 25 65; apfelwein-wagner.com) on Schweizer Strasse serves traditional apple wine (a delicacy in these parts) in a cosy wood-panelled room that feels like a throwback to the 19th century.

Works by Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter form a stunning permanent collection in Frankfurt's Museum of Modern Art (00 49 69 212 30 447; mmk-frankfurt.de; €10) at Domstrasse 10.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Recruitment Genius: HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver / CPC and HIAB Training Provider

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser