Travel by train in France
Explore France by train with a Eurail pass and travel from the romantic capital of Paris, to the glistening coast of the Côte d’Azur, past the snow-capped Alps and meander through sprawling vineyards in the Bordeaux region.
Visit France’s most popular cities Paris, Lyons, Nice and Cannes by regional, high-speed or night train and enjoy the beautiful and varied scenery that France has to offer.
Find out more: What is Eurail?
Train types in France
There are a number of train types in France ready to transport you both day and night. Most of the French network is operated by SNCF. Use the Eurail train timetable (operated by the Deutsche Bahn German railway) to check times for trains in France.
Regional and intercity trains in France
The main rail network in France is made up of the following regional trains and intercity trains:
- TER trains link most French towns and cities and operate frequent services.
- InterCité (intercity) trains connect the main towns and cities across France.
On the Eurail timetable regional trains appear as "RE". Reservations are not required for regional trains and most InterCité trains. View a map of Intercité trains that do require a reservation on the SNCF website (in French only).
High-speed trains in France
International high-speed trains in France
These high-speed trains operate to and from France:
- Eurostar connects Paris and Lille to London (Great Britain) via the Channel Tunnel, and Lille to Brussels (Belgium).
- Thalys links Paris to Amsterdam (Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), Cologne (Germany).
- TGV connects Paris to Luxembourg city (Luxembourg), Lille to Brussels (Belgium), Paris to Turin and Milan (Italy) and Paris to Figueres (Spain).
- TGV Lyria links Paris to Geneva and Zurich (Switzerland).
- ICE connects Paris to Frankfurt and Munich (Germany)
- Talgo du Jour (Mare Nostrum) links Montpellier to Barcelona (Spain) and continues south to Valencia and Murcia (Spain).
Domestic high-speed trains in France
French domestic high-speed trains are run by TGV and travel at speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph). TGV trains transport passengers quickly and comfortably to cities across France, including from Paris to popular destinations like Bordeaux, Lyons (Lyon), Marseille and Nice.
TGV trains offer air-conditioning, large luggage racks, power sockets, plus refreshments and often a restaurant car.
On the Eurail timetable TGV trains are simply shown as “TGV”, Thalys as “THA”, ICE as “ICE”, Eurostar as “EST and Talgo du Jour as "TLG". These trains always require a reservation. Eurostar is not included in the Eurail pass, however travelers get a special fare.
Night trains in France
International night trains in France
The following night trains connect France with Spain and Germany:
The Thello night train opreates on the following routes:
- Paris – Milan – Verona – Venice
- Paris – Florence – Rome
Eurail passes are not valid on the Thello as it is operated by a private railway company.
Domestic night trains in France
The InterCités de Nuit night trains connect Paris to various destinations in the east, west and south of France, by night.
Elipsos trains appear on the Eurail timetable as "EN", City Night Line as "CNL" and InterCités de Nuit as "NZ"The Thello also appears as "EN". You're required to book sleeping accommodation in advance.
Train stations of bordering countries
With a Eurail pass valid in France you can travel to the following train stations of countries that border France:
- Basel (Switzerland)
- Geneva (Switzerland)
- Portbou (Spain)
- Ventimiglia (Italy)
Reservations for trains in France
Many French trains require an advance reservation, including TGV high-speed trains, all international high-speed trains, and night trains (prices depend on desired sleeping accommodation). You can make reservations up to 3 months in advance.
Please note that the number of seats available for Eurail pass holders is limited on TGV, Thalys trains, certain InterCité trains and the Paris-Frankfurt ICE train. We advise you to reserve these trains as soon as possible.
How to make reservations for French trains
You can make reservations for domestic and international high-speed trains and night trains:
- At a ticket desk or self-service machine at local train stations.
- By phone through one of the railway call centers.
For more information about reservations in France:
Rail and ferry connections in France
Popular domestic connections in France
View approximate train travel times between top cities in France with regional and high-speed TGV trains:
|From||To||High-speed train||Regional train|
|Nice||Paris||5hr 45min||14hr (2 changes)|
|Bordeaux||Paris||3hr 5min||6hr (1 change)|
|Marseille||Paris||3hr 10min||11hr (1 change)|
International train connections to and from France
We suggest the following routes to travel between France and other European countries:
- Spain – France
Travel to Paris by night on the Elipsos night train from Madrid (15hr 35min) or Barcelona (12hr 40min). Alternatively use the Talgo du Jour day train from Barcelona to Perpignan.
- Germany – France
Arrive in Paris on international trains from the German cities of Frankfurt (3hr 50min on ICE), Cologne (3hr 15min on Thalys) or Munich (6hr 10min on TGV).
- Great Britain – France
Arrive in Paris from London on the Eurostar high-speed train (2hr 15min). Eurostar is not included in the Eurail pass, but a special fare is available.
- Belgium – France
Arrive in Paris on the high-speed Thalys train from Brussels (1hr 20min). Alternatively take the TGV from Brussels to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (1hr 35min); this train also continues direct to Marseille (5hr 30min).
- Netherlands – France
Arrive in Paris on the high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam (3hr 30min).
- Italy – France
Take a regional train to Ventimiglia on the Italian border, followed by a direct InterCity train to Milan (4hr) or Genova (2hr), where you can connect to trains across Italy. There is also a TGV between Paris and Turin (5hr 45min) or Paris and Milan (7hr 15min) (reservations are expensive for this train).
View more train routes between France and Italy.
- Switzerland – France
Take a TGV from Paris to Geneva (3hr 5min) or a regional train from Lyons to Geneva (1hr 50min).
International ferry connections to and from France
You can also travel to and from France by ferry. Get a discount on specific routes with a Eurail pass.
- Great Britain – France
Travel with Irish Ferries from Rosslare in Ireland to Roscoff (18hr 30min) or Cherbourg (19hr 30min) in the north-west of France. Get a 30% discount with the Eurail pass.
France rail passes
Eurail passes including France let you see all of France's great cities like Paris, Lyon, Nice and Cannes. We offer passes that combine France with other European countries.
Rail pass options for France
- Eurail Global Pass starting from US$523 – have the freedom to visit France and up to 23 other Eurail countries.
- Regional Pass – focus on visiting France plus 1 other country. Here are your options:
Eurail France-Italy Pass starting from US$281 – visit popular Italian cities like Venice, Florence and Rome.
Eurail France-Spain Pass starting from US$281 – explore the sizzling Spanish culture in cities like Barcelona, Madrid and Seville.
Eurail France-Germany Pass starting from US$322 – travel to top German cities including Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt.
Eurail France - Switzerland Pass starting from US$323 – get to know Switzerland's beautiful sites in Geneva, Zurich and Bern.
France is not available as a One Country Pass. From January 1, 2013 it is no longer possible to choose France as part of the Select Pass. To visit France, choose a Regional Pass combination or the flexible Global Pass. Read more
Example train route in France
Visit France's most popular cities on a single trip with Eurail. You can follow the suggested route below using a Eurail France-Italy Pass - 10 days within 2 months, starting from US$475.
Paris is the world's most romantic city with top attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre gallery and world-class shopping.
Versailles is home to the Palace of Versailles – a splendid example of the pomp and splendour of eighteenth-century France.
Bordeaux is the perfect base from which to explore the famous wine region and visit a wine chateau or two.
Lyons' cobbled-old town and its network of hidden passageways (traboules) are a highlight of France's second largest city.
Nice is the Côte d'Azur's cosmopolitan capital with a mesmerizing turquoise coastline to cool down in.
Monaco is a tiny principality and a playground for the rich and famous – expect casinos, huge yachts and fast cars aplenty.
Monaco is included in Eurail passes that are valid in France.
For more route ideas for your Eurail trip, check out our European highlights itinerary.
Train stations in France
French hub stations
France has several hub stations in Paris including: Lyon, Nord, Austerlitz, Bercy, Est and Montparnasse. From these train stations it's possible to connect to trains to most of France's main cities.
The main train stations in France usually have excellent facilities, often including:
- Luggage lockers
- Foreign exchange desks
- Restaurants and cafés
- Tourist information offices
- ATM cash machines
- Elevators and escalators
- Access for disabled passengers
Extra benefits in France
Discounted ferry travel to Ireland is an extra benefit of a Eurail pass valid in France on these routes:
- Roscoff – Rosslare (Ireland)
- Cherbourg – Rosslare (Ireland)
Eurail pass holders also travel for free on these international bus routes:
- Digne – St Auban
- Digne – Veynes
- Oloro – Canfranc (Spain)
Train info for bordering countries
Get train information for the countries bordering France:
- Trains in Belgium
- Trains in Germany
- Trains in Ireland
- Trains in Italy
- Trains in Luxembourg
- Trains in Spain
- Trains in Switzerland