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Ghent to Cologne, stop for the afternoon in Aachen?

In mid April we are staying 4-5 days in Ghent, then 3 days in Cologne, and we plan to take the train from Ghent to Cologne. If I read the schedules correctly, it looks like one route is via Brussels, and another is via Aachen. If we go via Aachen, it looks like we can easliy get a train in the morning in Ghent, St. Pieters, change at Welkenraedt, and arrive around noon in Aachen.
The main question is, can we stow two rolling carry-on's in a luggage locker (or two lockers) in the Aachen station and visit the Dom and have a wander around and a meal? It looks like there are a number of trains from Aachen to Cologne in the afternoon - both DB & Thalys.
I want to be sure I'm reading the schedule right, and have some assurance about lockers. There's no question that wandering around Aachen for a few hours would be great.
We want to book train tickets asap. If we want to spend several hours in Aachen, should we book separate trips for Ghent - Aachen and Aachen - Cologne, or can we book one trip and then take any train we like for the Aachen to Cologne leg? The ideal is probably to leave Ghent at 9:23 or 10:23 on a DB IC train, spend the afternoon in Aachen, and leave Aachen at 18:39, arriving Cologne Hbf at 19:15.
We already have our nights in Cologne booked, near the main train station, so I'm thinking it shouldn't be a problem arriving that late in the day. Maybe we should phone the hotel ahead to ensure the reservation is in place?
We are visiting Leiden, Amsterdam, Brugges, maybe Lille, Hannover, etc. on this 3 wk trip. It's already a lot, but since we would go through Aachen on the train, it seems like it makes sense to see it, if only for the afternoon.
Thank you for any advice you have!

Posted by
6410 posts

According to Deustche Bahn there are lockers in Aachen Train Station:
https://www.bahnhof.de/bahnhof-de/bahnhof/Aachen_Hbf-1027760

I would book Ghent to Aachen and Aachen to Cologne separately. There are plenty of trains so you can even simply book Aachen to Cologne when you are ready after your visit. I did something similar a couple of years ago.

I don't know how you booked your hotel but usually when you do it online they ask you to indicate the range of hours that they should be expecting your arrival for the purpose of planning the number of staff needed at the desk to help guests arriving at the same time.

Posted by
15573 posts

Here you want to book a train to Cologne with a stopover in Aachen. All the trains to Cologne go through both Brussels and Aachen. A little trick here. When you book the ticket, using the advance search function at the DB website, for the leg from Aachen to Cologne, using the "means of transportation" section, deselect ICE, IC, and EC trains. Now you will be routed on a regional train, and you can take any train. That way, you can stay in Aachen for as long or short as you want.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you both very much, Jazz & Sam - such quick replies!
There's a site called theTrainline (https://www.thetrainline.com/) that I'm comfortable with. I'd like to book this trip and two others there - do you know of any reason why I shouldn't book through them?

Posted by
6410 posts

No reason not to. The prices are the same. I use thetrainline.com just about all the time; the last time for my trip in Spain 2 months ago. It is very user friendly.

Posted by
15573 posts

I don't know if they will have all the functions I described on Trainline, I usually use it my self, but for this I'd use the Deutsche Bahn site. I don't know how you could be more trust worthy than DB.

Posted by
4684 posts

It is unlikely that you can go from Gent to Cologne without changing in one of the Brussels stations. Make sure you know which of the three downtown stations the second train comes from. Most train tickets are cheaper bought well in advance, with non-changeable, non-refundable tickets. While I understand your desire to visit Aachen, I also suggest that you price a more express trip to Cologne, via Brussels, just to see if it's so cheap you can't resist it. Because it leaves Belgium, maybe an Aachen ticket could get the kind of discount I got (for Antwerp-Cologne in a Thalys-type train.)

Lille can take as many as three trains to get to from Gent or Antwerp, and it's a long ride. Why would you go all the way to Hanover when you could visit Duesseldorf (or Utrecht or Appeldorn or Amersfoort) and stay "on the way" to Amsterdam? I admit I haven't been to Hanover, but it can't be half as nice as Cologne. I trust you're flying home from Amsterdam?

Posted by
14 posts

Tim, two of my my grandparents were born and raised in different villages near Hannover, and I have a friend there too, so I'm happy to spend time there. We''ll see the gardens, spend time with friends, meet relatives and see the old farmhouses. When we're done, we turn the rental car in (in Hannover) and take a train to Amsterdam, stay one night/one day to get ourselves organized, and then fly back to the west coast.
Regarding Lille, when I check Trainline, I see one non stop from Ghent or one train that requires a single change. The non-stop is only 1 h 15m. To me, that sounds good. I've never been to France so why not do it, and Lille sounds interesting to me.
For Ghent - Cologne, on Trainline I see trains that go through Brussels and trains that go through Aachen. If the train also goes through Brussels, fine. But we thought visiting Aachen on the way to Cologne sounded interesting. The train we're looking at is a DB IC to Welkenraedt, with one quick change to a DB R train to Aachen. For Aachen - Cologne that afternoon or evening, there are a number of possibilities, some Thalys, some not, some non-stop, some with one change. Total cost around $111 for two of us.
We do plan to purchase all our one way, non-day trip tickets well in advance (maybe today). I'm aware that bigger cities can have multiple train stations. Thank you.

Posted by
15573 posts

When is this trip occurring?
At www.bahn.com, I see trains from Ghent to Cologne Hbf with a stopover in Aachen as being 49.80 EUR for 2, about $57 US. That price is about 2 weeks from now and going further out.
That is a Belgian IC train to Brussels Midi, then a DB ICE train to Aachen, then any regional train at any time that day on to Cologne Hbf.

PS Trainline will let you book that trip for that price, but it will not let you specify a free stopover in Aachen. In that case you have to buy a local network ticket from Aachen to Cologne. That costs 18.10 EUR per person. If you only book as far Ghent to Aachen, it is only 39.80 EUR at DB, but then you have to add in 2 local tickets that for 2 is 36.20, so you end up paying 76 EUR, about $87 US.

Posted by
14 posts

As I said above, mid-April. So there's plenty of time. Unfortunately we just booked Ghent to Aachen on Trainline. We're taking a break from planning/booking now. We will book the Aachen to Cologne train on Bahn.com more carefully tomorrow. After a quick look I can see there are lots of choices so we should get a good price for that one anyway.

We'll need an Amsterdam to Hannover ticket too (4/21), and we'll be sure to check the Bahn.com site for that.

I had looked on Bahn.com earlier today, and when I entered "Cologne" or "Koln" nothing came up. Very frustrating. So I went back to Trainline and we booked the tickets from Ghent to Aachen there. After seeing your reply, we persisted with different spellings. "Koeln" finally brought up Koln/Cologne. Live and learn!

Any other tips for navigating the Bahn.com site? ;-)

Thank you!

Posted by
15573 posts

Yes, Cologne is just the English and French name for Koeln (actually, I replaced the umlaut "o" with convention of "oe", since I can't remember how to type umlauts).

Unfortunately, 2 tickets on an ICE train from Aachen to Cologne is 39.80 EUR and that is a Sparpreis ticket bought now, the Flexpreis is 51 EUR. Like I said, there are lots of local trains that make more stops, but you have to buy the tickets from the VRS, the Rhein-Sieg Verkehrsverbund, aka, the Greater Cologne Transit Authority. Those tickets can just be bought out of a ticket vending machine at Aachen Hbf, but the cost is 18.10 EUR per person.

Posted by
12091 posts

Hi,

Do you plan on visiting Hannover? If you are very much into the history, I would suggest going to the "Herrenhäuser Gärten " (Gardens), especially not only to see the gardens but also to see the cemetery. The trams goes out there from Hannover Hbf. I saw the place once in 1987 but missed the cemetery.

Posted by
4684 posts

Tips for train sites:
When you see a drop-down box, (web term ... ... ) that's a clue that the proprietor has pre-loaded a list of their destinations or products or whatever. It's a combo-box if you are also allowed to type in the box with the drop-down arrow.

The fact that it is pre-loaded means that your failure to find a certain destination is going to produce a bad result. Sometimes there will be near-suggestions. But if not, you need to enter just the first two or three letters of the destination, and see what options the site offers you. That's a way to find spellings you have not thought of. (Also, you should use Rick's search box top center to read some other posts about where you're going, because multiple posters will show you (some) alternate spellings.

Luckily, the Aachen Cathedral seems to be open seven days (but closed for services.)

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you - we did plan to visit the gardens, since they're supposed to be impressive, and I love gardens - but the cemetery, that's very interesting! Thank you, we'll look for it.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you Tim, we figured it all out and have our longer-distance trains booked now. I appreciate your help!