With fuel and flight prices high, summer travel is proving to be much more expensive than any of us would have liked.
Perhaps that’s why Germany’s announcement that it will offer nationwide public transport passes for just €9 a month this summer – for locals and visitors alike – has grabbed headlines. newspapers around the world.
I was particularly excited, as I had already planned to spend July in Berlin. So far the pass has been an unbeatable deal for exploring the city, but I also wanted to see how it could be used for a weekend adventure. In just over 48 hours, I was able to see half-timbered houses, mountain views and art museums – all in parts of Germany that I would never have thought of visiting otherwise, and the all for less than the cost of lunch.
How does the €9 travel pass work?
Passes can be purchased online here and are valid for the calendar month. (This offer only lasts until August 31, so there’s only one month left to make the most of it.) You’ll receive a digital pass with a QR code – keep it handy on your phone (or print -a copy for good measure) as it will be checked quite regularly.
The pass can be used on all public transport, such as buses, trams, S-bahns, U-bahns and regional trains. However, this does not apply to fast intercity trains like ICE and IC. Since the pass does not apply to faster long-distance trains, expect journeys to take significantly longer and sometimes include multiple transfers.
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Plan a weekend with the €9 travel pass
With about 48 hours free for a trip, I wanted to do the maximum, without spending the whole weekend on the trains. That meant not trying to pack your bags on a cross-country trip and instead focusing on smaller communities closer to home. After some research, I opted for a first stop.
(Want to skip straight to the best trips in Germany? Check out our list of the best €9 itineraries).
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The picturesque streets of Quedlinburg
The nearly 2 hour journey from Berlin to Quedlinburg required a transfer from the S-bahn to two different regional trains. With our first train delayed, my partner and I nearly missed our transfer – a definite risk connecting several regional trains.
But once we got there, it was more than worth walking through the stations. Quedlinburg offered a postcard view of Germany that I had yet to see in person. With limited time, we walked the streets to admire some of the over 1300 half-timbered buildings for which Quedlinburg is famous. In fact, the entire old town is a Unesco World Heritage Site, described as “an outstanding example of a European medieval town”.
As the streets impressed from below, we headed to the Sternkeikerturm lookout tower, where a €1 coin unlocks a revolving door to climb above for a view. Not content with just one view, we walked to Stiftskirche St. Servatii (a church currently mostly under scaffolding) with grounds overlooking the city below. Lunch and a stroll through historic Münzenberg was all we had time for before heading to the train station for our next stop.
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On the way to Wernigerode in the Harz mountains
Making our second stop in the town of Wernigerode was an easy choice. With just one transfer on the half-hour journey, it seemed like a simple trip for the payoff: more beautiful half-timbered buildings, stunning views of the Harz mountains, and a storybook castle overlooking the city.
As this is where we would be spending the night, we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and enjoyed the lovely view of the red-roofed buildings nestled in the hills, before taking a stroll through the town below to check out the sites (an incredible old town hall, the smallest house in Wernigerode) until the sky darkened.
I hadn’t yet planned where our adventure would take us the next day. While I had originally thought we would continue our trip to a small town, I realized that after seeing what we had, any sight more scenic was almost guaranteed to have diminishing returns. Instead, we started weighing the options for a city we could visit – without wasting most of our sightseeing time on the train. Both Hannover and Leipzig seemed feasible, with Leipzig winning because of its attractions and the fact that it would bring us closer to Berlin.
Once our plan was finalized, we woke up the next day for a quick hike and a visit to Wernigerode Castle, which started out as a medieval fortress and evolved into a “romantic residence castle” over the centuries. After that it was on to the train for our next trip.
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A night in Leipzig
The 2 hour, 2 transfer trip was easy – we immediately grabbed seats and settled in for a relaxing ride. As it was already around 4 p.m. when we arrived in Leipzig, we rushed to the Museen im Grassi and, due to lack of time, chose to focus on the Museum of Decorative Arts – especially to see the Art Deco and Art collections. new.
Leipzig, which is often dubbed the new Berlin as it becomes a hotspot for those leaving the German capital, is home to long “passages” due to its past as a commercial hub. We wandered into the Mädlerpassage – a huge five-story covered hall of bars, restaurants and shops – for a stroll past Auberbachs Keller restaurant, famous as the setting for Goethe’s Faust, and a quick cocktail at the aptly named Mephisto .
From there we walked around the sites of the old town to see the incredible architecture. Exhausted after our travels we then had to head to the hotel to crash before our return trip the next day.
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Return to Berlin
Unsurprisingly, the trains from Leipzig to Berlin were busy, as we were accompanied by many travelers en route to the airport. However, our return route required us to switch from regional trains to the S-bahn – meaning there was time for one final quick detour to Lake Schlachtensee, where we bathed and washed the journey before to go home.
As a one-way high-speed train from Berlin to Leipzig can cost upwards of €30 on its own, I couldn’t believe the value of this pass for exploring Germany – if you’re willing to take it slow.
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How to plan a route with the 9 euro ticket
While you can usually rely on apps like Google Maps to plan your trip, that won’t be of much help to you here: Google usually suggests the quickest route from point A to point B – which often requires to take the exact high-speed trains that the pass does not offer. does not cover. Instead, make your life easier and download the Deutsche Bahn app (or use the website). Go to options and under “means of transport” select “regional transport only”. This will immediately remove ICE and trains you can’t take with the pass from the options, so you’ll only see routes you can actually take.
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Are the trains busy?
They can be. I traveled over the weekend, and some were quite crowded, with lots of people standing in the aisles or sitting on their bags. But on some regional roads, we just jumped in and took seats. As this can be difficult to predict, I advise you to travel light and be prepared to stand – and be pleasantly surprised if you snag a seat.
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The bottom line
If you’re a time-pressed traveler trying to make a day trip to another city in Germany, shell out for an ICE ticket. But if you want to have a fun, slightly different trip that pushes you to explore places you might not otherwise, download the DB app and start mapping a trip. However long you’ll be spending in Germany, this pass is an amazing deal worth taking full advantage of.
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