Belgium is known for its stunning architecture, delicious chocolate, and exquisite beer. However, this small country in Western Europe is also home to one of the most efficient and modern rail networks in the world – the Belgian Railways. Traveling by train in Belgium is not only convenient, but it’s also a great way to see the country’s natural beauty and historical landmarks.
If you’re planning a trip to Belgium, or if you’re just curious about the Belgian Railways, this guide is for you. In this article, we’ll explore the history of the Belgian Railways, the types of trains you can take, and the different travel options available to you. We’ll also cover some of the most popular destinations in Belgium and answer some common questions about traveling by train in Belgium.
A Brief History of the Belgian Railways
The Belgian Railways, also known as SNCB/NMBS, is the Belgian national railway company. The history of the Belgian Railways dates back to the 19th century when the first railway line was opened in 1835, connecting Brussels to Mechelen. The railway network quickly expanded, and by the end of the 19th century, Belgium had one of the densest railway networks in the world.
The Belgian Railways played a significant role in the development of the Belgian economy, transporting goods and people across the country. Today, the Belgian Railways continue to be an essential part of the Belgian transportation system, with over 4,000 trains running each day.
Types of Trains on the Belgium Railways
The Belgian Railways offers several types of trains that cater to different travel needs. Here are the most common types of trains you can take in Belgium:
- Intercity Trains: These trains are the fastest and most convenient way to travel between major cities in Belgium. Intercity trains run on a regular schedule and stop at all major stations.
- Local Trains: Local trains are slower than intercity trains, but they stop at more stations. These are a great option for exploring smaller towns and villages in Belgium.
- High-Speed Trains: If you’re looking for a faster way to travel between major European cities, high-speed trains are the way to go. The Belgian Railways offers several high-speed train services, including the Thalys and Eurostar.
- Night Trains: If you’re planning to travel overnight, the Belgian Railways offers several night train services that allow you to sleep on the train and wake up in your destination European city.
Belgian Rail Tickets & Prices
Belgium has a variety of ticket options available for travelers. Single ticket fares are based on your destination, and there are also several types of multi-journey passes available that offer a fixed rate per journey.
Standard Multi Rail Passes cost 87€ and are valid for 10 journeys, which means you can travel at a fixed rate of 8.70€ per journey. One of the best things about these passes is that you can share them with your friends or family, making them a cost-effective option for groups.
If you’re traveling over a weekend, you can take advantage of the Weekend Ticket promotion. Starting from Friday 7pm to Sunday midnight, all return tickets are sold at half price, making this a great option for budget-conscious travelers.
For travelers between the ages of 12 and 25, there are several special youth tickets available. The Youth Ticket allows you to travel to any destination in Belgium for a fixed rate of 6.60€. The Youth Multi Rail Pass offers 10 journeys for a fixed price of 5.50€ per journey. During Belgian school holidays, travelers in this age range can purchase a Youth Holiday Pass, which is valid for an entire week at the price of 18€. In July and August, it’s also possible to buy a Youth Holidays Pass that’s valid for one month for only 29€.
Belgian Railway Map
If you’re planning to travel by train in Belgium, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Belgian Railway Map. This map shows all the major train stations in Belgium, as well as the routes and services that are available.
Belgium is home to several beautiful cities and towns that are worth exploring. Here are some of the most popular destinations in Belgium that you can easily reach by train:
- Brussels: The capital of Belgium, Brussels is known for its stunning architecture, delicious chocolate, and famous landmarks such as the Atomium and the Manneken Pis.
- Bruges: Often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” Bruges is a picturesque medieval town that is famous for its canals.
- Ghent: Another beautiful medieval town, Ghent is known for its stunning architecture, including the Gravensteen Castle and the Saint Bavo Cathedral.
- Antwerp: Belgium’s second-largest city, Antwerp is known for its rich history, fashion scene, and the stunning Antwerp Central Station.
- Liege: Located in the French-speaking part of Belgium, Liege is a vibrant city known for its beautiful architecture, museums, and lively atmosphere.
- The Ardennes: If you’re looking for a nature escape, the Ardennes region in the southeast of Belgium is a great option. This beautiful forested region is home to several hiking trails, caves, and picturesque towns.
In addition to the cities and towns mentioned above, Belgium has many other popular destinations that are easily accessible by train. For example, the coastal city of Ostend is a great place to visit during the summer months. You can enjoy the beach, visit the Mu.ZEE art museum, and stroll around the city’s historic center.
If you’re a fan of beer, then a trip to the town of Leuven is a must. Leuven is home to the world-famous Stella Artois brewery, as well as several other local breweries. You can take a tour of the brewery, learn about the brewing process, and of course, taste some delicious Belgian beer.
Another interesting destination is the city of Mons. This historic city is located in the French-speaking part of Belgium and is home to several impressive landmarks, including the UNESCO-listed Belfry of Mons and the Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church.