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 WENT 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 was a proper unique experience and cost 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 was JUST a novelty. It made for a really good double city break. And still does, even without the train-ferry. I’d recommend spending slightly more time in Copenhagen than Hamburg. I enjoyed both cities, but Copenhagen is my all-time favourite.
Important note: On 15 December 2019, the train ferry died. You can no longer do it. I’m leaving this blog post up for my own memories and because it’s still interesting to my readers. Trains are currently re-routed the longer way through Flensburg and Odense so no longer go on the ferry, which does make the journey a bit quicker but also a lot less fun. They’ll use this longer route while the direct line via Puttgarden is rebuilt and the Fehmarn Link constructed, which will take years. Double check to see what it says for your date of travel. If in doubt, I’d advise contacting Deutsche Bahn customer services.
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.
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.
The bit where your train is INSIDE the ferry (aka the best bit) took around 50 minutes as the ferry crosses between Rødby (Denmark) and Puttgarden (Germany). As mentioned, you can no longer do the ferry bit. But for interest, and so you’re proper jealous – it was great. Soz!
The Copenhagen to Hamburg train journey itself
The main highlight of the journey for me was 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 (RIP)
Just before you got to Rødby, you’d 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 got to Rødby’s coast, this was the moment to get your phone/camera out. You’d see the ferry ahead so you’d 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 went onto the ferry. The tracks just continued nicely into the lower deck and in you go. It wasn’t a faff with getting cars on like when we go from Liverpool to the Isle of Man. It was all very smooth: one minute you were on land, the next you’re inside a ship.
Once you were in the ferry, you had to leave the train and go up to the passenger deck. You weren’t allowed to stay on the train, but you could leave your suitcases etc where they are (this is Denmark, after all – it’s safe in the grand scheme of things).
You were able to 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 did feel like you’re on the sea – I mean, obviously you are because it’s the sea, but you got properly out into it. It’s wasn’t 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.
As you approached the German coast, there was an announcement to tell everyone to get back on the train as you’re arriving into Puttgarden.
You couldn’t wait for everyone else because lots of them would be foot passengers etc and won’t need to move. You, on the other hand, had a train to catch. When the ferry arrived at the other end, the doors opened and the train drove 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 took you to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, which is of course dead central for the city.
And so ended 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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