Had my first real experience of Belgian trains last week. A trip from Brussels to Luxembourg.
Prior to that it had only been the Thalys high speed service to/from Paris, or the 20 minute airport shuttle.
It should have been a 3 hour trip, but a staff shortage at Namur (no replacement conductor) turned it into a 4 hour one. That was bad enough, but SNCB was completely unable to tell us why the train had stopped. We found out when a fellow passenger phoned SNCB to complain!
€57 one way in 1st.
Had to queue for 15 mins to buy the ticket at Gare Centrale. No buffet car on the train, although it was running over lunchtime.
Buy a picnic to take with you. Buy your ticket in advance on the internet. Hope their staff turn up for work.
International trains to and from Brussels all stop at the Midi (=South) station.
From here you can get the Thalys to Paris, Amsterdam or Cologne, the ICE to Cologne or the EuroStar going through the Channel Tunnel to London.
Second and third photos: Thalys trains at Midi Station.
Fourth photo: Thalys information desk at Midi Station.
50°50'8.60" North; 4°20'10.91" East
After the strike of 3/10 a new one has been announced on 14/11/12. Difficult to say if it will be a general strike.
The strike on the Belgian railway on 3/10/2012 has been confirmed by the trade unions.
"La grève de la SNCB du 3 octobre est confirmée!"
The strike starts Tuesday 2/10 at 22h to end Wednesday 3/10 at 22 h.
Thalys and Eurostar will also be affected according the Belgian press of 28/09
“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”
— Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993, Bruxelles native)
Brussels has three main train stations; you can board trains at any one of them that will take you to all parts of Belgium. Most high-speed international trains leave from Brussels Midi; all intercity trains pass through Brussels Centrale and Brussels Midi.
Brussels Nord (known as Gare du Nord and in Flemish as Noordstation) is in the north of the city. Metro connection to other parts of the city cannot be found at Brussels Nord; but there are trams (Line 3 and Line 4), which connect to Metro lines and can take you to the center of the city.
Brussels Centrale (known as Gare Centrale and in Flemish as Brussel Centraal ) is from where travelers depart for all the other Belgian cities using intercity trains. Being at the center of the city, it is close to many hostels, tourist attractions and Grand-Place.
The busiest of station in Brussels is Brussels-Midi (known as Gare du Midi and in Flemish as Zuidstation); it is the station serving the southern part of the city. Intercity trains, the Metro and trams, as well as international high-speed trains for the Eurostar and Thalys all serve Brussels-Midi. This modern complex offers a food court, cafes and chocolatiers.
The frequency of trains between the airport and train stations in Brussels is excellent, there are trains every 15 minutes and stop at the north station, Central Station and South Station or midi. The single fare is 7.50 euros.
La frecuencia de trenes entre el aeropuerto y las estaciones de tren de Bruselas es excelente, hay trenes cada 15 minutos y paran en la estación norte, estación central y la estación sur o midi. El precio del billete sencillo es de 7.50 euros.
Traveling by train was a novelty for this Californian, drives a car everywhere, woman!
I bought a Eurail Pass because I had planned to visit several countries and in those days the Eurail pass was the most economical way to do the trips I had planned. An adult Eurail pass allows first class seating on all trains. Most people usually choose second class seating as it is less expensive, so even when the trains were crowded, I had plenty of room to spread out.
Since I traveled during the off season I ended up having whole compartments to myself and on one trip I had the whole car to myself!
Another useful perk of this type of travel I learned that by taking night trains, I saved the price of a hotel for the night. I had to pay a supplement once but still it was nothing near the price of a room. I did not use any of those private little rooms, but once I did travel in a car that had two, three level bunkbeds and that was a pretty interesting experience for me. Also, I spent the night in compartments where the seat opened up like a bed--sort of.
I took the train from Brussel Nord to the Airport. It is an effortless, barely 22 minute journey for only about 5.20 Euros one-way. Make sure that you are sitting in the correct class since the Conductor will nicely point it out to you if you are not!
There are several different areas to purchase tickets: same day international, same day local and advance. Make sure you are in the right place. Leave plenty of time since there can be long lines to purchase. For some reason the same day local tickets is the most chaotic (they do not require you get a call slip unlike at the same day International counters).
The Thalys train is a convenient way to go between Brussels and several other major cities, especially Amsterdam. The high speed journey is just under 2 hours. You may purchase tickets in advance OR at the station. Please note that there is NOT a dedicated Thalys ticket counter at Brussels Midi/Zuid station. Instead, go to the SAME DAY international ticket area. You must get a number from the machine based on destination and the monitor will announce the next agent and at what window. If you purchase a ticket and miss your train you MUST go this counter and probably pay a change fee so don't book unless your absolutely sure. My fare was 76.00 (69 plud fees) Euros one way.
I have used a direct train service from the Airport to city centre. It only takes 15-20 minutes. There are three station: North Station (Gare de Nord), Central Station (Gare Central) and South Station (Gare de Midi) and station just below terminal building. Central Station is the nearest station and only minutes walking to Grand Place.
We were in a rush to get to the airport and when we arrived at the Gare Centrale in Brussels we were disappointed to find long queues for tickets especially as the next Airport bound train was going in 5 minutes.
We tried the ticket machine but to our consternation it didn't accept our UK credit cards. In fact it looked like it didn't accept any credit cards.
So in danger of missing the next train we ran down the stairs with the intention of buying our tickets on board. I thought the worst that could happen is a fine.
Belgian Railways does appear to have a policy of no boarding without a ticket and so we had to pay a hefty supplement. The usual fare to the National Airport - Gare Centrale is 5.10Euros instead we paid over 17Euros each.
Moral : leave more time to buy your ticket at the train station or buy in advance.
This is the destination station you'll need to reach (by train but also by metro) district of the European institutions.
This is one of the oldest railway stations in Belgium. It was built with the personal and financial help from Leopold I (first king of the Belgians) and receive his the name. Its construction is the work of the architect Tilman-François Suys. It was inaugurated in 1854.
On 28 May 2000, it received its present name after a deep restoration integrating highly modern district. Buildings and façades have mostly kept their original appearance. All the railway installations are now in the basement (worth a visit!)
C'est la gare de destination qu'il vous faudra pour rejoindre (en train mais aussi en métro) le quartier des institutions européennes .
C'est une des plus anciennes gares de Belgique. Elle fut construite avec l'aide financière personnelle de Léopold Ier (premier roi des Belges) et dont elle portera le nom. Sa construction est l'œuvre de l'architecte Tilman-François Suys. Elle fut inaugurée en 1854.
Le 28 mai 2000, elle reçu le nom actuel suite à une restauration profonde l'intégrant au quartier hautement moderne. Les bâtiments et surtout la façade ont gardé leurs aspect original. Toutes les installations ferroviaires se trouvent maintenant en sous-sol (vaut une visite !)
Very handy if you are arriving by plane, Airport City Express takes 15-25 minutes to get you from the airport to one of Brussels mainline railway stattions. Trains depart every quarter of an hour.
At under 5 EUR, it is the cheapest way to get from the airport to the city itself.
The place that was closer to our B&B was Bruxelles Nord so we decided to take the airport express train. The ticket booth is on level -1 and the platform was on the level under the ticket booth. The trip itself takes between 10 and 15 minutes and it goes non-stop to Bruxelles Nord.
As of March 2010, the fare was 5.05 euros per person (adult), one way.
There's other ways to go to and from the airport, like the airport bus and taxis and you can go to several cities in Belgium as well, as for the link below.
Brussels has three main railway stations; Brussels South (Midi), where the main International trains terminate, Brussels Central, which is the closest to the old city and Brussels North. The North station is an interesting-looking building, built in a sort of 50's Art Deco style (I'm not sure of the difference between Art Deco and Art Nouveau but I'll plump for "Deco") with its imposing clock tower and functionalist artworks.
The station itself however isn't as interesting internally as it is from the outside, being definitely functional with its bleakly cavernous concourse and scruffy little shops and cafes. This the the northern part of the city's main commuter network with over 200,000 passengers per week.
But useful to know is that it shares its space with the Eurolines bus terminal as well as many of the regional De Lijn bus services and is accessible as the northern terminus of the Metro tram line 3.