With the excellent French train network operated by SNCF, you can find your way to every corner of France on either high-speed TGV or regional TER trains. Read on to find out why the train is the way to go to France. We've got details on destinations and top tips on the classic routes. Plus a few great under-the-radar places you can reach by rail.
London to France on the Eurostar
The Eurostar is your starting point for trips by train from London to France. Leaving from London St Pancras International, the Eurostar runs every half hour during peak times and roughly every hour off-peak times. These regular Eurostar services run to Paris Gare du Nord and Lille-Europe stations. There are also seasonal Eurostar services direct to other French destinations. Eurostar has three ticket classes to suit your taste or budget – Standard, Standard Premier, and Business Premier. Most of the trains have free WiFi and charging sockets. The standard baggage allowance is two large suitcases per person, with no weight limit and no restrictions on liquids. That makes it much more convenient, and often cheaper than flying to Europe. You can even bring a bottle of wine for the journey!
London to Paris
The Eurostar to Paris is the most popular starting point for train trips from London to anywhere in France. London to Paris by train takes just 2h 16m on the Eurostar, as it shoots through the Channel Tunnel at up to 200 mph. It departs 15 times a day (up to 24 times a day during summer), between 05:40 and 20:00, from London St-Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Paris is home to world-famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. Plus, major museums like the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and Centre Pompidou. But there’s plenty more to discover beyond the main attractions, too. And did we mention the food?
London to Lille
Lille is the other often overlooked regular Eurostar destination in France. Despite taking one hour less to reach than Paris. London to Lille is a mere 1h 22m away by train. And Lille is a beautiful, compact city that is especially good for family trips. It is easy to walk around, making it family- and pedestrian-friendly. Situated near the Belgian border at the northeastern tip of France, it displays strong signs of French Flemish heritage and the old town features charming 17th-century cobbled streets and brick houses. It's tempting just to pop across the Channel for one of Lille's famous waffles! And trust us, it's worth it.
London to Le Mans and the Loire Valley
A train from London to Le Mans takes just 4h 25m, and it's only 1h from Le Mans to Tours – the university town at the heart of the famous Loire Valley wine region. Le Mans is best known for its classic 24-hour car race – the circuit is worth a visit even if you're not a motor-racing fan, with simulator rides and go-kart racing that are fun for all ages. Le Mans is also home to an impressive Gothic cathedral and the 13th-century Royal Abbey of Epau. Tours also has a famous Gothic cathedral, Saint-Gatien, and a medieval quarter full of twisting towers and half-timber houses. The main attractions, however, are the many vineyards and chateaux surrounding the city.
London to Rennes
The fastest trains from London to Rennes take 4h 51m. Depending on connections, you may have to change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Paris Montparnasse. The capital city of Brittany, Rennes is a melting-pot of cultural heritage, but it mostly flies under the foreign tourist radar. Here, Celtic, Gallic, medieval, Renaissance, and Breton influences combine. Half-timbered houses, gothic churches, and the Celtic Breton Cross speak to this colourful heritage. As do the Brittany Museum, Rennes Cathedral, and the Rennes Museum of Fine Arts. For the perfect side trip, Rennes to Mont-St-Michel is only 1h 15m by train, too.
London to Bordeaux
London to Bordeaux St-Jean takes just 5h 25m, via Paris. And it's a trip that certainly won't disappoint wine-lovers. Take a city wine-tasting tour or visit the surrounding vineyards to hear how and why Bordeaux has held its high reputation for so long – of course, you won't go thirsty, either. Seeing the imposing 11th-century Bordeaux Cathedral is also on the must-do list here. As is the Place de la Bourse, with its unique Miroir d'Eau reflecting pool. As the sun fades, stroll the quays along the Garonne River and stop in at one (or more) of the bars. All of these locations are within two miles of Bordeaux St-Jean.
London to Toulouse
The fastest journey from London to Toulouse takes 7h 47m with SNCF's high-speed INOUI services from Paris to Toulouse Matabiau. From Toulouse, you can walk, bike, or boat down the 17th-century Canal du Midi from the Garonne River to the Mediterranean Sea. Toulouse itself is more than a starting point, though. Known as the "Pink City" for its iconic rose-tinted brick buildings, Toulouse is home to beautiful architecture. It also has the Space City theme park and science centre. Thanks to an influx of émigrés from the Spanish Civil War, Toulouse has plenty of Spanish flavour, too—just try the tapas bars around Jean Jaurès Street.
London to Avignon
The home of artists, lavender, and Côtes du Rhône wines, Avignon is a veritable potpourri of French culture and history. And during summertime, it's only one train ride away from London. From June-October, the Eurostar runs directly from London to Avignon TGV in 5h 49m. This coincides with the Provence lavender festivals in July and August. And it's the best time to see the unique summer sunlight that made Avignon, and nearby Aix-en-Provence, the summer home of legendary Impressionist artists like Vincent Van Gogh, whose house you can visit. Ideal for weekend escapes, the seasonal London-Avignon Eurostar trains depart every Friday and Saturday morning.
London to Strasbourg
It's only 4h 40m by train from London to Strasbourg, via the Eurostar through Lille-Europe. Yet for whatever reason, people seem to skip over Strasbourg and head for better-known destinations further south. We're not complaining, though as this has let Strasbourg remain one of France's best-kept secrets. Strasbourg has many famous local culinary items, like blutwurst sausage and flammkuchen, which is similar to delicious, crispy pizza. Strasbourg is also known for its amazing Christmas markets, and its historic, picturesque old city centre was the first in France to become a protected World Heritage Site.
London to Lyon
Between June and September, Eurostar runs direct services several times a week from London St Pancras to Lyon Part-Dieu. Otherwise, take the Eurostar to Paris then TGV to Lyon in 4h 55m from London. Lyon is widely regarded as France's culinary capital. Which is obviously no mean feat. The saucisson is particularly famous in these parts. And you can find a thousand different versions of sausage around Lyon's abundant indoor and outdoor markets. Local specialities include pistachio, andouille, and dozens of different, delicious versions of tripe sausage. Then there is world-famous coq au vin and Lyonnaise potatoes. And that's before we even get started on the local Beaujolais wine.
London to Versailles
Versailles is only 3h 24m from London by train. Simply get the Eurostar to Paris, then take a 15-minute express train from Paris to Versailles Chantiers. There are dozens of departures a day, both for the Eurostar to Paris and the express train to Versailles. Versailles is known across the world for its grandiose palace and incredible gardens. But Versailles also has several other large public parks and beautiful buildings. Plus, an award-winning market, which is the perfect place to pick up food for a lovely picnic on the Grand Canal.
London to Marseille
Between June and August, the Eurostar operates from London to Marseille. This is the first ever direct train connecting the Thames with the Mediterranean. And it has a journey time of just 6h 28m. Marseille is one of the Mediterranean's most vibrant cities, as a major fishing port and commercial hub, it’s been a place influenced by many different cultures since the Greeks founded it around 600 B.C. Today, it’s a colourful concoction of European and North African culture, famous for its fishy bouillabaisse stew, incredible Moorish architecture, and electric nightlife. The Cours Julien neighbourhood is full of trendy bars, galleries, cafés, boutiques, and eateries.
London to Amiens
The train journey from London to Amiens takes 3h 15m. Amiens is a beautiful, ancient city straddling the Somme river. It’s known for the grand gothic Amiens Cathedral, its medieval bell tower, and the floating market gardens bobbing on the city's canals. Science fiction author Jules Verne lived nearby, and you can visit his house and museum. Amiens is also known for its role during the First World War. And many people use it as a base for visiting the World War One battlefields, cemeteries, and historical sites around Flanders fields.
London to Disneyland Paris
We had to finish with a classic. The ultimate day out for families with young kids it takes just 2h 49m by train from London to Disneyland Paris. That's right – you can have breakfast in London, then be hanging with Mickey and friends in France just after lunch. The Eurostar station is Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallée Chessy and is a two-minute walk from Disneyland Paris. Trains run direct from London St Pancras at 10:14, arriving in Marne-la-Vallée Chessy at 14:03 local time. If you'd like an earlier start, the 06:47 Eurostar from London (via Lille-Europe) gets you to Disneyland at 11:28.
Want to discover more about travelling by train to France? Take a look around our website – we've got travel to plenty of different destinations on offer to suit every taste and budget.