Getting to Brussels indirectly

We’re tentatively planning a trip to Belgium in April. I’m trying to figure out the best way to actually GET there, given that we live in a small town with spotty airline service. So far, I’m not finding any really great fares; it seems I’m stuck with long layovers (in one case, more than 8 hours!) no matter how I dice it.

I’m curious about trains. I know Europe has WAY nicer train service than the US, and I’m wondering if it would make more sense to, say, fly into/out of Paris or Amsterdam and hop a train to Brussels. For example, if I have a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam to catch a plain to Brussels, it seems like train service might be the way to go. What I’m trying to avoid is getting to Europe, feeling groggy and tired, and having to navigate across an unfamiliar, foreign city from the airport to a train station to get onto the train.

So that’s where you guys come in: where in Europe can I either catch a train directly from the airport, or very quickly and easily get from a major airport to a train station? Preferably a city where a high-speed train gets me to Brussels pretty quickly.

There is a direct TGV connection from CDG to Brussels. Only takes about an hour and a half.

https://www.b-europe.com/Travel/Destinations/Paris%20Charles%20de%20Gaulle

The thalys from Schiphol (Amsterdam airport) to Brussels is also around an hour and a half. Tickets from 29 euros (so book as early as possible).

A decade ago, I took a high speed train from Brussels to London, as the last leg of my trip. I think I also did Brussels to Paris. So your plan is probably a good one.

I’ll leave it to someone more up to date on the system to give useful specifics. :slight_smile:

London - Brussels is less than two hours as well so I suggest you see which airport out of CDG, Schipol and Heathrow gives you the cheaper flight option and take it from there. All of those three have simple connections to high speed rail though the two continental options may be a little cheaper.

Just to chime in - and as a sweeping generalization - it is almost always smarter, cheaper and usually just as fast if not faster, to take a train to/from most locations in Europe.

  1. The train system is excellent - quick, efficient, nice trains, great to see countryside.
  2. There are exceptions of course, but often flights within Europe can be rather pricey and then you have to deal with getting to airport on time and taking transport to and from airports.
  3. People forget Europe is not all that huge in the grand scheme of things - for instance, I believe Germany is about the size of the states of Washington and Oregon combined. Would you normally fly from Seattle to Portland? Or would you drive - or take a great train ride (assuming the train system was excellent)?

So unless you are in some mad dash, or happen across some killer deal with flights, I would strongly suggest taking trains.

Granted - from Amsterdam to Athens, or from Stockholm to Madrid - well, it might be worth looking into a flight as those can be somewhat lengthy train rides - but otherwise, take a choo-choo.

From Brussels Zuid to Amsterdam Centraal on the Thalys high speed train is about an hour and a half, with a stop along the way- Antwerp, IIRC. I imagine that the trip in the opposite direction is much the same- from Schipol, it might be a few minutes shorter actually.

The regular train out of Schipol isn’t drastically longer- I think it was supposed to be 2.5 hours, but when we took it, there was a fuel spill in Roosendaal station in Belgium, so we got booted from our train in Den Haag, took a train to another station, and from there, a bus to Roosendaal, and a different bus to Essen, where we picked up another train into Brussels. It ended up being an all-day affair.

That said, a word of warning. Brussels isn’t a very touristy city. One solid day of sightseeing and you’ve seen 90% of what there is to see, 2 and you’ve seen it all. I recommend day trips to Ghent and Bruges (Gent & Brugge in Flemish)- they’re much more tourist-friendly and fun than Brussels, which reminded me of a lot less fun version of Paris.

OK, what about getting from the airport to the station, assuming that not all airports have the stations in them? I realize there’s one in CDG in Paris, not so sure about Amsterdam. Remember, we’ll be getting off an all-night flight and very disoriented. I want EASY.

Hmmm expound upon this, please. We’re primarily interested in Bruges, and will definitely be spending several days there. I figured Brussels would have a few days worth as well. But I have to admit… if I’m flying into Paris, I’m really having a hard time convincing myself to get on a train and immediately leave. Should we skip/spend less time in Brussels and take a couple days in Paris?

Amsterdam airport has a train station right underneath the terminal; I’d venture there are few airports with a better connection to the trainstation. Anytime you see ‘Schiphol’, that’s the trainstation under the airport. All the trains mentioned up earlier call at Schiphol.

PS I’d say Antwerp is nicer a than Brussels.

I’d say Bruges is a one-day town (a full day, but. It’s interesting but small), Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels are two-day towns for your average person. Maybe three for Antwerp and Brussels. If you’re into northern Renaissance art add two days to each of these places, and head to Leuven as well. The train connection from Schipol is amazingly simple; Paris I don’t know as well-- I have mental breakdowns just dealing with getting from terminal to terminal for connections at CDG.

eta–And as polar bear notes, don’t skip Antwerp. It’s great.

Love Antwerp some of my ancestors are buried in the cathedral therer:) The train station is amazing. I prefer Ghent to Brugge, but they are both worth a trip. FWIW There is a Michelangelo pieta in Brugge.

If this was what travel was like, I’d never travel. We’re looking at an eight/nine night trip; we’ll visit two cities. We like to go sloooow. If we have to spend an afternoon in a pub, drinking Belgian beer and reading because we’ve seen every sight we wanted to see, then goddamnit, we’ll do that. :smiley:

BTW - totally off topic but appropriate to answering questions about flying short distances:

A friend of mine in Berlin was planning a grand tour of the USA for the first time and asked me, “How long will it take to fly from Los Angeles to Hollywood?”

The Thalys tends to work ok-ish, but stick with that (don’t go for other options!) and try to avoid Sunday because they tend to work on the track. I travel between Rotterdam and Brussels with some regularity (= same route), and Belgium is just a mess, quite frankly. (Sorry Belgium, you know it’s true…) Their stations are also absolutely awful, be prepared. Just messy, skanky, ugly, bad signage. It’s always as soon as you get into Belgium that things start to go wrong. Thalys has the best track record there, IME.

As mentioned, travelling from A’dam Schiphol is a dream. The station is in the main hall of the airport, with all roads leading to Rome: you can’t go wrong. Your problem is that you’re going to Belgium.

On your to do list for Brussels: buy frites in the square and take them into the pub, where they let you take them in so you can enjoy them with your beer. My fave. :slight_smile:

I like this site for examining European train options. It does help to know the local spelling of the city names and which station you want in a given city.

Don’t overlook the European discount airlines, either. Though they might require paying extra for luggage.

I didn’t find Brussels short on attractions, with beer, chocolate, and waffles to please. But I’m the kind of guy who’s more interested in Art Nouveau bank lobbies or the Atomium than a lacemakers shop in Ghent.

While there isn’t that much to see in Brussels itself (two days probably is sufficient), the fact that, as everyone has said, the train services are so convenient, it can also be used as a base from which to do day trips to places like Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp etc. I’ve done that.

Absolutely. But only if you get off the train - you don’t really see it properly if you’re just passing through.