Chugging by way of vineyard-striped hills, clipping by way of spectacular mountainous backcountry, or zipping alongside the Mediterranean Sea: there’s no higher method to expertise France than from the window seat of a practice.
And France’s excellent practice community makes it straightforward to discover the far corners of this wealthy, various nation. We’ve highlighted the next journeys as a result of they provide scenic magnificence, sustain a classic heritage or are simply plan fabulous.
All aboard for the most effective practice rides in France.
Le Cévenol is essentially the most distant and wild practice journey
Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes; 303km (188 miles)
The savage fantastic thing about the remoted Massif Central opens up on one of France’s oldest train routes – and some of the difficult to construct, given the topography of the Gorges de l’Allier. Within the mid-1800s, the expertise didn’t but exist to blast by way of granite and basalt mountains – so in a triumphal feat of engineering, staff used rudimentary strategies to blast out the road’s tunnels. Le Cévenol (also referred to as La Ligne des Cévennes) opened in 1870 for each passengers and freight, together with coal headed to the Rhône area and wine to Paris.
The Cévenol types a part of an extended, cross-country route linking Marseille to Paris, however most riders soar aboard at Clermont-Ferrand, within the coronary heart of volcano nation. You’ll begin off admiring volcanic plugs dotting the panorama earlier than heading by way of the pièce de résistance: the Gorges de l’Allier. Excessive above the Allier River, magnificent views open up, stretching far throughout the gorge. Alongside the best way, you’ll cross three historic viaducts, wind by way of a number of spectacular valleys and traverse 106 tunnels. The best level is La Bastide Puylaurent at 1018m (3340ft), whereas the Chamborigaud viaduct guarantees a heart-in-mouth expertise as you teeter excessive above the panorama for 409 infinite meters (1341ft).
Tip: Upkeep work is usually carried out within the spring, when SNCF buses substitute trains. You’ll want to verify forward earlier than reserving.
Le Prepare du Montenvers will get you up near a glacier
Chamonix–Mont-Blanc to Montenvers; 5km (3 miles)
Mont Blanc towers over the Alps, its eternally snow-capped peak offering an impressive vista from afar. To rise up near this age-old mountain, hop aboard the well-known, cherry-red Train du Montenvers, as sightseers have finished since 1908. Departing from the primary practice station in Chamonix, the rack-and-pinion practice trundles up the mountainside at an angle higher than 9%, climbing by way of darkish forests and tunnels pierced by way of the rock. You’ll need to sit on the left facet of the practice, by the best way, to absorb glimpses of Mont Blanc between the fir timber.
It takes about 20 minutes to ascend 1000m (3280ft) up the mountain and – simply if you suppose you suppose the excessive mountain surroundings can’t get any extra beautiful – you arrive on the foot of Mer de Glace, a valley glacier (actually, “sea of ice”) at an altitude of 1913m (6276ft). From right here, you’ll be able to take within the north faces of the Grandes Jorasses, an immense face of rock and ice. But essentially the most superb sights are the dense-blue-colored ice caves of the glacier, by way of which you’ll be able to stroll to admire ice sculptures (the tour is included within the value of the practice ticket). The interactive Glaciorium, which recounts the glacier’s historical past, is one other must-see. Seize a sizzling chocolate at Le Panoramique cafe earlier than heading again down, or spend the evening on the historic Refuge de Montenvers, with its beautiful patio overlooking the Mer de Glace.
Marseille to Ventimiglia is the most effective practice journey for dazzling sea views
Marseille to Ventimiglia; 187km (116 miles)
Touring from Marseille to Ventimiglia in southern France alongside the SNCF tracks may be a normal journey. The views, nonetheless, are something however. You’ll be challenged to stay seated for a lot of the best way, as Insta-worthy scenes of the azure-blue Mediterranean Sea slide by the practice’s window, illustrating the attract of the South of France. Interspersed are glimpses of maquis-covered cliffs (maquis is the tantalizing mix of herbs that develop wild right here), terracotta-colored villages, and palm-tree-bedecked hills.
The stops alongside the best way are fabled locations unto themselves: legendary Saint-Tropez, made well-known by an unknown Brigitte Bardot; Cannes, with its star-studded legacy; Monaco, house of the Grimaldi royals; and Nice, with its intoxicating mixture of world-class museums and legendary seashores. However there are lesser-traveled locations as nicely, together with attractive Èze Plage, with its medieval village perched impossibly excessive a close-by peak, and down-to-earth Menton. Get out, discover, soak up some solar – and catch the subsequent practice onward later.
The 50-minute stretch between Good and Ventimiglia is maybe essentially the most beautiful, as you click on previous artwork deco villas, glowing bays and pastel-colored cities marching up palm-tree-dotted hillsides. You finish simply on the Italian border, the place you may have the choice of turning round and seeing it another time.
Le Prepare des Pignes is a wonderful classic practice journey
Good to Digne; 150km (93 miles)
Behind the Mediterranean-lapped shores of Good, the jagged grey peaks of the Mediterranean Alps beckon from afar. A journey aboard the “Train of Pinecones” chuffs from glittery seaside up into these snowy mountains in simply over 3 hours, offering beautiful, ever-changing views alongside the best way. From Provençal fields and olive groves, you’ll enter a land of deep river gorges and medieval fortresses. Simply 90 minutes from Good, Entrevaux is an effective cease to wander enchanting medieval streets and discover an historical citadel. Digne-les-Bains, on the finish of the road, is cute as might be, with cobblestone streets, bougainvillea-draped stone villas and outlets purveying honey, lavender and different native merchandise.
With its diesel railcars and gleaming varnished wooden benches, this line is the one remnant of the meter-gauge Chemins de Fer de Provence that after crisscrossed southern France. The pigne in its title means “pinecone”: maybe as a result of the practice used to run so slowly that passengers might soar off to assemble cones – or as a result of when the practice ran brief on gas, the engineers resorted to burning them. Regardless of the case, majestic pine forests surrounding the route add to its scenic attract.
Orléans to Le Croisic on Interloire is the most effective practice journey for cyclists
Orléans to Le Croisic; 338km (210 miles)
The Loire Valley unfolds like a fairytale, with a surprising array of Renaissance castles, green-emerald rivers and charming medieval villages. (Azay-le-Rideau castle was, in any case, the inspiration for Sleeping Magnificence.) The Interloire railroad (run by the TER Centre-Val de Loire and TER Pays de la Loire) traverses this legendary valley from Orléans, the hometown of Jeanne d’Arc, to the fishing harbor city of Le Croisic on the Atlantic. Should-visit stops embrace Blois, topped by the château as soon as occupied by Louis XII; Amboise, Leonardo da Vinci’s closing house; and Nantes, a historic Breton city with an evocative Fifteenth-century château.
And right here’s a tip: you’ll be able to hop on and off the practice together with your bike to hawk components of the 900k (559-mile) Loire à Vélo, a comparatively flat bike path by way of this quintessentially French panorama. The practice even has a automotive devoted to bicycles in the summertime.
Eurostar by way of the Chunnel affords a fast escape to London
Paris to London; 451km (280 miles)
When you fancy a fast getaway from Paris to London, maybe to say hello to Big Ben or poke into the V&A Museum, depend on the Channel Tunnel. Accomplished in 1994, this extraordinary engineering feat – nicknamed the Chunnel – burrows deep beneath the expanse of water between France and England, permitting passengers in glossy, high-speed Eurostar trains to journey the channel portion of the journey – 51km (31.5 miles) – in simply half-hour, with a full 38km (23.5 miles) of that underwater.
From Gare du Nord within the coronary heart of Paris to St Pancras International within the coronary heart of London, the whole journey takes simply 2.5 hours door to door. Alongside the best way, you’ll take pleasure in fairly French and English countryside – although contained in the tunnel itself, you shouldn’t depend on seeing any sea life, solely blackness till you emerge into the sunshine of day.
The Nîmes–Le Grau-du-Roi Line is the most effective Wild West practice journey
Nîmes to Le Grau-du-Roi; 37km (23 miles)
Wild bulls in Provence? And cowboys? Mais oui. Tucked away within the southwestern nook of Provence, the marshy Camargue – a river delta south of Arles the place the Grand and Petit Rhône meet the Mediterranean – reigns as France’s model of the Wild West. Gardians – Camarguais cowboys – dwell on manades (ranches), using indigenous white horses with flowing manes as they spherical up wild black bulls. Bullfighting is an enormous a part of the tradition right here (the bulls usually are not killed). As are paella (although Camargue rice is totally different from its Spanish cousin), jazzy manouche music and an impartial spirit developed from working a difficult panorama for hundreds of years. You will get to the guts of all of it aboard the Nîmes–Le Grau-du-Roi practice route.
Departing from Nîmes, the single-track practice rumbles by way of the vineyards of Costières de Nîmes earlier than passing by Aigues-Mortes. Kings departed on their Crusades from this medieval walled metropolis, the place you’ll be able to nonetheless stroll historical streets. From there, you head throughout the salt marshes and lagoons; hold your eyes out for horses and bulls, in addition to pink flamingoes flying overhead. The route ends in Le Grau-du-Roi, simply steps from the Mediterranean Sea.
Le Petit Prepare Jaune is essentially the most well-known classic practice journey
Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour de Carol; 64km (40 miles)
This historic little practice – or, actually, the “little yellow train” – would be the most well-known of all of them in France. It’s definitely one in every of its most beautiful in terms of surroundings. Chugging by way of the mountainous Pyrenées-Orientales from medieval Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour de Carol on the Andorra border, it winds by way of gorges and shadowy forests, throughout viaducts, previous two historic fortresses and by one perilously perched historical monastery. The best level is the Bolquère Eyne depot, a gasp-induing 1593m (5225ft) excessive – making it France’s highest station.
Notice that two various kinds of trains function this route: a contemporary enclosed practice in addition to the classic practice that generally runs with open carriages. No want to fret about which one to decide on, although: each are painted yellow.
Suggestions for practice journey in France
Prepare choices in France
A number of various kinds of trains journey throughout France, together with native and regional trains, in a single day trains with sleeping lodging and the TGV, the high-speed Trains à Grande Vitesse. To journey between most huge cities, the TGV is your finest guess: these pioneering high-speed trains journey between 255 kph and 320 kph (160 mph and 200 mph) and can get you there inside hours. Paris to Bordeaux, for instance, is 2.5 hours, with Paris to Marseille a mere 3 hours 40 minutes. That mentioned, the slower native and regional trains journey open up lesser traveled areas of the nation.
TGV inOui is a brand new premium TGV practice service operated by SNCF on sure high-speed rail providers.
Two lessons of tickets can be found: first (première), with plush, reclining seats and ample house; and second (deuxième), which remains to be comfy however typically extra crowded.
The place to discover a France practice map
By maps of the French rail network can be found on the SNCF web site.
Tips on how to e-book a practice in France
Whereas you should purchase a ticket on the station, both from a ticket window or a merchandising machine, it’s typically cheaper to e-book your ticket on-line forward of time. Contact Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer (SNCF) or, from america, Rail Europe.
Low-cost practice tickets in France
France affords varied rail passes, together with the France Go, with limitless journey on the nationwide rail community; and the Eurail World Go, which incorporates practice journey to neighboring nations. Offers for accommodations, museums and different sights are sometimes included, too. You’ll discover extra data here.
The TGV affords Prem’s tickets three months upfront (the reserving horizon could also be prolonged in summer time).
The Eurostar high-speed practice service connecting the UK with France (and Belgium and the Netherlands) affords a restricted batch of low cost fares six months upfront. The earlier you e-book, the higher probability you may have of getting a superb value.
Arrange a booking alert to be notified when low cost tickets are launched.
Boarding the practice in France
Earlier than getting on the practice, you will need to punch your ticket (composter le billet) in one of many yellow machines on the entrance to the platforms – or threat being fined.
Tips on how to get from Italy to France by practice
You will get from Italy to France by way of Italiarail. It takes about 11.5 hours to journey from Rome to Paris. SNCF additionally serves the route.
Tips on how to get from Spain to France by practice
Spain’s practice firm is Renfe. It takes about 10.5 hours to get from Madrid to Paris, a route additionally served by SNCF.
Tips on how to get from Switzerland to France by practice
The TGV runs from Geneva to Paris in somewhat over 4 hours.
Tips on how to get from Germany to France by practice
The Deutsche Bahn’s InterCity Categorical (ICE) is Germany’s high-speed practice service, permitting journey from Frankfurt to Paris in as little as 4 hours (so long as you don’t have to attach in Cologne). SNCF additionally serves the route.
Tips on how to get from Poland to France by practice
It takes between 14 hours and 19.5 hours to cross a lot of Europe from France to Poland, and also you sometimes have to make two modifications alongside the best way. Prepare firms serving this route embrace Deutsche Bahn, SNCF and Thalys (the French-Belgian high-speed practice operator, which can take you so far as Cologne).