This winter, I did what I have decided to call a Copenhagen to Hamburg train ferry adventure. Basically, it involved 3 days in Copenhagen and 3 days in Hamburg, with the two halves being connected via a TRAIN THAT GOES ONTO A FERRY. I kid you not. If a train driving INSIDE a ferry and being transported across the Baltic sea to emerge the other side on land isn’t the most exciting prospect you’ve ever heard of, then you’re on the wrong blog.
There are not many places in the world where trains go onto ferries, so this is a proper unique experience and costs less than 30 euro per person. Also, the cities it goes between are both good places to go to, so it’s not like it’s JUST a novelty. It makes for a really good double city break. I’d recommend spending slightly more time in Copenhagen than Hamburg. I enjoyed both cities, but Copenhagen is my all-time favourite.
Incidentally, this unique train ferry experience may not last forever. There is a horrifying tunnel proposed, called the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, which will be replacing the wondrous train ferry at some point. So you need to get on the train ferry while you still can.
Important note for summer 2019 bookings: Until 29 September 2019, you may find altered timetables on this route. There’s engineering works on the line. So it might tell you that you have to change to a bus replacement for part of the journey. Double check see what it says for your date of travel. If in doubt, I’d advise contacting Deutsche Bahn customer services.
Anyway. Here’s my suggested itinerary for seeing both Copenhagen and Hamburg and how to do the AMAZING train ferry journey between them…
Your starting point: wonderful Copenhagen
The adventure starts in the best city in the world (IMO) Copenhagen. Obviously you can do the trip either way round and if you wanted, you could start with Hamburg; it doesn’t really matter. But this is the way round I did it.
I’d suggest you spend at least 2 days in Copenhagen, but more if possible – 4 is ideal. I’ve been several times and this most recent trip was only 2 days, which didn’t feel enough. There’s so much to see and such an incredible culture to immerse yourself in that you do need a slightly longer city break there. The only downsides to Copenhagen are:
- it’s not cheap (but it IS worth the cost because you’re paying for quality)
- the locals are so attractive that you’ll feel like a right hag.
Other than that it’s the absolute DREAM and I love it to death. I won’t go into what to see, do and eat in Copenhagen though, because I have a whole post about that here.
Your journey: getting from Copenhagen to Hamburg on the train ferry
How to book your train tickets and the cost
Look up train times and buy your tickets on the Bahn website. At the time of writing, and when I booked it, it was 29.90 euro each, which I’m sure you’ll agree is an absolute bargain. Make sure you’re booking the route that has MV on it (motor vessel) and calls at Rødby. There’s another, longer route that doesn’t do the ferry, so be careful!
You print your ticket off yourself. I think they offered first class, but normal standard class tickets are absolutely fine. There’s no need to spend more for no reason.
What you absolutely should do though is reserve a seat. Seats are limited and you deffo don’t want to end up stood up and not being able to see out of the window.
Copenhagen central station is a beauty. There are plenty of shops and eateries in it for you to get some drinks and so on for the journey. My favourite is a little supermarket/convenience shop where you can get really good lunchtime salads to take away. It’s in the corner as you come in.
The station is super well organised so you should be fine finding your platform and all that.
How long the Copenhagen to Hamburg train journey takes
The trains to Hamburg run up to 5 times per day in each direction and the whole journey takes just under 5 hours overall, but obviously you’re on the ferry for some of that so it doesn’t feel that long at all.
The bit where your train is INSIDE the ferry (aka the best bit) is around 50 minutes as the ferry crosses between Rødby (Denmark) and Puttgarden (Germany).
The Copenhagen to Hamburg train journey itself
The main highlight of the journey is of course the ferry crossing.
But the scenery up to that point is quite nice too – the usual Danish greenery of course. I spotted a few horses along the way, which is the main entertainment for all my train journeys.
For the boring bits of the journey where it’s just lots of trees, at least you’re in a really nice clean train with plenty of space. Oh and free WiFi.
The ferry bit
Just before you get to Rødby, you’ll notice the land getting very very flat. You’re on Denmark’s island of Lolland, which is nicknamed ‘Pancake Island’ for obvious reasons.
When you get to Rødby’s coast, get your phone/camera out because this is the good bit. You’ll see the ferry ahead so you’ll have time to get your shot lined up before the train rolls slowly onto the waiting ferry. This is of course when I tried to film it and the bloody camera switched off just before we entered the ferry and my video was ruined. FML. I’m embedding it below anyway.
I was struck by how efficiently the train goes onto the ferry. The tracks just continue nicely into the lower deck and in you go. It’s not a faff with getting cars on like when we go from Liverpool to the Isle of Man. It’s all very smooth: one minute you’re on land, the next you’re inside a ship.
Once you’re in the ferry, you have to leave the train and go up to the passenger deck. You can’t stay on the train, but you can leave your suitcases etc where they are (this is Denmark, after all – it’s safe in the grand scheme of things). Top tip: remember what door you exit through so you can easily find you carriage at the other end.
You can get some sea air and look at the view out on the top deck. I managed this for about 3 minutes as it was insanely cold and sleeting. Good times.
We ended up finding a seat safely indoors to watch the coast approaching without the optional hypothermia. As you can see from the emptiness of the deck, everyone else was in agreement.
It really does feel like you’re on the sea – I mean, obviously you are because it’s the sea, but you get properly out into it. It’s not just like you’re nipping across a tiny bay or anything.
Just a slightly miserable side note: I was dead disappointed with the ferry’s shop TBH. I really wanted a fridge magnet or something with the train ferry on it, but there was absolutely no commemorative merch at all. Gutted. If you’re hungry though, there are two restaurants.
As you approach the German coast, there’s an announcement to tell everyone to get back on the train as you’re arriving into Puttgarden.
Don’t wait for everyone else because lots of them will be foot passengers etc and won’t need to move. You, on the other hand, have a train to catch. When the ferry arrives at the other end, the doors open and the train drives off immediately.
Ferry trains wait for no one.
Arriving on German soil and heading to Hamburg
After leaving Puttgarden and whooshing through German countryside, the train eventually takes you to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, which is of course dead central for the city.
And so ends your train ferry adventure.
Your end point: a maritime city break in Hamburg
I spent 2 days in Hamburg, plus a third day just for a day trip to another town, and I’d say that was enough. Hamburg is a very interesting city with loads to do/see/eat and although it doesn’t have a place in my heart like Copenhagen, it’s still good.
You can read much more detail about it in my guide to Hamburg.
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