Here’s how to do London Hamburg train travel. Technically, I travelled from Oxford to Hamburg. But the main part of the journey is London to Hamburg. I did the journey a few years ago as part of a longer train and ferry trip from London to Finland. When I read about that now, I am a bit embarrassed to see that I got off the train a stop early in Hamburg Harburg (the stop before Hamburg Hbhf). One difference this time was that I couldn’t find the Dom beer at Cologne. I bought a can of Fruh which was not the same! Here’s how to travel London to Hamburg by train…
London to Hamburg by train
- London to Hamburg takes approximately 10 or 11 hours
- There are two changes, one at Brussels and one at Cologne
- Keep a look out for Liege train station as you go through Belgium
- The cost of the trip is approximately €368/ £309 return
Trains to London from UK destinations
I booked my train Oxford to London Paddington far enough in advance that it was between £5 and £13 for a single. Then I bought two advance singles for the way back in case I missed one. The great thing about advance fares is that they can be cheap. The annoying thing about them is that there is no flexibility, so you have to catch the train you are booked on to. Shortly after I booked, the Great Train Oracle – otherwise known as the Man in Seat 61 – posted about the special magic hidden London International CIV fares. These can only be bought at the station but are like open returns AND they include the London Underground for travel between your arrival station and London St Pancras International, where Eurostar trains to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam depart. I would recommend the CIV option for peace of mind and to avoid waiting around for a train on the return leg (even if, like me, you use that time to do your weekly shop at Sainsbury’s while you wait).
London to Brussels train
To fit the journey into a day that didn’t start too early, I took the 11:04 Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Brussels. Because of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, but mostly Brexit, you need to arrive at least 1hr 30mins before your train leaves. As with all travel now, this is so you can get through the longer ‘All Passports’ line, now that the UK is no longer in the EU. And no, having an older passport that says European Union on it will not mean you can go through quicker. And no, loudly declaring your love of the EU won’t either.
Train Brussels to Cologne
Every time I reach Brussels or Paris I always have a slight panic about how long I have to make my connection, what platform I need to find etc. This is in part because I am an anxious person. Thankfully Man in Seat 61 has all the information and advice you need – just google what you need to know.
In this case, when I reached Brussels, the train to Cologne was the one on the platform ‘next door’ so I could literally see the DB train I needed to board.
Train Cologne to Hamburg
One of the great things about Cologne is that if you have a long enough connection time (an hour is enough), you can walk out of the station and have a look at the absolutely massive Cologne Cathedral. It is not as grand inside as out but I usually pop in for a little moment of peace before heading back to the station to make my connection. This time I also went into the supermarket and bought a vegan ‘chicken’ sandwich, some crisps, and some beer. On the way back I got a good vegan pesto pasta salad from the salad bar.
The train Cologne to Hamburg takes four to five hours (depending on delays). On the way out I was on one of the old battered trains which was a bit disappointing. And it was rush hour so a bit crowded. But on the way back it was a much smarter train. I did end up in the vestibule though, as the person next to me appeared to have covid and I didn’t fancy catching it. This is how it is on planes and trains and everywhere though, so it’s not the fault of the train.
I arrived in Hamburg at 22:30 or 23:00, there was a delay because a tree fell on the line. I was staying close by at a new capsule hotel called CAB20, which is walking distance from the station. The cabin you sleep in itself is lovely, and the bar and staff were great. I wasn’t as much a fan of the shared bathrooms because I’m 35.
Cool things to do in Hamburg
I was in Hamburg to go to a travel event – Reboot22 – it was my first train trip out of the country in a few years because of the pandemic so I was very excited to see old friends and make some new ones too. Here’s some cool stuff to do and a tasty place to eat…
- Roller disco
- Hamburg DOM fun fair
- Kunterbunt gay bar (very smoky and not a karaoke bar but great fun)