There are lots of ways to travel from the North of England to Europe without flying – by ferry (either in a car or as a foot passenger), by coach or by train. The ferries head east across the North Sea to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Hook of Holland from where you can head further into Europe. The coaches and trains both use the Channel Tunnel, so you have to factor in the time it takes to get south. If you take the train, once on the other side of the tunnel, you’re then connected to the European high-speed rail network, which can whizz you to many European capitals and beyond within hours. Our team has tried and tested many of the routes and so we have tried to summarise all the available options in this post based on our experience.
Images: DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam
From the North of England to Europe by Ferry
Ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam
The most northerly ferry route from England across the North Sea is from Newcastle to Amsterdam with DFDS, which takes foot passengers on its 17.00 overnight sailings.
Journey time: 15.5 hours (overnight)
Timings: Departs Newcastle 17:00, arrives Amsterdam 9.45am
Facilities on board: bars, restaurants, casino, cinema and kids club
Sleeper Cabins: take from 2-5 people, and, unlike most ferry operators that insist dogs are kept in cars or kennels, there are cabins suitable for up to two dogs to travel alongside their owners.
Luggage: There’s no limit on luggage. Foot passengers can travel with a bicycle for a charge of £5 each way, and those without wheels can hop onto a coach on arrival at the port of Ijmuiden to travel the 25 miles into central Amsterdam. Other info: DFDS offers a ‘mini cruise’ option, which includes breaks in Amsterdam from five hours to two nights and include coach transfers at either end. From Amsterdam it’s easy to connect by rail to cities and regions across the Netherlands, as well as onto France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and beyond.
Ferry from Hull to Rotterdam (The Netherlands) and Hull to Zeebrugge (Belgium) P&O Ferries runs overnight ferries run between Hull and Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Zeebrugge in Belgium. Journey time: 12 hours (overnight) Timings: Hull to Rotterdam departs 20:30 and arrives Rotterdam at 8:15 (9:00 at weekends); Hull to Zeebrugge departs 18.30 and arrive Zeebrugge at 8:45 (9:30 at the weekend). Facilities: Restaurants, bars, cinemas, a casino and kids play area. Sleeper Cabins: options range from a standard cabin, with a toilet and shower room, to a sea view cabin or a club cabin with extra space and a television - sleeping between two and five people per cabin. Luggage: There’s no limit on luggage, and you can travel with a pet and a bicycle. Pets are charged at £22 each way and must travel in a kennel. Bicycles are carried free of charge but only one is allowed per foot passenger booking, so a group travelling with multiple bikes need to make a separate booking per bike.
Some book the ferry solely as transport, while for others it’s the holiday in itself - a mini cruise out of Hull with P&O offers two nights on a ferry to and from Rotterdam or Zeebrugge with a day trip (which can be extended to an extra night) to explore the city between sailings. Themed mini breaks take this up a notch with entertainment such as live music or darts competitions onboard. Many passengers use Zeebrugge as a gateway to Bruges and from Rotterdam many go on to Brussels, Antwerp or Paris but from either point, it is straight-forward to connect by rail to other destinations in the Netherlands and Belgium as well as Germany, Luxembourg and France.
Ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland (The Netherlands) The shortest ferry route across the North Sea from the East of England is from Harwich in Essex with Stena Line to The Hook of Holland (known as ‘Hoek van Holland’). You can choose to go either during the day or overnight.
Journey time: 7-8 hours (day time or overnight) Timings: departs Harwich at 9am, arrives Hook of Holland at 17.15; overnight service departs Harwich at 23:00, arrives Hook of Holland at 08:00. Facilities: restaurants and bars, a cinema and shops. Sleeper Cabins: on the overnight ferry you can choose from a range of cabins, from a single inside cabin with television and ensuite bathroom to cabins for two, three, four of five people, including the Comfort Class cabins with sea view and complimentary minibar. Luggage: There’s no limit on luggage. Foot passengers with bicycles pay an extra fee of £5 for adults and £2.50 for children and it costs £20 to bring your dog, which must travel in a kennel.
Ferry sailing times and journey times can change so check the website for the latest times.
From the North of England to Europe by Coach
Travelling by coach is usually the cheapest way to travel to Europe from the North of England. National Express runs an intercity coach service from cities across the North of England including Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Carlisle and Nottingham that go via London Victoria where you can change to its international coach services which go to many European cities, including Calais, Paris, Lille, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges.
Here are a few sample journey times: Newcastle to Paris: from 17.5 hours
Newcastle to Amsterdam: from 20.5 hours Liverpool to Paris: from 19 hours
Liverpool to Amsterdam: from 20.5 hours Manchester to Paris: from 14.5 hours
Manchester to Amsterdam: from 19 hours Leeds to Paris: from 14.5 hours
Leeds to Amsterdam: from 18 hours Nottingham to Paris: from 13 hours
Nottingham to Amsterdam: from 16 hours
Luggage: You can take a hand luggage bag and medium-sized bag for the hold weighing no more than 20kg. Only folding bicycles are accepted. Facilities: coaches are air conditioned and have wi-fi and USB charging points as well as toilets and while no refreshments are sold onboard, you can pack your own food and drink for the journey and stops are made at service stations to stock up on supplies.
Another European coach operator is Flixbus, which now incorporates the Eurolines and Isilines bus companies, with services out of London Victoria. It offers more destinations than National Express and beyond - such as Vienna from London in 26 hours, Frankfurt in 13.5 hours and Prague in 24 hours. You can even travel as far as Bucharest - a 44-hour journey across six countries. The same luggage restrictions apply with one piece of hand luggage and one hold luggage up to 20kg, and bikes can be taken on the bike rack from E9 per journey. Buses have free wifi, charging sockets, toilets, and on some journeys food and drink is sold onboard in addition to the refreshment stops.
The cost varies depending on the route, time of year and so on, so check the coach operator’s website for fares.
From the North of England to Europe by Train
Rail services to Europe run out of London St Pancras International Railway Station with Eurostar. Trains from many cities in the North of England (such as Wigan, Lincoln, Stockport, Preston and Manchester) are operated by Northern Rail and conveniently terminate at Kings Cross from where it’s just a few minutes walk across King’s Boulevard to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Europe.
Here are a few journey times (times show the total duration of the trip, including allowing for sufficient time to walk from Kings Cross to the Eurostar check-in and for the 45-minute check-in time at Eurostar, based on appropriate times of connecting trains in to and out of London):
Train from Newcastle to Paris: 6.5 hours
Train from Newcastle to Amsterdam: 8 hours
Train from Liverpool to Paris: 5.5 hours
Train from Liverpool to Amsterdam: 7.5 hours
Train from Manchester to Paris: 5.5 hours
Train from Manchester to Amsterdam: 7 hours
Train from Leeds to Paris: 5.5 hours
Train from Leeds to Amsterdam: 7.5 hours
Train from Nottingham to Paris: 5 hours
Train from Nottingham to Amsterdam: 6.5 hours
Eurostar runs direct services to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Lyon, Lille and Disneyland Paris (and during the summer a direct train to Avignon and Marseille and the winter there’s a direct Eurostar ski train service to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice). You can buy through-tickets that start outside of London and go beyond Eurostar’s destinations travelling with local operators. If you are travelling with a bike, check which routes accept bikes. The fee is around £30. Dogs are not permitted on Eurostar except guide dogs.
Written and researched by Ginny Light.
Please note: the information on this page aims to give you a reasonable idea of ferry, train and coach routes, times, fares, and how to buy tickets in order that (hopefully) there’s enough detail to know what's available, how to plan a journey and where to book tickets. The information was up to date at time of publication, and although we will make every effort to update services provided, we cannot take responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies we provide. Always confirm details when you book.