Ride the rails to some Euro gems

Regular rail commuters may justifiably struggle with the notion that trains can offer the quickest, most comfortable and cheapest transit to some incredible destinations. We look at a selection of northern European gems that can be seamlessly reached via Eurostar services from central London, offer thrills such as your own seat, unoccupied walkways and arrival in unfamiliar lands.

Whilst the pandemic has turned passenger statistics on their heads, there was (and will be), a trend of increasing use of train services. Air travel has ground to a near total halt whilst the climate crisis will mean that trains have to take greater proportions of journeys, post-covid. The pandemic and climate issues have coalesced in Austria and France, where bailouts of national airlines have been conditional on retiring domestic air routes that can be replaced by train services offering comparable journey times. Whilst those commuting for work across the UK have endured shoddy, expensive services, Europe has for years taken a different approach to train travel. Those departing central London by rail for an event in parts of northern Europe, can do it faster, cheaper and with more comfort than those taking to the air. And the really great thing is that the destinations at the end of the line are some of the most fascinating and remarkable locations in Europe. There are many destinations to the south and west of Calais that deserve a mention, Paris being just one, but heading east on arrival in the continent connects to some lesser known, yet remarkable destinations.

Rotterdam – a model for urban living

Get off the train in Rotterdam central station and be mesmerised by the vast, modern canopy that opens onto the central streets of the city. There are trams, pedestrians, waterways, endless cyclists and just a smattering of vehicles. This is a city that is humming with life and structure – a city that functions so incredibly well, it leaves you enthralled. The architecture is futuristic, daring and stunning, water dominates the city with ships plying the busiest port waters in Europe and the cosmopolitan population enjoys a vibrant social life with Asian and European experiences to be found throughout the city streets. Rotterdam is a city of great contrasts with historic waterfront hotels that once housed those migrating to New York, nestled next to floating art installations and stunning modern bridges. It may be the second city of the Netherlands but Rotterdam being under the radar is no bad thing. It is an absolute joy to discover.

Bruges – chocolates and beer in a medieval city

Picture postcard Bruges is a feast on the eyes and the stomach. The canal-lined streets are an Instagramer’s dream, connecting historic squares, parks and venues. The compact centre offers the chance to wander and discover the city and its hidden back streets. There are art shops, bars and chocolate boutiques in abundance, all wonderfully visual and enticing. Belgium fries and waffles can be found all over the city as can breweries that date back centuries, serving some of the finest beer on the planet. Bruges is truly captivating with some remarkable event venues, whilst for activities, there are craft, chocolate, beer and culinary classes. For more action, the coast is just a short trip north with fantastic beach sports available. The train station is just 10-minutes’ walk from the central attractions and accommodation.

Antwerp – a city on the water and 2 wheels

The Port Authority building on the Atwerp waterfront is one of the most striking buildings anywhere, mirroring the contrasts of history and modernity in Antwerp. The second busiest port in Europe after Rotterdam, Antwerp is a wonderful mix of bustling streets, with al fresco dining terraces, harbour side industry and leisure, as well as a world-leading diamond industry. The city functions through cycling and it is a great way to experience the urban riches – there is even a cycling tunnel under the harbour. Take a bike to the harbour front and enjoy a beer in one of the eclectic and eccentric bars.

The Hague – culture on the coast 

Enterprises and NGO’s from all over the world are represented in the Dutch city of The Hague, also home to the Dutch national parliament. The city exudes history and is a who’s who of global organisations. The central parliament area features galleries, museums, parks and entertainment. To the north of the city lies Scheveningen, an unpronounceable beach resort that is the home to surf schools, bungy jumping, boat trips and waterfront and beachfront drinking and dining. Trams connect The Hague to Scheveningen and trains connect London to the Hague – all very simple. A wealthy city, The Hague offers fantastic dining and a range of opulent venues.

With Rotterdam around 3h 15m from central London by Eurostar, think of the time and C0² that can be saved by going direct by train, rather than airport express, border control, boarding, taxiing, flying, taxiing, border control, airport express. And it isn’t a commuter train experience!

Bruges canal & boat.
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