Berlin ↔ Munich

Relaxing, eco-friendly travel without the queues and security checks of an airport? Here are our top reasons why you should ditch flying and travel the 500 km between Berlin and Munich, one of Germany’s busiest routes, by train.

Five facts

Berlin – MunichTrain Plane
Travel time City – City 4 hours 5 hours
Connections 20 ICE-trains daily, incl.
4 ICE-Sprinter
20 flights daily
Price including seat / 1 piece of baggage From 17,90 Euro From 70 Euro
CO2-Emission 22 kg CO2 116 kg CO2
% of your personal yearly climate budget 1 % of 2.300 kg CO2 5 % of 2.300 kg CO2

Source: www.ecopassenger.org (incl. 1½ hour check-in until boarding, ¾ hour baggage claim)

1. The route itself

Berlin Main Station

With the opening of Berlin’s north-south railway tunnel and main railway station in the mid-2000s, the transport network in the German capital was finally unified. An iconic example of modern architecture and a sight in and of itself, Berlin Hauptbahnhof is located on the site of the historic Lehrter Station – a significant spot in the history of Berlin’s rail network. In 1871, the new “Ringbahn” first connected the city’s terminuses and by 1882 the “Stadtbahn” was winding its way through the city centre. Berlin has always had a well-connected and expanding transport network and it still benefits from this today. Find out things to do near Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

Fläming Heath

A short distance from Berlin lie the rolling hills of Fläming Heath, a scenic spot in eastern Germany. Wind turbines and even the odd windmill dot the landscape as you pass through charming villages and small towns. Crossing the mighty River Elbe in Wittenberg – also known as Lutherstadt for its close ties to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation – is an impressive sight.

Central German floodplains

Shortly after Halle/Saale (on ICE Sprinter trains) or Leipzig (other ICE trains) as you head towards the centre of the country, you cross the Saale-Elster Viaduct, the longest bridge in Germany and the longest high-speed rail bridge in Europe. For 6½ km, you traverse a lush wetland landscape. This is followed quickly by bridge, tunnel, bridge, tunnel – 300 in total – with great views over the Thuringian Basin, including over the famous Saale-Unstrut vineyards.

Erfurt Old Town

Erfurt lies in the heart of Germany and is home to one of the nation’s prettiest and best preserved old towns. The Krämerbrücke, a medieval stone bridge lined with half-timbered houses which dates back to 1325, has been continuously inhabited for over 500 years. There’s also an impressive Gothic cathedral, a medieval town fortress, and a network of winding alleyways and cobbled streets. With a flexible ticket from Deutsche Bahn, you can hop off here during your journey and explore!

Straight through the Thuringian Forest

The newly built sprint section between Erfurt and Nuremberg cuts through the mountains of the Thuringian Forest, whizzing through 22 tunnels (41 km in total) and over 29 bridges (12 km). The apex of the new line is at Goldisthal where the tracks are flanked by high coniferous forests, narrow valleys and gleaming reservoirs. In Goldisthal’s “House of Nature” near the spa town of Masserberg, a visitor centre provides information about construction projects, feats of engineering and environmental compensation. Definitely worth the hike there!

German railway history in Nuremberg

The first railway to operate in any German territory was the legendary Bavarian Ludwig Railway in 1835, which connected the medieval city of Nuremberg with its neighbouring town of Fürth. It was this “steam engine on wheels” that really got the Industrial Revolution rolling in Germany. The 6 km track led straight through the Pegnitz valley, a little off from today’s line, but sadly not much remains of the route that the Adler, the first locomotive in Germany to transport passengers commercially, once took. Luckily that’s not the case at the DB Museum in Nuremberg, where the entire history of the railways is documented, including a replica of the nation’s first rail route.

2. The train ride

High speed and maximum convenience

High-speed ICE trains are one of the most convenient ways of travelling between Berlin and Munich, with direct trains (via Leipzig) departing hourly. The journey takes approx. 4½ hours. Each day, a number of even faster ICE Sprinter trains link the two cities in under 4 hours, travelling via Halle/Saale. Berlin–Munich is one of the busiest routes in Germany, so we recommend reserving a seat or booking in advance for affordable first class tickets. To check how busy your train is expected to be, visit www.bahn.de or download the DB Navigator app.

On-board entertainment

All ICE trains now permit passengers access to the ICE Portal, an extensive media library with films, documentaries, podcasts and music available. Best of all, it’s free of charge! Simply log on to the train’s Wi-Fi on your smartphone, computer or tablet and start watching.

On-board bistro

Each ICE train features an on-board restaurant or bistro offering breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a selection of drinks and snacks. In first class, you can even be served at your seat.

3. The prices

Early bird fares

Those that know their travel dates in advance should take advantage of Deutsche Bahn’s Saver and Super saver fares. Prices start at €17.90 per person (with discounts available for additional passengers and those travelling with a BahnCard) but may increase or decrease depending on how busy trains are or if deals are on offer. Friday and Saturday trips not booked in advance will be the most expensive. Use the DB Saver fare finder to find the best deals.

Time and again

If you travel regularly on Deutsche Bahn trains, the most affordable option is to get a BahnCard. These travel cards provide discounts of 25% or 50% and are valid for 3 months, 1 year or on a subscription basis. If you travel multiple times a month, consider getting the BahnCard 100 for the entire German rail network and public transport in most German cities.

Tickets can be purchased at the following locations:

  • DB counters in major railway stations across Germany
  • Online at www.bahn.de
  • Ticket machines in most stations
  • DB Navigator app
  • On-board from the conductor (on ICE, IC and EC trains). Buy your ticket as quickly as possible as the conductor may think you are trying to travel without a ticket. This option costs at least €19 extra.

Copyright Cover Picture: München Tourismus / Jörg Lutz

Michael Bartnik
Written by Michael Bartnik
Michael is a Berliner born and bred. Bucking the stereotype that all Germans love to drive, he never got his driving licence and relies instead on his first-class BahnCard to travel around Germany and Europe. A keen advocate for train travel and the railway industry, Michael has worked for both the Swiss and German Railways. He is based in Berlin.