Most Euro-trips include obligatory stops in Paris and Brussels, two cities known around the world for their troves of classic paintings, Art Nouveau architecture, and delicious pastries. If you're traveling around Europe it can be difficult to decide what route to take, but the Belgian and French capitals are so close together and easily connected that it's the easiest leg you'll have to plan. The distance between them is about 195 miles, but a direct train from Brussels-South Station to Gare du Nord in central Paris gets you there in no time.
Travelers on a tight budget can also take a bus, which takes significantly longer but is potentially much cheaper, especially if you're booking last minute. Only one airline offers direct flights between the two cities, although the price is so exorbitant that only in the most extraordinary circumstances would it make sense to travel by plane.
How to Get from Brussels to Paris
- Train: 1 hour, 25 minutes, from $32
- Flight: 55 minutes, from $320
- Bus: 4 hours, 25 minutes, from $10
- Car: 3 hours, 30 minutes, 195 miles (312 kilometers)
Traveling around Europe by train is a dream vacation for many, but high ticket prices and the rise of budget airlines has made train travel less feasible. Fortunately, the rail route between Brussels and Paris continues to be fast, convenient, and affordable—if you purchase tickets early. Train schedules typically open four months in advance, and ticket prices creep up as you get closer to your travel date. Purchase your tickets directly from the train operator, Thalys, as soon as you know your plans. Standard class tickets start at $32 but can shoot up to $100 if you purchase them last minute.
In hopes to attract more travelers on a budget, Thalys also owns a low-cost subsidiary train service called IZY, which offers one or two trains per day from Brussels-South to Gare du Nord for as low as 10 euros, or roughly $11. The trip takes about an hour longer than the standard train for a total travel time of 2 hours and 25 minutes, the seats are not as comfortable, and you'll be subjected to the same strict luggage restrictions as a low-cost airline. But if your bank account is forcing you to choose between the IZY train or a bus, then definitely choose the train.
If you find yourself in Brussels and suddenly need to get to Paris, but the low-cost train is fully booked and tickets for the standard train have skyrocketed in price, you can always fall back on the bus. While not the most comfortable or speedy of transit methods, it is cheap, and thankfully the distance is short enough that you aren't forced to endure an overnight ride. Another perk of taking the bus is that there are several pick-up and drop-off stops, unlike the train which always departs from Brussels-South and always arrives at Gare du Nord. If your final destination in Paris is actually the airport or somewhere else outside of the center, the bus may get you much closer.
FlixBus is one of the most popular bus providers, with coaches leaving from Brussels all throughout the day. The trip takes about four and a half hours to get to central Paris, but could be longer or shorter depending on where you choose to get off. Tickets range from $10 to $40 for high-demand times, but it's possible to find a $10 ride even when purchasing for the same day, although you may be leaving in the middle of the night.
In smooth traffic conditions, it takes roughly three hours and 30 minutes to get from Brussels to Paris by car. However, it's important to keep in mind that during periods of heavy traffic (such as during bank holidays and summer holiday periods), travel times can skyrocket. You'll also need to factor in toll charges for your trip, something travelers often forget to include in their budget. American credit cards don't always work properly abroad, so be sure to carry an assortment of bills in euros with you so you aren't caught up at the toll booth.
Because Belgium and France are both members of the European Union, you don't have to worry about any type of border control when you cross from one country to the other. You aren't greeted by long lines or passport checks, just a muted blue sign that simply reads, "France."
With the affordability and efficiency of train travel between Brussels and Paris, there's almost no reason to take a plane. Brussels Airlines is the only company that flies direct between the two cities, and prices start at $320 for a one-way ticket. The actual flight time is only 55 minutes, but once you factor in time to arrive at the airport, go through security, wait at your gate, and all of the other hassles of plane travel, the total trip time is much longer than the train.
Other airlines offer flights with a layover, but the total flight time is at least three or four hours, if not more, and prices start at $75. An option for travelers who want to visit as many countries as possible could book a flight with a long layover in another city, leave the airport for a few hours, and then head back to catch the second flight to Paris. It's a cost-effective way to get an additional trip—albeit an express one—in another city that you wouldn't otherwise be able to see. Layover options from Brussels to Paris include Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, and many others.
What to See in Paris
Paris is one of the most-visited cities in the world, and it's easy to see why. The city is expansive, and there's no possible way to see everything on one trip (or several, for that matter). Paris is one of those rare cities that travelers keep coming back to over and over again, because there's always something new to discover. If it's your first trip to Paris, there are a few must-see attractions that you shouldn't miss, like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and the winding cobblestone streets of the artsy Montmarte neighborhood. Once you've seen those, explore the rest of Paris however you see fit. Visit another museum, take a day trip to Versailles, or just get lost in the city while snacking on buttery croissants.