If countries could be related to each other, France and Germany would be like brother and sister: they are clearly from the same family, but they aren’t exactly alike. Occasionally they don’t get along. France is all fashion, lights, and wine, while Germany is more history, efficiency, and beer. But at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, they agree that they have each other’s backs.
This year the countries are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty, an agreement that sealed their friendship following the second world war. Today, train travel between the two countries has never been easier, with most roads leading to and from Paris. Here’s a quick look at how to travel by train between France and Germany.
Traveling between France and Germany on the high-speed Thalys
The Thalys train is a great way to get from France to Germany, fast! This high-speed train travels at speeds of up to 186mph, allowing you to spend more time in your desired city. Some top France-Germany routes for Thalys are Paris to Cologne: 3 hours, 14 minutes, and Paris to Dusseldorf: 3 hours, 47 minutes.
What to expect on-board Thalys
This train, like the better-known TGV, is a high-speed vehicle with high-class service. Offering both second class (economy) and first class (premier), there are tickets to fit anyone’s budget – especially since you can also choose between non-flexible (non-refundable) and semi-flexible (partially refundable). If you purchase a semi-flexible ticket, you will be granted free WiFi access in addition to your reserved seat.
In premier class, your ticket includes access to the Thalys lounge at the rail station. You will also be treated to roomier, reclining seats onboard the train, friendly staff to serve you at your seat, a complimentary international newspaper, free WiFi access, and access to the business car onboard (no cell phones or loud noises permitted in this car). Whether you need to get some work done or just want a comfy perch where you can admire the view, a premier ticket is the way to go.
Take the high-speed TGV Est between France and Germany
Traveling at speeds of nearly 200 mph, the TGV Est is chock full of comfort and style. Traveling on the TGV Est, you can easily visit France and Germany in the same day! The most popular French/German routes for TGV Est are Paris to Stuttgart, taking just 3 hours, 39 minutes, and Paris to Frankfurt, in only 3 hours, 48 minutes.
What to expect on-board TGV Est
The TGV family has trains that travel far and wide, and the TGV Est is its contribution to those routes heading eastward into Germany. Like the Thalys, the TGV Est offers tickets in both economy and premier class. The economy tickets are quite a deal: with reclining seats, headrests and footrests, individual reading lights, and a generous amount of legroom, you might enjoy the trip between the two countries almost as much as the countries themselves.
In premier class, you can expect even more special treatment: roomier, reclining seats; individual power outlets; a pillow; an adjustable table; and a complimentary meal. For anyone who appreciates a good visual, the interior of the economy class cars is outfitted in welcoming purple and red shades while the premier cars are decorated with a more soothing grey and green combination.
Jackie’s Insider Tip: Economy class is stepping it up! Now, with an economy ticket onboard the TGV Est, you’ll have access to “Le Bureau,” a new communications area onboard where travelers can use cell phones and plug into power outlets. This popular addition will surely make tickets sell out even more quickly, so make sure to secure yours far in advance!
Prefer to spend the day sightseeing? No problem, travel between France and Germany overnight on the City Night Line
High-speed trains are a fantastic way to travel from one city to the next, but for some, they want to spend their time emerged in culture, art and surroundings of their destination. This makes an overnight train a perfect travel solution! You board the train in one city, travel through the night and arrive at your destination city in the morning, refreshed and ready to explore. The City Night Line has two overnight routes between France and Germany. You can travel from Paris to Berlin, taking 12 hours, 42 minutes, or between Paris and Munich in 10 hours, 56 minutes. In addition to gaining extra time to enjoy your destination, traveling on a night train also saves you money on a hotel; which for these particular cities, could cost you quite a bit.
What to expect on-board the City Night Line
The City Night Line (CNL) is without a doubt one of the most popular night trains in Europe, and it sells out in a flash. If you’re planning far enough in advance and are able to snag one of these tickets, here’s what you can expect onboard: compartments available in both first and second class; reclining seats available in addition to sleeping compartments; a crew member assisting customers and providing a wake-up service in the morning; compartment doors controlled with a smartcard lock; air-conditioning; and entirely non-smoking train cars.
Jackie’s Insider Tip: If you’re starting off in Paris and heading into Germany, there are probably Youth fares (travelers 12-26 in age) and Senior fares (travelers over 60) available on your route! Make sure to enter your age when you search for tickets on our website.
Important! According to the CNL website, the routes between Paris and various German cities will be temporarily disrupted for many travel dates between February and July 2013 due to construction. Feel free to e-mail one of our rail experts to check if your particular travel date will be affected before you try to book tickets online.
How to Travel Between France and Germany with a Rail Pass
The ticket prices for all trains between France and Germany are covered by a rail pass. How convenient is that? The only thing you’ll need to worry about is making sure you have a reservation for the specific date you’d like to travel. If you’re sticking to these two countries, you’ll want to check out the Eurail France-Germany Pass. If you want to do a bit of window shopping before deciding on a pass, make sure to browse through the details for the Eurail Select Pass (covers up to 5 adjoining countries), the German Rail Pass, the France Rail Pass, and even the France Day Pass, which a lot of people forget about.
Jackie’s Insider Tip: Did you know that all rail passes come with little bonuses that can be used when you’re out and about in a new city? Included with the France-Germany Pass, for example, is a 50% discount on one-hour sightseeing river excursions on the Seine and free transport on the local S-bahn trains that run in most major German cities. Click here to view the full list of bonuses for the Eurail France-Germany Pass!
Although France and Germany are, most of the time, two very different places, there are certain things that they simply cannot argue about: beautiful Christmas markets, impressive architecture, an appreciation for high-quality alcohol — and, of course, the importance of a really good train ride.