Three different cities and cultures that are so different to each other, connected with a train line.
Here is a plan to explore them in just a week!
Day 1: Arrive in Paris, settle and start exploring. If you don’t have a plan yet, go to the tourist information center and let them help you plan your stay. Enjoy Paris by night.
Day 2: A day in Paris can only be memorable. Get on the top of Eifel tower, get lost in the Louvre Museum, have a walk around Notre Dame Cathedral and feel the vibe of the Montmarte neighborhood. Don’t forget to take a walk along the river and appreciate the little things that make this city beautiful.
Day 3: Wake up and spend one more morning in Paris. In the afternoon, take the train to Brussels. The trip takes less than 2 hours. Walk to the ‘The Grand Place’, the city’s central square, the town hall and of course… the tiny but famous Manneken Piss! The area is also great for some nightlife or just one of the well known Belgian beers. Or more.
Day 4: Take some time to go a bit further and see Atomium, one of the most famous landmarks of Europe. Close nearby is the ‘Mini Europe’ open museum with miniatures of landmarks from all over Europe. Highly recommended, especially if you are travelling with kids.
Day 5: Start your day in Brussels and finish it in Amsterdam. The train trip takes about 2h and 45sec. Arrive in Amsterdam ready to enjoy a late sunset at the picturesque little streets and lively neighborhoods.
Day 6: Walking -and getting lost – around Amsterdam is your goal today. However, make sure you visit Zaanse Schans. Just 40 minutes from Amsterdam, full of beautiful windmills, craft shops and small museums, displays Netherlands and the Dutch culture in a nutshell.
Day 7: One more day to get lost around the canals -even if you think If you know your way around by now. Embrace it, this is how you discover the best places in Amsterdam! If you would like to take a return flight from Paris, it is only 3,5h by train.
Paris to Brussels
The ‘Thalys’ trains connect Paris and Brussels. They travel between the ‘Paris Nord’ train station (or else ‘Gare du Nord’ ) and the ‘Bruxelles Midi’ train station (for Belgium use the local names for train stations). The trip takes just over 1,5h.
Pass holders: If you are a pass holder you will need a reservation to board on this international Thalys train. Make sure you book your seat in advance, because in France there are limited seats for pass holders per train. You can avoid reservation fees by using local trains. From Paris to Brussels you will need to change 3 trains and it will take 4-7 hours.
Brussels to Amsterdam
Mostly Intercity trains (IC) connect Brussels and Amsterdam. They travel between the ‘Bruxelles Central’ train station and the ‘Amsterdam Central’. There are direct trains as well as train connections with 1-2 stops. They all take about 2h and 45min.
Pass holders: If you are a pass holder, a seat reservation is optional but not compulsory on that train.
Amsterdam to Paris
If you need to get back to Paris, we recommend a direct Thalys train. The trip takes about 3h and 20min.
Pass holders: If you are a pass holder you will need a reservation for this route.
This is just an example of a trip duration.
You can always spend more days at each destination, giving yourself more time to get to know each place, visit attractions and museums, go on day trips or just taking it easy and relax.
Here are some suggestions to fill in your extra days:
Disneyland Paris (you will need a full day for that)
Palace of Versailles (about an hour out of the city)
Pick one or two nearby castles to explore: Gaasbeek Castle, Kasteel van Beersel, Bouchout Castle, Castle Karreveld, Kasteel van Arenberg
Go to a castle a bit further from Brussels: Gravensteen Castle, Havré Castle, Alden Biesen Castle
Or go on a day trip to Ghent (about 40 min by train from Brussels) or Bruges (just over 1h by train from Brussels).
Alkmaar cheese market (40 min by train from Amsterdam)
Day trip to Efteling Park (https://www.efteling.com/en/park) Highly recommended. You have to take the bus from Tilburg to reach to the park so you can even consider staying in Tilburg for a night.
Day trips to Utrecht (30min by train from Amsterdam), The Hague (Den Haag) and Scheveningen beach (50 min by train from Amsterdam), Gouda town (50 min by train from Amsterdam).
To book your tickets: https://www.sncf.com/en
Tourist information centers: https://en.parisinfo.com/practical-paris/paris-convention-and-visitors-bureau/welcome-centres
To book your tickets: https://www.belgiantrain.be/en
Tourist information centers: https://visit.brussels/en/article/tourism-information-desks
To book your tickets: https://www.ns.nl/en
Tourist information centers: https://www.amsterdam.info/tips/touristoffice/
Zaanse Schans website: https://www.dezaanseschans.nl/en/
Here are some more tips:
To make the most out of your trip, always notice the check in- check out times of your accommodation, as well as the luggage storage options that you have. This is to avoid arriving early in a city and having to wait 4hours before you can check in or being left with your luggage after you check out.
If you do not know exactly where to start with exploring a city, just visit the tourist information center. The staff is usually happy to have a short chat. Get a map and ask them to locate your accommodation, the main attractions, draw possible walking routes, suggest activities for the duration of your stay and get information about transport, best areas to eat etc. All this valuable information is for free and coming from people that know the city inside-out.
When you are looking for train connections between cities without specifying the station, it might show you that you will need to change trains within the city to reach the central station (as the default). However, if your accommodation is close to another train station and you want to go directly there, select that station to see the connection.
Not that confident about planning your own train trip yet? Our book ‘Europe by Train: The Ultimate Guide’ will give you all insights and help you plan your trip step by step. Have a look! http://www.europe-train-travel.com/shop/
The information about seat reservations and rail passes is subject to change. Please check the official websites of Interrail (https://www.interrail.eu/en/reservations/reservation-fees/international-train-reservation-fees) or Eurail (https://www.eurail.com/en/plan-your-trip/about-reservations/do-i-need-reservation).
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