Table 400: Oostende – Brussels – Liège – Verviers – Eupen

PART 1

This month we head to Belgium to explore the route from Oostende to Eupen. The Belgian National Railway Company is often referred to by the abbreviations SNCB (in French) or NMBS (in Dutch). Services include a mix of long-distance Intercity and local connecting trains.

The average journey time between Oostende and Eupen is 3 hours 30 minutes and covers a distance of around 228 kilometres.The first leg of our journey is from Oostende to Brussels which takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes. Along the way, why not take in Brugge, the most popular tourist destination in Belgium. Key sights include the 13th century belfry where visitors can take in the panoramic views, the Groeninge Museum with its early Flemish art or take a walk around the old cobbled lanes.

Gent is the next stop, with its vibrant atmosphere, scenic waterways and soaring spires. Take time to visit Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, home to the world-famous painting, Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers.Soon we arrive in Brussels, Belgium’s capital and home to the European Union Parliament. Journey up into the Heysel area of Brussels to explore the Atomium, a legacy from World Expo 1958, with spectacular views of the city as well as art and science exhibitions and a restaurant in its 9 spheres.

Belgian chocolates are rated some of the best in the world and many souvenir shops around the Grand Place (Grote Markt) will tempt you to purchase boxes of these tasty treats.

Before you leave check out Brussels Trainworld which has the oldest preserved locomotive in Continental Europe and many other interesting exhibits housed in an historic railway station.

PART 2

We pick up our journey in Liège, the third largest city in Belgium. Situated along the tranquil Meuse river in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region near the borders of the Netherlands and Germany.

Designed by the world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava, Liège-Guillemins station is a stunning example of modern architecture with its curved steel and glass design. It is a major hub on the Belgian rail network with a range of Intercity and local services connecting it with other towns and cities in Belgium, together with cross-border connections to Maastricht, Aachen and Luxembourg. High-speed Thalys and ICE trains provide regular services to a variety of international destinations such as Paris, Köln and Frankfurt.

For those interested in architecture, art and history you shouldn’t miss the fantastic Museum of Walloon Life and Museum of Modern Art, two of the country’s best museums. Also St Paul Cathedral, or Liège Cathedral, built in the 15th Century and now lovingly restored. The building is a great example of Gothic architecture especially the pulpit, vaults and ceiling.

Nominated as the most extreme stairway in the world, the Montagne de Bueren (Bueren Mountain) winding stairs are well worth climbing, with a 30 degree slope and 374 steps. At the summit you will be rewarded by breathtaking panoramic views of Liège and the surrounding landscape.

Don’t forget to indulge in some authentic Liège waffles, which contain delicious exploding sugar crystals. Check out the bakery Une Gaufrette Saperlipopette with its completely home-made waffles.

PART 3

We approach the final leg of our journey travelling from Liège-Guillemins to Verviers-Central, a distance of around 21 kilometres and a journey time of 27 minutes. Verviers also has a smaller station, Verviers Palais.

Nestled in the Vesdre river valley is the former wool-processing city of Verviers with its picturesque hilly landscape and elegant 19th century buildings.

There’s a superb chocolate museum, La Chocolaterie Darcis, where you will discover the history and development of chocolate through times and continents and take a look at the chocolate production process along the way. If you are looking for somewhere quiet, take a leisurely stroll around Parc de Séroule in downtown Verviers.

Verviers is also an ideal location for those wishing to visit nearby Hautes Fagnes, Limbourg, Blégny Mine and Val-Dieu abbey.

We end our journey in Eupen, the German-speaking town in the French-speaking part of Belgium with its unique history and culture.

Route No. 14: “From Flanders to the Rhine”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 14: “From Flanders to the Rhine” which begins in Lille, passing through Brussels and Liège, ending in Cologne. The Thalys and Deutsche Bahn trains from Brussels to Cologne all follow the same route. They dash across the flatlands of Brabant to reach Liège (Luik in Dutch and Lüttich in German), an industrial city that sprawls along the west bank of the River Meuse.

In Liège, all trains stop at Guillemins railway station, a stunning piece of design by Santiago Calatrava. The building is best appreciated from the road outside rather than from the platforms, but on a sunny day the play of light and shade on the platforms is quite seductive. Part of the station is shown on the front cover of this book. The station is a reminder that Liège is a city which has always had strong railway connections

A new high-speed line from Liège to Aachen opened in 2009, thus marking the end of a slow dawdle through the hill country of eastern Belgium to reach the Germany border. Nowadays, the fast trains dive through tunnels and miss the best of the scenery. Of course, you can if you wish still follow the old line via Verviers to Aachen. There are hourly trains on this route, all requiring a change of train at Welkenraedt (ERT 400 & 438).