Located under 250km apart, the great news is that it’s really easy to travel from Amsterdam in the Netherlands to Cologne in Germany.
A great city pairing if you’re visiting western Europe, these 2 cities offer enough similarities to give you a fantastic flavour of this region, but differ enough that hitting up Amsterdam and Cologne in one trip will allow you to feel like you’ve explored 2 totally separate destinations… and countries.
The Dutch capital of Amsterdam, famous for its wonderful museums, canals, tulips and bikes is awash with history and atmosphere and makes for a perfect 3 day city break.
In contrast, Cologne in Germany lies in the industrial west of this country and offers a great insight into local life in this busy riverside city famous for its liberal and creative atmosphere.
Together they form a fantastic pairing for a 5 day adventure and the fact it’s so easy to travel between them only adds to the appeal.
With both bus and train journey options, as well as self-drive routes, between these 2 cities, this article will bring you all the details about to make it, including the pros and cons of each route.
So let’s get stuck in…
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Amsterdam to Cologne: The Basics
To start off, I want to give you a vague idea of distance, so that you can start to visualise the journey between these cities.
As the crow flies, it’s 214km between Amsterdam and Cologne and there are several different ways you can make this journey depending on your budget, timeframe and travel style.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to discuss travelling from Amsterdam to Cologne i.e. in the direction of north to south, but please do bear in mind, you can absolutely travel the other way too.
All this information will still apply if you are travelling from Cologne to Amsterdam, you’ll just have to follow it in reverse!
I often get asked in which direction I recommend people travel in, but my answer is always the same, it honestly doesn’t matter.
Pick the route that works best given your itinerary, your bucket list spots and the time of year you are travelling.
If you’re flying in and out of Europe (or training elsewhere afterwards), then checking the prices of onward journeys from each city may help sway your decision as you which city you finish in.
Oh and a word of warning, Cologne is called Köln in German, so don’t get confused if you see this name being used on train and bus journey planners too!
Also worth noting that all the details contained within this article were current at the time of publication, but timetables and schedules do change, so please check Trainline and Flixbus for the latest journey info.
#1 Amsterdam to Cologne By Train
The brilliant thing to know is that there are direct train services between Amsterdam and Cologne.
The quickest way to travel between the 2 cities, direct trains take around 2 hours 45 minutes.
There are around 6 direct train services daily, so I’d certainly recommend selecting one of these options if you can, as they’ll be quicker and simpler to navigate.
If the timings don’t match up with your desired journey times, then there are also a huge number of daily trains with a combination of 1, 2, 3 and 4 changes.
As always, I’d opt for the rail journey with the least number of changes – this will make your life much easier, and avoid your journey being thrown into disarray if one of your trains is delayed and you consequently miss a connection.
Direct trains are operated by the German national railway company, Deutsch Bahn, while those with changes may also include trains operated by the Dutch national railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and even Thalys, which is a highspeed consortium of the French, Belgian & Dutch national railways.
All trains leave from Amsterdam Centraal which is, as the name suggests, located in the centre of the Dutch capital.
Trains will then arrive into Köln Hbf, which is also centrally located within this German city as well.
This means walking or using public transport to get to or from both stations to your accommodation is likely to be straightforward – hoorah!
Trains from Amsterdam to Cologne run between 1am and 10pm and cost as little as 20€ when booked in advance, but can rise to over 50€ when bought closer to the date of departure.
As is commonly the case when booking trains that cross European borders, there’s essentially 2 options for this journey – booking through the national railway websites or booking through an international one.
Very often find the national sites of European train operators can be clunky to use, hard to decipher and difficult to pay in foreign currencies or with international cards.
Which is why I always use Trainline to book all my rail journeys in western Europe.
I love how easy they make it to compare journey options and book tickets securely in English and across a range of currencies (Euros, British Pounds and US Dollars).
Trainline also have a great app, which allows you to not only book tickets on the move, but also store your e-tickets (doing away with the need to print anything out or waste time at the station) and their journey planner – essentially letting you know if your train is on time, late etc.
Basically, Trainline makes life so easy for international travellers that they are well worth the €1-2 booking fee in my opinion.
You can also book tickets 180 days ahead of your journey with Trainline, which is the longest lead-up time of any train booking website I’ve found.
For obvious reasons, flexible and refundable fares are more expensive, but do give you the option to change or cancel if you’re travel plans are a bit flaky.
Otherwise, if you’re pretty sure your plans are getting to go to, well, plan(!), then I’d opt for the lowest price.
These are generally non-refundable and non-exchangeable tickets, but are usually significantly cheaper making them worthwhile in my opinion!
Depending on the service, there is sometimes flexible, semi-flexible and non-flexible options on offer.
As a budget traveller, I’d always opt for a standard ticket, as the trains in this part of Europe are more than comfortable enough.
When booking with Trainline, standard seats are the norm, but you can often specify if you’d like to be forward-facing, have a window seat or be near a table / power socket.
Because I often like to work on trains, I find this especially helpful!
What Trainline also gives you control over is whether you’d like some form of flexible or refundable fare.
The fantastic news is that the trains from Amsterdam to Cologne are electric, which means they have a low carbon footprint.
If you are trying to travel in a more sustainable, the train is therefore a great way to go.
Given the fact that train journeys between the 2 cities are also fast, pleasant, stress-free and relatively good value, means it’s a great all-round option for making this journey.
Luggage & Bikes
In terms of practical information about what to expect from the train journey between Amsterdam and Cologne, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no restrictions on luggage.
As long as you can carry your luggage onto the train, there’s usually ample rack space at either end of the carriages, as well as above seat space for smaller bags.
These trains do have room for bikes to be taken onboard too, but cycle spaces are limited and need to be booked in advance.
If you need to arrange luggage storage in either Amsterdam or Cologne, then I highly recommend LuggageHero – a great left luggage app I’ve used across Europe myself.
#2 Amsterdam to Cologne By Bus
And then there’s the bus option for travelling between Amsterdam and Cologne, which does take a little bit longer, but can be much cheaper.
The advantages of taking the bus between the 2 cities are that it’s direct – the fastest is around 3 hours 45 minutes – and can cost as little as 15€ even when booked only 1 day in advance.
There’s also several connections a day to choose from – around 5 direct daily – and these include a range of drop-off points including Cologne East, Cologne airport and Leverkusen – which is a transport hub on the outskirts of Cologne.
If you travel to Leverkusen, then you’ll need to pay for and catch a suburban train onwards to the centre of Cologne.
Cheap and easy, I’ve actually made this journey myself. It cost me less than 5€ for said suburban train, which took under half an hour, so it’s not a huge drama.
For all Amsterdam to Cologne bus journeys, Flixbus is my recommended company.
Again you can compare journeys and book tickets securely and in English on their website here.
The other option is to get a Flixbus to Dusseldorf from Amsterdam and then a Flixtrain into Cologne Central – this is the only journey option that takes you into the heart of the German city itself.
All Flixbuses leave from Amsterdam Sloterdijk and services include comfortable seats, wifi charging points and toilet facilities – although I do recommend you go before you board!
#3 Drive from Amsterdam to Cologne
Travelling by road from Amsterdam to Cologne should take you around 3 hours and is quickest along the A1, A30, A12 and A3.
As you’ll be staying within the EU, there are no border checks and crossing between the 2 countries is easy, even unnoticeable!
Of course, you can take your own car on this journey but if, instead, you need to hire a car in Amsterdam, check out these great deals.
Hiring a car can be expensive, especially when you add in fuel and parking costs, but if you’re travelling as a group or family, it becomes more affordable and of course, offers the flexibility to stop and explore along the way.
Amsterdam and Cologne Travel Tips
If you want to learn more about Amsterdam, then check out this article I wrote about the perfect 3 day itinerary for this fab city – it gives you the perfect travel lowdown on the city, including where to stay, as well as the best places to hang, eat, sightsee and enjoy.
Don’t miss the Noord district in Amsterdam either while you’re visiting. Check out my full travel guide to this great part of the city here.
And if you’re visiting in Spring and want to learn where to find the Amsterdam tulip fields know no one about, read this article!
Alternatively, my list of the top things to do in Cologne will give you all the info you need to enjoy this bucket city.
My German itinerary is also the perfect accompaniment if you’re planning to spend longer in this country and sightsee beyond Cologne – which I highly suggest you do.
When it comes to travel insurance, World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Otherwise, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
And for spending money in Europe in a way that offers real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can’t go wrong with a fantastic Wise card – I never travel without mine!
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And there it is, my guide for everything you need to know about travelling from Amsterdam to Cologne.
Have you made this journey?
Have any tips to share to help fellow travellers out?
Please leave any info about your journey in the comments box below…