Top 5 Cities to Visit in France by Train

There are so many great cities to visit in France which are easily accessible by train. Here is our pick of the very best.

#1 Paris

effiel tower photo
Photo from Larry Johnson

No selection would be complete without mentioning one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world. Paris is a city which you have to visit at least once in a lifetime. There are so many things to see and do in Paris that you could spend a whole lot of time there and only just scratch the surface of what there is to explore and experience.

When you think of Paris you tend to think first about the major tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Palace of Versailles and Notre Dame. These are all amazing places to visit, but also consider some lesser known places to visit.

Why not take some time to visit the Musee Marmottan-Claude Monet which houses one of the largest collections of Monet’s art and a wonderful display of Empire furniture? La Conceirgerie is located close to the famous Saint-Chappelle, but is much less touristy and is a wonderful example of a Medieval Palace. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a lovely park which is largely undiscovered by tourists.

Paris is famous for its amazing food. Whether you are dining at a restaurant with three Michelin Stars (Paris has ten restaurants with this accolade), or enjoying a crepe from a street vendor by the side of the Seine, there is something very magical about the food in Paris.

One thing that is certain if you visit Paris – you will always be planning to go back and enjoy more of this wonderful city.

It is very easy to visit Paris by train. There are fast rail connections between many European cities and Paris.

#2 Nice

nice france photo
Photo from candyschwartz

The French Riviera is known for its beautiful beaches, historic buildings and lively culture. If you are visiting the French Riviera by train, we suggest making a stop in Nice. The pace of life is very laid back and it is an easy city to get around.

The beach in Nice is one of the most famous in the South of France. Le Promenade des Anglais is a wonderful place to take a leisurely stroll.

There is so much more to Nice than the famous beach. Old Town is a complex labyrinth of streets with so many shops, cafes and restaurants it is difficult to know where to look first. Yes, its touristy, but it also a lot of fun and no amount of ice cream shops and gift stores will take away the sense of history in the winding streets.

Visiting the bustling street markets is another must do. It is well worth allocating some time to exploring these wonderful displays of food and crafts.

There are many historical sites to visit including the Russian Cathedral which is widely thought to be the most beautiful Orthodox Church outside of Russia. To go even further back in history you can visit the Roman archeological site at Cimiez Hill.

The train station is in the heart of the city. Many hotels and tourist destinations are within easy walking distance of Nice station. If you do not want to walk it is very easy to use the local tramway to get around the city.

#3 Strasbourg

Strasbourg photo
Photo from creyesk

Strasbourg should be on your wish list of great cities to visit in France by train. It is just a two-hour train ride from Paris to Strasbourg.

Strasbourg is a beautiful medieval city. It will particularly appeal to those who want to explore the rich history of the area. The focal point of the city is the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was built in the 15th century out of pink sandstone, and the tower had the distinction of being the tallest building in Europe for over 200 years.

Those who love great food will particularly enjoy a visit to Strasbourg. If you would like to experience fabulous food in an authentic setting, head for one of the many taverns in the town.

A particularly great time to visit Strasbourg is during December when you can visit the famous Christmas Markets.

Strasbourg is of course the center of great political power as it houses the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the Palace of European Human Rights. If you have an interest in the workings of the court system you will be pleased to learn that some of the hearings are open to the public.

#4 Lyon

lyon france photo
Photo from Dimitry B

A visit to Lyon is a must for anyone who wants to sample some of the very best food in France.

Lovers of architecture will also find Lyon a fascinating place to visit. Old Lyon is famous for its wonderful Renaissance buildings. The Primatiale Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral is one of the finest examples of a Gothic Cathedral in Europe.

Fourviere Hill is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is fascinating to explore this Roman archeological site. Summer is a great time to visit as this area plays host to the Nuits de Fourvieres Festival.

#5 Marseilles

marseilles france photo
Photo from Nouhailler

The incredibly comfortable efficient TGV now offers a direct train service from London to Marseilles which takes just six and a half hours. The route is particularly beautiful and was once a regular journey stop for the Orient Express.

Once you have arrived in Marseilles there is plenty to see and do. Marseilles is a large and thriving French port. It is very cosmopolitan in culture but has a strong sense of its own history.

All visitors should spend some time exploring the Old Port of Marseilles. Take a stroll around the old streets and remember to visit the excellent Musee des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Meditarranee.

If you want to explore the more cosmopolitan side of the city you should take some time to walk around the Capucin district. Here you will step into a different world of the North African souk markets. A fascinating place to explore the North African heritage of Marseilles.

There are so many wonderful cities in France to explore by train. Which one will you visit first?

What’s So Great About the Marseilles Fun Train?

Marseille is a beautiful city and very well worth a visit. There are so many things to see and do in this great city. If you want an easy way to see some of the major tourist sites of the city, then it is a good idea to consider a trip on the Marseilles Fun Train. If you have children with you then they will particularly enjoy the trip. It should definitely be on your list of things to do in Marseilles if you have young children with you, but it is also a lot of fun for adults too.

The Fun Train is a wonderful way to see the sights of Marseilles in a relaxing way. There are three circuits to choose from. If you have time when you are visiting Marseilles, then it is a good idea to travel on at least two of the circuits as they each have something different to offer.

The Notre Dame Circuit Tour starts from the Old Port of Marseilles. This is the route that will take you to the Basilique Notre dame de la Garde. This is one of the sights that you must see on your visit to Marseilles. The only problem is that it is at the top of a very steep hill. This has the advantage that the view from the top is amazing, but if you are traveling on foot it is quite a climb. Marseilles can get very hot in the summer time. You may want to use the Fun Train as an affordable and easy means to get to the top of the hill! The Marseilles Fun Train stops right outside the Basilique. There are trains every 30 minutes so it is very easy to hop on and hop off the train when you are ready to leave.

The Notre Dame Circuit Tour will also take you to Pharo Palace and St Victor’s Abbey. You will also get a great view of the Fausse Monnaie, Valmer Castle and the Vallon des Auffes.

The Old Marseilles Circuit 2 is also a fun way to see the city. If you can only do one tour we would recommend Circuit 1, but if you have time then it is still a good idea to take the second route. This is more for people who want to take a look at the old quarters of the city. You will see the Cabre Mansion, the Hotel Dieu, the Manor Cathedral and St Laurent’s Church. You will see the narrow historical streets of Marseilles. This is definitely a tour that you will want to do if you have more than a day to spend in this wonderful city

Circuit 3 is very different from the other two. The train only runs in the summer months and runs on Frioul Island. This tour is really only for those who have a lot more time to spend in Marseille, but is worth it if you want to explore something different. It includes the Caroline Hospital, St Esteve and Fort Ratonneau.

The Marseilles Fun Train is very reasonably priced at 8 Euros for each Circuit. There are discounts for children. It can be also good value to buy the Marseilles City Pass as this is included in the ticket, as well as lots of other attractions in the city.

Photo from lublud

5 Tips to Make Your Train Journey Memorable in France

A train journey in France is always a memorable experience, but there are many ways that you can make it unforgettable. Here are our top tips as to how to enjoy your train journey in France.

#1 Book Your Tickets Early

We all know that this really shouldn’t matter, but let’s face it, you will enjoy your train journey across France all the more if you got a bargain fare. For most trains you can book up to 4 months in advance either by phone, at the station or on the internet. The earlier you book the better the deal. It could make the difference between you being able to enjoy the extra amenities and comfort of First Class over Second Class. Or you can use the savings to book a nicer hotel at your destination. Whatever your incentive, there are ways to save.

#2 Treat Yourself to First Class

Second Class is good, but First Class is even better. On a TGV in France you will get a larger seat, even more legroom, power recline, power points and just an overall much nicer experience. If you book ahead of time you can get great rates on First Class travel on French trains.

#3 Pack A Great Picnic

There are some good food options to purchase when you are a French train. This is the culinary center of the world! However, what could be more fun that packing your own gourmet picnic with wine and enjoying it whilst you watch the amazing scenery of France pass by your window? You can take any food or beverages on board a French train with you, and this includes wine and beer. What could be better than enjoying a fine Bordeaux and some French bread and cheese from the comfort of your very comfortable seat?

#4 Learn About Your Journey

One of the major appeals of French train travel is that you actually get to see a lot of this beautiful country from the comfort of your passenger seat. If you want to make your journey even more memorable you should take the time to do a little research about the route that you are taking. The internet is an amazing resource, so why not take the time to look at the route and the places that you will be passing through on your journey? This will make your train ride even more memorable and enjoyable.

#5 Use This as Family Time

A great train journey is a good time to reconnect with your family. Our lives are often very busy and we do not spend enough time enjoying simple times with family members. Why not switch off all of your phones and stop connecting to the internet and just enjoy some simple time talking to each other? You will be very glad that you have had some time away from the pressures and stresses of normal life. Make our train journey a time to recommend with the important people in your life.

Photo from dalbera

What Makes TGV the Best Rail Service in France? Part Two

There are seats available in First or Second Class on the TGV. As you would expect, the First Class cabin is particularly comfortable with lots of amenities available for the passenger. The seats are very comfortable with plenty of leg room to stretch out. The seats even have power recline. The seats in First Class are arranged with one side in groups of 4 and the other in face to face seats of 2. All seats of 4 groupings have a fixed table and the groups of 2 have either a fixed table or a pull down one. There is plenty of room to use your laptop on the table if you want to work. There is also a power point for each seat. Another excellent idea which helps to keep the cabin quiet is that there is a bench seat outside each compartment where you can make phone calls.

Second Class on the TGV is also very comfortable. Whilst not as luxurious as the First Class seats, and not having power recline, the Second Class cabin is still very comfortable. Not all seats have power points, but some do. The seating is all in groups of 4 and is face to face. There is a mix of drop down tables and fixed tables in Second Class. There is a good amount of leg room and the seats are comfortable.

Every TGV has a café and bar. Again, the design of this is very stylish. You can purchase a variety of drinks including wine. There is also hot and cold food available. The menu is pretty good as you would expect in France. The café is located between the First and Second Class cabins and is open to all passengers regardless of their seat class.

There is some space to sit in the café but most people take their food back to their seat to enjoy. It can get a little crowded in the café so it is usually best to go early in your journey unless you want to stand in line for a while. You can bring whatever food and drink that you want onto the TGV with you. This includes beer and wine. It can of course save you money by bringing your own food as well as giving you a lot more choice.

The TGV is an excellent, safe, comfortable and convenient way to travel across France and into Europe. Always make it your first consideration when deciding how you want to travel to your destination in France and the other European destinations that it serves.

Photo from Terrazzo

Why You Should Select Train Travel in France

If you have decided that you want to visit France, you really should think about selecting train travel as a means of getting around the country. It is so much more convenient and enjoyable than either air travel or using a car. Here are just some of the reasons why train travel is such a good option in France.

It’s very affordable.

Many people think that galavanting around Europe will be very expensive.  While it is expensive, it can also easily be done on a budget.  I met a man who worked for a New Jersey water damage company and saved for a 2 years.  He then took an extended leave of absence from his job to travel Europe for 8 months.  This is a dream for many, but is entirely possible with budgeting and dedication.

The train is a surprisingly inexpensive way of traveling around France. Air travel is increasingly expensive, and you often have extras to pay for such as reserved seats and luggage on airplanes. Most trains in France have reserved seating and there is no charge for the luggage that you bring.

You do need to know how to work your way around the system to get the best prices. Most trains in France can be booked online, over the phone, or at the station up to 4 months ahead of your time of travel. Usually the further in advance that you book, the lower the price of the ticket.

For example, if you book ahead a ticket on the TGV from Paris to France will cost from 29 Euros in the Second Class Cabin. If you leave it until the day to buy your ticket at the station the price will go up to around 129 Euros.

Children usually get a 50% discount too. Although on some airlines they do offer some small discounts it is never half price for children. If you are traveling with children this could save you a considerable amount of money when comparing the price of air travel with the train.

Trains are fast.

A plane can obviously travel very much faster than a train, but will it get you to your destination any faster? When you look at how long a journey will take you, remember not just to look at the length of the flight itself. You need to take into account how long it will take you to travel to your ultimate destination once you have arrived at the airport. There is a lot of waiting around time to be added to any plane journey. When you add up the time it takes to get to the airport, get through check in and security and then wait to board your plane, that all adds up to a considerable period of time.

When you travel by train in France you will arrive right in the center of the city. You can sometimes even walk to your hotel from the train station. Trains in France get you from one place to another very quickly. The amazing TGV service travels at 186 mph.  Check out more about traveling by TGV here.

Train travel is interesting.

France is a beautiful country. One major advantage of the train is that you will be able to sit back, relax and take in the views passing by your window. If you travel by air you will not get to see anything of the land which you fly over, except a view from 30,000 feet.

If you travel by train you will get so much more enjoyment out of the journey itself, and not just the destination. That is a reason in itself to choose to travel by train in France.

Photo from faungg’s photos

A Paris to Milan Tour

Want to go from Paris to Milan?  This short video shows what the trip is like.  It not a long journey, but it’s very scenic.

There are three TVG trains that go from Paris to Milan each day (one night train).  It’s a fairly inexpensive trip at €29 one way – much cheaper than flying.  To get that rate, book with French Railways.  The journey is about seven hours, faster than driving but slower than flying.

 

What Makes TGV the Best Rail Service in France? Part One

The Trains à Grande Vitesse, better known as TGV is the premier rail service in France. Not only do they get you to your destination extremely quickly, but they offer very comfortable, efficient and affordable rail travel in France and other European destinations. They are also one of the safest ways t o travel in the world. There has never been a single fatality in over three decades of TGV travel.

When we think of the TGV the word speed always comes to mind. They are the fastest trains on the French rail system. On most of the routes in France the TGV travels at speeds of up to 186 mph. On some routes from Paris the train can travel at up to 198 mph. When you are traveling on a TGV you really do not have any sense of just how fast you are going. Here is proof that they are the fastest trains:

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The train is designed to be very quiet and the ride is incredibly smooth. The only time that you realize just how quickly that you have been traveling is when you arrive at your destination in an incredibly short space of time. It is a very relaxing and convenient way to travel across France and to other European destinations.

The TGV has an extensive rail network which connects more than 200 European cities. It should always be considered as an alternative to flying. Train travel is so much more relaxing and can often be quicker than air travel when you take into account the time that it takes getting to the airport and through security. Air travel has become so stressful these days that it is always a good thing to consider the alternatives. The TGV isn’t just for travel within France – it serves destinations in Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and Germany. You can travel very quickly and comfortably between many European cities on the TGV.

If you consider these example travel times you will see just how great an alternative the TGV is to air travel. Consider also that the TGV will get you into the heart of these European cities, whereas with air travel you often have to travel a good distance from the airport to the city. This adds a lot of time, inconvenience and expense onto your journey if you are traveling by air. The journey time of Paris to Marseilles is 3 hours, Paris to Lille 1 hour, Paris to Milan 7 hours, Paris to Geneva 3 hours and Paris to Barcelona is just 6 hours and 15 minutes.

It is very easy to book a ticket for the TGV. All tickets have to be booked in advance and every ticket has a seat reservation. This makes it much easier when boarding the train as you are absolutely guaranteed that you will get a seat.

In general, the father in advance that you book your TGV ticket, the cheaper it will be. You can book a ticket up to four months in advance of your travel time for most routes. You can book by phone, on the internet or at the station.

There are two basic designs of the TGV including the Single Decker and the Duplex Decker. Within these two categories there are different seating plans on different routes. If you are traveling on a Duplex Decker TGV try and get a seat on the top deck as this has even better views of the passing landscape.

The interior of the TGV is very stylish. Many of the TGVs have undergone a complete redesign of the interior which was overseen by Christian Lacroix. The TGV really is one of the most stylish and comfortable trains in the world.

 

Photo from Terrazzo

5 Reasons Why Tourists Visit France by Train

More and more people are discovering that visiting France by train is an excellent alternative to alternative means of travel. Here are just some of the reasons why train travel in France is such a great option.

#1 It is stress-free.

There is no escaping the fact that air travel is becoming increasingly stressful. Airport delays, getting through security, traffic to the airport and lack of comfort at the airport and on the plane are big stresses when traveling. These factors are all increasingly making air travel something which we just don’t look forward to.

The other viable alternative to rail travel in France is to take the car. This has its advantages, but can also be far from relaxing. Does anyone actually want to drive into the center of Paris? The travel times can be very long and traffic can be particularly bad in cities and towns.

Train travel is very easy in France. You can buy your tickets in advance and you will have a reserved seat on all TGV and many other French trains. No need to worry about getting a seat. When you arrive at the station you simply board the train – there are no long check in lines to deal with.

#2 The cost is reasonable.

The cost of train travel compares very favorably with other methods of transport. The most economical way is to buy a ticket as far in advance as possible.

There are also a number of overnight trains which may mean that you can save a considerable amount of money on travel, because you will not need a hotel for the night. Overnight TGV trains are very comfortable and competitively priced.

#3 Trains are comfortable.

The trains in France are very comfortable, particularly the jewel of the French rail system, the TGV. Whether you travel First or Second Class you are guaranteed a comfortable seat. The facilities on the train are excellent and you will have a relaxing journey. This is in stark contrast to air travel where few people would describe economy class as comfortable or relaxing!

#4 It is all about the journey.

As the saying goes it’s not all just about the destination. The journey should be pleasurable too. The best way to travel and actually see the country is to travel by train. The views out of the window can be absolutely stunning. Instead of flying over the land, or seeing it from a car in the middle of the traffic, you can just sit back, relax and watch the beautiful scenery go by.

You will find that you get much more of a sense of the diversity and feel of the country if you travel across it by train. Instead of just seeing one airport and then landing in another, train travel gives you much more of a sense of the country than air travel.

#5 It gets you to the heart of the city.

The major cities and towns in France all have train stations right in the heart of the place where you want to be. When you travel by air the airport is usually some miles out of the city. You will then have to find some means of transport from the airport to the city. This adds to the journey time as well as the expense of travel.

Photo from caswell_tom

5 Historic Train Routes in France with Shades of the Great French Railway Heritage, Part Two

#3 Petit Train de la Rhune

Petit Train de la Rhune photo
Photo from josu.orbe

This is a wonderful way to explore the Basque Region of France and giving stunning views of the Pyrenees and the coast.

The Petit Train de la Rhune dates back to 1924. It is a rack and pinion railway train system which takes the passenger on a 35-minute journey through some spectacular scenery in the Basque Country. This is very popular tourist attraction and carries over 35,000 passengers every year.

All of the rolling stock dates back to 1924 and has been restored to its original condition. The carriages are wooden and each took over 1,000 hours to restore. Each carriage seats 60 people. The Petit Train de la Rhune is one of only three surviving rack and pinion railways in France.

The Petit Train starts its journey in the charming village of Sare. It operates seasonally from late February until early November. There are usually more trains scheduled for July and August.

Many passengers take the train up to the top of the Rhune mountain and then walk back down.

#4 Le Petit Train des Combes

burgundy france photo
Photo from Roly-sisaphus

Le Petit Train des Combes is sometimes also known as the Two Valleys Train. The Petit Train is a wonderful way to explore a small part of the Burgundy region of France. This is another narrow gauge and it travels between Les Combes and Le Creusot. The train locomotives are steam and diesel. The complete train journey takes about one and a half hours.

The train travels through a natural park. This train is different from the previous ones here as it is relying somewhat on staged reconstructions as part of its entertainment. In the summer months- passengers are entertained with a variety of reconstructions which include an attack on the train by bandits, or going to a reconstructed medieval village. When they get to the top passengers can spend some time at the theme park. This includes a fossil museum and a summer luge.

The Train des Combes only runs seasonally so you should check before you go. Usually it is open from April until All Saint’s Day. The train can be busy so book ahead, particularly in the summer months. There are also some dates at Christmas time when the train is running. This is very popular, so book ahead as far as you can.

#5 The

This has to be one of the best known luxury train journeys in the world. If you want to step back into the age of 1920s affluent Europe, climb aboard this historic train. You can still experience the Golden Age of Travel – if you don’t mind the high price tag. If you want to start your journey in France you can travel from Paris to London, Venice, Istanbul, Berlin or Verona.

The reality is though that not everything is what it seems – the Orient Express which runs today is not the original train. The original Orient Express was taken out of service in 2009 after 123 years of providing luxury train travel. The train which takes its name now is a collection of restored carriages from the 1920s, 30s and 50s. Even though it isn’t the original Orient Express it certainly makes you feel as though you are traveling in a long forgotten era of indulgence and luxury.

One of the major attractions of the Orient Express is the dining. You can experience gourmet cuisine and impeccable service. There are three dining cars on the train and each has its own character. You will feel as though you have been transported back into the 1920s in these beautifully decorated carriages. If you have a very deep wallet a journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express is one of those things that you simply have to be able to cross off your bucket list.

5 Historic Train Routes in France with Shades of the Great French Railway Heritage, Part One

France is such a beautiful country with so many different types of landscape and places to enjoy. A wonderful way to travel in France is on one of its historic railway journeys. Here is our pick of the very best.

#1 The Little Yellow Train in the Pyrenees

Pyrenees train photo
Photo from bortescristian

This is a spectacular train journey through the Pyrenees. The original narrow gauge train dates back to 1909. Seven of the ten original trains are still running on the track. The Yellow Train begins its journey from Villefranche-de-Conflent and winds its way slowly up the hill to the highest railway station in France. Bolquere-Eyne station is high up in the mountains at an elevation of 5,226 feet.

The scenery is nothing short of spectacular on this rail journey. The Little Yellow Train never goes faster than 15 mph so passengers can really experience the surrounding landscape. The pace of life on this journey just seems to slow down and you want to take in every moment of the experience.

The Little Yellow Train has both open air and closed carriages. If the weather is good it is fun to sit outside in the open air.

The train makes stops along the way so you can get off and explore the picturesque places along the way. When you reach your destination of Bolquere-Eyne you will understand why this place was named “Fairyland” by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The landscape is a picture perfect summer meadow full of wild flowers – a place to just spend some time and relax away from the pressures of everyday life.

#2 Le Train des Pignes

french riviera photo
Photo from Daniele Falciola

If you are visiting the French Riviera, you should really make some time to take Le Train des Pignes. This is an historic steam locomotive which runs seasonally from May to November. The service is entirely run by volunteers who are passionate about keeping the traditions of this steam railway route.

It is a very limited service which runs on Sundays and sometimes also runs on Fridays and Saturdays. You must check the timetable before you plan your trip to make sure that the train is running.

The steam train runs from the Nice Gar du Sud, not the main train station in the city. Travelling the whole route from Nice to Dignes-les-Bains takes about three and a half hours. If you do not want to do all of the journey you can get on and off at any of the stops along the way.

You may want to take some time to stop in Entrevaux. This charming place is a stunning example of a fortified medieval French village. Route 2 goes from Saint Andre les Alpes and on to Thorame Haute. Most of the stations along the route are original and date back over one hundred years – you really feel as if you are escaping to another age on this journey.