Chugging via vineyard-striped hills, clipping via spectacular mountainous backcountry, or zipping alongside the Mediterranean Sea: there’s no higher option to expertise France than from the window seat of a practice.
And France’s very good practice community makes it straightforward to discover the far corners of this wealthy, diverse 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 very best practice rides in France.
Le Cévenol is probably 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 in every of France’s oldest practice routes – and one of the crucial difficult to construct, given the topography of the Gorges de l’Allier. Within the mid-1800s, the expertise didn’t but exist to blast via 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 called 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 kinds a part of an extended, cross-country route linking Marseille to Paris, however most riders bounce aboard at Clermont-Ferrand, within the coronary heart of volcano nation. You’ll begin off admiring volcanic plugs dotting the panorama earlier than heading via 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 way in which, you’ll cross three historic viaducts, wind via a number of spectacular valleys and traverse 106 tunnels. The very 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 countless meters (1341ft).
Tip: Upkeep work is commonly carried out within the spring, when SNCF buses substitute trains. You’ll want to test 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 imposing vista from afar. To rise up near this age-old mountain, hop aboard the well-known, cherry-red Train du Montenvers, as sightseers have completed since 1908. Departing from the primary practice station in Chamonix, the rack-and-pinion practice trundles up the mountainside at an angle larger than 9%, climbing via darkish forests and tunnels pierced via the rock. You’ll wish to sit on the left facet of the practice, by the way in which, to absorb glimpses of Mont Blanc between the fir bushes.
It takes about 20 minutes to ascend 1000m (3280ft) up the mountain and – simply if you assume you assume the excessive mountain surroundings can’t get any extra gorgeous – 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 may take within the north faces of the Grandes Jorasses, an immense face of rock and ice. But probably the most superb sights are the dense-blue-colored ice caves of the glacier, via 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 scorching chocolate at Le Panoramique cafe earlier than heading again down, or spend the evening on the historic Refuge de Montenvers, with its gorgeous patio overlooking the Mer de Glace.
Marseille to Ventimiglia is the very best practice journey for dazzling sea views
Marseille to Ventimiglia; 187km (116 miles)
Touring from Marseille to Ventimiglia in southern France alongside the SNCF tracks is likely to be a normal journey. The views, nonetheless, are something however. You may be challenged to stay seated for a lot of the way in which, 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 way in which 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 Good, with its intoxicating mixture of world-class museums and legendary seashores. However there are lesser-traveled locations as effectively, together with attractive Èze Plage, with its medieval village perched impossibly excessive a close-by peak, and down-to-earth Menton. Get out, discover, absorb some solar – and catch the following practice onward later.
The 50-minute stretch between Good and Ventimiglia is probably probably the most gorgeous, 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 once more.
Le Prepare des Pignes is a superb 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 “Prepare of Pinecones” chuffs from glittery seaside up into these snowy mountains in simply over 3 hours, offering gorgeous, ever-changing views alongside the way in which. 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 efficient cease to wander enchanting medieval streets and discover an historical citadel. Digne-les-Bains, on the finish of the road, is cute as may be, with cobblestone streets, bougainvillea-draped stone villas and retailers 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 identify means “pinecone”: maybe as a result of the practice used to run so slowly that passengers might bounce off to assemble cones – or as a result of when the practice ran quick 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 very best practice journey for cyclists
Orléans to Le Croisic; 338km (210 miles)
The Loire Valley unfolds like a fairytale, with a shocking array of Renaissance castles, green-emerald rivers and charming medieval villages. (Azay-le-Rideau fortress 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 embody Blois, topped by the château as soon as occupied by Louis XII; Amboise, Leonardo da Vinci’s ultimate house; and Nantes, a historic Breton city with an evocative Fifteenth-century château.
And right here’s a tip: you may hop on and off the practice together with your bike to hawk elements of the 900k (559-mile) Loire à Vélo, a comparatively flat bike path via this quintessentially French panorama. The practice even has a automotive devoted to bicycles in the summertime.
Eurostar via the Chunnel provides 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 Massive 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 Worldwide within the coronary heart of London, the complete journey takes simply 2.5 hours door to door. Alongside the way in which, 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 very best 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 – reside on manades (ranches), using indigenous white horses with flowing manes as they spherical up wild black bulls. Bullfighting is a giant a part of the tradition right here (the bulls usually are not killed). As are paella (although Camargue rice is completely different from its Spanish cousin), jazzy manouche music and an unbiased spirit developed from working a difficult panorama for hundreds of years. You will get to the center of all of it aboard the Nîmes–Le Grau-du-Roi practice route.
Departing from Nîmes, the single-track practice rumbles via 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 may 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 probably 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 practice” – will be the most well-known of all of them in France. It’s actually one in every of its most gorgeous in terms of surroundings. Chugging via the mountainous Pyrenées-Orientales from medieval Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour de Carol on the Andorra border, it winds via gorges and shadowy forests, throughout viaducts, previous two historic fortresses and by one perilously perched historical monastery. The very best level is the Bolquère Eyne depot, a gasp-induing 1593m (5225ft) excessive – making it France’s highest station.
Be aware that two several types 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.
Ideas for practice journey in France
Prepare choices in France
A number of several types 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 greatest wager: 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 courses of tickets can be found: first (première), with plush, reclining seats and ample house; and second (deuxième), which continues to be comfy however typically extra crowded.
The place to discover a France practice map
By means of maps of the French rail network can be found on the SNCF web site.
How you can 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 the US, Rail Europe.
Low-cost practice tickets in France
France provides varied rail passes, together with the France Go, with limitless journey on the nationwide rail community; and the Eurail International Go, which incorporates practice journey to neighboring nations. Offers for resorts, museums and different points of interest are sometimes included, too. You’ll discover extra data here.
The TGV provides 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) provides a restricted batch of low cost fares six months upfront. The earlier you e-book, the higher probability you may have of getting 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 could punch your ticket (composter le billet) in one of many yellow machines on the entrance to the platforms – or threat being fined.
How you can 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.
How you can 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.
How you can get from Switzerland to France by practice
The TGV runs from Geneva to Paris in slightly over 4 hours.
How you can 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.
How you can 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 way in which. Prepare corporations serving this route embody Deutsche Bahn, SNCF and Thalys (the French-Belgian high-speed practice operator, which is able to take you so far as Cologne).