How Best to Travel from Munich to Cologne

How to Travel from Munich to Cologne

Located almost 600km apart, despite being in the same country, it’s fair to say that it’s quite the distance between the 2 great German cities of Munich and Cologne.

With Cologne located in the northwest of the country and Munich located down in the Bavarian region in the south, very close to Austria, the geographical distance between these 2 destinations is also reflected in the visual and cultural differences between the 2 cities – they really do feel pretty different!

If I’m going to speak candidly here (which I think you probably want to me to right?!), then I definitely have to say Munich is my favourite of the 2 cities and I’d certainly advise allowing more time for your itinerary in this city over Cologne.

For a start, there’s more to do in Munich’s city centre and there’s better day trips from this city too.

On the other hand, Cologne is often overlooked, but makes for a great 1-2 day trip, especially if you’re travelling overland from northwestern Europe (think London, Amsterdam or Brussels) down to Munich.

So keep reading as I bring you the full lowdown on how to travel from Munich to Cologne, depending on your budget, timeframe and preferred travel style.

Let’s get stuck in…

Germany, Cologne Cathedral, Nave Arch


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Munich to Cologne: The Basics

Germany, Cologne, Station

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to discuss travelling from Munich to Cologne i.e. in the direction of south to north, but please do bear in mind, you can absolutely travel in the other direction too!

All this information will still apply if you are travelling from Cologne to Munich, 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 prices of onward journeys from each city may help sway your decision as to which city you finish in.

Oh and a word of warning, Cologne is called Köln in German and Munich is known as München, so don’t get confused if you see these names used on train and bus journey planners too!

It’s 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 Munich to Cologne By Day Train

Europe, Germany, Train


The brilliant thing to know is that there are some direct train services between Munich and Cologne.

Quite a few each day actually!

And this is definitely the quickest way to travel between the 2 cities, as direct trains take around 4 and a half hours.

I certainly recommend opting for one of these direct options if you can, as they’ll be easier and quicker to navigate, especially if there’s any delays, because taking a direct train means you don’t have to worry about missed connections.

If the timings don’t match up with your desired journey times, or the direct trains are too pricy, then there are also a huge number of daily trains with a combination of 1, 2 and 3 changes you can also catch between Munich and Cologne.

These non-direct journeys are often similar in price (and can sometimes be as quick as direct trains), although do check each specific journey for costs and duration.

Trains with 1 change between Munich and Cologne tend to stop at Mannheim Hbf, Stuttgart Hbf and Frankfurt Hbf, as these are major transport hubs.

Most of these routes are operated by Deutsche Bahn, the national German railway company, and use clean and comfortable ICE trains (Intercity Express trains), many of which have free wifi and USB charging points located near each seat.

Some trains, especially those that change in Stuttgart, may use InterCity trains instead. These are still pleasant, but tend not to be as fast as the ICE options.

Prices for trains from Munich to Cologne, even direct options, start from as little as under 20€ when booked in advance.

Generally speaking, 3 weeks before your journey is when you can still get prices this cheap.

At the other end of the spectrum, tickets booked less than a week in advance can be as much as 70€, so it pays to be organised!

Trains from Munich to Cologne run between 3am and 11pm daily – so you’re pretty guaranteed to find a service that suits your planned journey time.



All trains leave from Munich Hbf which is, as the name suggests, located in the centre of the Bavarian capital, and arrive into Köln Hbf, which is also centrally located within this western German city too.

This means walking or using public transport to get to or from both stations and your accommodation, is likely to be straightforward.


Buying Tickets

If you’re looking to buy online tickets for trains from Munich to Cologne, there’s essentially 2 options for this journey – booking through Deutsche Bahn’s website, or booking through an international rail website.

Very often, I find the national sites of European train operators, like DB, 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 Trainline make comparing journey options, and booking tickets securely in English and across a range of currencies (Euros, British Pounds and US Dollars), is simple with their site too.

Trainline also have a great app, which allows you to not only book tickets on the move, but also store your e-tickets digitally (doing away with the need to print anything out or waste time at the station) and make use of their journey planner – essentially letting you know if your train is on time or late!

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 tickets 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 often significantly cheaper making them worthwhile in my opinion!

Depending on the service, there’s sometimes semi-flexible options on offer too.


Seat Reservations

Always looking for a bargain, I’d always opt for a standard train ticket between Munich and Cologne, with an unreserved seat, as second class train seats in Germany are more than comfortable enough!

When booking with Trainline, standard, unreserved 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.

Especially because I often like to work on trains, I find this especially helpful!

If you want to make a seat reservation for this train journey, then there’s usually an additional fee.


Eco Travel

The great news is that the trains from Munich 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 a great way to go.

Given the fact that it’s also fast, pleasant, stress-free and relatively good value, means it’s a great all-round option for making this journey.


Luggage & Bikes

You’ll be pleased to know that there’s no restrictions on luggage when travelling between Munich and Cologne… within reason!

As long as you can carry your luggage onto the train, there’s usually ample rack space at either of the carriages, as well as above seats 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 Munich or Cologne, then I highly recommend LuggageHero – a great left luggage app I’ve used across Europe myself.


#2 Munich to Cologne By Night Train

Germany, Munich, Beer Garden

Hoorah, there are now night trains running between Munich and Cologne.

These are operated by Nightjet, which is a subsidiary of OBB – the Austrian National railway company.

These sleeper trains are excellent and provide a range of ticket options depending on whether you want a couchette, sleeper or seat.

Night trains depart daily from Munich just before 11pm and arrive into Cologne just before 7am.

A perfect way to travel, because you save yourself not only the cost of a night’s accommodation, but also a day of your travel itinerary, night trains from Munich to Cologne are my top pick!

Tickets can be booked via Nightjet direct or Trainline – the price is usually the same, except Trainline allows you to pay in multiple currencies, while Nightjet only accepts Euros.

You can choose from a seating carriage, a couchette carriage or a sleeper cabin, the latter of which are the premium option.


Seating carriages are comprised of 6 spaces.

As the name suggests, they don’t involve you getting a bed, but do give you access to washroom facilities.


Couchette carriages are made for 4-6 people and can be locked.

Blankets, sheets and pillows are included with your couchette reservation, as is a simple breakfast.

You can book a single couchette or, if you’re travelling as a family or group, you can book the whole compartment for privacy.

Designated female couchette compartments are also available.


Sleeper cabins are the premium option and include separate washing facilities and deluxe options, which even have their own private shower and toilet!

Again, beds here come with sheets, pillows and blankets and the compartment can be locked for privacy.

Wake up calls are available and an a la carte breakfast is served.


Prices for night train tickets between Munich and Cologne scale according to the cabin type, but start from 60€ for a seat, or 115€ for a couchette, when booked in advance.




#3 Munich to Cologne By Bus

Prague to Brno Flixbus

And then there’s the bus option for travelling between Munich and Cologne, which does take longer, but can be much cheaper!

Flixbus is the operator to go for if you’re looking for a bargain and they offer 6 daily services, most of which are direct and don’t require you to change buses.

Of the routes on offer, the 2 best options to go for are the 8:45am bus from Munich, which gets into Cologne airport just after 5pm.

This is direct and takes just over 8 hours.

Otherwise, there’s the overnight option, which leaves Munich after 9pm and gets into Cologne Airport at 6am the next day – again it’s direct and takes just over 8 hours.

Both of these options have tickets for as little as 10€, which can be booked with Flixbus direct or via Trainline.

All Flixbuses leave from Munich’s central bus station, which is located close to Munich Hbf but, as you will have seen, they arrive into Cologne airport, not the city itself.

To get from Cologne airport to the city centre (where you’re likely to be staying), you’ll then have to take a S-Bahn (which is a regional train) direct from the airport station to Cologne Hbf.

However this takes only 15 minutes and costs just 3€, so really isn’t a big hassle!


#4 Drive from Munich to Cologne

Germany, Cologne, Old St Albans

Driving from Munich to Cologne should take you around 5-6 hours, depending on traffic, and covers a distance just shy of 600km.

The quickest route is along the A9 and A3.

As you’ll be staying within Germany when you travel between these 2 cities, there are no border checks, and crossing between the regional states is unnoticeable!

Of course, you can take your own car on this journey but if, instead, you need to hire a car in Munich, 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.


#5 Flying from Munich to Cologne

Germany, Munich, Palace

And finally, you can also fly from Munich to Cologne.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this journey, because it’s a nightmare for your carbon footprint and, once you’ve got to the airport, checked in, cleared security, collected your luggage at the other end and got into the centre of Cologne, you’ll probably find it’s not much quicker than the train!

Nevertheless, I do understand some people love to fly and budget airline EuroWings offers incredibly well-priced, hour long flights between the 2 cities for as little as 50€.

Lufthansa also operate a service from Munich to Cologne by plane.

As always I recommend using Skyscanner to find the best flight prices and compare your options.


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Munich and Cologne Travel Tips

Germany, Cologne, Market Square

If you want to learn more about Munich, then check out this article I wrote about the 21 best things to do in this fab city – it includes the perfect travel guide to this city too, with answers about how long to spend there and where to stay, as well as the best places to hang, eat, sightsee and enjoy.

Don’t miss a day trip from Munich to the amazing Neuschwanstein Castle – learn how to make this DIY day trip in this post I wrote.


Alternatively, my list of the 13 top things to do in Cologne will give you all the info you need to enjoy this bucket list city.

My articles about visiting the Cologne Triangle and Cologne Cathedral also make great additions to your research if you’re heading here.


When it comes to travel insurance for your trip to Germany, World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

Alternatively, 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 when it comes to travel money in Germany, you can’t go wrong with a fantastic Wise card – I never travel without mine!

With real exchange rates, no markups, no sneaky transaction fees and a free Euros account, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Germany… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Grab yours here.




And there it is, my guide for everything you need to know about travelling from Munich to Cologne.

Which option are you going for?

Or have you made this journey already?

If so, do you have any tips to share with fellow travellers doing the same?

Please leave any info about your journey in the comments box below…


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