France by train
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France by train
France, the pioneer of high-speed rail in Europe. TGV, Eurostar and Thalys connect Paris with all important cities in France and Europe with speeds up to 330 km/h. Discover the most beautiful landscapes, cities and railway routes with the French Railways SNCF.
Travel by train through France. Book a rail pass for various days or a single ticket. For France you can book the Interrail One Country Pass and Eurail One Country Pass. When travelling on a Interrail or Eurail Pass you can make your reservations on Happyrail.com as well. Simply fill in your departure and destination station to book the reservation. For single tickets you can click here to contact us.
How to book train tickets to and in France?
Happyrail books all your train tickets within France including TGV-services, but also for Eurostar, international TGV, Thalys and other international services.
Domestic train tickets
For all TGV and long-distance trains reservation is compulsory and your ticket is fixed to a certain date and time. Fares start at only €15 for short-distance journeys like Paris-Lille. Longer journeys start at €25. Early booking for the cheapest fares is recommended, especially for the weekend and holiday dates. Booking opens 3 months in advance, in some cases/on some routes earlier.
Fares for regional TER-trains are based upon a price per kilometer and reservation is not compulsory. Tickets for regional trains are valid on later trains within the period of validity of the ticket.
Reservation is compulsory for Thalys services to/from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, Eurostar to/from London and all international TGV services to/from Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Fares start at €35 for Thalys Amsterdam-Paris, €59 for Eurostar London-Paris and €49 TGV Barcelona-Paris. Early booking is recommended to get the best fares, booking opens 4 months for departure for international TGV and Thalys, 6 months for Eurostar.
How to travel by train to France
France and the city of Paris are the central hub for high speed rail in western Europe. High speed trains operate from many European cities to Paris and other French cities.
Travel to Paris from €19
London and Paris are connected by Eurostar-services via the Channel Tunnel, trains run almost every hour (travel time about 2h16min). Thalys runs the high-speed service from Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne/Essen. Trains run hourly from Brussels to Paris, every 30 min in the peak hours (travel time from Brussels 1h20min). Amsterdam is connected about 12 times a day (travel time 3h18min), Cologne about 5 times (travel time 3h26min) of which 3 trains run from/to Düsseldorf (3h53min) and Essen (4h25min). Thalys also offers a low-cost service calls “Izy”, which operates 2 times a day between Brussels and Paris. Fares for this train are cheaper, but the travel time is also 2 times longer as it runs over the old railway and not over the high speed line.
From southern Germany there are 2 different routes to Paris. From Frankfurt 4 ICE’s and 1 TGV run daily to Paris, travel time about 3h50min. The other route runs 4 times daily from Stuttgart (3h40min) via Karlsuhe and Strasbourg and is serviced by TGV-trains. One train starts/ends in Munich (6h10min). The city of Freiburg in Breisgau is also connected by 1 daily TGV , travel time 3h45min. Luxembourg has 6 daily TGV’s to Paris. The Russian Railways operate a 3-weekly night train from Moscow, Minsk, Warsaw and Berlin to Paris.
Take the night train between Berlin and Paris: Deutsche Bahn withdrew her CityNightLine sleeper train between Berlin and Paris late 2014, but there's still a 3-weekly night connection between Berlin and Paris offered by the Russian train connecting Moscow and Paris. This train leaves from Berlin on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays arriving in Paris Est next morning. From Paris the train leaves on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
From Switzerland connections are offered by TGV Lyria, a co-operation of SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways SBB. Four TGV’s connect Basel with Paris (travel time 3h4min), of which one starts in Bern and three in Zürich, one service operates from Paris to Interlaken in the Bernese Oberland, but there is no return service. The Swiss city of Lausanne is connected with 5 daily TGV’s (3h40min), Geneve is being served by 8 TGV’s daily to Paris, travel time is 3h10min.
From Milano Porta Garibaldi station 3 daily TGV’s run to Paris, also calling in Torino Porta Susa. Thello runs an overnight service from Venice, Verona and Milano to Paris, offering couchettes and sleepers.
From Barcelona a co-operation of RENFE and SNCF offers daily TGV’s to Paris, 2 daily trains from November to March, 4 trains in summer. A night train offering seats and couchettes runs from the border station La-Tour de Carol in the Pyrenees to Paris, with a connecting service from Barcelona available. The daily Sud-Express runs from Lisbon to the border station of Hendaye, with a connecting TGV to Paris.
Insider tip: Take the scenic route from Barcelona to Paris: The TGV-connection from Barcelona to Paris is efficiënt and fast, but not very scenic. As scenic alternative there is a night connection from the border station Latour-de-Carol to Paris with a connecting service from Barcelona available. The suburban Rodalies-train leaves Barcelona Sants about 15.00 (time varies depending the day) and arrives in Latour-de-Carol at 18.15, the route is very scenic with the train winding his way trough the Pyrenees. The connecting night train leaves Latour de Carol at 20.20 and arrives Paris next morning at 07.24. The return service from Paris leaves 21.39, arriving in Latour-de-Carol at 07.51, the conntecting Rodalies-service to Barcelona leaves at 08.50 with arrival in Barcelona at 11.56.
Travel to Lille from €19
The city of Lille in northern France is connected by Eurostar from London, all trains (6-9 each day) from London to Brussels call here. Frequent TGV’s als run from Brussels via Lille to the Southern of France bypassing Paris. Thalys operates a direct service from Amsterdam to Lille, mostly 2 trains each day. Belgian Intercity services run from Antwerp and Ghent to Lille every 2 hours.
Travel to Strasbourg from €19
The eastern city of Strasbourg is connected by frequent local trains from Germany (Offenburg and Switzerland (Basel). TGV-trains from Stuttgart and Karlsruhe to Paris also call at Strasbourg. A daily Thalys operates from Brussels to Strasbourg.
Travel to Lyon from €29
The southern city of Lyon has international connections from Switzerland, regional trains run every 2 hours from Geneve to Lyon. A daily TGV connects Lyon with Frankfurt in Germany. TGV-trains from Barcelona to Paris also calls in Lyon (2 to 4 trains daily), a Spanish AVE-service is also running from/to Lyon each day. One of the three daily TGV’s Milano-Paris calls at the Lyon Airport of St Exupery. TGV’s run from Brussels to Lyon almost every 2 hours.
Travel to Nice, Avignon and Marseille from €19
Thello operates three daily EuroCity-connections from Milano and Genova to Nice of which one continues to Marseille. A daily TGV operates from Brussels to Nice and other cities at the Côte d’Azur. The Russian Railways operate a weekly night train from Moscow, Minsk, Warsaw, and Vienna to Nice. Also a daily TGV runs from Geneva to Nice Ville. Regional trains operate from Ventimiglia to Nice and Tende to Nice.
Avignon and Marseille are connected by 3 daily TGV’s from Brussels. Frankfurt, Basel and Geneva are connected each with 1 TGV daily to Avignon and Marseille. A Spanish AVE runs from Madrid and Barcelona to Marseille each day.
Eurostar offers a special direct service from London to Avignon and Marseille. The train runs on Saturdays only from November to March, on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays in April, May, September and October and on all days except Tuesday/Wednesday in July and August.
Thalys offers a summer-season direct service from Amsterdam and Brussels to Valence, Avignon and Marseille. This service runs every Saturday from late June until half August.
Travel to Toulouse and Bordeaux from €35
A daily AVE runs from Barcelona to Toulouse in southern France from early April to late August. There are no direct trains from abroad to Bordeaux, but this city is easy reachable with changing trains in Lille or Paris. Regional trains run from Spain to Cerbere, La Tour de Carol and Hendaye. A regional train runs from Zaragoza to Canfranc on the border with a connecting bus available to Oloron and Pau. A daily night train runs from Lisbon to the border station of Hendaye, with connecting services available to Bordeaux.
How to travel by train within France
As with most things in France, the central point in the rail network is Paris. Nearly all cities have a direct train to Paris. Smaller towns have one or two daily connections, bigger cities more frequent. Trains run more frequent (every 60 or 30 minutes) on the high speed lines out of Paris to Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg and Tours/Bordeaux/Rennes. Trains run about every 2 to 3 hours to destinations further away from Paris like Montpellier, Grenoble, Nice, Toulouse and Bayonne.
Making a cross-country journey means in many cases changing stations in Paris. As alternative there are TGV’s bypassing Paris, these trains call in Aeroport CDG TGV and Marne La Vallee Chessy (the train station for Disneyland Paris). Travelling with these trains means no change of stations in Paris. Direct trains are offered between Lille and Lyon/Avignon/Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux/Rennes/Nantes, Strasbourg and Lille, Strasbourg and Bordeaux/Rennes and Lyon and Rennes.
The following types of train are available within France:
TGV: High speed services (up to 320 km/h) to many destinations in France and abroad. First and second class available on all services, reservation required. Most services offer a bar coach with hot and cold drinks and simple dishes to take to your seat. Bikes are taken on a very limited number of services (with compulsory reservation), on all other services bikes have to be packed in a package not larger then 120 by 90 cm.
iDTGV: Low-cost TGV services on selected routes from stations in the city centre, mostly coupled with a normal TGV operating the same route. One class available, splitted into iDZEN (quiet class) and iDZAP (to travel with friends), reservation required. Bar coach available.
OUIGO: Low-cost TGV services operating from stations out of the city like Marne La Vallee (near Paris), Lyon Perrache (airport of Lyon) and Tourcoing (near Lille). A 30 minutes check-in applies and extras like taking large luggage or WiFi has to be paid seperatly. Reservation required.
Intercité: Long distance trains on routes wich aren't operated by TGV's, like Paris-Clermont Ferrand/Brive, Paris-Le Havre and Toulouse-Marseille-Nice. First and second class avialable on all routes, reservation required.. Trolley service available on the Paris-Clermont Ferrand-route. Bikes are taken on all services with compulsory reservation.
Intercité de Nuit: Night train service from Paris to Latour de Carol on the Spanish border in the Pyrenees, Rodez in the Auvergne and Briancon in the Alpes near the Italian border. Couchettes (with bunk beds) for 4 and 6 persons and second class seats available. Bikes are taken on all services with compulsory reservation.
Trains Express Régional (TER): Regional and local trains. Second class available on all routes, first class on longer distances. No reservation required. Bikes are taken free of charge.
Scenic routes within France
Clermont Ferrand-Nimes: Route of the Cevenol-train through the Auvergne. This route runs through scenic Allier-Valley which is only accesable by train.
St Gervais les Bains-Chamonix Mont Blanc-Martigny: Narrow-gauge route to the winter sport resort of Chamonix continuing to Martigny in the Rhone Valley in Switzerland.
Marseille/Valence-Gap-Briancon: Route from the Mediterranean coast/Rhone Valley up to Gap and Briancon in the high Alps.
Marseille-Nice-Ventigmiglia: Route along the Côte d'Azur to Nice and Italy via Toulon, Cannes, Antibes and Monaco.
Perpignan-Latour de Carol: The famous "Train Jaune" (Yellow Train) through the Pyrenees to the Spanish border station of Latour de Carol. Connecting service to Barcelona available.
Insider tip: Travel with the "Train des Pignes" from Nice to Digne: This narrow gauge railway runs from Nice at the Côte d'Azur to Digne in the middle of the Provence/Alps. The panoramic carriages runs through the suburbs of Nice, continuing to the lavendel flowers of the Provence finally arriving in the Alp town of Digne. Trains run 3 or 4 times daily, depending on the season.
Interrail One Country Pass
A European Rail Pass for European citizens...
With a Interrail One Country Pass France you can travel for a various days throughout France. At Happyrail.com you can make your seat reservations on the trains as well. This is possible to do before your travels and during your travels.
TGV’s and Intercité-trains need to be reserved, the price for a reservation ranges from €3 to €39, depending on the train/route and number of seats sold. Also night trains are useable, supplements vary from €3 for a reclining seat, €20 in a 6-bedded couchette and €30 in a 4-bedded-couchette (1st class Interrail needed).
A Interrail One Country Pass is also valid for Thalys services to Brussels and Amsterdam, a supplement of €25 in 2nd class or €35 in 1st class is payable. The Pass is also valid on TGV-services to Barcelona, the supplement is €26,50 in 2nd class and €53 in first class on these services. If you’re making a long distance return trip like from Amsterdam or Brussels to Barcelona it might be cheaper to buy an Interrail One Country Pass+supplements instead return tickets, especially if you’re travelling on short notice and there aren’t any cheap fares available.
Train fares for groups are generally more affordable than individual tickets. To major destinations of NS International, Deutsche Bahn and SNCF you can book up to 9 persons. For other destinations groupfares start from 6 adults.
Take your pet with you on holiday! Large pets travel on their own ticket. For smaller pets you can carry them in a travel bag. All enquiries for taking your pet on holiday by train you can click here to contact us.
In most trains there is a place designed for wheelchairs. When travelling there is a possibility to arrange a help service when hopping-on and hopping-off the train. For enquiries you can click here to contact us. Please let us know the size of the wheelchair and your travel wishes.
Recommended hotels near train stations in France
We've selected the following hotels in France based on the location near the train stations. These hotels offer a comfortable stay for good rates.
Paris: Hotel Terminus Nord Famous hotel opposite the Gare du Nord, ideally located when you're arriving by Thalys or Eurostar.
Paris: Hotel Maison du Pré Basic but clean hotel near the Gare du Nord
Lille: Hotel Suites Novotel Comfortable hotel opposite the Lille Europe-station.