The guide to using Marseille St. Charles train station, also suggests places to stay with easy access - and why Marseille is a great base for exploring the south of France by train.
Something to look out for is that when using SNCF Connect to look up journeys and book tickets for rail travel to or from Marseille, is that it's easier to use 'Marseille' as the station name and not Marseille St-Charles.
Marseilles St Charles is a terminus station so it’s comparatively easy to use.
The (voies) platforms/tracks are on the same level as the main concourse, which also houses ticket and information offices and the access to the metro station.
Changing trains simply involves walking from one voie (platform/track) to another via the main concourse, which is convenient as Marseille is where connections have to be made when travelling by train along the Mediterranean coast in France, between locations to the east such as Toulon, Nice and Cannes, and locations to the west such as Nimes and Montpellier.
Six things worth knowing about Marseille-St Charles:
(1) At Marseille-Saint-Charles the voies (platform/tracks) by the main concourse have letters in place of numbers the run from A - N.
(2) Voies (platform/tracks) A - E are in the older part of the station, so for some of their length they are under the arched roof.
Voies F - N are between the older part of the train station and the adjacent bus station.
Voies F, G, H and I have canopies along their length, which are as long as the older station roof.
However, voies L - N have very short roofs which over little protection from inclement weather.
(3) Voies (platform/tracks) 1 and 5 are located away from the main councourse, towards the far end of voie (platform/track) A.
They are used by some TER trains, particularly to and from destinations to the east, which includes the trains to Toulon and beyond.
So voies 1 -5 are some distance from the main concourse.
(4) Aside from its avenue of trees inside the station, the other untypical aspect of Marseilles St Charles is that the building also houses the city’s long distance bus station.
When looking at the departure screens don’t confuse the buses with the trains - the bus departure screens are labelled Gare Routière
(5) The station occupies an elevated position overlooking the city, so on a fine day the best location to wait for a train is on the huge terrace in front of the station with its magnificent views.
These views contribute to the station’s wow factor.
Due to the station's elevated position, the most famous aspect of the station is the flight of stairs that links Marseille St Charles to the Place De Marseillaises - but you don’t have to climb these stairs when accessing the station from the city centre.
(6) As Marseille St. Charles train station is up on a hill, taking the metro between the station and the city centre is particularly recommended.
The Metro station by the harbour side in the downtown area of the city is named 'Vieux-Port - Hôtel de Ville'.
As Marseilles St Charles occupies an elevated position to the north of the city centre, there are comparatively few hotels within a 5min walk of the station.
There are none with 4 or 5 stars, which also have exceptionally high guest ratings.
Many of the accommodation options that are nearby, are at the foot of the staircase that links the station to the town, spectacular, but awkward if you have suitcase.
Therefore a good option can be to hop on Metro Line 1 and opt to stay near the harbour in the heart of town.
Hotels within 10mins walk of St-Charles station:
Alex Hotel (at the foot of the grand staircase that leads to/from the station)
Ibis Marseille Centre Gare Saint Charles (on the same level as the station)
Holiday Inn Express Marseille St Charles (on the same level as the station)
Casa Ortega B&B (at the foot of the grand staircase that leads to/from the station)
Vertigo Hostel/Hotel Saint Charles (at the foot of the grand staircase that leads to/from the station)
Pension Edelweiss (at the foot of the grand staircase that leads to/from the station)
Hotels within 5mins walk of Vieux Porte-Hotel De Ville metro station:
The station is two stops from Saint-Charles station on Metro Line 1, direction – La Fourragére.
Grand Hotel Beauvau
Hotel Escale Oceania
Marseille is a great base for discovering the best of the south of France by train, railway lines fan out into the north and west for easy access to Provence - and to the east for easy access to the Côte d'Azur.
TER trains are the best option for exploring the areas around Marseille and a plus is that tickets for these trains cost the same price if you book them last minute at the station.
Therefore you can be spontaneous and decide where to go on the next day of your travels.
Though if you want to head to a specific destination that day, look up your journey before heading to St Charles station.
Trains in France don't tend to depart to regular timetables, but a plus of being based in Marseille is that the trains on most of the TER routes depart fairly frequently.
From Marseille to the east by train:
For travel between Marseille and Toulon target the TER trains, tickets for these will cost the same when purchased at the station as the prices charged online, so there’s no need to book in advance.
Timetables are available here - look up ligne 01.
It’s worth heading to the upper deck on these TER, from the right (when facing the direction of travel) there are some great views of the coast.
Ligne 01 also has the train times for the line branch between Toulon and Hyéres. Many of the trains on the line to Hyéres are direct from/to Marseille.
The journey time by TER train between Toulon and Hyéres is around 20 mins.
From Marseille to the north by train:
It’s an easy trip by train from Marseiles to Aix-en-Provence, but avoid the TGVs, they call at Aix-en-Provence TGV station, which is 15km from the town.
In contrast the Gare d'Aix-en-Provence Ville station is a 5-10 min walk from the old town - and there are more than 30 x trains per day to this station from Marseille St-Charles.
However, avoid turning up at Marseille St Charles station in the expectation of hopping on a train; the timetable is irregular, so there can be gaps of more than an hour between departures.
On Mon-Fri there are no trains between 09:51 and 11:16 and at weekends the interval between trains can be even longer.
Check the train times here , look up ligne 12.
From Marseille to the west by train:
To travel between Marseille and Avignon by train, the best of several options is to take the faster TER trains from Marseille St-Charles to Avignon Centre.
The journey time by these trains is only around 1hr 10mins but there are only five of these trains per day.
Slightly slower and slightly more frequent are the TER trains via Arles.
The timetable can be looked up from here - select Ligne 08 - the fast trains are marked by the black diamonds.
Looking up the times of these trains between Marseilles St Charles and Avignon Centre, before heading to the station, is highly recommended; this is a route on which there are fewer trains than you might expect.
You can also use the Ligne 08 timetable to check the departure times of the trains between Marseille and Arles.
As will be seen the average journey time by train between Marseilles and Arles is only 50-55mins and in most hours a TER train departs for Arles from Marseille St Charles.
By far the most spectacular journey by train when travelling west from Marseille by train is the ‘Cote Bleu’ route between Marseille and Mirimas via Martiques and Port De Bou.
The route lives up to its name by following the rocky coastline providing more than 30 minutes of spectacular views.
Though the train initially makes drab progress through the Marseille docks area.
There are departures from Marseille and Mirimas approximately every two hours – click here and then select the Ligne 07 timetable.
There are also trains between Mirimas and both Arles and Avignon Centre, so a highly recommended day trip from Marseilles is:
(1) Take a ‘Cote Bleu’ train from Marseilles St-Charles to Mirimas (via Martiques)
(2) Take a train from Mirimas to Arles
(3) Explore Arles and take a train back to Marseilles on the Ligne 08 route via Mirimas and Vitrolles.
Not only is Marseille a great base for exploring the south of France by train, it's also a fabulous city in which to spend time between trains.
6 Great Attractions to Visit in Marseille (Snoppy Alien)
15 Best Things To Do (The Crazy Tourist)
Five Top Sights Plus Day Trip Suggestions (The Telegraph)
Top Attractions (The Culture Trip)
Unusual Things To Do (Atlas Obscura)
The Top Rated Attractions (Planet Ware)
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.