A major connection with only 3 small trains a day. Yes, this is possible in Western Europe. The connection between Hamburg and Copenhagen goes only 3 times a day. And since the trains boards a boat to cross the Fehmarnbelt it is a special trip as well! I took this train on my way towards Scandinavia and found out what this special connection is about. There are saver fares available for this trip from Deutsche Bahn.
Due to many construction works on the line please have a look in the DB-planner for your connection via the mainland of Denmark: Hamburg -> Flensburg -> Federicia -> Copenhagen. More information for this route below.
I would call Hamburg a little brother of Berlin because there are many similarities between these two German cities. I found that the city isn't that expensive and there are plenty of shopping possibilities. Besides large shopping centers and the main street, you can also find many cute boutiques and small shops. In combination with the historic city center and harbour located just around the corner, it is definitely a recommended city for a visit.
Copenhagen, Kopenhagen, København or Koebenhavn are all different spellings for the capital of Denmark. I found this a perfect Western-Europe city with all the facilities you will need. It offers a perfect public transport. Best tickets to buy is the CityPass 24/72 hour ticket. If you buy a City Pass, you can travel as much as you like on the metro, bus and train in central Copenhagen (zones 1-4), and to and from the airport. There are several digital methods to purchase these tickets but I personally found buying them via the local ticket machine on Copenhagen Central Station the easiest.
Ferry crossing from Puttgarden to Røby
There's some water located between Copenhagen and the mainland of Germany what means that you need to cross it one way or the other. It's possible to take mainland connection via Fredericia and some bridges, but the most popular is the direct train where are talking about here. One of the main reasons I took this train is one of the last phenomenon in Europe (only 3 left), that the train drives on board of a ferry.
Although there are many connections available in the form of a boat-train, trains that connect to the departing boat, they aren't used that much. With the upcoming cheap flights within Europe the ferry has lost its customers. The ferry just takes way to long what I can understand. For example, the London - Amsterdam Rail & Sail option is just not that 'hot' as it was before. For this connection you need to change physical from train/bus to boat and back to the train what takes an 'enormous' amount of energy. Just the same as this connection.
Puttgarden - Røbyhavn
Both ports are a truly sad picture of emptiness and desolation. It would have seen definitively better days and have been constructed with the intention of handling much higher volumes of rail traffic. Rows and rows of overgrown and rusty sidings lay empty. Although the train station is not serving any more trains than this EC, the lorries and cars are still using this ferry more than enough. The ferries are operated by Scandlines and can carry both cars, lorries and trains. Ferries depart every 30-minute, 24 hours a day.
When you arrive on time at the port of Puttgarden the train waits for a new train driver to take over. He drives the train on board where the train is shut down and passengers are instructed to disembark and make their way up to the passenger area. You can leave your luggage on the train, but keep in mind to take your most important belongings with you. The crossing itself is a disappointment. The two main decks exists out of an outside/restaurant deck and a shop/restaurant deck. It just enough for a short-distance ferry. Not long after seeing the port coming near the announcement comes for all passengers to make there way back to the train. After the docking is completed, the engines will be started again and the train disembarks.
The trains on this route are operated by the Danish DSB with IC3 trains since October 2017. In the years before 2017 have been operated with the ICE-TD from DeutscheBahn/DSB but these have been replaced with the comfortably IC3. Getting on can be a little bit tricky. Carriage number and seat number can be somewhat confusing when you have your seat reservation. I found that the carriage numbers ware incorrect shown on the outside displays but the seat numbers shown inside ware correct.
I have to say that the scenery on both sides of the route is not necessarily fantastic. Lolland (Denmark side) is also known by the nickname “Pancake Island” as a reflection of its flatness and I found the German part not surprising as well.
Food and drinks
To be an official Euro-City connection, there must also be food and beverages available on board, as well preferably from a dining car. That's not really the point on the IC3 trains. There is way to less room in the small train that needs to fit on the ferry.
The train is relatively compact and there isn't really enough space to stow your luggage. It feels like you are going on vacation with 4 persons in a small car, packed in your own luggage. This service is mostly used for recreational use so everybody has a lot of bags with them. The overhead storage is first to be filled and what's left will be put under your legs or in the aisle.
For a long ride like this and using your phone all day long, power outlets are a must. This train does have power outlets available. There aren't that many available for all passengers, but you can find 1 per 4 passengers on the overhead storage. (Tip: If you want to keep using your phone, I would recommend to take a long cable with you.)
Low. The punctuality is not really high due to the boat transfer and the Border control. A lot of time was caught up to be almost on time on my end destination.
Perfect. If you've read all negative points above you may think it isn't your best choice to take this train. No, that's definitively not my point. I had a perfect time on this train. And the main reason are the extremely comfortable seats. Seats? Sofas. There is plenty of enough space in the width but legroom is shared with your neighbour. If there's room around you, try out the reclining function. Guaranteed enjoyment!
Seat reservation on this train seems to be difficult at all times. There are some basic rules on when you need a seat reservation and when it's not necessary needed.
Reservation is obligated on all EC services from Germany to Denmark; Not only for the EC via the ferry to Denmark but also the direct EC connection via Flensburg to Fredericia / Aarhus / Odense.
Reservation is as well obligated in the summer season, around mid-June to mid-September.
Travelling within Germany or Denmark alone and therefore not crossing the border doesn't need a reservation.
Reservations can be made easily via DSB reservation for trains from and to Denmark. This DSB site is on this moment the only easy way of booking your reservations. Other options are as always: Booking at your local service point on a station, or via the ACP Website.
Seat reservations on DSB trains should cost 30 Danish crowns (~€4).
The travel time including sailing and extra time for Customs to control the train takes about 4:58 hours towards Denmark and 4:41 hours towards Germany.
The live schedules are available on Deutsche Bahn.
The average ticket price of this connection can be found on the Deutsche Bahn website from Euro 29,90 - but they vary a lot and usually more expensive. Book early to get good fares.
The alternative to the direct train, is going via the mainland of Denmark, via Fredericia.
Examples of connection:
- Hamburg 8:43 -> Flensburg 10:42 with DB RE. Connection time of 6 min will always be enough. When not, trains will wait and your DB staff member will inform you about your connection since 99% of the passengers with you will have to change as well.
- Flensburg 10:43 -> Federicia 12:14 with DSB IC. I recommend reserving a seat in busy periods! I have seen a lot of Interrailers standing since DSB operates with small trains.
- Federicia 12:22 -> Copenhagen 14:08 with DSB LYN. I recommend reserving a seat in busy periods!
Travelling via the mainland of Denmark takes about 10 to 25 minutes longer with one or two changes. Two changes is nothing when you remember you'll have to get out your train on the ferry. Single tickets are way cheaper via the mainland connection. The Deutsche Bahn Sparpreis Europa starts from Euro 29.90!
Because of this terrible connection between the capital of Denmark and the mainland they decided to expand this line. The building of a new sea tunnel between Puttgarden and Røbyhavn has been started. With this new tunnel they promise to take the travel time down with almost an hour. The travel time trough the tunnel is just about 5 minutes instead of taking the boat what takes with boarding, loading and sealing, almost an hour. They intent to increase the available trains as well extremely since this 3 times a day connection is just way to less.
I had this connection for a long time on my 'bucket-list' but it was a disappointment. Everything is old, rusty and abandoned. With the new tunnel coming up and shortening the route with more than an hour is just the only way to revive this route and making the connection with Scandinavia more attracting. Are you about to travel from Germany towards Denmark? The landroute is more interesting, cheaper and not much slower, but there's nothing wrong with choosing the ferry. It does make your route more interesting with the ferry being a highlight on your whole day of travelling by train.
Updated: March 2018