Table 914: Koblenz – Mainz


This month we are following the scenic Rhine Valley from Koblenz to Mainz, Germany’s most famous and beautiful railway journey. To explore the many beautiful towns along the way take the regional trains stopping at all stations.

Our starting point is Koblenz one of the oldest cities in Germany, situated on the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Koblenz has something for everyone, from fairytale castles, vineyards, the winding cobbled streets of the old town and excellent cuisine.

A good place to start your visit is to take a ride on the Koblenz cable car. Situated on the banks of the Rhine, it is the most scenic way to reach the iconic Ehrenbreitstein fortress. Located 112 metres above the Rhine, the Ehrenbreitstein fortress is the second largest intact fortress in Europe with spectacular views over the Rhine Valley. Inside the fortress you will find the Landesmuseum Koblenz, highlighting its history.

The monument for unified Germany at Deutsches Eck (German Corner) is the main landmark in Koblenz. Take a walk up the various levels inside the impressive statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II for the most impressive picturesque views of the area.

For classic German cuisine and wines from the Rhine-Moselle region head to Weinhaus Hubertus, one of the oldest half-timbered buildings in Koblenz.

Experience a boat trip along the Rhine from Koblenz to the one of the many wine villages and castles. The Köln-Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt (Table 914a), better known as KD, runs cruises and scheduled services up and down the river between Köln and Mainz.


This week we continue south along the right hand bank of the River Rhine to the town of St Goarshausen. Famous for its mythical Loreley Valley and the 132 metre high slate rock. At the cliff top lies the Loreley Visitors Centre with stunning views of the Statue of Loreley below. The statue, erected in 1983, is a memorial to a young maiden whose songs enchanted seamen causing countless shipwrecks. Above St Goarshausen you will find two stunning castles: Katz Castle (not open to visitors) and Maus Castle with fabulous views over the town and Rheinfels Castle across the river.

Continuing on we reach Kaub and its famous toll Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, in the middle of the Rhine River on Pfalz island, only accessible by boat to and from the castle, a truly unique experience.

Passing Lorch with its Monastery, Kloster Lorch, we reach the charming town of Rüdesheim, best known for its Riesling wines. In the old town you will find the famous Drosselgasse, an alley lined with historic buildings, restaurants and gift shops with a fantastic atmosphere. Be sure to visit Brömserburg Castle, home to the Rheingau Wine Museum and learn about the wine production in the region and development from ancient times to the present day. Don’t forget to take a ride on the two-person cable car to the Niederwald Monument, with stunning panoramic views over the vineyards and the Rhine river.


We have now reached the city of Wiesbaden, the state capital of Hesse, and best known for its hot springs, beautiful architecture and countless vineyards.

In the centre of Wiesbaden you will find the Kurhaus, Wiesbaden’s main spa house. Built in 1907, in neo-classical style, this beautiful ornate building with its ballrooms and concert hall, is used as a convention centre. It also houses a casino with roulette, poker and blackjack, and a fine restaurant. Take a walk around the grounds too, with the ‘Bowling Green’, fountains and beautiful trees.

You can’t go to Wiesbaden without visiting Kochbrunnen, the most famous hot spring in the city. The fountain flows at around 360 litres per minute and the water temperature is around 66°c. The waters flow crystal clear, but turns yellowish after sitting in the basin for 24 hours.

To the north of the city you will find the Nerobergbahn, a funicular railway which links the city with Neroberg hill. Dating from 1888, it is the oldest water ballast railway in Germany. The ride takes around 3½ minutes and a distance of 440 metres. From the top you’ll be rewarded with great panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Before you leave check out one of the largest cuckoo clock in the world on the shop front of Gebr. Stern GmbH. It strikes every half hour between 08:00 and 20:00.


On the left bank of the River Rhine we reach Mainz, Germany’s wine capital. Head to the Kupferberg Museum, one of Mainz’s oldest wineries. Explore the deepest wine cellars in the world with seven storeys, and sample their superb sparkling wines.

In the charming old town (Altstadt) you will find an array of half-timber houses and market squares. In the centre you will see the distinctive octagonal tower tops of Mainz Cathedral. Built from deep red sandstone, this Roman Catholic cathedral is around 1,000 years old. Also be sure to visit the Church of St. Stephan, with its beautiful blue stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Just a short walk away, in the centre of Schillerplatz, you will find the Fastnachtsbrunnen, a striking 9 metre tall fountain. Decorated with over 200 bronze figures depicting the start of carnival season in Mainz which takes place every year on November 11.

If you love books head to the oldest museum of printing in the world, the Gutenberg Museum. It tells the story of how Johannes Gutenberg, from Mainz, invented the printing press. The museum has a reconstruction of the original Gutenberg printing workshop and runs daily demonstrations. It also has two original Gutenberg first printed Bibles on display.

Christmas Markets by train

This week we are taking a look at a small selection of the wonderful markets worth visiting around Europe this December to stock up on Christmas presents and festive food and drink! All of these cities can be easily reached by train on major routes from all over Europe.

  1. Vienna, Austria.

This beautiful and atmospheric city is perfect for a Christmas visit. Christkindlmärkte is the name for the many markets that pop up all over the city in the cobbled streets adorned with hundreds of fairy lights. Rathauspark in front of City Hall is the largest market with its giant tree, ice rink and fairground rides. You can also listen to international choirs singing carols to get you in the spirit.

  1. Brussels, Belgium

At the largest Christmas market in Belgium, Winter Wonders’ 240 stalls sell a wide variety of Christmas items, from traditional gifts to delicious Belgian delicacies against the backdrop of a giant Ferris wheel. When the sun goes down, make your way to the Grand-Place for a dazzling sound and lights show.

  1. Berlin, Germany

The German capital boasts 60 Christmas markets, so there’s something for everyone! You can expect everything from elaborate illuminations to live entertainment such as a nativity with real animals, crafting demonstrations, magical attractions for children or even medieval processions.

  1. Strasbourg, France

France’s oldest Christmas market sells a variety of traditional items, sweets and mulled wine from around 300 wooden chalets dotted around different areas of the picturesque Alsatian town. The markets each have an individual feel and showcase different products or themes including one from a guest country, with a different one invited every year to display its Christmas wares.

  1. Stockholm, Sweden

For a guaranteed snowy Christmas, head north to Stockholm’s Skansen’s Market which has been held annually since 1903. Pretty red huts sell traditional sausages, cheeses, spices and other homemade delights. The markets also sell an array of Swedish crafts alongside traditional Christmas ornaments and hand-dipped candles.

TABLE 60: Hamburg – Praha – Budapest


This month we are looking at a large Table from the International section of the timetable which crosses Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Table 60 provides a summary of the principal trains on this route but more detailed tables for each section can be found in Tables 840, 1100, 1150 and 1175. The 1291 kilometre route can be completed in one day by using the single direct EuroCity service, named Hungaria, which leaves Hamburg Altona at 06.36 and arrives at Budapest Nyugati at a reasonable 20.19. However, with four capital cities and some beautiful scenery to explore, it is worth breaking the journey at one or more of the stops.

The Hungaria is one of the oldest express trains still in operation, but today uses Hungarian Railways’ latest air-conditioned coaches, including a restaurant car and seats with power sockets and free Wi-Fi. The train departs from Altona, a smaller terminus station, 10 minutes west of Hamburg Hauptbahnhof. The short hop affords some interesting views of this fine city before the train heads out into pretty countryside and forests of eastern Germany. The train arrives in Berlin Hauptbahnhof in under 3 hours, leaving plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast and sightseeing in this bustling capital city where there is always something going on. It’s possible to walk between the main sights, or if you have a Eurail Pass valid in Germany, you can use the S-Bahn metro lines around Berlin for free.

You can re-join the train at either Berlin Hauptbahnhof or the smaller Südkreuz station where we depart for Dresden. The historic Dresden Hauptbahnhof was built in 1898 but like much of the city, it has been extensively redeveloped in recent years to rectify wartime damage and neglect. The station has a unique layout on two levels. The main station building and terminal platforms are located centrally on the lower level, flanked by through tracks on either side raised on viaducts. The classic view of the city’s baroque spires, towers and domes, is from the banks of the river Elbe but there are equally stunning vistas from the spire of the cathedral or the Residenzchloss (Royal Palace) which now houses five museums.


After a change to a Czech locomotive we leave Dresden and head towards the border. This part of the journey through the hills of the Elbe Valley to Děčín has some of the finest scenery on this route. Walkers and climbers keen to explore the area can stop at the frontier station of Bad Schandau to gain access to Saxon Switzerland national park which straddles the German/Czech border. The two countries work together to manage and protect the entire region of sandstone cliffs, steep canyons, and heavily forested slopes.

We now arrive in our second capital city, beautiful Praha. First stop is Praha Holešovice in the north of the city which is connected to the centre by the metro, however most passengers disembark at the art nouveau station of Praha hlavní nádraží which is just a short walk from the main attractions in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. This city attracts thousands of visitors every year to its maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards, keen to experience its famous beers, art and fairy-tale architecture. The city is served by an efficient, fast and clean public transport system including metro lines and trams to transport you easily around the main attractions.

The next stop is the second largest city of Czech Republic, Brno. Home to experimental architecture, such as the Unesco-protected Vila Tugendhat, the city also has several more ghoulish attractions such as the fascinating crypt in the Capuchin Monastery or the notorious prison inside the spooky hilltop Špilberk Castle. Brno also has its fair share of vibrant cafes and bars, many picturesque buildings, churches, squares, sculptures and fountains making it a worthwhile alternative to avoid the tourist hordes in Praha.


Last week we were in Brno in the Czech Republic from where we now depart, travelling south-east towards Břeclav, located at the border with Lower Austria on the Dyje River. From Břeclav there is an easy connection over the border into Austria to Vienna (Wien) and Graz. Those that have travelled directly from Hamburg on the 06:36 EC service will have just under an hour to wait for the 17:55 RJ service into Austria meaning you can squeeze yet another capital city into your journey (on top of the four on the main route) and arrive in Vienna in time for an evening stroll and dinner.

Travellers choosing to continue on the Hungaria service, now head towards the Slovakian border at Kúty before arriving into capital city number three, Bratislava. Fans of the Slovakian capital will argue that this is a better stopping off point than Prague, having just as many highlights but without the crowds. The pretty historical city centre is very compact and cosy, and it is easy to walk from one side to another in a few minutes, so it is a perfect location for exploring in just a day or two. The cobbled streets are packed with lovely cafés and traditional restaurants, whilst in December be sure to indulge in the aromas and flavours of the traditional Christmas market in the hlavné námestie (main square). The market is much more traditional and less overtly commercialized than others in the region. There are many baroque palaces and notable churches to explore as well as the prominent Bratislava Castle on the hilltop where there are some great views over the city and the Danube river.


This month we are looking at Table 60 which crosses Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Table 60 provides a summary of the principal trains with more detailed services in the country sections. The entire route can be completed in one day by using the single direct EuroCity service, named Hungaria. But, with four capital cities and some beautiful scenery to explore, it is worth breaking the journey at one or more of the stops.

For the last part of this journey, we depart Bratislava hlavná stanica and head towards our final border crossing at Štúrovo. The section of the journey leaving Slovakia offers some lovely views across the Danube towards Hungary. The train passes through some pretty little villages and hillside vineyards as we make our way towards our final destination, Budapest.

The grand capital city of Budapest is a popular destination for millions of tourists every year keen to enjoy its indulgent spas, fairy tale architectural sites and cultural attractions. The Danube divides the city into its two parts; the photogenic old district of Buda on the west bank and the more modern and commercial Pest on the east bank. Exploring the city is easy on foot, but those with limited time should consider the Budapest Card (€22,00 for 24 hours) which grants unlimited travel on public transport and discounted or free admission to museums and baths. There are also plenty of sightseeing tours available by bus or, for some unique views of the city from the river, opt for a boat tour. Other highlights in the city include a trip on the Castle Hill funicular (dating back to 1870) which climbs slowly to the pedestrianised district of Old Buda for some spectacular views from Fishermen’s Bastion or why not simply relax in one of the many grand thermal spas? It’s also worthwhile taking a walk along the famous Chain Bridge, the first permanent link between Buda and Pest, for picture perfect views of the enormous, iconic parliament buildings.

TABLE 935: München, Augsburg and Ulm – Oberstdorf and Lindau


Continuing our new feature we are focusing in on some of the more interesting tables in our timetables, exploring the routes that it details and the cities, history and scenery along its lines.  Throughout January we will be looking in detail at Table 935 and its routes through Southern Germany.

Readers wishing to explore the scenic Allgäu region of southern Germany will need to consult the unwieldy, but intriguing, Table 935 to plan their journeys.  The table covers a series of lines which link the cities of München, Augsburg and Ulm with the mountain resort of Oberstdorf and lakeside town of Lindau. The table itself is quite complex as various services interconnect with each other at several railway hubs, most notably Buchloe, Memmingen, Kempten and Immenstadt.  To complicate matters further, many trains run with two portions, splitting or joining en-route.  We have considered simplifying this table by showing each route separately, but this would markedly fail to demonstrate the wonderful way the various services interconnect with each other to provide regular journey opportunities between the towns and cities of the area.

Most services are operated by regional trains so it is easy to explore the region using one of the excellent regional tickets, such as the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket or Bayern-Ticket.  Closer inspection of the table will also reveal four daily EuroCity trains in each direction running to and from Zürich (on which regional tickets are not valid). However, there is currently electrification works on the route via Memmingen to enable faster services, this will result in variations to timings during certain periods as the work progresses.


Journeys through the rail routes of the Allgäu region are primarily dominated by the Alps Mountains. However, the region is also comprised of numerous lakes, forests and small romantic towns that contribute to the regions natural beauty. Hiking trails, cycling routes, and ski runs crisscross the land, and the entire region is dotted with health resorts.

There are many notable attractions to visit in this region such as the famous fairy-tale Bavarian castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, easily reached from Füssen station near the Austrian border. Direct trains from Munich run every two hours and are operated with modern, air-conditioned double-deck trains. The best views are from seats on the left-hand side on the upper deck, from here you can enjoy great views of Neuschwanstein castle. Tourist-busy Füssen provides the main access point to the castles either by shuttle bus or by foot but also boasts a medieval fortress the Hohen Schloss,  a former Benedictine monastery of St Mang and a very attractive old town so is worth an explore in its own right.


The Bavarian Allgäu railway running from Munich to Lindau weaves its way through some historic towns such as Ulm (famous for being the birthplace of Albert Einstein and having the tallest church steeple in the world), Kempten (the largest town of the Allgäu) and Oberstdorf.

Oberstdorf is a busy winter resort, principally a skiing and hiking town and is the highest market town in Germany. The terminus station is reached in just over 2 hours from Munich and is the most southern railway station of Germany. Oberstdorf is served by around 40 daily intercity and regional-express services operated by Deutsche Bahn and Regentalbahn so it is also a good base from which to explore the region. There are a large number of valleys in the area around Oberstdorf, many of which are not only scenic, but are often starting points for walks in the mountains. The beautiful Oberstdorf Nebelhorn is known for its impressive views of 400 mountain summits. However, you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy the scenery as many of the summits can be reached by cable car. The new mountain restaurant at the top of the Nebelhorn offers a 270-degree panorama so you can enjoy a meal with a spectacular view.


Lindau near the borders of Austria and Switzerland is the final destination and terminus on the Bavarian Allgäu railway. This historic town is actually an island on the eastern side of Lake Constance and connected to the mainland by a road-traffic bridge and a railway dam leading to Lindau Hauptbahnhof.  Arriving in Lindau you are greeted with an impressive panorama of the Swiss and Austrian Alps and Lake Constance which stretches out behind the world-famous harbour entrance with its Bavarian lion and white lighthouse. If you are feeling fit you can climb the 139 steps to the top of the 136m lighthouse for stunning views out over Lindau and the Bodensee. The old town still boasts the romantic alleys and dreamy courtyards of its medieval past, full of colourful boutiques, cafés and restaurants. In summer tourists flock to the lakeside promenade, widely regarded to be the prettiest in Lake Constance.

Lindau makes a great base to explore the region. There are several boat trips along the lake to nearby towns such as Friedrichshafen, home of the Zeppelin museum or Mainau, known as the Flower Island. For those who are not a fan of boats, they can also be reached by the excellent regional train and bus services. See table 933 for connections to Friedrichshafen. For Mainau the nearest station is Konstanz (Tables 916 & 939) where there is a connecting bus to the island. From Lindau, there is also the option to take the spectacular rail journey over the Arlberg Pass to the Alpine resort of St Anton am Arlberg (table 951)


Route No. 14: “From Flanders to the Rhine”


As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 14: “From Flanders to the Rhine” which begins in Lille, passing through Brussels and Liège, ending in Cologne. The Thalys and Deutsche Bahn trains from Brussels to Cologne all follow the same route. They dash across the flatlands of Brabant to reach Liège (Luik in Dutch and Lüttich in German), an industrial city that sprawls along the west bank of the River Meuse.

In Liège, all trains stop at Guillemins railway station, a stunning piece of design by Santiago Calatrava. The building is best appreciated from the road outside rather than from the platforms, but on a sunny day the play of light and shade on the platforms is quite seductive. Part of the station is shown on the front cover of this book. The station is a reminder that Liège is a city which has always had strong railway connections

A new high-speed line from Liège to Aachen opened in 2009, thus marking the end of a slow dawdle through the hill country of eastern Belgium to reach the Germany border. Nowadays, the fast trains dive through tunnels and miss the best of the scenery. Of course, you can if you wish still follow the old line via Verviers to Aachen. There are hourly trains on this route, all requiring a change of train at Welkenraedt (ERT 400 & 438).

Route No. 5: “The Harz Mountains”


As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 5: “The Harz Mountains” which begins in Hannover, passing through the Harz mountains and ending in Magdeburg

Every day, thousands of travellers speed across northern Germany on the main rail routes from Cologne or the Ruhr region towards Berlin. The previous route in this volume describes one such journey. It covers a lot of ground at speed, but it’s hardly a great rail adventure.

Yet so often in Europe, even just a modest diversion from the main line can transform a prosaic run into something very special, and nowhere is that better illustrated than in journeys across northern Germany. You can cut off to the south of the main railways which link Hannover with Berlin to discover the glorious landscapes of the Harz Mountains, a region which boasts Europe’s finest network of narrow-gauge steam railways. Even if you are not a train buff, the scenery alone justifies an excursion into the Harz region. Moreover, the Harz steam trains always go down a treat with children and families.

Route No. 46: “Through Poland to Ukraine”

Route of the Week general info - Route 46 - Through Poland to UkraineAs a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 46: “Through Poland to Ukraine” which begins in Berlin, passing through Warsaw and Kraków, ending in Lviv.

Between Berlin and Lviv, Route 46 takes in two particularly fine Polish cities, Poznań and Krakow – both with magnificent central squares. Not to mention the capital Warsaw too. Like every route in the book, this journey is not just about getting from A to B. It’s better to linger and take a few days exploring places along the way.
Poznań (suggested stopover): The capital of Wielkopolska is one of Poland’s most engaging and oldest cities. It was the seat of Poland’s first bishop in the 10th century. Its status as a great mercantile centre (it’s still an important centre for trade fairs) has contributed to the architectural heritage of its Old Town. The city’s focal point is Stary Rynek, a spacious square with gabled burghers’ houses and a spectacular multicoloured 16th-century Renaissance Town Hall, where at midday two mechanical goats emerge from above the clock to lock horns. Inside is the Chamber of the Renaissance with its beautifully painted, coffered ceiling (1555) and the Poznań Historical Museum (free Sat). As the train leaves Poznań, there is a tantalising glimpse (back to the right of the train) of that city’s remarkable Town Hall. Before long you are running through pleasant Mazovian countryside on the approach to Warsaw. There are glimpses of rural estates and manor houses, wistfully beautiful meadows and concrete apartment blocks – a very Polish mix.

Route No. 19: “From Prussia to the Alps”

Route of the Week general info - Route 19 - From Prussia to the Alps

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 19: “From Prussia to the Alps” which begins in Berlin, passing through Leipzig and Munch, ending in Salzburg.

This long journey from Berlin to Bavaria and on across the Austrian border to Salzburg takes in some very fine German cities (including Leipzig, Weimar and Munich) and some decent countryside – of which the two highlights are the hill country of Thuringia in the middle of the route and the Chiemgau area of Upper Bavaria. The latter gives a grand finale to the journey on the approach to Salzburg.

It is just 150 kilometres from Munich to Salzburg, but what a journey! Sit on the right side of the train for fine views of the Alps as you approach Salzburg. Closer to the railway, and on both sides of the train, are the delicate landscapes of the Chiemgau. It is a stunning end to a journey which started on the banks of the River Spree in Berlin and ends by the Salzach near the Austrian-German border.

Route No. 16: “Touring the Rhine Valley”


As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

PHOTO: The Hohenzollern Bridge is used by all trains crossing the Rhine to enter Cologne from the east. Cologne's great cathedral, seen in this shot, is right by the main railway station. Photo by Dirk Ziegener posted on

PHOTO: The Hohenzollern Bridge is used by all trains crossing the Rhine to enter Cologne from the east. Cologne’s great cathedral, seen in this shot, is right by the main railway station. Photo by Dirk Ziegener posted on

This week we are looking at: Route No. 16: “Touring the Rhine Valley” which runs from south from Cologne in Germany through the Black Forest to Zurich, Switzerland.

This is one of Europe’s classic rail journeys, as the route south from Cologne hugs the River Rhine and then, once past Koblenz, follows the dramatic Rhine Gorge upstream. Moving over the imperceptible divide from northern into southern Germany, we leave the Rhine Valley and continue through the Black Forest in to Switzerland

Suggested Itinerary:
Our starting point is Cologne, which is nowadays just a short hop on regular high-speed trains from Amsterdam (ERT 28), Brussels and Paris (both ERT 20). Travellers from Britain can leave London on a morning departure on Eurostar and, with just one change of train in Brussels, be in Cologne to start Route 16 by early afternoon. There is no compulsory seat reservation on any of the trains in this route. Holders of InterRail and Eurail passes can thus follow the entire route without paying a cent in supplements. This is, therefore, a journey well suited to spontaneous travel. Cheap tickets, valid only on regional trains, are available for all but the final leg from Schaffhausen to Zurich.

Heidelberg is the obvious place for an overnight stop. If you decide to travel from Cologne to Heidelberg in a day, we especially recommend using one of the two morning Eurocity trains which run up the Rhine Valley from Cologne. These two trains (EC7 and EC9 respectively) are both formed of very comfortable Swiss carriages and each train has an excellent restaurant car. It is a two-and-a-half hour journey from Cologne to Mannheim, where you’ll need to change for a connecting train to Heidelberg, just a dozen minutes away.

If the weather is good and time no object, think of doing part of the journey by boat up the Rhine; the best place to do this is definitely between Boppard and Bingen (ERT 914a). Holders of Eurail and InterRail passes receive a 20% discount on the regular fares on all shipping services shown in ERT 914a.