Note - Since VT have decided to promote our "Country" pages as a sort of city and town gazetteer then there's no point is writing this tip as part of a Belgium page. Therefore it'll appear in exactly the same form on all my Belgian locations which have a train station.
The best way to travel around Belgium, in my opinion anyway, is by train. The country is particularly well-served by its nationalised rail network run by the NMBS/SNCB and pretty much every town and city is connected. The creation of a national railway system was one of the first major pieces of infrastructure planned by the foundling Belgian government after the country gained independence in 1830 and in fact the first continental European passenger train ran on May 5th 1835 between Brussels and Mechelen.
The trains run frequently from early until late, are usually reliable, clean and well-maintained and, apart from some commuter services, are rarely over-crowded. Fares are very reasonable and cost exactly the same whether bought in advance or on the day. Tickets should be bought before boarding, which can be done online (printed at home), from the ticket offices at stations and from the station machines (all major cards accepted). If for any reason you don't have a ticket for your journey you can buy one from the conductor with an "On-Board Fare" surcharge of 7 euros.
As well as standard fare point-to-point tickets there are a variety of other types of ticket and passes, including several options for people under 26, over 60, regular travellers and for families and groups - the easy-to-use www.belgianrail.be website explains these quite clearly.
For us tourists, if intending to make several journeys, the Belgian Rail Pass (pictured) is exceptionally good value. For 76 euros (Jan 2016) the pass is good for 10 single journeys within 12 months, of any length, using the NMBS/SNCB trains within the Belgian network. These can be bought from any station ticket office - noting that it’ll be in French or Dutch depending on which part of the country you are travelling from. To use it you simply fill it in as you go, one line per journey, with the date, start station and end station. It is then valid for any reasonable route, including connections, between those stations on that date. The same ticket can be used by more than one person by filling in the appropriate number of lines.
The only trains it is not valid on are the fast services such as Thalys and for cross-border trains, say to Roosendaal or Aachen (but there are other ticket options for those). Also it doesn't cover the "Diabolo" surcharge between Brussels International Airport (BRU) and Brussels city, for which a separate ticket must be bought.
In Europe in 1950, we traveled by train from place to place. The train station in Antwerp when we were there was the original one built around 1905. It was stone with a dome above the waiting room hall. I seem to remember that the glass in the dome was kind of busted out, but I can't find any of my dad's photos that show this and it may have been a different station. Apparently six of the eight smaller towers were demolished about this time. They have been reconstructed and the station is now regarded as the finest example of railway architecture in Belgium
If you're flying into Schiphol there are trains that run directly to Antwerp Centraal roughly every half an hour from Track 5/6
The Inter City train from Amsterdam to Brussels takes 2 hours stopping at The Hague, Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Roosendaal near the Belgian border. The price is €28,60 each way (Aug 2012)
The Thalys High Speed Train costs €70 but only takes 1 hour.
The railway staion Antwerpen Dam is one of the many small train stations in Antwerp. It is only used by local trains from Antwerp to Roosendaal (NL) and they stop at every station. Only one train every hour.
Update : No trains anymore at this station.
If you come by train to Antwerp you will arrive at this majestic Central Station.
Be aware that you have to go down 3 levels for the International connections.
Local trains are 1 floor down.
Real time train info on the Antwerp map.
The information boards at the station make it easy to find out which track and what time the train departs as well as if it an IC (intercity) IR (inter region and L (local). The IC generally only have a few stops between cities, while the local spends more time stopping than going.
It's always a pleasure when arriving somewhere new to be greeted by a magnificent railway station and Antwerpen Centraal certainly is one of the best. The station was built between 1895 and 1905 with the terminus buildings designed by the Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie, the vaulted train shed by Clement van Bogaert and the viaduct leading to the station by Jan Van Asperen.
Not only is the station magnificent architecturally, and is worth a visit even if not travelling by train, but it is also superbly functional. The station was modernised in 1998 to provide through international services from its lower level tracks and the four levels are connected by both lifts and escalators.
Belgian intercity services connect to Brussels, Gent, Bruges and Oostende and so allow access throughout the country. There is a local connection to Roosendaal in the Netherlands and Thalys high-speed trains between Amsterdam and Paris.
Platforms are well signed and there are several electronic timetable displays at strategic locations.
As to be expected the station has all the facilities required from a major city central station with a good variety of shops, cafes, left-luggage, ATM and toilets. The ticket office is easy to use with English-speaking staff and everything seems to meld effortlessly, making this a very pleasant transit interchange.
This imposing station was built from 1895 to 1905 as a terminus station, meaning that all the tracks ended here. The station features a huge dome, which aside from being impressive had the function of collecting the steam from the steam engines that were used at the time, thus keeping the steam away from the passengers and their clothes.
From 1998 to 2007 a new tunnel was built and the station was expanded and reconstructed in such a way that there are now fourteen tracks on three levels.
The upper level, one floor above ground level, now has six terminating tracks. These are arranged in two groups of three and there is an opening in the middle so you can see down into the other levels and they can get some daylight. This upper level is where all the tracks originally were.
The two lower levels are new.
On the first floor below ground level there are four terminating tracks. They are arranged in two pairs with an opening in the middle.
On the second floor below ground level there are four through tracks leading into the new tunnel that goes north from the station. These four tracks are used by high speed trains such as the Thalys trains going from Paris-Nord via Brussels, Antwerp and Rotterdam to Amsterdam.
An article in Newsweek magazine from the year 2009 listed Antwerp Centraal Station as the fourth most beautiful railroad station in the world, after St. Pancras in London, the Grand Central Terminal in New York and Chhatrapati Shivaji in Mumbai. They didn’t explain how they decided on this particular order, but if you come into Antwerp by train I think you’ll agree that this station deserves to be somewhere near the top of the list.
Third photo: The train in this photo is the one I took from Ghent to Antwerp, arriving on the upper level of Antwerp Centraal Station.
Fourth photo: This is my senior ticket from Antwerp to Liège, which cost me all of 5.30 Euros. If I had wanted to, I could have used the same ticket to return to Antwerp on the same day, but even though I only used it one was it was still a great bargain.
The high speed train route between Antwerp and Paris now stops at Antwerp's central station (and not anymore at the Antwerp berchem station). You can also take a regular intercity train, which connects the Amsterdam Central Station to the Antwerp Central Station in about 2 hrs. The high speed train is currently not much faster but you can reserve seats. The trains also stop at the Schiphol National Airport. For schedules, see here :
The Thalys train has a monopoly on the trains between Belgium->Paris. You can get some pretty good discounts if you buy a round [return] trip ticket, but [at least last September] there were no discounts for one-way tickets.
After doing some research, instead of taking the Thalys Antwerp->Paris Gare du Nord train, we did this:
Antwerp->Brussels Midi->Charles De Gaulle Airport via TGV, then RER into Paris Chatelet.
It requires train changes, but taking this instead of the Thalys saved us $50 each. It took about 35-40 minutes longer to get to central Paris,
However as you can see below, that was trimmed to about 20 minutes because the RER goes deeper into the center.
From Paris Nord [terminus of the Thalys], it takes about 22 minutes by metro/bus to get to the Marais neighborhood of our hotel.
The RER does stop at Gare du Nord, but by getting off at the next stop (Chatelet), getting to the Marais was just a 7 minute ride on the 69 bus. So, you actually get about 15 minutes back.
The savings paid for our 2-day Paris Museum passes, so we thought it was well worth it.
Arrived at Antwerp centraal station, and very impressive building. Currently some building work heading towards the trams, still worth lingering for a few minutes.
Be aware not all through trains go right into centraal, check the website for details
The current grand station building was built between 1899 and 1905 by Louis de la Censerie. He based his design on the station of Luzern and the Pantheon in Rome. The station was officially opened on 11th of August in 1905. In the middle of the 20th century, the building deteriorated badly. However, a possible demolition was avoided as the station received the status of a protected monument in 1975. Since 1998, Antwerp-Central has been undergoing big renovation and reconstruction works to improve its capacity. The entire works are expected to be finished by the end of 2007.
This station connects Antwerp with all the big cities in Belgium such as Brussels, Ghent, Leuven, Ostend, Charleroi and Namur. Antwerp is also connected with the international cities Amsterdam and Paris through its station Antwerp-Berchem. This latter station is located at about 5 minutes from Antwerp-Central by train. Trains are running between both stations every 10, 15 minutes and even less during rush hour.
The above stations are also connected with other transport means such as tram, bus or metro. Near Antwerp-Central, you can find the Franklin Rooseveltplaats which is the main bus stop to all towns nearby as well as around the city. Underneath the Central station, you can also find a metro station. As for the Berchem station, one can find trams and buses to the city at the other side of the square. It is also situated nearby the highway with a big parking lot.
Compared to the neighbour countries, train fares are relatively cheap in Belgium. In addition, there exists special formulas that combines the journey with an attraction for a special price, these are called B-Dagtrips (B-Daytrips). For more information on travelling with the train, please visit their website.