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Travel Info & Tips International trains from France
The international rail journeys from France

International trains from France

Summaries of how to take direct trains from France to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland and The Netherlands

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Only one international overnight train, the relatively new Paris <> to Wien service, currently cross French borders, and that's partially because the majority of the international express services to and from France are high speed trains.

Meaning that at face value travelling to and from France can seem an expensive option if you'll be exploring Europe with an InterRail or Eurail pass; though you can often avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees payable on the high speed trains, by hopping across the borders on local trains.

By train from France to Belgium (and on to The Netherlands and northern Germany)

Thalys trains await departure from the Gare Du Nord in Paris Thalys trains await departure from the Gare Du Nord in Paris

The regularly timetabled trains from France to Belgium take one of five routes, one of which is the cross-border high-speed line

on the LGV Nord high speed line:

Four different train services take this route:

(1) Thalys trains from Paris which take these two routes:

These Thalys services are now once again the only option for taking a direct train from Paris to Bruxelles/Brussels.
They are also the only direct trains from Paris to both north-west Germany and The Netherlands.

(2) TGV Bruxelles/France trains which travel from Lille to Bruxelles-Midi.

These trains all also call at Aeroport CDG station, for Paris Charles De Gaulle airport, and Marne La Vallée station, for Disneyland Paris.

They travel on various routes across France, so provide direct rail links to Bruxelles from multiple cities, other than Paris, including: Avignon; Lyon; Marseille; Montpellier; Nimes; Strasbourg and Valence.
By taking these trains you can avoid having to transfer between stations across central Paris.

(3) Eurostar trains on the route to Bruxelles and Amsterdam call at Lille-Europe station.

(4) Thalys trains which now take a Marne La Vallée - Aeroport CDG - Bruxelles – Antwerpen/Anvers Centraal – Rotterdam – Schiphol – Amsterdam route. these services are currently suspended .

the route from Tourcoing to Mouscron:

Hourly Belgian IC trains travel from to Lille to Kortrijk on this route and most, but not all, of these trains continue beyond Kortrijk to travel on to Anvers/Antwerpen via Gent.
Connect in Kortrijk for trains to Ieper/Ypres and in Gent for trains to Brugge.

If you will be travelling from Paris to Brugge or Gent by train, taking the Thalys trains to Bruxelles and making connections there to these Belgian cities, is a faster option than making connections in Lille

However, rail pass users will save money when heading to Belgium and on to The Netherlands from Paris by taking trains to Lille and connecting there into these trains which head off on the route to Kortrijk.
From these trains on from Lille, rail pass users can connect at Berchem station in Antwerpen/Anvers into the InterCity trains on to The Netherlands, to Amsterdam or Den Haag.

the route from Lille to Tournai

On Mondays – Friday hourly IC trains take a Lille-Flandres – Tournai - Mons – Charleroi Sud – Namur route; connections are available in Namur for trains on to Liege and Luxembourg.
At weekends these trains only travel between Lille and Tournai; and on Mon-Fri you may also have to change trains in Tournai.

Connecting into these trains on from Lille is the most frequent route from Paris to cities in southern Belgium including Mons, Chaleroi and Namur.
Though if you will be heading to Liege, the fastest route is to travel via Bruxelles.

an alternative route to Mons

There are no direct trains from Paris to Mons, but some TER trains on the route from Paris to Aulnoye now have guaranteed connections at Aulnoye into local trains which travel over the border trains on to Mons; there are two connection on Monday to Saturday and one on Sunday.

This is therefore a route on which users of rail passes can travel from Paris to Belgium and avoid the more expensive fees on the Thalys trains, rail pass users need to pay a fee of €1.50 before boarding the TER trains on this route.
Mons has frequent trains on to Bruxelles.

*an alternative route to Naumr

One or two TER trains from Paris to Maubeuge now have guaranteed connections at Maubeuge into local trains which travel over the border to Namur via Charleroi Sud.
Rail pass users can therefore use this route to reach Namur without by only paying a fee of €1.50.
Take the first of these connections from Paris and you can take trains on to Liege from Namur; and in Liege there will be connections on to Aachen and Koln/Cologne.

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By train from France to central and southern Germany (and Austria):

An ICE train from Frankfurt arrives in Paris An ICE train from Frankfurt arrives in Paris

The trains from France to central and southern Germany (and on to Austria) now take one of three routes, and they are ordered from north to south below.

the route route from Forbach to Saarbrucken

Two train services make this border crossing:

(1) Three or four DB-SNCF high speed services per day travel on the Paris-Est – Forbach* - Saarbrucken – Kaiserslautern – Mannheim – Frankfurt (Main) route
*Not all of these trains call at Forbach.
Connect in Mannheim for Heidelberg and Mainz.
Connect in Frankfurt (Main) for multiple destinations including Berlin, Hannover, Leipzig, Linz, Nurnberg, Wien/Vienna and Wurzburg.

Other trains from Paris to Frankfurt (Main) travel via Strasbourg on the route through Kehl (see below).

(2) Local trains shuttle across the border from Forbach to Saarbrucken.
In Forbach good connections are available with TER trains from Metz, while in Saarbrucken, connections are available into Regio trains to Trier and to Heidelberg via Kaiserslautern and Mannheim.

the route route from Strasbourg to Kehl

Seven train services make this border crossing as it is now the main rail link between eastern France and south-east Germany.

(1) Two* x DB-SNCF services per day services take this route Paris Est – Strasbourg – Baden Baden - Karlsruhe - Mannheim – Frankfurt (Main)
Connect in Mannheim for Heidelberg and Mainz.
*Only 1 x train per day on Sundays.
Connect in Frankfurt (Main) for multiple destinations including Berlin, Hannover, Leipzig, Linz, Nurnberg, Wien/Vienna and Wurzburg.

(2) Four or Five trains DB-SNCF per day take this route Paris Est – Strasbourg – Karlsruhe – Mannheim – Stuttgart.
One of these trains has its journey extended to Ulm – Augsburg – Munchen/Munich.

(3) One DB-SNCF train per day takes this route
Marseille – Avignon – Lyon – Mulhouse – Strasbourg -Karlsruhe - Mannheim – Frankfurt (Main).
This is the only direct train from southern France to central Germany.

(4) On Tuesday, Friday and Sunday a new Nightjet service now departs Paris and also calls in Strasbourg on route to Salzburg, Linz and Wien/Vienna; this the only direct train service from France to Austria.

(5) In most hours local trains travel from Strasbourg to Offenburg, where connections are available to Baden-Baden and Freiburg

If you will be using a rail pass and want to avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees, on those DB-SNCF trains, what's good to know is that there are direct trains from Offenburg to a swathe of other cities in Germany including Berlin, Koln and Frankfurt (Main).

(6) The direct TGV train from Paris to Freiburg now travels this way on a Paris Est – Strasbourg – Offenburg – Freiburg route.

(7) On Thursdays the Trans-European Express on its overnight Paris - Warszawa - Brest – Lubin – Minsk – Smolensk – Moskva/Moscow route comes this way; This service remains suspended.
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the local trains which travel via Bantzenheim

In most hours during the day local trains depart Mulhouse for Neuenburg where connections are available into trains to Mulheim.
In some hours there are direct trains from Mulhouse to Mulheim.
In Mulheim there are awkwardly timed connections available on to Freiburg.

to Luxembourg

Three train services cross the border from France into Luxembourg:

(1) TGV trains on a Paris Est – Metz – Luxembourg route.
(2) TGV trains on a Marseille – Avignon – Lyon –Mulhouse – Colmar – Strasbourg – Metz – Luxembourg route
(3) TER trains which take a Nancy – Metz – Luxembourg route

In Luxembourg connections are available into trains to Koblenz in Germany via Trier; two of which per day are now direct to Koln/Cologne and Dusseldorf via Bonn.
Users of Eurail and InterRail passes travelling from Paris to The Rhine Valley and Koln/Cologne can save money by taking a TGV train from Paris to Luxembourg and then connecting there into German Regio trains, in comparison to taking Thalys trains from Paris to Koln/Cologne.

Every other hour there are also direct trains from Luxembourg to Liege in Belgium, so this is the way to come if you want to travel by train from eastern France to eastern Belgium.

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By train from France to Italy

These TGV trains now share the Paris to Milan service with Italian Frecciarossa trains These TGV trains now share the Paris to Milan service with Italian Frecciarossa trains

The Alpine mountains and their foothills straddle the Franco-Italian border, hence there only being three railway routes between the two countries.

the route from Modane to Bardonecchia:

The only train services which travel through the cross-border Mont-Cenis Tunnel are the high speed train services which connect Paris to Torino/Turin and Milano.

Three x TGV France/Italy trains per day take this route; Paris Gare De Lyon - Chambery – Modane – Bardonecchia - Oulx –Torino Porta Susa – Novara - Milano Porta Garibaldi
The first train of the day (usually scheduled to depart Paris at 06:47) typically has a good connection in Torino/Turin with:
- a Frecce train on to Napoli/Naples via Roma
- the 'Treno Notte' overnight train to Reggio di Calabria (for Messina)

Two Frecciarossa 1000 trains operated by Trenitalia now also take the Paris Gare De Lyon - Chambery – Modane – Bardonecchia - Torino Porta Susa - Milano route, but in contrast to the TGV trains, they terminate at Milano Centrale station.

On Mondays to Fridays up to four local bus services per day connect Modane to Bardonecchia; Modane has TER trains from Lyon and Chambery, while Bardonecchia has Regoinale trains to Torino.
These connections can be used by Eurail and InterRail pass holders looking to avoid the exceptionally high reservation fees on the direct TGV trains; rail pass users can't travel on the Frecciarossa 1000 trains on this route.

the route from Menton to Ventimille / Ventimiglia:

Now that the direct trains from Marseille/Nice to Milano have been withdrawn only local trains connect the French and Italian Rivieras.
One or two French TER trains per hour take this route: Grasse – Cannes – Antibes – Nice - Monte Carlo – Menton – Ventimiglia / Ventimille.
When heading to the Italian border from Lyon, Marseille, Paris or Toulon the easiest connection into these trains to Ventimiglia is available at Antibes.

Most, but not all, of those TER trains have good connections in Ventimiglia for Regionale trains on to Sanremo, Albenga and Genova.

There are also Italian express trains, both Intercity and Freccibianca, which are direct from Ventimiglia to Genova and Milano.
The trains on the Grasse to Ventimiglia route connect into these trains with typical departures from Nice at: 09:36; 11:36; 13:36 (Sunday only); 15:36 and 18:06,

via Limone

2 x trains per day take a Ventimiglia – Breil sur Roya – Tende – Limone – Cuneo route; which is very scenic
Trains from Nice make connections with these trains at Tende.
At Cuneo connections are available into trains to Torino.

to Spain

The AVE train which links Marseille to Madrid The AVE train which links Marseille to Madrid

Despite the long length of the Franco-Spanish border, The Pyrenees mountain range is a formidable barrier to railway construction, so the trains from France to Spain take one of only four routes.

the route from Perpignan to Figueres Vilifant:

This is the high speed line between France and Spain and the only trains which use it are the services, which are branded RENFE-SNCF; and they take these three routes (the Toulouse to Barcelona service has been discontinued:

(1) Two or Four trains per day take this route; Paris Gare de Lyon – Valence – Nimes – Montpellier-St Roch – (Beziérs) - Narbonne – Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona
Two trains per day is the year round service, but up to four trains per day operate in the summer.

(2) One train per day takes this route; Lyon – Valence – Nimes – Montpellier-St Roch – Beziérs - Narbonne – Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona

(3) One train per day takes this route; Marseille – Avignon TGV – Nimes – Montpellier-St Roch – Beziérs - Narbonne – Perpignan – Figueres-Vilafant – Girona – Barcelona - Zaragoza – Madrid
This the only direct train to the Spanish capital from France.

These RENFE-SNCF services are popular trains, particularly in the summer months, on Fridays and Sundays in particular between the beginning of June until early September, tickets can sell out weeks in advance.
And when tickets are still available, the more limited quota of rail pass reservations on these trains can be sold out.

the route from Cerbere to Port Bou

The express trains from France to Spain on the Mediterranean end of the border, take the parallel high speed line, but local and regional trains still travel on this older and scenic route, though Cerbére on the French side of the border, to Port Bou on the Spanish side of the border.

From Port Bou, generally good connections of around 40 minutes are available into Regional Express OR Media Distancia trains to Barcelona via Figueres and Girona; users of Eurail and InterRail seats don't have reserve seats on the MD trains on this route, which is an exception to the usual rule.

Though the French TER trains to Port Bou, commence their journeys at various cities in France, depending at which time and on what day of the week you will be travelling.
There's seemingly little logic applied to this pattern of train services, for example at weekends there are multiple trains from Toulouse to Port Bou via Narbonne and Perpignan, but none on Monday - Friday.

A particularly useful service, worth targeting if you want to avoid the high speed trains is the daily TER train to Port Bou, which departs from Avignon Centre (11:35); Nimes (12:14); Montpellier St-Roch (12:53); Beziers (13:40) and Narbonne (14:05).
According to the European Rail Timetable this train has a 15 - 20min connection into a train on to Barcelona.

On Fridays and Sunday nights and certain other days during the year, an Intercités De Nuit train departs Paris Austerlitz for Cerbere, it also makes morning calls at Collioure and Port-Vendres.
Until very recently it travelled over the border to terminate in Port Bou, but because the Spanish authorities have decreed that the French rail drivers need to be fluent in Spanish, it now terminates in Cerbere.
However, fairly simple connections in Cerbere and Port Bou are available when travelling on to Barcelona via Figueres and Girona, it can be an overnight alternative to the daytime high-speed trains when travelling from Paris to Barcelona.

the route from Hendaye to Irun

Over on the Atlantic Coast two very different train services are typically available between Hendaye in France and the Spanish town of Irun

(1) Up to two x TGV trains per day take this route Paris-Montparnasse – Bordeaux – Bayonne – Biarritz – Hendaye – Irun.
These trains are currently being terminated in Hendaye

(2) The alternative service of local Euskotren trains on from Hendaye/Hendaia are much more frequent.

Hourly local ‘Euskotren’ trains connect Hendaye to San Sebastian/Donastia via Irun.
Connect in San Sebastian/Donastia for other ‘Euskotren’ trains to Bilbao; this is by far the easiest option for accessing this city from France by train
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the route from La Tour De Carol to Puigcerda:
Take the beautiful train journey from Toulouse to Barcelona

This route snakes its way through a mountain pass in the middle of The Pyrenees.

Five trains per day depart typically depart from French village of La Tour De Carol and head for Barcelona via Puigcerda and Vic.

TER trains link Toulouse to La Tour De Carol via Foix.
However, as can be too often the case when trying to take local/regional trains across the border from France to Spain, the Spanish timetable has recently been revised, but with no corresponding alterations on the French side of the border.
As a result some trains for Barcelona now depart La Tour De Carol less than 10 mins before a train from Toulouse will arrive, despite both routes having infrequent services.

Though it is still possible to take most spectacular railway route from France to Spain; and if you have a rail pass, you don't have to pay any reservation fees; but now the only good connections are those which typically involve departing from Toulouse at 09:45 on Monday to Friday and at 15:47 daily.

And for those who want to maximise the area's opportunities to take scenic rail journeys the very special yellow trains sporadically head to La Tour De Carol from Villefranche-Vernet-les-Bains station, which they share with TER trains which travel from and to Perpignan.

From Paris to Madrid

Option 1: Connecting in Barcelona

The easiest, but usually more expensive, option for a train journey from Paris to Madrid involves making these connections:

(1) Taking the daily train to Barcelona, which typically departs from the Gare De Lyon at 10:14 and usually arrives in Barcelona Sants station at 16:54.

(2) There will then be a choice of connections on from Barcelona to Madrid:

  • At 17:25 an Avlo train will depart, and it is typically scheduled to arrive in Madrid at 19:55, so offers the possibility of the fastest end-to-end journey, but the Avlo train is a more-basic alternative to the AVE trains and it only conveys standard class accommodation; and also has a more stringent luggage allowance per passenger than the AVE trains.
  • At 19:00 a regular AVE train will depart and it will be typically scheduled to arrive in Madrid at 22:07; the later departure also allows for more contingency in the event of a delayed arrival of the train from Paris.

Option 2: Connecting in Hendaye and Irun

This routing is a cheaper option for rail pass users and is usually available if the Paris to Barcelona train has sold out; though the train from Irun to Madrid can also sell out around national holidays and on summer Sundays in particular.

  • Take the daily TGV train from Paris Montparnasse to Hendaye which usually departs the French capital at 10:11 and arrives in Hendaye at 14:47; this train also typically departs Bordeaux at 12:20.
  • On exiting Hendaye station, walk across to the right to the Hendaia station used by Spanish local, metro-style, trains branded Euskotren, the trains depart every 30 mins and the journey to Irun station Irun Colon station will only take 4 mins, it's a two stop journey.
  • The walk to the main station in Irun will take around 7 to 12 mins. Turn right from the main Euskotren exit and follow the road which will soon curve to the right over railway bridge, on the other side of the bridge, go left towards the domed building and then go straight ahead to the left of it, the main station in Irun will then be ahead on the left.
  • An Alvia train to Madrid usually departs Irun daily at 16:17 and typically arrives in the Spanish capital at 22:03.

By train from France to Switzerland

Travelling on the 'Mont Blanc Express route from France to Switzerland Travelling on the 'Mont Blanc Express route from France to Switzerland

With more than 20% of Swiss residents being French speakers it's not surprising that there are a comparatively high number of railways which connect France to Switzerland.

the route from Bellegarde to Geneve:

These four train services all cross this border between France and Switzerland;

(1) Up to eight Lyria trains per day take this route; Paris Gare De Lyon – Bellegarde – Geneve; and up to 3 x trains per day continue beyond Geneve to Lausanne).
Connect in Geneve for trains which take the route to Brig via Montreux, Sion and Visp.

(2) Up to ten TER trains per day travel from Lyon to Geneve.
If you will be using an InterRail or Eurail pass, you can avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees payable on the Lyria trains, by travelling from Paris to Lyon and making connections at Part-Dieu station into these TER trains.

(3) There are also infrequent local trains which only travel from Bellgarde to Geneva; and other trains from Lyon connect into these trains.

(4) Four TER trains per day take this route; Grenoble – Chambery – Aix-les-Bains – Culoz – Bellegarde – Geneve; two of these trains commence their journeys in Valence.

the route from Annemasse to Geneve:

This route has re-opened following a six year re-construction project and it links the French Alps to western Switzerland.
As a result hourly regional trains are now taking an Annemasse - Geneve - Nyon - Lausanne - Montreux - Vevey route.
Hourly local trains now also travel between Geneve and Annecy via Annemasse.

Connections are available in Annemasse with trains that have travelled from Evian-les-Bain; and with the comparatively infrequent trains from from St Gervais, which has trains from Chamonix.

the route from Frasne to Vallorbe:

The only trains which come this way are the three Lyria trains per day that take a Paris gare de Lyon – Dijon – Dole – Frasne – Vallorbe – Lausanne route.
These trains connect in Frasne for trains to Neuchatel via Pontarlier.

The other Lyria trains from Paris to Lausanne now travel via Geneve.
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the route via La Locle:

Three TER trains per day travel this way from Besancon-Viotte station to La Chaux des Fonds, where connections are available into trains on to Biel and Neuchatel.
Besancon-Viotte station is served by TER trains from Dijon and Lyon

the route from St Louis, Haut Rhin to Basel:

These three train services all travel along this border crosssing between France and Switzerland located in Basel's north-west suburbs:

(1) Up to six Lyria trains per day take this route; Paris Gare de Lyon – Dijon* - Mulhouse – BaselZurich
*Not all of these trains call at Dijon
Connect in Basel for Bern, Biel, Delemont, Luzern, Interlaken, Olten, Spiez and Thun.
Connect in Zurich for Bellinzona, Chur, Innsbruck, Lugano, St.Anton and St. Galllen.

(2) In most hours there are TER trains which take this route; Strasbourg – Colmar – Mulhouse – Basel

(3) There are also local TER trains from Mulhouse to Basel.

Users of Eurail and InterRail passes looking to avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees on the Lyria trains, can typically save more than €15 by taking a TGV train from Paris to Colmar, Mulhouse or Strasbourg and connecting into TER trains on to Basel.
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via Vallorcine which is The Mont Blanc Express route:
Take the route of the Mont Blanc Express trains from France to Switzerland

Every hour during the day, trains operated by TMR depart Vallorcine for Martigny.
At Vallorcine connections are available from trains which have travelled from St Gervais-les-Bains via Chamonix.
Though St Gervais-les-Bains has only a sporadic train service from Annemasse, and some of these train also depart from Annecy or Bellegarde.

From Martigny connections are available into trains heading to Brig, Geneve, Lausanne, Montreux, Sion and Visp.

To The UK

Eurostar trains from France to the United Kingdom take two routes year round:

(1) Paris Gare Du Nord - (Ashford International) - Ebbsfleet International - London St Pancras International; up to 13 - 17 x trains per day
A limited service is currently operating.
Tickets are currently not available for journeys to and from Ashford or Ebbsfleet.

(2) Lille Europe - (Ashford International) - Ebbsfleet International - London St Pancras International; up to 6 - 9 x trains per day.
A limited service is currently operating.
Tickets are currently not available for journeys to and from Ashford or Ebbsfleet

These two seasonal routes only operate on some dates.

(1) Marseille - Avignon - Lyon - (Lille) - Ashford International - London St Pancras International
This service will not be available in 2022.

(2) Bourg St Maurice - Aime la Plagne - Moutiers-Salins - Ashford International - London St Pancras International
Whether this service will return for the 2022-2023 ski season has yet to be confirmmed

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

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