The famous flight of stairs between Marseille St Charles and the city

Lyon to Marseille by train

How to take the journey by train from Lyon to Marseille

When taking a train from Lyon to Marseille there is a choice between:

(1) Taking TGV trains, which use the high speed line between the two cities.

  1. Taking less frequent TER trains which are also slower because they don't use the high speed line.
    But if the timings suit and you'll be booking tickets last minute at the station they will be cheaper.
    Or if you will be travelling with a rail pass, you can avoid the rail pass reservation fees payable on the TGVs by taking these trains instead.
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Routes

Option 1: taking the TGV trains

Travel Information

Final Destination: Marseille or Nice

Most trains also call at: Avignon TGV and/or Aix-en-Provence TGV

When taking a train from Lyon to Marseille there is a choice between:

(1) Taking these TGV trains, which use the high speed line between the two cities.

  1. Taking the alternative TER trains, which are almost two hours slower because they don't use the high speed line.

If you will be buying tickets last minute at the station, those TER trains will be cheaper, but if you can book online in advance you can typically save by taking these TGV trains.

However, rail pass users should target those TER trains.

Monday to Thursday: 13 x trains per day
Friday: 14 x trains
Saturday: 14 x trains
Sunday: 13 x trains

Tickets

Book early and save: Yes

Online bookings usually open: 4 months ahead of the travel date - but bookings can open sooner when SNCF is running a promotion.

When booking 2nd class tickets only one type of ticket will be available per departure, discounted 'Prems' tickets or 'Seconde' tickets; though the price of Seconde tickets are also typically cheaper when they are first placed on sale.
When booking 1st class tickets there will be a choice of Premiere tickets and Business Premiere tickets.

The two key T&Cs of booking Prems, Seconde, or Premiere tickets are:

  1. Up until two days prior to departure, these types of tickets can be refunded for no additional charge (big tick), but a €15 fee will be payable for making a refund in the two days prior to departure.
  2. It's also possible to exchange tickets to an alternative departure on the same journey, but you will have to pay any difference in price between the cost you paid and the cost at the time of the exchange.

Though if you book Business Premiere tickets, the key T&Cs are that tickets can be exchanged and refunded free of charge up to 30 minutes after departure, so if you get to the station just too late to miss the train you were originally booked on to, you won't lose out financially.

Seats will automatically be assigned when booking tickets for this journey, but rail pass users will need to be pay a reservation fee prior to boarding these TGV trains.

The price is dictated by demand per departure, so book ahead and try and be flexible re: your departure and arrival times, as trains leaving earlier or later can be cheaper.

There are also slower TER trains between Lyon and Marseilles, but the discounted 'Prems' tickets for these TGVs will be (much) cheaper, unless you're buying tickets no more than a few days before the travel date, OR on the day of travel.
So if you'll be buying last minute at the station, booking tickets for those alternative TER trains will be a much cheaper option.

Rail pass users can save money by taking those TER trains.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
SNCF Connect from €26

SNCF Connect Guide

SNCF is the national rail operator in France and not so long ago it recently simplified both the range of tickets and the term and conditions of using them.
Therefore the cheapest tickets also become more flexible too.

Other improvements included a simple integration of travelling with bicycles and rail pass users being able to book reservations for national journeys, without paying booking fees.

And it also recently launched SNCF Connect as replacement for its Oui.SNCF booking service.
You can set up a low price alert to let you know when the cheapest price is available for a future journey.

Something else to look out for is that simplest way of travelling with tickets is to use the SNCF Connect App, as booked tickets can therefore be stored on your mobile device, which can then be shown to the train conductors as proof of purchase.

SNCF Connect on Google Play

SNCF Connect in the App (Apple) store

SNCF also operates RailEurope, which is in effect a dedicated online booking service for making bookings from outside of Europe.
If you reside outside of Europe you may discover that SNCF Connect rejects phone numbers or card numbers, but RailEurope won't do so.
Though RailEurope will add booking fees when making a purchase

Download the SNCF Connect App from €26
SaveATrain from €26

SaveATrain Guide

Happyrail from €26

Happyrail Guide

Happy Rail is a Netherlands rail ticket agency which sells tickets for both national and international journeys within a range of countries including Belgium France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland.

HappyRail doesn't charge booking fees in the conventional sense, but if you're not Dutch you can expect to pay additional transaction fees, which will be added to the total cost.
That's because the most common form of online payment used in The Netherlands is 'iDEAL' and HappyRail doesn't charge a transaction fee for 'iDEAL' payments, but only Dutch residents can sign up to 'iDEAL'.
Other forms of payment include Visa debit cards will incur a fee.

RailEurope from €26
Trainline from €26

Trainline Guide

On this journey

Journey Features

High Speed (partial)

Good to Know

The alternative Ouigo services:

When taking a train from Lyon to Marseille, you can now choose between taking these TGV InOui services, or the more basic and low-cost Ouigo services.

There are typically two Ouigo departures per day, which are usually scheduled to depart from Lyon-Part Dieu at 07:06 and 16:08

Two other Ouigo services per day depart from St Exupery station at Lyon Airport station, but in order to travel to that station from Part-Dieu, you'll need to take the Rhone-Express tram.

A typical vista of Provence from the high speed line A typical vista of Provence from the high speed line
Crossing a river at more than 270 km/h Crossing a river at more than 270 km/h
Look out for the Sommet Aqueduct, which is on the right after Avignon Look out for the Sommet Aqueduct, which is on the right after Avignon

The high speed line from the north to the south of France by-passes Lyon, so trains heading south have to travel for around 15 mins on conventional tracks before they reach it.

Option 2: taking the TER trains

Travel Information

Final Destination: Marseille

All of these trains also call at: Arles and Mirimas

3 x trains per day

Tickets

Book early and save: No

Tickets will cost the same price if purchased at the station immediately before departure.

The most heavily discounted tickets for the alternative faster TGV trains are cheaper than these TER trains. and they will be placed on sale up to 4 months ahead.

However, when those most heavily discounted TGV tickets have sold out, these slower TER trains become the cheaper option. 
So these trains will be cheaper if you will be buying tickets at the station on the day of travel.

Rail pass users can avoid the rail pass reservation fee on the TGV trains, by taking these TER trains.

Where to book
Ticket Provider Approximate Cost
SNCF Connect *

SNCF Connect Guide

SNCF is the national rail operator in France and not so long ago it recently simplified both the range of tickets and the term and conditions of using them.
Therefore the cheapest tickets also become more flexible too.

Other improvements included a simple integration of travelling with bicycles and rail pass users being able to book reservations for national journeys, without paying booking fees.

And it also recently launched SNCF Connect as replacement for its Oui.SNCF booking service.
You can set up a low price alert to let you know when the cheapest price is available for a future journey.

Something else to look out for is that simplest way of travelling with tickets is to use the SNCF Connect App, as booked tickets can therefore be stored on your mobile device, which can then be shown to the train conductors as proof of purchase.

SNCF Connect on Google Play

SNCF Connect in the App (Apple) store

SNCF also operates RailEurope, which is in effect a dedicated online booking service for making bookings from outside of Europe.
If you reside outside of Europe you may discover that SNCF Connect rejects phone numbers or card numbers, but RailEurope won't do so.
Though RailEurope will add booking fees when making a purchase

On this journey

Journey Features

Not High Speed

The railway travels through the valley carved by the River Rhone, but the glimpses of the river itself are fleeting, though south of Montélimar comes the most spectacular part of the journey where the railway travels through a narrower rocky gorge.

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