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Stopover in Brussels to see the Grand Place while travelling from Amsterdam to Brugges.

I am spending 4 nights in Amsterdam and 4 nights in Bruges in June. Rick Steves suggested in his Belgium book to stop off in Brussels to see the Grand Place. I picked Brugge over Brussels because I don't want to change hotels that often. I would however like to see the Grand Place in Brussels. It looks like I will take the train to Brussels (Possible reservation or no reservation?) I would take an IC train which I checked on www.international.nl to Brussels, get to the Grand Place and also have lunch and then get a different train to Bruge with plenty of time left in the day. Does this make sense? I will be either spending the rest of the time in Brugge or possibly go to Antwerp for a day. After spending 4 nights in Bruges I will spend the 5th night near Schiphol Airport to catch a flight to the US the next morning.
Thanks for your input.

Posted by
2404 posts

I did a quick stop over in Brussels to do this, though unfortunately the Palace was closed on the day we stopped (bad planning on my part). You'd want to get off at Brussels Central (not Midi) and you'll be very close. I believe there are luggage lockers at the station, but double check.

Posted by
7592 posts

Sure, you will have plenty of time to stop for a couple hours maybe more. There are storage lockers at Brussels Central station, and everything you are looking at is an easy walking distance. No need to reserve trains, or even buy tickets ahead, you can use all regional and intercity trains, to Brussels in about three hours, and to Bruges in another hour. If you really wanted, you could pay more for a fast Thalys train to Brussels, that would save you an hour, but you would need to buy a ticket with reservation well ahead to save, and still likely cost you more.

For Antwerp, you will go right through there on your way back to Amsterdam, you might get an early start from Bruges, take the train to Ghent, Switch to a train to Antwerp without going through Brussels, spend some time there, and on to the airport area.

For a last night, might I suggest Leiden, a short ways from the airport, direct train, nice town.

Posted by
2200 posts

I think you'll be glad you made the stop. We were in Brussels only once, when we landed there on our flight from the U.S. After we checked into our hotel and walked to the Grand Place, I said to my husband, "This would have been worth the trip if we only had one day to spend in Europe!" That may have been an exaggeration, but it is indeed special.

Posted by
89 posts

If you have a chance to stop in Antwerp Central, that station is one of the loveliest in Europe! It also has lockers. The Antwerp Cathedral has some gorgeous paintings by Rubens hanging inside.

Posted by
18 posts

Paul,
Thanks for the reminder about the luggage lockers. The last time I was in Europe, I used a rail pass which I won't have this time. How do I go about buying the tickets since going from Amsterdam to Brussels is an international train trip while some of the others will be domestic. Should I wait and buy them at the station or is there an app to be used? I have heard of the NS app or the 9292.nl app. While in Amsterdam, I will only be taking one day trip out of Amsterdam and I am a Senior so can get a discount.

Posted by
7407 posts

Note that Brussels has three downtown stations. The one that's walkable to Grand Place is Centraal.

This is very much a matter of opinion, but absent the annual Flower Carpet or other special event, if you go to enough old European town centers anyway, Grand Place may not be an absolute must-see. For example, Antwerp has two beautiful squares, Groenplaats and the more famous Grote Markt. But if you have time, see Grand Place.

You may be underestimating how easy it is to daytrip by unreserved local trains between Bruges or Ostend and Brussels. There are usually five trains an hour on business days. They do get crowded at rush hour and school hours. I personally would need daytrips after a second night in Bruges. But others on this board love every moment there.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/belgium/day-trips-from-brussels-768c7c85-75b9-4374-ad13-ae36967bc521

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/belgium/day-trips-from-brussels-besides-bruges-and-ghent

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/netherlands/amsterdam-to-brussels-to-brugge-back-to-amsterdam-by-train
(older thread, may need updated research)

Posted by
1366 posts

“ How do I go about buying the tickets since going from Amsterdam to Brussels is an international train trip while some of the others will be domestic.”

You can book your Amsterdam to Bruges trip on 1 train ticket on www.nsinternational.nl
The IC train from Amsterdam to Brussels and the trains from Brussels to Bruges don’t require reservations. You simply board the train, find a free seat and off you go. Your ticket allows you to interrupt your journey along the way for as long as you want, as long as you complete your journey on the same day as is mentioned on your ticket.

In fact, all domestic trains in both The Netherlands and Belgium have free seating and can’t be booked.
Perhaps it helps if you think of trains as mass transit, similar to the subway in New York. You can’t book a seat on a subway in New York, just like you can’t book a seat on a train from Brussels to Bruges or from Amsterdam to Delft.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for the information about only having to buy 1 train ticket and that the trip can be interrupted to get off in Brussels and get back on with the same ticket.

Posted by
7592 posts

Maybe a question for Dutch_traveler...

Regarding a stop on your journey, most solutions for regional/IC trains from Amsterdam to Bruges route through Antwerp, then to Ghent, skipping Brussels. I assume you simply can't hop the train to Brussels in Antwerp, then to Ghent once done in Brussels, or can you?

I did not see a good way to route through Brussels as a choice on NL International, (like a multi-city option) aside from buying a ticket to Brussels, then another onward to Bruges? Some of the solutions using Eurostar route through Brussels, but at a much higher cost.

Any thoughts?

Posted by
1366 posts

It’s a bit of a strange situation, because the train system is programmed to show you the quickest route. If you take the highspeed Eurostar for the Netherlands to Belgium part of the journey, it will route you via Brussels, even though the Eurostar stops in Antwerp first. The system does this because the total journey time with a connection in Brussels is faster than with a connection in Antwerp. Basically the Eurostar is aligned better to the departure time of the Brussels to Bruges train than it is to the Antwerp towards Ghent train.
The regular IC train arrives in Antwerp at a different time as the Eurostar. The arrival time of the IC train does align good to the train to Ghent, so the system shows you this option.

To summarize; both options are allowed but the system is programmed to show you the route with the shortest total travel time.

Posted by
10274 posts

I just did this a month ago, going from Bruges to Cologne. I booked in advance a ticket from Brussels to Cologne, then bought a ticket the day of travel from Bruges to Brussels Central. I put my luggage in a locker and spent a few hours walking around the Grand Place, etc. My train to Cologne was going from Midi so I had to get there from Central.

Posted by
18 posts

When I checked the travel schedule on www.nsinternational.nl there were plenty of options with IC trains from Amsterdam to Brugges going through Brussels. Is it easier to use the NS app? Someone just told me and showed me about the light show that Bussels has at night in the Grand Place area. Does anyone know how often they do this?

Posted by
18 posts

Dutch Traveler, I am a little confused by all of the answers. If I buy a ticket from Amsterdam to Brugge that goes through Brussels and want to get off in Brussels with using the same ticket to go on to Bruges should I pick a time that only uses the IC trains and no Eurostar in the time table? To buy just one ticket and not 2 would be amazing and to get off and back on without figuring out the exact time ahead of time would also be very helpful. Thanks!

Posted by
1366 posts

@Backyard; I appreciate how things can be confusing and may seem complicated. The important thing to know is that when you buy a ticket from Amsterdam to Bruges for the regular intercity trains, your ticket will only indicate Amsterdam to Brussels and the date. Your ticket will not specify the route you will need to take and it won’t mention a time or specific train.
When you buy a ticket the system first asks you to select the date and time you want to travel, but your ticket will only show the date. You’re allowed to take any regular intercity train from Amsterdam towards Belgium and from Antwerp or Brussels to Bruges. You’re also allowed to interrupt your journey wherever you like as long as it’s along the way.

Posted by
35 posts

Jumping on because this is maybe what we need to do, too.
We are traveling on Eurostar AMS-Brussels Midi (part of KLM ticket; already purchased) and want to get to Bruges on the same day. We will return to Brussels two days later.
I see that I can buy a return ticket Brussels Midi-Bruges. Are you saying that those tickets are just for the date, and not for a specific time? That would be perfect for flexibility.
If our transatlantic flight into AMS is late and we have to take a later Eurostar train, I'd hate to miss a train and have to buy a last minute ticket.
Best site to purchase IC (regional?) train ticket?
Thanks.

Posted by
7407 posts

All of the trains from all-three Brussels stations (including Midi) to Bruges are unreserved and have the same price. I haven't been there in a while, but there used to be about five an hour during the business day. Some of them have double-decker cars with little space for huge suitcases. AFAIR, the racks over those seats aren't big enough for airline roll-aboards. I once had to sit on my bag in the big platform-level vestibule where you would keep a bicycle or a baby carriage, for example. They can also be crowded at rush hour or school hours.

Did you buy a Eurostar ticket that is automatically flexible if the plane is late? If it's a "KLM product", I would think so. But the Eurostar trains are technically all-reserved seats.

Posted by
1366 posts

“We are traveling on Eurostar AMS-Brussels Midi (part of KLM ticket; already purchased) and want to get to Bruges on the same day. We will return to Brussels two days later.
I see that I can buy a return ticket Brussels Midi-Bruges. Are you saying that those tickets are just for the date, and not for a specific time? That would be perfect for flexibility.”

Unless you travel out from Brussels to Bruges on a Friday and return to Brussels on another weekend day, you can’t buy a return trip. A regular return trip is valid on 1 specific day. A weekend return trip is valid from Friday until Sunday.
Train tickets from train journeys within Belgium are never tied to a specific train. Trains are mass transit with free seating. You buy a ticket from Brussels to Bruges and you can take any train from Brussels to Bruges on the day mentioned on your ticket.

Posted by
235 posts

Don’t want to hijack the post so if I need to create a separate thread, please let me know.

Does this same concept work from Paris as well? I will be traveling from Paris to Antwerp and am hoping to stop in Brussels on the same day to see Grand Place. Looks like this can be done on Eurostar.

Can you hop off at Midi and then hop on the train to Centraal as long as it’s in the same day? Can you also hop on Centraal back to Midi with the same ticket? Obviously I need to make sure I am on the last (maybe second to last) train to Antwerp.

Posted by
2000 posts

Born a Travelin' Man; You can hop off the Eurostar at Brussels Midi and continue with a local train to Brussels Central for a walk to the Grand Place with the ticket you have. So no extra ticket needed. As you have to catch a later Eurostar to Antwerp you need a seperate ticket and is also valid for travelling back with one of the very frequent local trains to Brussels Midi to catch the Eurostar there.

With the larger places in Belgium with multiple train stations you can end or start from any station within the “Zone” of that place. So ending a journey in Brussels you will travel to Brussels Zone and you are aloud to hop off at Midi, Central, North, Schaarbeek, Luxemburg, etc. with the ticket you have. The same for starting the journey.

Posted by
7407 posts

Born a Travelin' Man, I don't know if this is still the case, but Eurostar used to offer an add-on to the London-Brussels ticket called "Any Belgian Station." Now, today, with online ticketing, and since US credit cards are apparently pretty easy to use in unattended ticket machines in Belgian stations, it has less value. I'm not even arguing that it's the "best" value for a trip from Brussels to Antwerp. (It's an easier sell for Bruges or Ostend. But it would be a bargain for more distant destinations.)

But in the pre-digital-ticket days, and when my credit card was refused by Belgian machines, I preferred to pay a little too much, in order to avoid having to wait in line for a human clerk in Brussels, to buy a ticket to Antwerp.

Only because you mentioned "the last train to Antwerp", I'll note that on one such trip I made, an earlier Eurostar struck a pedestrian on the French part of the route. My afternoon return from London was delayed about 8 hours, in a nightmare jammed Eurostar terminal. I was greatly relieved that NMBS had "held" the last train to Antwerp, even though I got there about 1:30AM.

Posted by
1366 posts

“Does this same concept work from Paris as well? I will be traveling from Paris to Antwerp and am hoping to stop in Brussels on the same day to see Grand Place. Looks like this can be done on Eurostar.
Can you hop off at Midi and then hop on the train to Centraal as long as it’s in the same day? Can you also hop on Centraal back to Midi with the same ticket? Obviously I need to make sure I am on the last (maybe second to last) train to Antwerp.”

The easiest thing to do in this case would be the following; book the Eurostar from Paris to Brussels. As Will already explained to you, your ticket will be valid to all train stations within the Brussels Zone. This means your ticket is valid from Brussels Midi to Brussels Central. When you’re done sightseeing in Brussels, I suggest you to just take the local non-highspeed train from Brussels Central to Antwerp. It doesn’t make sense to backtrack back to Brussels Midi (in a southerly direction) to catch the Eurostar to Antwerp (in a northerly direction). There are direct local trains between Brussels Central and Antwerp that only take 41 minutes. A train ticket from Brussels Central to Antwerp only costs €8,40. Tickets for local trains aren’t tied to a specific train on a specific time, unlike Eurostar tickets. So you can take any train from Brussels Central to Antwerp you like.