Best Train Recommendations: Germany-Amsterdam-Belgium-Paris

My husband and I (early 30's) are planning a trip in early November to visit Germany, Amsterdam, Belgium, and Paris 11/1 through 11/17. Can any of the more experienced travelers share some ideas as to going about the finding the best train routes for our trip? We've looked at Eurorail passes and DB Bahn 25 and 50 cards, but can't seem to figure out what the best options are for us from a financial and logistic standpoint given we have less than 3 weeks to see everything. We prefer fast trains with few connections wherever possible. Also, we'd prefer to sit in first class for the longer legs of travel: Germany to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Antwerp, and Gent to Paris. Here is our projected itinerary: Arrive in Frankfurt 11/1 Leave Frankfurt 11/2, travel to Heilbad Heiligenstadt Heilbad Heiligenstadt 11/2-11/3 Leave Heilbad Heiligenstadt for Göttingen 11/3 Göttingen 11/3-11/4 Göttingen to Amsterdam 11/4 11/4 -11/7 Amsterdam Amsterdam to Antwerp, Belgium 11/7 Antwerp, Belgium 11/7-11/8 Gent, Belgium 11/8-11/10 Gent Belgium to Paris 11/10
Paris 11/10-11/17 Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Bahn cards are a yearly subscription. For this short trip, they couldn't possibly pay for themselves. Your best option will probably be to order your tickets now individually from each involved rail operator to take advantage of the advanced purchase discounts, where available. Don't even think of the word "Rail Europe". 1st class seating is designed more to accommodate business travelers who have to work enroute than for added comfort. It buys you more workspace and waiter service, but not that much more comfort. General seating is perfectly comfortable for a longer train ride. Frankfurt to Heilbad Heiligenstadt involves a change in Göttingen. Buy now from Deutsche Bahn to get the best discount. Heilbad Heiligenstadt to Göttingen is on a local commuter train. Just buy the tickets on the day of travel. Göttingen to Amsterdam involves either a longer one-transfer trip through Frankfurt, or a shorter multi-transfer trip through Hannover and Hilversum. Go for the advanced discount. For Amsterdam to Antwerp, you have two options. Either take the more expensive Thalys train or the slightly slower Intercity train. I'm not sure if advanced purchase discounts are an option on the intercity train, which are available on Thalys. Antwerp to Gent is on a regular Belgian rail intercity train. No advanced discounts available. Just buy your tickets right before you want to travel. There's at least two trains per hour. For Gent to Paris, you will probably want to go on Thalys. The first leg of the trip routes you on Belgian rail through Brussels, then take the Thalys to Paris. Go for the advanced discount.

Posted by Anon
Los Angeles
3 posts

Tom, Thank you for your extremely informative reply! A friend had recommended to choose only 1st seating, but from what you mentioned, it looks like 2nd class with reserved seating will be fine. We will investigate the Thalys legs of the trip and post additional questions if needed. Appreciate your time and thanks again!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, For the Amsterdam-Göttingen trip. I recommend, as pointed out above, the dep time requiring only one transfer in Frankfurt. Both legs are on the ICE. You could also go Göttingen-Frankfurt-Duisburg-Amsterdam, ie. more transfer in Germany before going into Holland.

Posted by Anon
Los Angeles
3 posts

Thank you, Fred! We will investigate both of those options. What was taking us many hours of research was answered on this board immediately. So happy to have this resource!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, You're welcome. If you take the second option with two transfers in Germany, it can be done on the ICE for each leg: Göttingen dep 0817 to Frankfurt, arr 10:00. Then Frankfurt dep 10:10 to Duisburg Hbf. arr. 11:50. Duisburg dep 13:29 to Amsterdam arr. 15:25.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Most of the information shared so far you can find on the Deutsche Bahn website.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

You might want to dig up the recently frozen old newsboards here to read about some of your destinations. I don't wish to get into the knotty issue of the "best" destinations in Belgium. But it's puzzling to see one night in Antwerp and two nights in Gent. I would make a wild guess that you're going to make a day trip from Gent; Do you know that Brussels and Antwerp are both almost as good for any day trip in that section of Belgium

I know that not everyone likes to stay in the same hotel room as long as we like to. But changing rooms and cities does take unproductive time, and you don't have time to spare. Although it's easy to go from Gent to Paris, it's even easier to go from Antwerp to Paris - check the train schedules before you settle the order of those two cities, and your desired departure time.