A group of 8 friends are traveling through the area and will be staying in Brussels. We want to then visit Normandy, France area, before heading on to Paris. We saw there are private guided tours from Brussels to Normandy. Has anyone done this? We thought it might make logistical sense rather than taking the train through Paris to Bayeaux, which would mean moving through different train stations in Paris to do so. Looking for any advice. If anyone has done this, please provide information on what private guide agency you used. Thank you!
How many days are you planning to be in the Normandy area?
It's at least a 5-6 hour drive from Brussels to say...Bayeux... so seems like a waste of tour guide time as well. If you are talking about a private transfer for your group then that might make sense.
Are you looking for a guided tour of the sites between Brussels and Bayeux, or something more like a transfer service to take the 8 of you from Brussels to Bayeux to avoid changing train stations in Paris?
The 8 of you could take a train from Brussels to Paris - probably Gare du Nord - and arrange for a van to take you from there to Bayeux. I would start by asking your hotel in Bayeux for a referral. In 2019 we used Shuttle Direct in Belgium a couple of times, and they were fine.
You might also check with mydaytrip.com, a company previously recommended on the forum for trips elsewhere in Europe. However, a quick check on the website suggests you might need both a van and car to accommodate 8 people, much less their luggage.
I've changed train stations in Paris myself. It was a bit annoying but not really a problem except for getting my suitcase (neither lightweight nor carry-on size) up the steps. It would be possible to avoid that hassle by taking taxis between the two stations; in either case, just allow enough transfer time.
You can take a Thalys train from Brussels-Midi direct, no transfers, to Paris-Nord (1:22) leaves Brussels-Midi at 9:16am and arrives at 10:38am. Take taxis from Nord to St. Lazare. There is a train which leaves St. Lazare at 12:59pm direct, no transfers, to Bayeux and arrives at 3:18pm. You will have plenty of time to taxi between stations. You have to make a reservation on Thalys and I would suggest one on the train to Bayeux. You obviously have to verify these times when you select a travel date.
Trains will be more comfortable than 8 people crammed into a transfer van. Cost may be equal.
I like Threadwear's option as we did that four or five years ago. There were seven of us on a business trip and we had a lot of luggage (which included business mtg materials). Thus, we hired two private vans to transport us between the same train stations as mentioned. It was flawless and not much longer than driving by car from Hotel Amigo in downtown Brussels to Bayeaux. We even had time for a drink on the train layover!
What do you want to see and do? Normandy is a big area. Even the beach area is 50 miles east to west and that doesn't include the areas behind the beaches. It is hard to visit from Paris within a day and coming from Brussels would make it difficult to see much within an eight to ten hour day. If headed to Paris, I would go to Paris and do it as a day trip from Paris. It is closer and slightly more convenient. If you look at a map you would understand the distances. For me, it would not be logical to visit Normandy on the way from Brussels to Paris. And, the best option, of course is to overnight in the area. If your interests are the D-day areas and other sights, you can easily spend a whole day just in the area.
If you can give us a little better idea of what you wan to see and do, then our responses would be better.
Thank you for all of the advice. The private transfer sounds best. We are planning on spending two nights in Bayeux to see the D-Day beaches and Mont St. Michel. With the group of eight, some of who aren't light packers, we just thought trying to do something like a private transfer would work best. We are still in the planning phase, so I really appreciate all of your helpful answers. Thank you!
Since you are still in the planning stages, you might consider 3 nights in Bayeux if you want to do both the Normandy beaches AND Mont Saint-Michel. To me they need at least a day each. I guess you could do the DDay landings on the day you head to Paris but you'd be pushed to get back at a certain time to catch your train.
To me 2 nights = 1 full day in an area. 3 nights = 2 full days
Yes, you need three nights to give you two days for exploring . Make sure you include a visit to The Bayeux Tapestry, 1066, too.
+1 for Frank’s idea of going to Bayeux from Paris. You are choosing what seems the least effort for 8 people, but your time and comfort has value. Note that MSM is not next door to Bayeux. Keeping the van and driver around for days is not going to be free. Is there a guide to house and pay too? If you want full-service and can afford it, it’s up to you.
EDIT: Your France decision might be informed by how you are (perhaps) going to see Bruges from Brussels, if you are including that destination for your group of 8? It seems to me that many vans might have trouble with 8 people and all their luggage at once.
you might get 4 plus luggage plus 4 plus luggage in another car and the price of two cars for a couple of days is probably less than the van and driver option. One person (or more) in each car with a phone (not the driver - illegal to touch the phone) and you may as well have been all together. Then you can go off to MSM or not as you wish, or perhaps half could and the other half do local things depending on preference....