National rail operator
Facts about Belgium
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Timezone: 1+ UTC
- Language: French, Dutch, German
Belgium has reinvented itself over the last 20 years, doing much to refute earlier claims that the country is boring. Its radical edge, its affection for comic art and the surreal, and its cosmopolitan character all make Belgium a great place to visit. From the wistfully beautiful flatlands of Belgian Flanders to the hill country of the Ardennes, Belgium offers some gorgeous rural landscapes. In its cities – the capital Brussels and provincial cities such as Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp – Belgium has some of Europe’s finest townscapes.
Three Belgian cities are on Europe’s high-speed rail network. They are Brussels, Antwerp and Liège. Thalys operates fast trains to Paris from all three cities. Eurostar services from London and Lille run into Brussels. There are direct high-speed trains (either Thalys or Deutsche Bahn ICEs) from both Brussels and Liège to seven major German cities, among them Düsseldorf, Cologne and Frankfurt-am-Main. From Brussels and Antwerp there are over two dozen direct trains each day to both Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
The Belgian national rail operator SNCB offers a high-frequency Intercity and local train network which extends to all parts of the country and across Belgium’s borders to Aachen (Germany), Lille (France) and Maastricht (Netherlands). There are no seat reservations or advance booking discounts on Intercity or local trains in Belgium. It’s an easy to use hop-on-and-ride service. While there are no rail routes to rival the Alps in terms of scenery, there are some very pretty rides. A favourite is the line which runs south from Liège through the Ardennes region to Luxembourg.
Image credits: Bruges, Belgium © Martin Molcan