A popular route for business and leisure travellers alike is the main line from Amsterdam to Brussels. Frequent Thalys and Intercity Brussels services provide direct connections between the Netherlands and Belgium, calling in cities such as Den Haag, Rotterdam and Antwerpen along the way. If you care about fast travel times and that extra bit of comfort, have a look at the Thalys trains which offer fast and comfortable journeys. Interrail and Eurail travellers should look into the Intercity Brussels connections - slower than the Thalys but you can jump on any train without having to get an extra reservation.
Thalys operates with TGV-like high speed trains running at up to 300 km/h. Trains run every one or two hours, depending on time of day and day of the week and make intermediate stops only at Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam and Antwerpen. They offer 2nd and 1st class accomodation, called „Comfort 2“ and „Comfort 1“. There is a bar coach where you can buy drinks and snacks. When travelling in Comfort 1 you also get a complimentary meal according to the time of day served at your seat. WiFi is available and free of charge for all passengers.
The Intercity Brussels services are jointly operated by NS and SNCB/NMBS (Dutch and Belgian Railways) and are the slower but cheaper alternative to Thalys trains. Trains run hourly calling at Schiphol Airport, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Roosendaal, Antwerpen, Mechelen and Bruxelles Airport. 2nd and 1st class accomodation is available. Seat reservation is not possible on these trains!
In general, tickets for the fast Thalys service are more expensive, however if booked well in advance there can be found good deals which are about the same price as travelling on the slower Intercity Brussels service. If you are looking for that extra bit of comfort, travelling in Comfort 1 on a Thalys train is quite an experience with comfortable seats with plenty of space and an at-seat meal included in the price. Thalys tickets are always issued for a specific train and include a seat reservation. Advance fare tickets have only limited options for exchange or refund.
Tickets for Intercity Brussels trains are cheaper than Thalys tickets if you compare the full fares. When purchasing online, you have to select a specific train, however the ticket is valid for all Intercity Brussels trains on that day! So if you are looking for maximum flexibility, Intercity Brussesls trains are the way to go.
For Interrail and Eurail travellers I would recommend to travel with Intercity Brussels trains. These are free to use with your pass, no extra reservation is needed. For travelling on Thalys services you need an extra reservation: Amsterdam – Brussels is 15€ in Comfort 2 and 25€ in Comfort 1.
Thalys and Intercity Brussels Fares:
Amsterdam – Brussels with Intercity Brussels, 2nd class: from 19 Euro; full fare: 44,80 Euro
Amsterdam – Brussels with Thalys, Comfort 2: from 29 Euro; full fare: 82 Euro
Amsterdam – Brussels with Intercity Brussels 1st class: from 29 Euro; full fare: 73,60 Euro
Amsterdam – Brussels with Thalys Comfort 1: from 49 Euro; full fare: 114 Euro
Good to know
The Intercity Brussels trains run along the old line via Den Haag. You can leave from Amsterdam about half an hour later if you take a Intercity Direct service running via the HSL Zuid (new high speed line avoiding Den Haag) to Rotterdam and change there. This is possible at no extra costs if you have an international ticket (Interrail or Eurail pass or a through ticket from the Netherlands to Belgium). However, as you only have two minutes to change trains in Rotterdam (trains call at opposite platforms) and since the Intercity Brussels can be quite full especially at peak times and during summer I would generally not recommend this option.
In addition to the hourly Intercity Brussels services there are also hourly stopping trains from Roosendaal to Antwerpen. In Roosendaal there is a direct connection from Intercity trains from Amsterdam and Rotterdam while you also have connections in Antwerpen to other destinations in Belgium.
Intercity Brussels services stop at three stations in Brussels: Noord/Nord, Centraal/Central and Zuid/Midi. Get off at Noord/Nord if you are heading for Liège or Luxembourg, at Centraal/Central for the city centre and at Zuid/Midi for trains to Gent, Brugge as well as for Lille, Paris and London.