What is first class like on a high speed train in Germany? I had a chance to try first class recently on a Deutsche Bahn (DB) Intercity Express (ICE) high-speed train from Basel to Frankfurt, though perhaps my experience was a bit unusual.
I’ve used DB ICE for years and never bothered to pay the supplement for first class. This time, however, it just made sense.
ICE First Class Booking
Deutsche Bahn has an excellent website, not only for booking for you train travel from checking train schedules across Continental Europe. The app for iPhone is also excellent and highly recommended.
As often happens when leaving Germany, I find it easier to take a train to Frankfurt to begin my journey then start from Basel (where prices are higher) or drive to Zurich. Train schedules to Zurich are less frequent and I prefer FRA over ZRH, since upgrades and award space is usually easier.
For this trip, I wanted to spend the entire Sunday with my family, then get up to Frankfurt in time for an early flight on Monday. That mean the dreaded overnight train. Germany offers many “Nachtzug” trains (trains specially intended or overnight service with sleepers). This was not one of those routes. Instead, this was a typical ICE train that has seats that are more akin to traveling economy class (i.e., not roomy like Amtrak in the USA).
But look at the price the day before:
I’ve never seen a ticket that cheap…and then I noticed the first class upgrade was only 10EUR.
It was an easy choice to book first class, if for nothing else than first class is generally not as crowded as second class.
First Class bookings come with a seat assignment included (you pay extra for one in second class) and I was able to pull up a seat map and choose my preferred seat. The cabin looked empty!
After confirming my seat, I was able to pay by credit card and issue the ticket immediately, then download a .pdf to my computer and a mobile ticket on the DB app.
ICE First Class Onboard Experience
My wife accompanied me to the Basel Bad Station and kissed me goodbye as I boarded the train. I smiled because I had the entire carriage to myself. That wouldn’t be the case the entire journey, as more passengers are picked up as the train travels north, but this was definitely already worth the extra 10EUR, just for the peace and quiet.
The seats are the same as in second class, but covered in faux leather instead of cloth and in a 1-2 configuration instead of a 2-2 configuration.
Complimentary newspapers and magazines were available.
I noticed that the six-seat compartments were empty and decided to spread out in one, creating a “poor man’s first class”. It was a cold night and I appreciated temperature and lighting controls to heat up the cabin and make it dark.
We departed on-time and soon a conductor entered my cabin and scanned my ticket. With that, I fell asleep and managed to get nearly four hours of sleep before arriving in Frankfurt (yes, I sent multiple alarms to ensure I would not sleep past my stop). The compartment stayed empty the entire journey.
While I don’t have experience traveling on a train in first class on regular basis, I’ve never been on a train so empty in second class. 10EUR for a short, albeit solid night’s rest? What a great deal!
If you are traveling with luggage, there are no checked bags, but plenty of space above seats and in between rows to store bags.
ICE First Class Dining
ICE trains feature a dining car onboard. While I slept through this journey, I wanted to share pictures from a meal I had on a previous journey.
First Class does not receive complimentary food (except on ICE trains to France in cooperation with TGV), but you can order food and drinks at your seat. If you are traveling in Second Class, you must visit the café or dining car to order food.
Here’s the current menu:
On a previous trip, my wife and I had lunch onboard, splitting maultaschen with salad. I’m a picky maultaschen (a Schwabish dish with an outer-layer of pasta dough and a filling of minced meat, spinach, bread crumbs and onions) eater and this was very tasty.
I look forward to dining on ICE again on a future journey.
This was literally the best 10EUR I’ve ever spent. If you see an upgrade for that cheap, grab it. Overall, I’ve run into several delays over the years on DB…the train certainly does not always run on time. But I’ve come to appreciate DB and suddenly am a big fan of the first class product, even if the hard product isn’t that much different.
Have you traveled on DB ICE in first class?
> Read More: TGV First Class from Stuttgart to Paris Train Review