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Travel advice Trains in France

 

Situated on the southern coast of France on the Mediterranean coast, the Côte d'Azur, also known as the French Riviera in English, is blessed with great weather from spring to autumn. It's home to beautiful beaches, fascinating towns and cities and is easily reached in the comfort of a train. We’ll show you how to book cheap train tickets to the French Riviera below, and what to visit once you arrive.

How to book trains to the Côte d'Azur

As a trusted partner of France’s state railway company, SNCF, you can book all your trains in France through us. send your journey details and e-ticket via email, allowing you to breeze straight past those ticket machine queues. Here’s how to book your ticket to the Côte d'Azur using our Journey Planner above:

  1. Enter your origin (where you’re travelling from) and your destination (where you’re travelling to).
  2. Pick a date and time you’d like to travel.
  3. Select how many passengers are travelling.
  4. We’ll show you the prices and times for the route you’ve chosen. Select your preferred train and whether you want to travel in Standard or First Class.
  5. Enter the full names of all passengers you’re buying tickets for (name must match their IDs) and an email address to send your tickets to.

Visiting the Côte d'Azur by train

The Côte d'Azur is one of the best tourist destinations in France, and for good reason – it’s beautiful! Translating to the ‘Coast of Azure’ – also known as the French Riviera – this stretch of Mediterranean coast spans from Toulon in the West to the French-Italian border. The Riviera has no official boundaries, but the main spots in the area are generally agreed to be Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Toulon and Monaco. If you weren’t aware, Monaco is an independent microstate! The Côte d'Azur forms part of the larger administrative region that is Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur – the most popular region in France for tourism. If you can, try to explore the whole of Provence; from the Alps in the north to the beautiful coastline and rolling lavender fields.

National and international services to the Côte d'Azur stop at the region’s main stations, such as Nice Ville, Gare de Cannes and Gare de Toulon (‘Gare’ simply means ‘station’ in French). Thanks to France’s high-speed rail network, administered by national railway company SNCF, it’s easy to reach the Riviera from any corner of the country. The TGV train from Paris run by SNCF takes just under six hours to get to Nice, travelling at speeds of up to 200mph. From Lyon, it’s just four and a half hours on the direct service.

Once you arrive at the Côte d'Azur, you can take advantage of the regular local services, also run by SNCF, which operate between the major cities, smaller towns and even villages along the French Riviera. Trains in Côte d'Azur run along the coastline, which means you can enjoy spectacular views of the Mediterranean as you travel. Services on the Marseille-Ventimiglia line run every half an hour until 10 pm during the week. However, on the weekends, not every train will stop at the smaller stations.                       


Côte d'Azur train stations and highlights 

From Toulon, the Marseille-Ventimiglia (France to Italy) line heads inland to Vidauban and Les Arcs-Draguignan, before returning to the coast where it calls at Fréjus and Mandelieu-la-Napoule. Cannes-Ville and Cannes la Bocca are the next stations, followed by Juan-les-Pins, the picturesque old town of Antibes and the small village of Biot. Villeneuve-Loubet and Cagnes-sur-Mer are located on the outskirts of Nice, which is home to three main railway stations served by SNCF trains. 

Most towns have just one station, although Nice, the biggest city in the Côte d'Azur has three: Nice-Ville in the city centre, Nice-Riquier down by the port and Nice St Augustin which is nearest to the airport. It takes around an hour to travel from Nice to Ventimiglia at the eastern end of the line, while the journey from Nice to Marseille, in the west, takes about two and a half hours. After leaving Nice, the Côte d'Azur railway line passes through Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cap d'Ail before reaching the Gare de Monaco and proceeding to Menton before the service crosses the Italian border and reaches its terminus at Ventimiglia.

Home to the rich and famous in equal measure, Monte Carlo, part of the Principality of Monaco, is also worth a visit. There's the Grand Prix, held every year and boat races all year round to keep you occupied, as well as an assortment of casinos and luxury hotels. The only train station within the Principality is Gare de Monaco is located in Monte Carlo, and it provides a gateway to other destinations in the French Riviera, France and beyond.  

You don't have to be in the film industry to enjoy the bright lights of Cannes. Whether it's walking along the La Croisette promenade, enjoying a stay at one of the palace-like hotels the city has to offer or exploring the old Fort Royal on the Ile Ste-Marguérite, Cannes is a playground for the wealthy, those on a budget and everyone in between. There are two main rail stations; Cannes-Ville (also known as Gare de Cannes) and Cannes la Bocca, which is conveniently placed by the beach and connections to local ferry services.


London to Nice by train

It’s not the fastest way to get to the Riviera – we’ll admit – but it’s entirely possible to get from London to Nice by train on a combination of Eurostar and SNCF trains. The journey will take just over nine hours on the fastest services. If you’re in no rush, consider it! You’ll get lovely views from inside modern and comfortable train carriages, there will be much fewer restrictions on baggage compared to air travel, and your carbon footprint will be far lower.

The most common route from London to Nice is a 2-legged journey involving a change in Paris. First, catch the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord. The latter is the terminus for Eurostar services to Paris. The journey should take between 2h 15m and 2h 25m, depending on whether the train stops at Ashford or Ebbsfleet. Once you arrive at Gare du Nord, you’ll have to transfer to Gare de Lyon – this station serves trains running into the south of the country. Simply hop on the RER (Paris’ metro system) line D – Gare du Nord has its own RER station – and alight at Gare de Lyon.

From Gare de Lyon, you can take a high-speed TGV train direct to Nice. The fastest services take 5h 50m. SNCF’s TGV trains are the pride of the French rail fleet – modern, fast and comfortable. You’ll arrive into Nice Ville station ready to start exploring the Riviera.

An alternative route to Nice from London is to take the Eurostar service to the south of France. This only operates in summer (May to September), running around four times per week. Change at Avignon or Marseille and catch a connecting high-speed service to Nice.

Keen to learn more about the journey? Find journey information and read FAQs on our London to Nice trains page.


Trains from Italy to the Côte d'Azur

The Riviera borders with Italy to the north, so it’s easy to reach by train from Italy! One of the most popular routes to the Côte d'Azur is the Milan to Marseille route operated by Thello – one of the new kids on the block in the European rail system. Thello runs three services a day from Italy to France. Departing from Milano Centrale, the train cuts through northern Italy and into southern France.

Of those three daily services, two terminate at Nice Ville. One service runs through the Riviera to Marseille, calling at Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St Raphaël, and Toulon. Times can vary day by day, but through our handy app, you can see live train times on the day or in advance.

For more information on Thello services, read our information page for Thello.


Visiting from the US?

The French Riviera is very popular with American visitors. It was once the sunny refuge for F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of America’s greatest writers; its scenery served as his literary inspiration. Since then, thousands more have flocked across the Atlantic to its sunny shores. Below we’ll share some travel tips for anyone making the long trip across the pond to make sure you get the most of your trip.

When should I visit?

The climate on the Côte d'Azur is mild throughout the year. You can still get great weather in the months outside the peak season (July to August). The best time to visit is May, June or September, where you’ll have a balance of nice temperatures and lower crowds. Generally, lower temperatures mean fewer tourists, so, if you want to holiday in peace consider visiting from October to April.

Should I rent a car?

As a train ticket company, we can’t pretend we don’t have a horse in this race, but we recommend that you take public transport! Traffic, parking and tolls can be very bad in the Riviera, especially in the peak season. It’s far easier, cheaper and less stressful to take buses and trains around the Riviera. You can book train tickets in advance with us; bus tickets can be bought while you’re there. A great advantage of bus travel is that journeys cost €1.50 no matter the distance.

If you’re flying from the US it is likely you will be arriving into Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, so unless you fancy a nine-hour drive from Paris, the best way to get to the Côte d'Azur is by train! Why not continue in the same vein once you arrive?

Will there be English speakers?

In general, people in service jobs will speak decent English, owing to the volume of English-speaking tourists that visit every year. Residents, especially those in villages off the beaten path, won’t speak as much English. It always helps to learn a few phrases as a sign of respect. It might help to learn this one: “Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas francais” – “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French!”

Average savings on fares booked prior to day of travel vs full price fares on day of travel in France. Subject to availability. Excludes coach.

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