What's fairly unusual about taking the journey by train from Cologne/Köln to Brussels/Bruxelles to is that alternative services operate on this route; the Thalys trains managed by the French & Belgian national rail operators and the ICE trains operated by Germany's national rail company.
They depart from Köln hbf in different hours so if you need to depart from Cologne/Köln or arrive in Brussels/Bruxelles at a specific time, you'll be travelling on an ICE or a Thalys train.
Though if travelling at the cheapest price is your key criteria, be guided by that; it is timings rather than the type of train, which have a bigger impact on prices, the cheapest tickets inevitably sell out faster on the more popular departures.
SMTJ prefers the on the board ambience of the ICE trains, but it's not worth paying more to travel by them, particularly on such a comparatively short route.
Though rail pass users should take the ICE trains and ignore the Thalys trains.
The service of high speed trains between Brussels/Bruxelles and Cologne/Koln is split between
ICE and Thalys trains.
The timetable is arranged so that either one of these types of trains departs in each hour
Final Destination: Paris Nord – the Thalys trains
Final Destination: Bruxelles Midi – the ICE trains
10 - 12 x trains per day
There are 5 x daily Thalys trains, plus
6 x ICE trains on Mon-Thurs
7 x ICE departures on Friday
However, due to ongoing technical problems with the international type of ICE trains used on this route, many of the departures by ICE train are currently experiencing short notice cancellations.
Book early and save: Yes
Online bookings usually open:
6 months ahead of the travel date on the ICE trains*
4 month ahead of the travel date on the Thalys trains
What type of train you will be travelling by generally makes little different to the cost of tickets, the popularity of each departure has a bigger impact on prices.
The tickets for the ICE trains are made available two months ahead of the Thalys trains, so the very cheapest tickets for the ICE trains can have sold out before the Thalys tickets have been placed on sale.
When making an online booking, check that you’re looking at booking info for the direct trains.
Trains departing at different times can be cheaper than others leaving on the same day, so you may need to look through the day's departures to find the cheapest fares.
Use the ‘earlier trains’ and ‘later trains’ buttons to search for the cheapest ticket prices.
It can also be worth comparing the prices across the agents, particularly if you want to take a specific trains, as there can be variations in price.
DB (the booking site of Germany's national rail operator) tends to offer the lowest prices for the journeys by ICE train.
And DB now ALSO sell tickets for the Thalys services; though you will see 'Determine price' listed on the DB website for Thalys departures
Book 1st class ticket journey tickets for the ICE trains and your seat reservation is included - but they're optional when booking 2nd class tickets, or if you will be travelling with a 1st or 2nd class rail pass.
In contrast seats will automatically be assigned when booking any ticket for the Thalys trains.
Look out for this when comparing prices of 2nd class tickets on the ICE and Thalys trains.
Some ticket agents will automatically include the reservation fee for the ICE train, even though it's optional (you can choose to remove it); on other agents including DB, the initial 2nd class price you see won't include the seat reservation charge.
Using rail passes:
If you will be travelling from Cologne/Koln to Bruxelles to with a valid Eurail or InterRail pass, target the ICE trains.
You won't have to pay any rail pass reservation fees to travel by those trains; though the optional fees of €5.30 in 1st class and €.4 in 2nd class are relatively expensive for such a comparatively short journey.
In contrast the rail pass reservation fees for the Thalys trains will be €30 in 1st class and €20 in 2nd class.
|Ticket Provider||Approximate Cost|
|Save A Train||from €19.90|
All trains also call at: Aachen and Liege
Most of the ICE trains also call at: Bruxelles-Nord
Note that the Thalys trains do NOT call at Bruxelles-Nord.
Neither the ICE or Thalys trains call at Bruxelles-Centraal.
The ICE trains travel at the same speed as the Thalys trains - most of the ICE trains are around 4 mins slower than the Thalys trains due to their additional station call at Bruxelles-Nord.
For virtually the entire train journey from Koln to Bruxelles the trains, will either be travelling at up to 290 km/h on purpose built high speed lines, or up to 200km/h on section of railway, that has been re-engineered to allow trains to travel faster.
It is a journey of six distinct phases:
Help keep us advertising and paywall free!Donate
This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.
We’re striving not to let anything get in the way of providing the most useful service possible, hence a facility has been set up with DonorBox which can be used to support the running costs and make improvements.
Instead of advertising or paywalls, your financial support will make a positive difference to delivering an enhanced service, as there’s a lot of ideas which we want to make happen.
So if you have found the info provided here to be useful, please consider saying thank you.
This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.