At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


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While Paris is the most-visited city in France, there are many other amazing destinations you can get to by train. The country has so much more to offer besides touring its capital city.

Plus, as the country’s rail system is one of the most affordable and efficient in the world, it’s cheap and easy to reach most places in France by train from Paris.

Additionally, if you travel with the Eurail Pass for France, you get unlimited train rides across the country for a given amount of days without having to buy extra train tickets, depending on the pass you get. You can learn more about this by reading my comprehensive guide to the Eurail Pass.

OK, here’s my list of the best places in France to visit by train.

Bordeaux in France

Bordeaux

Teeming with life and culture, Bordeaux is a destination to enjoy with all your senses. The city is lined with fine galleries, museums, and charming architecture, such as Place de la Bourse.

Bordeaux city is also well-known across the globe for its wine, and since you’re in the city where world-famous wine is made, you get to enjoy it at a much lower price.

It takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Bordeaux from Paris. If you book your train early, you can get good discounts and the best seats.

By the way, outside of the touristy city center of Paris, it’s not as common for the locals to speak English. So, if you’re planning to head into the French countryside, I’d highly recommend learning some basic French beforehand to get the most out of your experience.

Biarritz in France

Biarritz

Located in South West France, Biarritz is a coastal haven worth checking out. The seafood alone is enough to make you consider hopping on a train to reach this destination. 

Once you arrive, spend your day relaxing at the beach, soaking up the sun, or having some fun on the water, surfing or jet skiing.

The train ride from Paris takes 4 hours on one of the high-speed trains and 6 hours on a regular train. The journey time may vary, but the overall ride is a pleasant experience during which you can soak up some stunning scenery.

Loire Valley in France

Loire Valley

Known as the “garden of France,” Loire Valley is perfect for a relaxing getaway. The main attraction here is the 1000-mile-long Loire River, which has carved its way into the landscape.

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The surrounding land is highly fertile, giving rise to some of the best produce in France. The atmosphere created by the breathtaking landscape is calming and therapeutic, and there are also over 300 castles in the valley. Some of the most beautiful castles to visit in Loire Valley include:

  • Château de Chenonceau
  • Château de Chambord
  • Château de Cheverny
  • Château de Chaumont

The train ride from Paris to Loire Valley takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Avignon in France

Avignon

Located in the South of France, Avignon is another famous destination due to its lavender fields, which have become a staple background for selfie-takers and family photos.

It also houses beautiful architecture that dates back to the 14th century and is home to the great Papal Palace.

Another of Avignon’s top attractions is the magnificent Avignon Cathedral, sitting directly next to the Papal Palace. The cathedral is easy to spot due to its tower-top golden statue of Mary poking above the city’s rooftops.

Avignon also hosts dozens of cultural festivals that draw people from all across Europe and even from across the globe. The festivals present various cultures and extensive collections of art from international artists.

The train ride from Paris to Avignon is 3hours and 20 minutes long.

Marseille, France

Marseille

Marseille may not be at the top of your France itinerary, but it’s well worth a visit and there’s a direct train from Paris to Marseille that takes around 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Situated at the mouth of the Rhône, the city is oozing with history and culture. It’s most famous for its Old Port, where you can admire the old quays and dine at one of the waterside cafes.

I’d also highly recommend paying a visit to the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) for its modern architecture and intriguing exhibitions.

For the best views of the city, climb up the hill to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Nice in France

Nice

Train travel across France simply wouldn’t be complete without stopping off at Nice. It’s full of fancy hotels, sandy beaches, and amazing restaurants.

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Plus, if you’re an art lover, then you’ll enjoy the museums devoted to famous artists like Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse.

In the evenings, you can stroll along the Promenade des Anglais and take in the bustling atmosphere.

While you’re there, make sure you check out Vieux Nice which is the old town. It has parks and ruins for you to explore, and quaint cafes, shops, and boutiques that are quintessentially French.

The slower French trains take around 7 hours and 45 minutes from Paris but you can shave around 2 hours off this if you take one of the high-speed trains.

Lyon, France

Lyon

Lyon may not be as well known as Paris, but it’s one of France’s major cities and is considered to be its gastronomic heart. It’s home to many Michelin-starred restaurants but you don’t need to break the bank to eat well here.

Even simple meals in the local bouchons are a true delight and include Lyonnaise staples like coq-au-vin, roast pork, and salade Lyonnaise.

Lyon is also home to France’s largest urban park, Tête d’Or, which includes a botanical garden containing over 16,000 species of plants. You’ll find the Lyon Zoo here too which is ideal if you’re travelling with little ones.

Due to its location, it’s a great place to stop off if you’re planning to travel further south to Nice or Marseille. From Paris, you can reach Lyon in around 2 hours by train.

Reims, France

Reims

Of course, one of the best things about visiting France is its incredible wine, and Reims has a good case for being the best French city for wine lovers.

It sits in the heart of the Champagne region and is home to lots of UNESCO-listed champagne cellars, where you can take the type of wine tour dreams are made of.

Still, this city isn’t just about wine. Make sure you visit its Gothic Cathedral which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Palais du Tau.

One surprising thing I learned when visiting Reims is that its Notre-Dame Cathedral is bigger than the Notre-Dame de Paris. It’s amazing what you can learn with a bit of train travel!

It takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Reims by train from Paris.

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Toulouse, France

Toulouse

Toulouse is nicknamed Le Ville Rose, The Pink City in English, due to the vibrant colors of its buildings. Aside from its beauty, it’s also an ideal starting point if you want to explore the Occitanie region.

The city has a huge student population due to its prestigious university which lends it an energetic atmosphere. There’s always something going on from rowdy gigs in local bars to quirky street performances.

However, large parts of the city are quiet and I’d recommend a peaceful stroll along the banks of the Garonne River if you need some downtime.

Don’t miss out on the many great sights such as the Basilique Saint Sernin, the Musee George Labit, and the Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden).

The slow train to Toulouse from Paris takes around 5 hours but the fast train will get you there about 40 minutes quicker.

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg

Strasbourg is probably most well-known as the headquarters of the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights, but it has plenty more to offer to visitors.

The city center is historic and picturesque with half-timbered houses and cobbled streets where you can snap some great photos.

In the heart of the city, you’ll find Strasbourg Cathedral towering above the rest of the urban landscape. It was actually the tallest building in the world for 227 years from 1647 to 1874!

The train from Paris to Strasbourg takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Lastly, to help you navigate to these cities, check out this handy map with their location in France compared to Paris.

My Top Tip For Traveling Around France By Train

Rail travel in France is generally excellent. It’s cheaper than many other countries in Western Europe, and you can reach all of the major cities fairly quickly from Paris. However, one thing to bear in mind is that train strikes (and all strikes for that matter) are fairly common in France.

So, always make sure you check the dates of any upcoming strikes before planning your trip. The last thing you want is to get there and realize the trains aren’t even running!

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