Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The best Eurostar destinations to visit for an eco-friendly European escape

We might be biased, but travelling by eco-friendly train really is the best way to take a long-distance trip across Europe and with a whole host of Eurostar destinations to choose from, you can enjoy a hassle-free escape to the continent.

As you make your way through historic towns and across the beautiful countryside at a leisurely pace, you’ll have the chance to watch everyday life unfold outside your window, without the stress of airport arrivals and baggage reclaim.

Luckily, Eurostar has you covered with picturesque routes across Belgium, the Netherlands and France. While the travel time might look longer when you compare flight times to Eurostar train routes, factor in the fact that you’ll be deposited in the city centre - meaning no need to catch a shuttle bus or train at the other end - and shorter check-in times, and travelling by train becomes a no-brainer.

What’s more, with up to 80 per cent fewer carbon emissions than travelling by plane, the environmental impact of train travel becomes more and more appealing.

But even without considering all that, the sheer ease and comfort of rail travel mean you arrive at your destination less stressed, less tired, and in a better headspace to make the most of your trip.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as we introduce you to some of the best places to visit along the Eurostar route, and where to stay once you’re there.

Where does Eurostar go?

There are more than 20 stops on the Eurostar route, spread across the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. From London, passengers can travel directly to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Lille, Paris and Disneyland Paris, while connections from those cities can whizz you further afield.

What’s more, between late December 2021 and early April 2022, the Eurostar will pair up with Travelski to offer direct trains from London St Pancras to Moûtiers and Bourg-Saint-Maurice, meaning that avid skiers can swoop to the French Alps in no time, with access to the Three Valleys, Val d’Isère - Tignes and the Paradiski area.

How long does the Eurostar take?

One of the shortest routes on Eurostar is the one-hour 22-minute journey between London and Lille, and getting to Brussels can take only a minute over two hours. The quickest Eurostar from London to Paris lasts just two hours and 12 minutes, whereas travelling all the way from London to Biarritz will take you somewhere between eight and ten hours.

How fast does Eurostar go?

One of the fastest trains in Europe, the Eurostar reaches 160 kilometres per hour (100 mph) as it travels through the Channel Tunnel. But it goes fastest on lengths of its high-speed train lines, which run through the UK, France and Belgium, reaching a top speed of 300 kilometres per hour (186 mph).

It also clocked up a record speed of 334.7 kilometres per hour on a section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which links London with the Channel Tunnel, in 2003.

What are the best Eurostar destinations?

To help you choose the perfect place for a European holiday by train from the UK, we've selected the very best Eurostar destinations, from Paris to Brussels. Here's where to go along the Eurostar route and where to stay while you’re there.

1. Paris


Paris has it all. Enchanting Haussmannian architecture, world-renowned sights, a thriving art scene, the dramatic Eiffel Tower, and the rich collections of the Louvre. But when you’re not on the trail of its bucket-list sights, take some time to really get to know the city by going off the beaten track.

Leave your itinerary behind, pick an arrondissement and simply stroll the streets looking out for traditional bakeries, chic independent stores and Gothic design.

Where to stay: Stay right in the heart of the action at the Hôtel Duc de St Simon. From here, you can walk to the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Seine. With space at a premium in Paris, the courtyard garden and terrace are both a real bonus. Relax at the hotel bar before getting your beauty sleep in the soundproofed bedrooms.

2. Aix-en-Provence


Once the capital of Provence, the city of Aix-en-Provence is filled with grand, stately buildings. But it’s the city’s markets that are the real draw, with abundant displays of fresh fruit and veg, local lavender products, cured meats and, of course, the region’s cheeses.

It’s also the perfect city to base yourself in to explore the stunning Provence countryside, whether you choose to cycle along with sunflower fields or take long walks past rolling hills of lavender that stretch far as the eye can see.

Where to stay: A little outside the city centre, Château de Saint-Girons allows you to truly make the most of your trip to Provence. Housed in a chateau that dates back to the 18th century, the typical Provençal home features shuttered windows, tiled roofs and high ceilings. Take a dip in the pool, relax on the terrace, or explore the gardens before heading out into the countryside.

3. Brussels


Thought Brussels was just the headquarters of the European Union? Think again. The city showcases why it’s so much more than a political hub. Alongside the historical architecture of the Grand Place, the Royal Palace and the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert, Brussels has a playful side.

First, there’s the Manneken Pis, the city’s seventeenth-century weeing statue. Then, there’s the Tintin sights – a huge Tintin mural, the Comics Art Museum, and even a Tintin boutique. Don’t miss sampling the city’s lively restaurant scene.

Where to stay: Within walking distance of Brussels' top sights, the stylish apartments at Sweet Inn make the ideal city centre retreat. You can cook meals in the kitchen, and relax on the comfortable sofas in front of the TV after a long day of exploring on foot.

4. Bruges


Eurostar trains to Brussels include a ticket for any local train of your choosing within 24 hours of your arrival, and within 24 hours of your departure. This makes it easy to travel on to Antwerp, Bruges or Ghent. If you can only choose one, pick Bruges.

When you arrive you’ll be greeted by a fantastically well-preserved Medieval city. Narrow cobbled streets, colourful gabled houses, and church spires overlooking calm canals mean Bruges’ reputation as a fairytale city is well deserved.

Where to stay: With its corniced ceilings, traditional furniture, chandeliers, and roll-top baths, B&B De Corenbloem Luxury Guesthouse feels like a luxurious home from home. In fact, you’d never know how close it is to the city centre, with its large garden and country house appeal.

5. Bordeaux


A trip to Bordeaux could easily be spent travelling across the surrounding countryside going from winery to winery on the trail of your favourite red in this famous wine region. But that would be to ignore one of the most popular cities in France.

Bordeaux boasts a host of historic buildings and cultural sights, including its famous wine museum, the Cité du Vin. But one of the best ways to experience the city is to join the locals walking along the pretty Garonne River.

Where to stay: For a city hotel that feels more like a countryside retreat, stay at the Casa Blanca B&B. Situated within walking distance of the CAPC and Place de La Bourse, one of the highlights here is the plant-filled conservatory, with its trailing ivy and chic furnishings. Repurposed furniture, private balconies and city views make this a cut above the standard hotel.

6. Amsterdam


Amsterdam is one of Europe's greatest cities, with so much to do in the beautiful Dutch city. First, there’s the canals that criss-cross Amsterdam, lined by pretty houses, which make it such a delight to stroll or cycle around. Then, there’s the wonderful collections on display in the Museum Quarter.

And in this creative city, there’s always a new independent shop to find, an innovation in eco-friendly living to try, or an inventive new restaurant menu to sample.

Where to stay: The Blossom House is a stylish guesthouse in the centre of the city – the Anne Frank Museum is just around the corner, and the Prinsengracht runs from the end of the street. Tea and coffee makers in every room, and streaming services, meaning there are all the comforts you’d expect, too. Be aware that the top floors are only accessible by stairs.

7. Nice


What could beat travelling the length of France by train, passing rustic farmhouses, idyllic countryside and rural stations along the way? Ending your journey in Nice, of course. This stylish seafront city is endlessly elegant, with its Baroque architecture and views over the Cote d’Azur.

Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais, enjoy afternoons on the beach, and spend your evenings dining at open-air restaurants in the Old Town. Outside of its special summer service, you’ll need to change from the Eurostar in Paris, but this beautiful city is well worth the trip.

Where to stay: The location of this minimalist apartment couldn’t get much better: it’s less than a ten-minute walk from the Old Town or the beach at Plage Opera. There’s plenty of room to cook in the spacious kitchen, with a coffee maker, dishwasher and washing machine, plus air-conditioning for Nice’s hot summer months.

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