The Netherlands is tailor-made for rail travel. The country benefits from a very efficient rail network with punctual trains running at regular intervals on all routes. All major Dutch cities can be reached in a train ride of 3 hrs or less from both Amsterdam and Rotterdam. There is just one domestic high-speed service, namely the 117-km stretch from Amsterdam to Breda which makes just 2 stops along the way (at Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam).
Eurostar is gearing up to launch a new direct service to the Netherlands in 2017. Trains will run from London to Rotterdam, Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam. But there’s no need to wait till then to visit a country renowned for its tulips, windmills and laid-back lifestyle. London to Amsterdam takes less than 5 hrs by train, with just one easy change along the way at Brussels Midi station.
Dutch cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Maastricht all pull the crowds. They are all worth a visit, but make time too for smaller communities. Gouda, Delft, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Haarlem are all great spots for day excursions or a weekend break.
The Netherlands enjoys excellent rail links to other cities in western Europe. High-speed Thalys trains link Amsterdam and Rotterdam with Paris. German ICE trains run regularly from Amsterdam and Utrecht to Cologne any beyond. And Intercity (IC) trains run every 2 hrs from Amsterdam and Amersfoort to Hannover and Berlin. There are direct night trains from the Netherlands to Munich, Basel and Zurich.
For overnight journeys to cities such as Vienna, Prague, Dresden, Berlin or Warsaw it is best to travel first to Cologne in Germany, where it is possible to join a range of direct overnight services to many destinations across central Europe.
Image credits: Curacao, Netherlands © Sorin Colac