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Train Travel - Paris to Brussels & Bruges

Train Travel - Paris to Brussels & Bruges

Sep 15th, 2014, 03:40 PM
  #1  
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Train Travel - Paris to Brussels & Bruges

My husband and I are arriving a few days early (Friday am) for a conference in Paris. We'd like to, upon arrival in Paris, immediately take the train to Brussels and spend one night, then take the train to Bruges and spend 2 nights before returning to Paris on Monday morning.
Question: Do you advise making train reservations now (we depart Oct 2) or just buy the train tickets when we arrive at the airport? Is there a price advantage one way or another? It might be advisable, at least for the first leg from Paris to Brussels, in case the train is full?

If you're so inclined, recommended hotel/B&B near the Brussels train station would be appreciated too. Thank you!
traveladventurer is offline  
Sep 15th, 2014, 05:51 PM
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I haven't got a hotel to recommend but I do have a word of caution about areas in Brussels. I assume you will be taking the Thalys from Paris (main express train). It terminates at Bruxelles-Midi. However, your ticket entitles you to get on any train (not metro) to any other station in Brussels. Bruxelles-Midi is not in a very nice area, and many if not most people would prefer to stay in a tourist area such as that around Bruxelles-Central (one stop away on the train, and close to most of the big attractions such as the Grand' Place). Bruxelles-Nord is also a bit sleazy (close to red-light district) so also to be avoided. Another area you might stay is around Louise, which is a metro ride or a taxi ride away from Bruxelles-Midi, and which is a better location for the Horta Museum and numerous shops and restaurants.

If you can do anything about timing, hotels are cheaper on weekends in Brussels because the civil servants, politicians and people working for businesses associated with them go home on the weekends.

Lavandula
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Sep 15th, 2014, 06:41 PM
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Can't give a good answer about trains. I would assume buying ticket right before is no problem but can't say for sure. We bought tickets from Amsterdam to Brussels day before we travelled this past June. (not on a high speed train). I believe the high speed ticket would be less expensive if purchased in advance, but since it is about 2 weeks out, I doubt is there is much of a difference.
Once in Brussels we purchased tickets to Brugge the morning of our travels. if you are a senior (65) the ticket to Brugge is only 6€. Don't have to be a EU citizen.
We stayed in Maid in Louise hotel in Louise area of Brussels. Small boutique hotel that was great...great service, and breakfast.
giro is offline  
Sep 15th, 2014, 09:56 PM
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If you go on Thalys buy your ticket asap; it gets more expensive closer to traveling. For the regular train it doesn't matter - that train will take longer.

As Lavandula says, don't stay near Brussels Midi station.

The weather is lovely now, if you are visiting this week.
Tulips is offline  
Sep 15th, 2014, 09:57 PM
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October 2 I see; hopefully still nice weather early October!
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Sep 15th, 2014, 10:31 PM
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If your flight is late and you miss the train, your advance purchase ticket is worthless. I would buy it at the airport even if it costs more.
bvlenci is online now  
Sep 16th, 2014, 01:10 AM
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1. Thalys runs regularly from Paris Gare du Nord to Brussels Midi.

Fares start from €35 booked in advance (no refunds, no changes to travel plans), rising to €99 full-flex on the day.

All tickets are train-specific so allow HOURS not minutes for flight delays, immigration delays etc, no tight connections. You cannot afford to miss the train.

2. TGVs run direct from CDG to Brussels Midi, but less regularly than Thalys. Similar fares.

Book either option at www.capitainetrain.com
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2014, 02:54 AM
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We lived near the Place Louise for several years and were back visiting in Brussels in May and stayed in the same area.

Some hotel recommendations:
Inexpensive to Moderate: the NH Stephanie (which is not on the Place Stephanie). A short walk from the Louise metro stop, and at the edge of a small pedestrian street with cafes and restaurants. We have stayed here several times in the past. Comfortable, practical.
http://www.nh-hotels.com/nh/en/hotel...vigationBy=gfi

Moderate to semi-expensive: The Hotel in Brussels. This is where we stayed in May. It used to be the Hilton, which was tired and dated. Then new owners bought it (the hotel is no longer associated with Hilton) and completely transformed it. A fun, buzzy place to stay. If you can afford the Panorama (club) level, you'll have a room on a high floor with a great view of the city, access to the fashionable lounge, with drinks and snacks. We paid about 300 euros per night for a Panorama level room, which included a very good breakfast in the hotel's restaurant facing a pretty park; non club level rooms are, of course, cheaper.
http://www.thehotel-brussels.be/default-en.html

Expensive: The Steigenberger. Formerly the Conrad. Also transformed. We haven't stayed there but on our May trip, we spent a lot of time in their snazzy cocktail bar (excellent cocktails and a good crowd).
http://en.steigenberger.com/Brussels...ger-Grandhotel

We have always liked the Louise area as a place to stay because you have very easy access to the train stations; it's also easy to get to the Sablon and the Grand'Place but you're removed from the crowds. Plus it's not far from the Chatelain/Parc Tenbosch residential area, which is attractive and full of good non-chain, non-touristy restaurants.
WeisserTee is online now  
Sep 16th, 2014, 05:38 PM
  #9  
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Lavandula & Tulips - thanks for the tip about not staying near the Brussels Midi (or Nord) station. Our original plan was to stay within walking distance of the Midi station for convenience as we're catching an 8:26 am train to Bruges the next day and take a cab to the tourist attractions. Now I think we'll stay elsewhere.

Since our time is so limited, rather than risking seats being sold out on the fast train (and because eurail website said reservations required for train travel between countries), I purchased a flex fare ticket from Paris CDG that departs 8:07 am to Brussels Midi. We have a nonstop flight that arrives in CDG at 6:10 am -- is 2 hours adequate time to allow for baggage claim, customs and walking to the train terminal or did I make a mistake in purchasing that 8:07 am TGV train ticket? It's a flex fare ticket if we do miss that train, it says the ticket can be exchanged once before departure; I hope that won't be too difficult to do if the situation arises.

Also, if we stay in the Louise area, how much time should we allow for a taxi to transport us to Midi train station and to have enough time to board the train? Unfortunately I also bought the Brussels-Bruges ticket in advance so I think that limits us to catching the train at the Midi station, right?
traveladventurer is offline  
Sep 16th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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WeisserTee, thanks for the hotel tips. We'll definitely check out the Louise area - sounds like it offers good local flavor yet access to the tourist areas.

How difficult is it to get from Brussels Midi to this area? Do you recommend we take a taxi or brave the Metro?
traveladventurer is offline  
Sep 16th, 2014, 08:46 PM
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From Brussels Midi to Place Louise by metro is a simple, straight shot that takes about 5 minutes. The metro can be pretty crowded during peak periods but not unbearably so. OTOH, taking a taxi is easier if you've got large suitcases.

Also, an important correction, I posted the wrong rates for the The Hotel in Brussels; we paid 150 euros per night, not 300. I mistakenly posted the rate we paid at another hotel from our spring 2014 trip in Switzerland, Italy and Belgium.

I just checked The Hotel's prices for the first week-end in October -- nightly rates ranged from about 110 euros for a regular double, no breakfast (advance purchase, no refund for cancellations) to about 185 euros per night for a deluxe room on a high floor with access to the lounge and full breakfast (free cancellation).
WeisserTee is online now  
Sep 17th, 2014, 02:41 PM
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Network map of metro to get to/from Louise:

http://www.stib-mivb.be/netplan-plan-reseau.html?l=en

You need line 2 or 6; Gare du Midi/ Zuidstation - Porte de Hal/Hallepoort - Hôtel des Monnaies / Munthof - Louise / Louiza (all stations have a Flemish name and a French name).

Timetables:
http://www.stib-mivb.be/irj/go/km/do...0140901_NB.pdf
http://www.stib-mivb.be/irj/go/km/do...0140901_NB.pdf

If you do stay at Louise, there is a small street (Rue Jourdan, Rue Jean Stas) with restaurants and an Irish pub - nice area to get dinner.

Lavandula
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Sep 17th, 2014, 05:20 PM
  #13  
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Lavandula, those links are enormously helpful! Thank you, it helps me feel more comfortable knowing in advance the general layout of the public transport system. Appreciate the restaurant tips too.

WeisserTee, thanks for correcting the rate, though I already went ahead and booked the NH Stephanie based on your recommendation and got a great rate of 76 euros for Friday night. It'll be adequate for our one night there; we tend to prefer to splurge on our meals and less so on accommodations when it's a short stay.

You Fodorites are such a great resource!
traveladventurer is offline  
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