Ride the Rails: Weekend Train Trips from the Netherlands

14 March 2014, by
(1)

With warmer days upon us and a string of official Dutch holidays coming up over the next few months, now is the perfect time to plan some weekend getaways!

Although recent years have seen a swell in budget airlines, the hassle has increased exponentially: far off airports, outrageous luggage fees, showing up early just to queue... the list goes on!

This spring, avoid the tumult and ride the rails! With such a central location and multiple high-speed routes, the Netherlands is a great base for exploring Europe by train. Forget that tired trinity of weekend escapes (Paris, London, Berlin) and rediscover your wanderlust by checking out some of the destinations we’ve highlighted below.

Escape the Netherlands by train!

Using Amsterdam as a starting point, all of the following cities are easily reached by train within a day and involve no more than one transfer! 

Just Next Door: Within 2 Hours by Train

For those wanting to travel just a few hours, look no further than Belgium!

Brussels

Time: 01:50 | Thalys
Transfer: Direct
Thanks to the Thalys, the European capital is just a short ride away. Truly international, Brussels has a character all its own with attractions ranging from the curious Atomium and mini-Europe to the Grand Place and Royal Palace. Beer, fries and chocolate? You bet!

Antwerp

Time: 01:53 | Intercity(IC)/Intercity Direct
Transfer: Rotterdam
Easily reached by local trains for half the cost of the Thalys, the heart of Flemish speaking Belgium offers more than enough to merit a weekend away. Highlights include the Central Station, one of the oldest zoos in the world, the Guild Houses on the Grote Markt and the Rubens house.

Short Trips: 2 to 4 Hours by Train

Expanding the radius a bit further, a variety of comfortable trains can easily bring you to some beautiful destinations in France, Belgium and Germany.

lille train travel netherlands
Photo by Flickr user phgaillard2001

Lille

Time: 02:34 | Thalys
Transfer: Direct
Often overlooked for big sister Paris, this small city in northern France is home to a remarkably restored Old Town, a formidable Fine Arts Museum and enough quaint, yet smartly priced French restaurants to make dining out a pleasure.

train ghent netherlands
Photo by Flickr user interbeat

Ghent

Time: 02:26 | Thalys/IC
Transfer: Antwerp
Bruges may get more attention, but Ghent is the livelier of the two. With the Lys River at the heart of the city, Ghent is home to the Graslei houses, historic Beguinages, the monumental Castle of the Counts and of course the van Eyck brothers’ Ghent Altarpiece.

cologne train netherlands
Photo by Flickr user AnaChristina

Cologne

Time: 02:41 | ICE
Transfer: Direct
Just over the German border on the relaxing ICE, the fourth biggest city in Germany possesses the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, yet the mix of museums, student life and a substantial gay population give the city a contemporary feel.

liege trip netherlands
Photo by Flickr user peatc

Liège (Luik)

Time: 3:06 | IC
Transfer: Maastricht
In the heart of Wallonia along the river Meuse, this former industrial city has recently experienced a renaissance of sorts and is worth a visit to see the beautiful Hill of the Citadel, the Cathedral district and to further explore the gorgeous forests and towns of the Ardennes.


 

train trips netherlands

train netherlands


Midrange Journeys: 4 to 6 Hours by Train

For those who have never ridden a train for more than a few hours, these cities are perfect as the routes will allow you to discover the picturesque countryside of the Lowland's neighbours!

Hamburg

Time: 05:11 | IC
Transfer: Osnabrück
This north German gem is home to a vibrant harbour district. Wander the historic warehouse area where cobble stone streets are lined with industrial architecture, mosey through the Reeperbahn red-light district and bask in the beautiful botanical gardens.

luxembourg train trip netherlands
Photo by Flickr user Μanu

Luxembourg City

Time: 05:22 | Thalys/IC
Transfer: Brussels
The capital of one of Europe’s smallest countries is home to a spectacular symbioses of architecture and landscape. Easily explored in a weekend, pay visits to the magnetic Grund neighbourhood, the rocky faces of the Bock and Casemates, the hill-top town of Esch-sur-Sûre and the Vianden Castle.

Lyon

Time: 05:42 | Thalys/TGV
Transfer: Brussels
Divided by the Rhône and Saône rivers, France’s third city sprawls onto the surrounding hillsides while the beautiful Basilica of Notre Dame looms over the ancient theatre of Fourvière. Diehard foodies, the world renowned Lyonnaise cuisine awaits you.

Long-hauls: 6 to 8 Hours by Train

Whether you're a seasoned traveller or simply have a passion for trains, these destinations further out are certainly worthwhile. The routes are diverse, the trains are comfortable and the simple pleasure of watching the scenery morph from flat to mountainous or Mediterranean awaits you!

Nuremberg

Time: 06:23 | ICE
Transfer: Frankfurt Airport
Along with historicity and World War II infamy, there is so much that makes modern Nuremberg lovable: the Castle Quarter with its timber frame houses and Imperial Castle, the house of Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer and the mix of monumental churches to name a few.

Marseille

Time: 07:28 | Thalys/TGV
Transfer: Brussels
The TGV is a miracle for the weekend warrior and can get you to the south of France in under 8 hours. Designated European Capital of Culture in 2013, witness how Marseilles has evolved into a hub of diversity. Of course, there’s also the timeless beaches, bouillabaisse and calanques!


Photo by Flickr user Zurich Film Office

Zurich

Time: 07:56 | ICE
Transfer: Basel
Clocking in at just under eight hours is Switzerland’s largest city. Mountain-scapes, sparkling water, highbrow art and culture- it’s everything one could want in a Swiss getaway.

Practical Train Travel Tips

Book early
Like airlines, prices for tickets fluctuate, especially for the ICE, Thalys and TGV.
Curious about a certain train?
The Man in Seat 61 describes the seating situations and quality of these and many more trains.
Confused about a connection?
Check RailEurope’s interactive map.
Budget
Keep in mind that high-speed rail is significantly more expensive than inter-city trains when planning your trip.

Goede reis!

Book your tickets here and enjoy riding the wonderful rails of Europe!
 

Did we miss something? Let us know your favourite train trips in the comments!
 

Stay Informed
Latest Dutch News
New Articles on IamExpat
Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Related Links
Comments arranged by date (Total 1 comments)  
Mattias
April 08 2014, 10:39AM

Reminds me to Björks moving train song "I've seen it all"... I cannot wait taking one of your escape trains.

 
×
About the Author
Benjamin Garstka

Raised in Massachusetts. University years in New York City. Graduate school in Utrecht. Amsterdammer...

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse IamExpat.nl you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to learn more