A popular way of getting to Netherlands from the south-east UK is by taking the Eurostar train from London to Brussels and then travelling onwards to Amsterdam by Thalys or standard trains. Let's take a close look at travelling by Eurostar...
Eurostar is the high-speed train that serves Brussels, Lille and Paris from London St Pancras via the channel tunnel. London-Brussels operates 6-7x daily with a travel time of around 2 hours. There are 3 classes of travel on the Eurostar:
Standard Class - effectively 2nd class with the normal 2-2 configuration seating, seat pitch of approximately 33" (84.5cm) and food/drink available for purchase at the bar buffet car.
Standard Premier - a first class "lite" product using dedicated carriages with 1-2 configuration and seat pitch of 37" (94.5cm). A complimentary light meal and drinks are served at your seat and a selection of magazines is available.
Business Premier - a flexible fare business product using dedicated carriages with similar 1-2 config and seat pitch as Standard Premier. A full 3 course meal with drinks is served at your seat (culinary director is currently Raymond Blanc), plus newspapers and magazines are available. At the main Eurostar stations you get fast-track check-in and a business lounge which has free refreshments and WiFi. Ticket prices are by no means cheap.
Both Standard Premier and Business Premier have in-seat power (both UK and Euro style sockets are available in alternate seat rows). Standard class offers plug sockets only in carriages 5 and 14. Coaches 8 and 11 (Business Premier and Standard Premier) are designated as quiet coaches. Note that Eurostar does not offer on-board WiFi.
Eurostar used to allow you to select a seat during online booking. You are now assigned a seat automatically but may be able to change it by using the 'Manage my Booking' facility - subject to availability. The popular single seaters in Standard Premier/Business Premier tend to go quickly. Once booked you can print your own boarding pass or collect at the station.
Onward travel from Brussels to Netherlands can be made using either the high speed Thalys or standard Intercity trains. The Thalys originates from Paris and runs to Antwerp, Rotterdam, Schiphol and Amsterdam. The Intercity Brussels is a stopping service currently running between Brussels Zuid/Midi and Den Haag HS. Intercity passengers heading to Amsterdam should connect in Rotterdam onto the domestic Intercity Direct train.
For more info about these trains plus London-Amsterdam fare information see International trains to/from Amsterdam
Note - if you live in the south-east UK, Eurostar can sell you a cheap add-on ticket from your starting station to London St Pancras.
London St Pancras is a beautiful station located in the north of London next to Kings Cross station and a short walk from Euston. You can arrive by tube via any of the Northern, Victoria, Piccadilly, Circle, Hammersmith & City or Metropolitan lines. Convenient hotels in the area can be booked here.
The public area inside the station contains quite a decent range of shops, cafés and restaurants. For buying food to take on board there is an M&S or Pret. Upstairs you will find the longest champagne bar in Europe.
You can check-in up to 30 minutes in advance on the Eurostar in Standard or Standard Premier. Business Premier passengers can arrive up to 10 minutes before departure. However, we advise getting there about 1 hour before as check-in queues can sometimes be long for the standard classes.
You need to go through a check-in gate (where you scan or insert your ticket) and then an immediate security check of your luggage followed by French border control. You are then in the main departures lounge area which is used by all Eurostar passengers going to Paris and Brussels. This area has a WH Smith newsagent, Caffé Nero and another café. Free WiFi is available.
Boarding is called about 20 minutes before departure and you go up the escalators to the platform to find your carriage and seats. If you have large cases there are luggage racks near the doors. Otherwise there are overhead racks for medium and smaller bags plus a smaller rack for coats. Standard Premier class has magazines available for reading (such as Time, Economist, Wired etc) but no newspapers.
The train departs and soon speeds its way out of London. It makes a quick stop at Ebbsfleet before continuing on the high speed track towards the channel tunnel. Some services stop at Ashford.
In Standard Premier, morning services before 11am get a light continental style breakfast with coffee or tea, served about 25 minutes into the journey. If you travel after 11am you will get a (cold) light meal with the option of soft drinks, wine or beer. To be fair, the meal used to be a lot better when this service was known as Leisure Select. For those in Standard class there is a bar buffet on board selling a selection of Waitrose food and drink.
The train slows down for the channel tunnel section which takes 20 minutes. It then speeds up again on the French side for the high speed run to Lille-Europe station and finally to Brussels Zuid/Midi. There are no formalities on arrival in Brussels - if you are travelling onwards to Netherlands then you need to go down to the concourse at Brussels Zuid/Midi station to check the boards as to which platform you need.
The main concourse has an international ticket office. If you need to stay in Brussels you can book a convenient hotel in the area here.
Brussels-London return journey
The return leg of the trip works in a similar way. Try to get to Brussels Zuid/Midi station in good time - at least 1 hour before departure. If arriving by train from the Netherlands then do plan your connections in advance to allow for any delays.
The Eurostar departures terminal is located near platform 1-2. If you have some time to kill and wish to have a warm drink and snack beforehand we recommend chain Exki which is located in the side concourse near the Eurostar entrance (head towards the exit and then bear left). They sell a range of organic soups, salads, sandwiches and deserts and have a breakfast deal before 11am. They are open 0630-1900 (Mon-Fri), 0800-1800 (Sat), 0900-1800 (Sun).
There are a few other cafés/bars at the station, a small supermarket and some gift shops. Note that there are sometimes a few "dodgy" characters hanging around the station so keep your wits about you.
When check-in opens you can go through the barrier by scanning your ticket. You then go through Belgian passport control, a security check and then a UK border control before entering the main departures waiting lounge. This contains a café, newsagents, chocolate shop and the Business Premier lounge. Free WiFi is available throughout.
Boarding commences around 20 minutes before scheduled departure where you head up to the platforms. The journey back via Lille-Europe, the channel tunnel, (Ashford) and Ebbsfleet takes around 2 hours. On arrival at London St Pancras you will face a brief passport check and then exit via customs.
Overall, travel on the Eurostar is highly recommended with its city centre to city centre convenience. Standard Premier class is a comfortable and civilised way to travel in a quiet cabin and will make a good start/end to your trip.
For a visual overview of all international daytime services, check out our international rail connections map from Amsterdam