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Brussels to Paris train - seeking advice on deciding which one

Hi all,

I am trying to purchase train tickets from Brussels to Paris, and taking advantage of the lower fares that purchasing in advance allows. I have hit a snag in our plans, which is why I am writing to seek advice.

The original plan:

Arrive in Brussels on a Wednesday 9:00 am (flying from JFK, already booked). See some of Brussels in the afternoon,
Thursday day trip to Bruges
Friday day trip to Ghent
Saturday leave on an 8:45 am train (Thalys) which arrives in Paris around 10:10 am. We have a tour of Versailles booked for 1:45 pm. The Thalys train arrives at Gare du Nord, we would have to take the metro to the Odeon stop and then walk 350 m to our hotel with our luggage.

Here is where I hit the snag. Thalys tickets for that Saturday are not on sale yet, and its unknown when they will be (there are tickets for Friday, and for Monday and Tuesday already on sale. I contacted Thalys and was told that they are not available because of possible line maintenance and that at a later date they will announce which train routes will be operating and open up the sales for tickets. This makes me nervous and has me considering alternative plans. These are my options:

a) Take a TGV train from Brussels to Paris. The number one concern here is that it is not a direct train. We would arrive in Lille Europe station and have to transfer to Lille Flandres. We would have 20 minutes to do this, but we will be carrying luggage. This journey is also longer. Question here is how difficult is this transfer?

b) Take an evening train on Friday night on the Thalys. Since we are cutting a night from Belgim we would book the train that leaves at 8:15 and arrives at 9:40 pm. Concerns with this plan: 1) The Odeon route stops service at 10:15 (you get this announcement when you check the routes). Will there be sufficient time to hop on a train on this route with a 9:40 pm arrival at Gare du Nord to the Odeon metro stop? I would imagine so, but I ask just in case, because we would have to purchase the Navigo Easy cards and load them before trying to get on the Metro. In addition, is it safe to be walking around with luggage at around 10 pm? The hotel is in the 6th arrondisment, 350 m from the Metro stop. Or would it be better to take a taxi (or Uber) to the hotel. If so, how easy is this from Gare du Nord? We would need two as there are six of us. Doing this plan would mean switching the type of room we have booked in our hotel, but that would be OK, and I have made the reservation as a back up just in case. With this plan we would see Ghent on arrival day (Wednesday afternoon), Bruges on Thursday and leave Brussels for Friday.

For reference 4/6 of six people have already been to Paris, our two teens have not. When husband and I visited, we went everywhere on the Metro. With Plan A we would be spending 4 nights in Paris, with plan B, 5.

Can the experts here comment on which plan is better? Thanks in advance.

Posted by
4244 posts

Better depends on who you are and what you prefer, but here are my thoughts:

Question here is how difficult is this transfer?

Very easy, it is roughly a 500 m walk between the station. But, if it was my trip I'd spend a few hours in Lille if choosing this option.

Will there be sufficient time to hop on a train on this route with a
9:40 pm arrival at Gare du Nord to the Odeon metro stop? I would
imagine so, but I ask just in case, because we would have to purchase
the Navigo Easy cards and load them before trying to get on the Metro.

You can buy the metro tickets onboard the Thalys and save a bit of time.

Posted by
5121 posts

Europe to Flandres station in Lille is an easy transfer on foot, but 20 minutes is tight so don't dally.
In Paris, if somehow you miss the last metro on line 4, you can take RER B to St Michel-Notre Dame followed by line 10 to Odeon, or line 5 to Austerlitz followed by 10 to Odeon, or 2 cabs (unless there is a van that can take 6 passengers).

Posted by
7159 posts

Be careful taking a cab from Nord -- this is the one spot where travelers report scammer cabs in the cab line. If anyone tries to assert a fixed price, they are cheating you. You must run the meter for a fair ride. The fare on the meter is good for 4 people -- it is 4 Euro a head for passengers 5 and 6 in addition.

There is no danger carrying a suitcase on the street at 10. 10 or 11 is when people are getting out of dinner.

Posted by
8360 posts

If you know the layout of Lille-Europe and Lille Flandres, and their relative distance from each other, 20 minutes might be okay, but it would make me nervous, and I do know both the stations and how to walk between the two.

I wouldn't attempt it if I had to do it without ever having been there before.

Posted by
29636 posts

I agree that 20 minutes is pushing it. I've used both stations and know the route between - it is pretty simple but for a newbie and luggage I'd worry.

Posted by
6170 posts

I don't mean to twist your arm, but it's worth considering changing your sleeping town to Antwerp (which I personally prefer) from Brussels, but preference isn't the issue: Train schedules from Antwerp to Paris are different, so you might have other options. Just an idea.

I understand that appointments for scarce resources are necessary, but I don't like the pressure of the Versailles tour. Is that a Versailles product, or a private guide? Is your whole Paris visit that tightly scheduled? You are vulnerable to pedestrian traffic at the arrival train station, and to broken-down Metro ticket vending machines. (I know you plan to take a cab, I'm just saying.) What if there is a line to check-in for your hotel? What about the RER to Versailles, which is not a short trip? Then you have to get from the RER to the palace. This part of your day seems under-researched.

Paris is a very safe city. That said, I always use a belt-pouch in Europe. Your personal safety is not an issue at 10PM. As I remember, the link between the two stations in Lille is a covered corridor, so you're not even exposed to rain. Just to be sure, as long as you might change trains anyway, have you checked conventional trains, or only the premium services?

Posted by
136 posts

Thank you all for your responses!

@Tim I have been trying to make this trip for two years, originally scheduled for 2020. I have researched quite a bit. The Versailles tour starts in Paris (Invalides area), we are booked with Take Walks. We had credits we needed to use, the rest of Paris we will see on our own at a leisurely place, with reservations only for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Of the six of us, four have already been to Versailles. When I went, we used the PMP and spent about half a day there. We went on our own, on the train and saw everything we wanted to see. That was on a weekday in September, so we did not get many crowds, and did not have to reserve. This time we are going with parents and teens. Because parents and us have been to Versailles previously, I chose to take a guided tour that leaves from Paris at 1:45 pm (and goes by train).

Regarding the stay in Belgium, its easier for us to stay in Brussels. The train ride will be shorter from our long haul flight, and also its easier to take a train to Paris. Based on all of the feedback, we have decided to take an evening Thalys train to Paris.

Posted by
6170 posts

Thanks for sharing the additional logistics of your planned journey. I presume you learned that the Thalys trains only leave from Brussel-Midi/Zuid, and not from Centraal. There is no extra charge for a local train from either of the other two downtown stations, but there it does make a train change necessary.

Having a tour company in Paris may be helpful if there is any change in French Covid documentation rules at the time of your actual trip.