ICE (Second Class) – this is neither the most comfortable nor the cheapest way to get around in Germany. However, I’m a huge fan of trains, so I’d definitely recommend to take a train when you are traveling in Germany. Even though I feel like the First Class in ICE trains offers way better value for the money, Second Class is quite fine for shorter trips as well!
ICE trains in Germany are separated into two classes. Usually, about one third of the train is First Class, while the other two thirds are Second Class. In-between there is a restaurant car or a bistro car depending on the type of train.
Talking of configuration, you should be aware that there are different generations of ICE trains. Due to that, the configuration is different from train to train. However, the seats and the comfort is mostly the same – at least in Second Class.
If there is anything like a most important part of this review, it are the seats of the ICE Second Class. The trains got fabric seats which are blue with little patterns. Moreover, the seats come with a headrest which feels like a thin pillow and two armrests (middle one is shared).
In the open seating cars, there are four seats in one row with the passage in-between. Moreover, there are compartment cars which have six seats in one compartment, meaning there are three seats next to each other. In both types of cars, some seats are in the direction of travel while others are not.
The comfort of the seats is decent. While not being overly fluffy, the seats are way better than pretty much all airline seats. Both, the seat width and the seat pitch, are very generous. All seats recline around 15 degrees.
Most Germans travelling with ICE trains in Second Class bring their own food. However, you may also grab something in the restaurant car. In the ICE Second Class, there is no food service (one of the main differences to First Class).
In the restaurant car, there is a choice of different cold and hot snacks available. Depending of the type of car (restaurant or bistro), the choice can consist of up to 15 different dishes. Besides, there is also a choice of drinks including beer and wine available for purchase.
Be aware that neither food nor drinks are included in the price of your German railway ticket. Talking of the quality, most dishes are absolutely okay. Personally, I prefer sandwiches over hot food as the latter is only warmed up in a microwave. Prices are quite high compared to normal restaurants, but neither food nor drinks are overly expensive.
Entertainment in German trains is quite limited. There is a magazine published by German Railways available at most seats. Apart from that, there is no complimentary entertainment available. However, you may purchase newspapers in the restaurant car or pay for using the newly provided Wi-Fi.
The latter is supposed to be free starting 2016, so the entertainment options will get slightly better. As every seat (only in open seating cars) got a large table, watching movies or working on your computer is quite easy.
At the moment, entertainment is one of the main differences between ICE Second Class and ICE First Class. At the latter, newspapers and Wi-Fi are complimentary while you have to pay for both in Second Class.
Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate booking a ticket for the ICE Second Class again. Seating is comfortable, the restaurant car is a good supplement and the entertainment options will be decent as soon as free Wi-Fi will be rolled out for the ICE Second Class. However, I’d recommend to always compare prices with First Class tickets.
Often, the latter are only slightly more expensive, but offer several included services like little complimentary snacks, service on your seat, complimentary newspapers and Wi-Fi as well as more comfortable and broader leather seats and a quieter atmosphere as well as access to the DB Lounges which are available at most larger railway stations.