Written by Rachel at RailEurope
So you know you want to go to France, and you’re probably going to fly into Paris… but then where do you go from there? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re looking for the best of French museums, landscapes, restaurants, or historical sights, this list of our top 10 cities to visit in France by train will get you there.
This is the 2nd largest city in France and the country’s premier port. Though there are several museums to duck into on a hot summer day (and it does get HOT in Marseille), many travelers prefer to simply wander the eccentric streets and embrace the city first-hand. We suggest taking a stroll down La Canebière, which leads to the Vieux-Port. In the port you are in for a treat with crafts and vendors all about. And the best part: Marseille is highly accessible by the high-speed TGV!
Paris to Marseille by train: Just over 3 hours
Credited with being one of the world’s most important wine-producing regions, Bordeaux is a great city for foodies. You can even take a gourmet food walking tour, or take a day trip to the nearby picturesque town of St Emilion. There is a lot to see in this city, and of course, fantastic wine to be had!
Paris to Bordeaux by train: About 3.5 hours
Now a bustling cosmopolitan city, Caen endured great damage during the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Many travelers have a desire to visit Caen to see where relatives may have been stationed during WWII. Also, many want to visit the memorials around the city. A trip to Caen is a trip that will not soon be forgotten. Caen is also a great stepping stone to the landing beaches, located about 20 minutes away.
Paris to Caen by train: About 2 hours
Each year the city of Lourdes receives millions of visitors from all around the world. Lourdes is nestled in a valley in the southwestern part of the Hautes-Pyrénées. Many Catholics pay homage to this revered city as it is believed that one woman was witness to the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary eighteen times. You certainly do not have to be Catholic to appreciate all that this mystifying city has to offer, though– the usual charming French streets and sidewalk cafes await!
Paris to Lourdes by train: About 6 hours
The best base for exploring the Rhône region, Lyon is also France’s 3rd largest city. Lyon is especially known for its mouth-watering cuisine and delicacies. Dishes such as Lyon sausage, quenelles and tripe Lyonnais are known worldwide. After a great meal, be sure to do some shopping, especially for silk as Lyon is one of the world’s silk capitals.
Paris to Lyon by train: About 2 hours
A visit to Aix must include a walk down Cours Mirabeau, the main street in the city. This street is one of Europe’s most beautiful, a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Aix is also known for the artists who made it their home, namely Cezanne, and you can visit the famous Musee Granet as well as Cezanne’s painting studio.
Paris to Aix-en-Provence by train: About 3 hours
Come to the city that averages 300 days of sunshine, you’re bound to have nice weather! Nice is the capital of the beautiful French Riviera, a famous summer vacationing spot. Due to its spectacular sunshine and relaxed living, Nice has attracted many artists and writers from Paris over the years. If you plan on visiting the French Riviera, Nice is one of the most affordable places to call home for a few days. And using the train, you can take day trips to other nearby Riviera cities.
Paris to Nice by train: About 5 hours
This cosmopolitan city with German influences is often overlooked, but — fun fact — you may recognize it from one of Disney’s most beloved films. This city and others in the region (like Colmar) were the inspiration for the setting of Beauty and the Beast. Strasbourg is also host to France’s oldest Christmas Market and has often changed hands between France and Germany through the years.
Paris to Strasbourg by train: About 2 hours
Back in the 14th century, Avignon was cited as the capital of Christendom. During what was known as the Babylonian Captivity, the Pope lived in Avignon. The legacy left behind makes Avignon one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities. Avignon is also a great starting off point for anyone who wants to visit the lavender fields of Provence.
Paris to Avignon by train: About 2.5 hours
What is there to say about Paris that hasn’t been said already? You can take some time wandering down the long halls of the Louvre, embracing the magnificent work that fills the museum or, hop on the RER with your Paris Visite Pass and head to the Palace of Versailles. Here you can have a look around the golden palace. Of course you have to make your way eventually to the Eiffel Tower! There is so much to see and do in Paris, you will have no trouble at all filling your time in this capital city!
What are your top 10 cities to visit in France by train this year?