Night Express Rail Journey
This rail journey takes place in Denmark, Sweden, and Germany with the majority of the time spent in Germany. During this journey, we take several night trains hence the name of the journey. We travel by train onto a ferry, visit some transport museums, model railroad layouts and take a cog railway.
It is suggested that the journey be taken in coordination with one of the steam days listed at the end of this article. Note: Always check the latest train schedule for the day of travel to confirm availability. In this journey, I've also assumed you'll be traveling 2nd class.
As far as rail passes go I find them too restrictive and I’ve never saved a lot of money compared to the hassle it is in using them but I would suggest you purchase a different type of card and that is a BahnCard 25. It costs 62 Euros and lasts for a year. You won’t save a super amount of money but if you buy Saver tickets rather than SuperSaver you can also utilize City-Tickets that allows for transfer to and from the train station to your hotel assuming it’s in the zone covered. It does not apply to all cities on our journey but I will include some additional information. Once again these offers change so check for the latest updates. Note: The BahnCard is a subscription and must be canceled so as not to be automatically renewed.
The Night Express Rail Journey will last 21 nights and cover 7 – 15 towns & cities.
Length of Stay 3 Nights
Train: 13:47 1058 Koebenhavn H - Malmö C 14:26
We begin our rail journey by flying into the capital of the Danes, Copenhagen. With a history that dates back to 1043, Copenhagen is full of historic landmarks, significant buildings, and interesting sights and museums.
All that being said we’ll occupy our first day, checking to make sure our luggage has arrived safe and sounds and that other travel and lodging arrangements are in place. Afterward, we’ll spend an easy afternoon at Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and pleasure garden that was opened on 15 August 1843 making it the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world.
Later, in the next day or two, we’ll visit the Nyhavn district that was long a haunt for sailors and writers, including Hans Christian Andersen. These days the area is popular with tourists due to its colorful gabled townhouses, ship masts, and plentiful ale. Behind its democratic bustle is Frederiksstaden. One of Copenhagen's most elegant quarters, it's here that you'll find some of the capital's most famous icons, including the royal palace, Marmorkirken (Marble Church) and, further north, the obligatory Little Mermaid which we’ll need to take a few snaps of to convince our family back home that we are truly in Copenhagen.
After our stay in Copenhagen which will include a day trip to Odense and the Danish Railway Museum, we’ll make our way to Malmö, Sweden. The Copenhagen – Malmö train crosses the dramatic 16km bridge connecting Copenhagen and Malmö. This international journey involves crossing the Øresund Bridge, which is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe, which carries both the railway line and the E20 motorway between Denmark and Sweden. The journey between Denmark and Malmö is interrupted with a change of trains at Copenhagen Airport for passport control purposes.
The Øresund Bridge gave its name to the Nordic noir television series The Bridge, as the series was set in the region around the bridge.
Length of Stay: 1 Night
Train: 17:00 (Berlin Night Express) Malmö C - Berlin Hbf 06:45
Malmö is the third-largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg, of 316,588 inhabitants out of a municipal total of 338,230. If you take into account the entire Øresund Region, which includes Malmö, the population jumps to 4 million people.
It will be interesting to see, our short stay notwithstanding if you notice any difference in the two Scandinavian cities.
Malmö was one of the earliest and most industrialized towns of Scandinavia, but it struggled with the adaptation to post-industrialism. Since the construction of the Øresund Bridge, Malmö has undergone a major transformation with architectural developments, and it has attracted new biotech and IT companies, and particularly students through Malmö University, which was founded in 1998
On our sole day in Malmö we’ll spend an easy day walking amongst the gabled Dutch-Renaissance buildings of Gamla Staden (Old Town). The main squares Stortorget and Gustav Adolf Torg are connected by Södergatan, the principal shopping street of Malmö.
Shades of an old Agatha Christie murder mystery we’ll take the night boat train from Malmö to Berlin. Hopefully, we’ll live to tell of our journey!
Night Train: Malmö - Berlin
The sole direct train from Sweden to Germany includes a night cruise across the Baltic Sea. At 5pm the Berlin Night Express putters through Malmö’s leafy suburbs en route to the Swedish port of Trelleborg. Here carriages are eaten by a special train-ferry, before trundling out four hours later in the ritzy German period resort of Sassnitz. The final leg is a straight shot through the former East Germany to Berlin for a 7am breakfast.
The Berlin Night Express operates in spring and summer. Sleeper berths cost £60 (0046 40 669 62 00; snalltaget.se).
Length of Stay: 4 Nights
Train: 12:59 EC 175 Berlin Hbf - Dresden Hbf 15:07
Berlin, capital and chief cultural center of Germany, lies at the heart of the North German Plain, athwart an east-west commercial and geographic axis that helped make it the capital of the kingdom of Prussia and then, from 1871, of a unified Germany.
Berlin’s former glory ended in 1945, but the city survived the destruction of World War II. It was rebuilt and came to show amazing economic and cultural growth. Iggy Pop and David Bowie, called the city home in the 1970s. It has become the European if not world center of modern art and film and has a thriving food scene.
Berlin hosts one of the highest densities of scientific research institutions in Europe. It is Germany’s biggest city for media and tech – and its economy has been growing faster than the country as a whole for more than a decade.
While in Berlin we'll visit a couple of hobby shops. The first one is Modellbahnen am Mierendorffplatz GmbH for model trains, and Berliner Zinnfiguren for toy soldiers, especially the zinnfiguren which are flat pewter soldiers or other figures commonly in 30mm scale.
Berlin’s Museum Island (Museumsinsel) is a magnificent total art work, a truly outstanding ensemble of five world-renowned museums. Apart for the legendary bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, the most famous and important cultural exhibits on show here include the breathtaking Pergamon Altar and the stunning Ishtar Gate. In 1999, the Museum Island complex was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage.
In September the Bahnbetriebswerk Schöneweide opens its doors to the Berlin Railway Festival with more than 20 locomotives and cars to discover, ride and photograph on the turntable. One-hour sightseeing tours with historic trains begin right on the festival grounds. Attendees can take the place of the train driver and look at locomotive boilers or the huge locomotive engines. In the engine shed, there is a model railway while a historic dining car and in the beer garden there is home-style cooking.
Length of Stay: 5 Nights
Train: 12:10 ICE 1558 Dresden Hbf - Erfurt Hbf 14:15 <-> 14:31 Erfurt Hbf - Nurnburg C ICE 509 15:51
Next comes Dresden, the phoenix that rose from the ashes of WWII. Dresden is a city of culture with its magnificent museums and its world-famous Staatskapelle orchestra.
The area around Dresden is home to numerous heritage rail lines. Before you embark on this journey we suggest that you go to the Deutschland Bahnnostalgie website in order to better plan your stay in this area.
The Zittauer Schmalspurbahn narrow-gauge railway provides a varied programme of themed trips and package deals cleverly combining a trip on a steam train with the sights of the Zittau Mountains.
One special treat is two steam trains leaving Bertsdorf station together; a spectacle that can only be experienced here on the 750 mm track. As well as the scheduled daily steam train services, the Sachsenzug, the Reichsbahnzug and the Zittauer Triebwagen run on alternating weekends between May and October.
The railway museum at Chemnitz is located in the Hilbersdorf locomotive depot which closed in 1992. Its buildings, now designated historical monuments, include two roundhouses with 20 m turntables, water cranes, facilities for supplying locomotives with coal and sand, and inspection pits. Its large collection of locomotives includes examples on loan from the transport museums at Dresden and Nürnberg, and from private owners. The collection reflects principally the railways of the former kingdom of Saxony and the former DDR.
The Heizhausfest has been organized every since 1991 and today it is one of the most famous railway festivals in eastern Germany and takes place every August. The name "Heizhausfest" refers to the two roundhouses that contain a great part of the museum exhibits.
Besides the locomotive exhibition, you can watch a large parade (Saturday and Sunday) of all operational locomotives. Visitors who are more interested in technology can enter a cab for a little trip. Each year many operational steam locomotives come from various parts of Germany. There are many round trips in Saxony ("Heizhausexpress") during the festival.
Apart from the standard gauge, there will be an exhibit of narrow gauge trains called "Field Railway". More than 30 locomotives and an adjusted sand pit show how they would operate 30 years ago.
When not traveling in August there is the option of regular train excursions on various heritage lines in Saxony. The Saxon Steam Railway Route is comprised of mainly 700 km of old narrow gauge railway lines through Saxony - from Leipzig to Zittau, from the Fichtelberg mountain in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) to the Lößnitzgrund valley, and from Hubertusburg castle (Wermsdorf) to Königstein Fortress.
The unique diversity of the Saxon railroad landscape is completed by the small park railways, steep mountain funiculars and nostalgic trams.
Length of Stay: 2 Nights
Train: 13:58 ICE 507 Nürnberg Hbf - Donauwörth 14:48 <-> 15:05 Donauwörth - Nördlingen RB 57220 15:33
The largest city in Saxony-Anhalt, Halle is a former ducal town rich in history. The Baroque composer George Frideric Handel was born in Halle in 1685 and lived here to the age of 18.
Length of Stay: 3 Nights
Train: 12:42 RB 57214 Nördlingen - Aalen Hbf 13:24 <-> 13:37 Aalen Hbf - Stuttgart RB 13 (19472) 14:39
Wernigerode is a town in the Harz district of central Germany. Its old town is characterized by its half-timbered houses, including the medieval Town Hall and the leaning Crooked House. On the outskirts, Wernigerode Castle houses a museum and has views of the town. Wernigerode's heyday came during the 14th and 15th centuries as it grew wealthy through trading in cloth, beer and brandy. However, it suffered from plague epidemics in the 16th century as well as the ravages of the Thirty Years' War and fell into decline.
30 minutes outside of Wernigerode lies Quedlinburg, with a population of 24,000 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can visit the town as a day trip or before arriving in Wernigerode from Leipzig.
The Harzer Schmalspurbahnen
The 132km integrated narrow gauge railway network is the largest in Europe and currently has 10 railcars plus 25 steam and 12 diesel locomotives who have to tackle gradients of 40% and curves as tight as 60 meters in radius. The trains connect the principal cities of Wernigerode, Nordhausen and Quedlinburg and several smaller towns in the region. The first train ran from Wernigerode to Schierke on 20th June 1898. The main attractions are the nostalgic steam-operated trains through the stunning valleys and those trains that make the steep journey to the summit of the Brocken Mountain (1,141 meters) even in winter through the snow.
There are 3 services:
- The Trans-Harz Railway Line: Crosses the Harz Mountains from north to south. On the 60km track, passengers are treated to a kaleidoscopic journey through nature.
Length of Stay: 3 Nights
Flight: We'll be flying out of Hamburg at the end of our journey.
Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million, after the capital Berlin. A major port city in northern Germany it is connected to the North Sea by the Elbe River.
We'll pick an early weekday to visit Hamburg’s most popular attraction.
In 2000 two brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun set out to build the largest model railway system in the world. Today, this miniature world comprises 1000 square meters, with even more sites to follow. The latest construction was dedicated to the various landmarks of Italy. Small-scale versions of France and England are expected to follow.
On the day prior to flying back home we’ll take a day trip to Lübeck in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany. On the river Trave, Lübeck was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe.