This guide to Paris Montparnasse train station explains what to look out for when departing and arriving here by train.
There’s no doubting that taking a train from Paris Montparnasse station can be an unexpected experience.
In contrast to the other mainline stations in Paris, that have all preserved their 19th century character, Paris Montparnasse train station is a fine example of 1970’s brutalist architecture.
So depending on your point of view it’s either monumentally ugly, or admirable in its own way.
What first time users will find particularly odd is that trains depart from an upper concourse - which is above street level AND two storeys above the Metro station.
But don’t be alarmed - impressive banks of escalators give access to/from the trains, and lifts are also available which connect all the levels.
If you are taking a TGV (InOui or Ouigo) service from Montparnase then when you enter the station building follow the signs pointing the way to the ‘Grandes Lignes’.
They use a dedicated area of the station which is separate from the part used by the local and commuter 'Transilien' trains.
If you have entered the station at street level, or have arrived by Metro, you will need to ascend to the levels above, up to the area of Montparnasse train station used by the TGVs and other long distance trains.
You'll find them up at the top of the station building.
The Metro station at Montparnasse is named 'Montparnasse – Bienvenüe' - but it is very much a station of two parts.
The part of the Metro station used by lines 4 and 12 is much further from the mainline station, Gare Montparnasse, than the part of the Metro station used by lines 6 and 13.
Line 4 links the Gare Du Nord to Montparnasse and or guide to making this transfer between the stations is HERE.
Allow 10-15 mins between stepping off a Metro Line 4 and 12 train to boarding a TGV, or a minimum of 5 - 7 mins if you arrive on Metro Lines 6 or 13.
If you're ascending from the Metro, you will initially see access to trains on the first level that you will come to - but the TGVs and other long distance trains depart from the level above!
When you have reached the top of the escalators which lead up to the part of the station used by TGV trains, you may assume that you have reached the main departure hall - the signs will tell you that you are in Hall 1.
You’ll be able to glimpse trains ahead of you and people will be waiting around, checking the electronic departure screens etc.
However, this area isn’t the main concourse.
To access the departure concourse, with its range of shops and food/drink outlets etc - you need to walk ahead towards the trains, passed the banks of ticket machines.
But this main concourse can become crowded, so if you don't need to use the shops etc, then hanging back in this Hall 1 can be a better option.
The specific voie (platform/track) that a train will depart from, isn’t usually confirmed until 10–20 mins before departure.
So keep an eye on the departure monitors or the departure board, which dominates the main concourse.
Announcements re: departures are only made in French.
If you can’t see the station that you’re travelling to on the departure screens - find your train using the train number.
This will be a 4 digit number, which will be printed on your ticket - so match the number to the train number that will be on the departure screens.
Despite the fact that everyone who will be taking a TGV has a reserved seat, the confirmation of the voie (platform/track) number usually prompts a stampede towards the train.
Join the throng if you have luggage - space on TGV luggage racks can be limited.
But if you don’t have luggage there's no need to rush, the less stressful option is to hang back and wait until those that do have luggage etc, have stowed their bags and taken their seats.
Though TGV Atlantique trains - which for the time being form many of the long distance (Grandes Lignes) departures from Montparnasse, can be 20 carriages/coaches long.
Two 10 coach trains can be joined together, so be prepared to trek down the platform to the carriage/coach in which your seat is located - and give yourself time to do so.
Something to watch out for is that a condition of French train tickets, is that you must be on the platform to board your train a minimum of 2 minutes before the train departs.
Barriers are being installed at Montparnasse to enforce this rule, they’re closed around 2 minutes before departure!
Most of the TER ato Granville and some of the the OUIGO trains usually don't depart from the voies (platforms/tracks) located by the main concourse at Montparnasse station.
Instead they depart from a separate part of the station, named ‘Montparnasse 3 Vaugirard’, which is where voies (platforms/tracks) 25 - 28 are located;
The access to them from the main station is along voie 24 which is on the far right of the concourse when facing the trains, but they are a 5 - 10 min walk away.
You need to keep going right along voie 24 until you come to the entrance to what looks like a separate station, named Gare Montparnasse Hall 3.
From this entrance on voie 24 you need to take an escalator or elevator up to the trains.
Your efforts will be rewarded as this Hall 3 is smart and modern.
When initially entering from the front station, or arriving by Metro, follow the signs up pointing the way to the 'Grandes Lignes' departures until you come to the main concourse, then head along voie 24 from there.
At a leisurely pace, from stepping off a line 4 or 12 train to being on the concourse in Hall 3 will take around 15 - 20 mins, so add this on to the 'check-in' time when taking a Ouigo departure.
Montparnasse 3 Vaugirard also has a street level entrance, which has step-free access to the trains by escalator and elevator, so if you will be taking a train from here, an option is to take a taxi to this entrance.
This entrance is entirely separate to the main station so the name shown above its doors is 'Gare Vaugirard Montparnasse 3'; it's on Rue du Contentin.
Our guide to arriving by train at Gare Montparnasse focuses on how to transfer to the Metro - and then how to use the Metro to reach the other mainline stations.
If you're not used to using Paris Montparnasse then this can be confusing.
Many TGV trains that arrive at Montparnasse can be 20 coaches long, so if your reserved seat is towards the rear of such a train, it can take around 5 mins before you step on to the main concourse at the station.
Though one plus is that the main concourse is on the same level as the voies (platforms/tracks) which the trains will arrive at.
Once you're on the main concourse keep going ahead of you until you are in the Hall 1 area of the station, when arriving by train this Hall 1 is behind the main concourse.
At the rear of Hall 1 you will see two banks of escalators, both of which connect this Hall 1 to the street level exits and the entrance to the Metro station.
Although the escalators can be switched so that they only ascend up into the station.
The entrance to the Metro station is located two levels below the area of Montparnasse train station that the long distance express trains arrive at.
There are banks of escalators, which usually are an alternative to taking the stairs, but when SMTJ was last at Montparnasse in the middle of the afternoon, we were astonished to discover that both sets of escalators were only leading upwards.
If that is the case and you can't take the stairs, you'll need to head back to the main concourse to take an elevator, look for the 'ascenceurs'.
Though be aware that if you do use the lifts on the main concourse to access the Metro, the access between stepping out of the lift and entering the Metro station is not step free.
The Metro station is named 'Montparnasse – Bienvenüe' - and it is very much a station of two parts.
Line 6 and Line 13 use the part of the Metro station closest to its entrance hall.
However, Line 4 and Line 12 are some distance away at the end of an exceptionally long travellator - that can be accessed from the Metro entrance hall
See the guide below.
This is a transfer that looks straightforward - as Metro Line 4 provides a direct link between Montparnasse and the Gare de l'Est - direction Porte de Clignancourt.
However, if you have luggage it’s far from convenient – and even if you don’t, it can be energy sapping.
Also line 4 is the 2nd busiest Paris Metro line - so at peak times the crowds can seem overwhelming.
The line 4 platforms/voies at Montparnasse – Bienvenüe metro station, are connected from the Metro entrance hall by long passage ways.
So long, that despite the travellators, it takes 12-15 minutes to make the transfer to the Metro platform, from stepping off a main line train at Montparnasse.
You will experience a ‘will I ever get there’ feeling and between the travellator and the Metro platform you'll also have to negotiate stairs - so it's awkward if you have luggage.
It’s then 13 stops from Montparnasse – Bienvenüe metro to the Gare de l'Est, so the train journey takes 20–25mins.
When you eventually arrive at Gare de l'Est, follow the signs to ‘Grande Lignes', if you will be taking a TGV, Thalys, Eurostar or Intercités train.
In the summer, making the transfer can be particularly uncomfortable, temperatures can soar at both main line stations, on the train and in the passage wa
This is an awkward transfer- as there are no direct Metro or RER lines between Montparnasse and the Gare De Lyon.
The easiest of many options is:
(Stage 1) Take a line 6 train to Bercy station - direction Nation.
(Stage 2) At Bercy transfer to a Line 14 train (direction St Lazare) for the one stop hop from there to the Gare De Lyon.
Two reasons why we recommend this routing.
(1) The Line 6 platforms are the nearest to the entrance to the Montparnasse – Bienvenüe metro station
(2) From the Line 14 platforms there are lifts up to the Metro station concourse at the Gare De Lyon.
Direct Metro trains on two lines connect Montparnasse to St Lazare.
However, the recommendation is to use Line 13 and take trains heading towards Saint Denis or Asineres and NOT line 12.
The line 13 trains are much easier to access from the Metro station entrance at Gare Montparnasse than the Line 12 trains.
Then at St Lazare, the part of the station complex used by the line 13 trains, also has easier access to the main part of the station than the Line 12 trains.
This is an awkward transfer - as there are no direct Metro or RER lines between Montparnasse and Austerlitz.
The easiest of many options is
(Stage 1) Take a line 6 train to Place d’Italie - direction Nation
(Stage 2) Transfer at Place D'Italie station to a Line 5 train - direction Bobigny
A plus is that the Line 6 platforms are the nearest to the entrance at Montparnasse – Bienvenüe metro station.
A negative is that multiple staircases need to be used when making the transfer between the Metro Lines at Place d’Italie.
Another negative is that Austerlitz Metro station is above ground - and there are no escalators/lifts down to ground level where the mainline trains depart from, you have no choice but to use the stairs.
If you have luggage or the weather is hot, a taxi can be worth every cent
A plus of taking a train from or to Paris Montparnasse is that the Montparnasse area is one of the best in Paris for quality accommodation, at generally reasonable prices.
However, quality low budget (1*) rooms can be hard to find in the area around Paris Montparnasse station.
Hotels within 10 min walk of Paris Montparnasse station:
Highly rated HOSTELS with direct and easy public transport links to Paris Montparnasse:
Oops Hostel (8 min walk from Place d’Italie station on Metro Line 6)
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.