Brussels is the closest large city to Amsterdam, so it’s natural that many people will string them together on a tour of Europe. Unless you are sure you really want to go to Brussels, you might actually think twice about it, since many people find it a bit dry, and other nearby cities like Antwerp or Bruges are more interesting. But Brussels does have a lot going for it too, so here are your options for getting between the two cities.
Trains are fastest, by a little bit, and they are fairly cheap as well, especially if you buy early and get a promotional fare, but the bus takes only a bit longer and can be amazingly cheap if you buy in advance or go at an unpopular time. It’s possible to fly nonstop between the two cities, but you’d have to be insane to actually do it.
Trains between Amsterdam and Brussels
Among other things, the Amsterdam to Brussels train is very popular for people who will then switch to the Eurostar for the trip through the Channel Tunnel to London. If you are doing this, be advised that getting on the Eurostar means arriving more than 30 minutes early, since they handle that thing like an airplane with extra security and early check-in. In other words, you can’t just walk from one platform to the other and jump on, like you would with any other kind of train.
Brussels has 3 train stations, so this can be very confusing at first. The station called Brussels South (or Zuid or Midi in Dutch or French) is the main station for international trains. Brussels Central is actually the least busy one, and Brussels North (or Noord or Nord) is the second busiest. Most trains stop in both South and North, and some also stop in Central. You can quickly and easily take the subway between the stations, so it’s not really much of a headache regardless.
The trains between the cities go every half hour during the day, and the journey takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes on all of them. You can buy your ticket in either of the stations, and since there are so many trains each day the chances of one being sold out are quite low. However, if you want to travel early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the business travelers typically go, you might want to buy your ticket in advance.
Promotional fare: €19 for 2nd class, purchased in advance, depending on availability
Normal train fare: €36.60 to €43 in 2nd class and €55.40 in 1st class
Check schedules and buy tickets on the Netherlands International trains site
Buses between Amsterdam and Brussels
If you buy a train ticket in advance and can get the €19 fare, then that might be your best option, but between these two cities the bus is actually almost as fast, and it can be ridiculously cheap. The promotional bus fares on the Eurolines website are €7 one-way (with no additional discounts for students or seniors) and only €14 when those aren’t available, which they usually are.
The bus journey takes about 3.5 hours, so it’s only a bit slower, and the Eurolines buses are almost as comfortable as the 2nd class train seats, at least for times this short. The buses leave every couple of hours most days, so you can usually pick the time of day you want to go and there will be a bus leaving within an hour or two at most.
From Amsterdam the bus leaves from in front of Amstel Station in Amsterdam, which is about 2 km south of Centraal Station, and easy to reach by tram or metro. You can buy tickets in advance from the Eurolines bus website (which can be quite confusing at first) or from the Eurolines office on Damrak just in front of Centraal Station.
Check the Eurolines site to get schedules and book.
Flights between Amsterdam and Brussels
Yes, both cities have airports, of course, and the nonstop flight takes just under an hour. KLM is the only one that goes nonstop, and they do it many times each day, but sale fares on this route are very rare indeed, and nonstop flights, one-way are usually about €300, though round-trips are usually cheaper, at about €200 for both legs.
Still, you’d have to be a business traveler or a crazy person in order to consider flying between these two. The trip to the airport plus the early check-in time will make going from city to city take at least 4 hours when you add it all up, so the train and even the bus will actually be faster.