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6 European cities less than seven hours from France by train

Looking to travel around Europe but want to avoid flying? Take advantage of the excellent French high-speed train network to explore France and its neighbours.

6 European cities less than seven hours from France by train
A woman arrives with her suitcase at the gare de Lyon train station in Paris (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

Train travel has all sorts of advantages – it’s better for the environment and journeys usually end in the centre of the city you want to visit, rather than in an airport several kilometres away.

The journey time is of course longer, but this isn’t always a bad thing – take some time to relax, drink in the view (and some decent wine that you can bring on board with you – no 100ml liquid limit on trains), enjoy a good book or binge on a box set and the journey becomes part of your holiday.

Here’s our pick of the European cities that have direct train links from France, with all journeys coming in at under seven hours.

We’ve provided a price guide – although obviously prices change depending on when you travel and when you book – as well as the alternative journey times, of course flight times need to also factor in journey time to/from the airport plus the requirement to check in several hours before the flight time. 

Paris to Munich

There are typically at least 10 direct trains taking the 684 km trip from Paris to Munich each day. On average, the journey takes about seven and a half hours, but the fastest version of the journey can be as little as five hours and 45 minutes. 

How much? Prices depend on the season and time of day, but the average ticket cost is €105. 

Are other transportation options more affordable? By plane, Google Flights says that the average cost is between €55 to €150. In contrast, however, the flight time is about an hour and a half, though as with all flights, you will have to allot time to travel to the airport and to pass through security. If you were to drive, it would take eight hours and 48 minutes. At the time of writing, this trip would cost between €135 to €165 euro for fuel.

These calculations do not include the cost for tolls if you choose to take toll roads, but you can simulate your journey to see the estimated toll costs on French roads by using this website.

Screenshot from Google Maps of a journey from Paris, France to Munich, Germany

Paris to Turin/Milan

On a typical day, nine trains run from Paris to Milan – going through Turin on the way for an alternative Italian destination. Though the average route time is seven hours and 51 minutes, the fastest train can get you to mainland Europe’s second fashion capital in just six hours and 54 minutes.

The latter part of the route – up through the Alps passing beautiful villages and snow-capped peaks – is also particularly scenic.

How much: The average cost for a train ticket is €92, though a ticket can reportedly cost as little as €19 if you book in advance.  

Flights cost between €60 and €150, with a flight time of about an hour and a half. For other transportation options, you could consider taking a bus. This journey would be around 12 hours, and an average bus ticket would cost approximately €52. 

By car, the journey would be closer to nine hours, and the average cost of fuel would come out to between €151 to €185.

A screenshot of google maps for a journey from Paris to Milan

Paris/Lyon/Marseille to Barcelona

There are multiple French cities with a direct rail link to Barcelona. If you leave from Paris, the fastest journey can take as little as six hours and 44 minutes, and the average cost is €238.

From Marseille, it would take four hours and 32 minutes, and the average cost is €115.

If you leave from Lyon, the fastest travel time is five hours and five minutes.

This is another journey that offers great views of southern France and the Pyrenees.

How much: Rail Europe says that these tickets, when bought 30 days in advance, will cost around €104, in contrast to €88 (usually) if booked 7 days in advance.

If you are trying to get from Paris to Barcelona and you want to avoid train travel, the most affordable option you can do is fly from the budget airport (Beauvais). The least expensive flights from Paris to Barcelona are typically between €50 to €155. 

On average, a bus ride from Paris to Barcelona would be about 14 hours and 15 minutes, with average tickets costing around €80. If you want to take a road trip and drive yourself, you would likely pay approximately €176 to €216 (depending on the car you drive). 

If you are looking to go elsewhere in Spain, and you’re willing to travel a bit longer by train, the journey from Paris to Madrid is about nine hours and 38 minutes.

Screenshot of Google Maps from Paris to Barcelona

From summer 2023 the French-Spanish train services are set to expand, with Spanish operator Renfe putting on new routes between Madrid and Marseille and Barcelona and Lyon. 

Lille/Paris to Amsterdam

Heading from France to the Netherlands is pretty easy. You can leave from Lille (average fastest time being two hours and 45 minutes) or you can leave from Paris (average fastest time also being three hours and 19 minutes). If you’re coming to/from the UK both the Paris and Lille trains give the option of a connection to the Eurostar.

How much: If you take the train from Lille, the cost is on average €107. Whereas, the cost from Paris is €144. 

To fly to Amsterdam from Paris, the least expensive flights usually fall between €85 to €125. Taking a bus to Amsterdam is quite affordable with average prices being at €47. The time to travel by bus from Paris to Amsterdam six hours and 25 minutes. From Lille, the bus time is shorter and also less expensive: travel time is about three hours and 26 minutes, and the average ticket costs €17.

Driving from Paris to Amsterdam is about €92 to €113 in fuel costs, and the travel time is about five hours and 46 minutes.

A screenshot from Google Maps showing the journey from Paris to Amsterdam

Paris to Frankfurt

The shortest train trip from Paris to Frankfurt is three hours and 38 minutes, with the average trip taking about four hours and 20 minutes. There are about 15 trains that make this journey per day.

How much: The average cost for this journey is €40, which usually stays the same if you book with a week of advanced notice, according to Rail Europe’s website.

If you would prefer to fly, the average cost for the ‘least expensive flights’ fall between €115 and €315, with a flight time of about an hour and 15 minutes. If you take the bus, on the other hand, the travel time is seven hours and 45 min, with the average ticket costing around €44.

Driving from Paris to Frankfurt takes a little over six hours, and in terms of fuel it costs typically between €80 and €98. 

A screenshot of the journey from Paris to Frankfurt from Google Maps

And if you want to plan ahead, there will soon be a new sleeper train from Paris to Berlin, as well as from Paris to Vienna.

READ MORE: Paris-Berlin high-speed train ‘possible next year’

Member comments

  1. I’ve taken the train from Paris to Amsterdam a couple of times. It’s a very pleasant trip. Another advantage vs. flying is that the train goes to the city center, saving me the time getting there from Schiphol. It’s the same in most other cities as well.

  2. It makes no sense to make direct comparisons of time between flights and trains. On trains you don’t have to travel to/from the out of town airport, check-in luggage and pass security checks. Depending on the airports that will add 2-4 hours to the total.

  3. Also, the “road trip” lacks information….if you are going to drive, in the times listed in the article, you would need to take the toll roads….and that will cost you!

    I have done train trips to Paris, London, Munich, Barcelona, Basel, and Milan / Rome … the senior discount card and purchasing 60 to 90 days in advance gives you great savings. Most trips, I have purchased first class tickets for less than €10 more per ticket!

    Bon Voyage!

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What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

Several French unions have filed strike notices for February, with some aiming to target to busy February holiday period - here's what you can expect.

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

France is in the grip of a major confrontation between unions and the government over plans to reform the pension system.

So far, the main actions have been concentrated on one-day strikes that are supported by all eight of the union federations, however an increasing number of unions are filing notices for renewable or unlimited strikes, with some targeting the February holidays.

The French minister of tourism, Olivia Gregoire, called on unions to respect the “sacred period” of school holidays (which in France run from February 4th to March 6th, depending on which zone you are in).

Meanwhile, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told RTL that if the government remains stubborn then “there is a possibility of days of action during the school vacations”.

As a result, it is likely that further notices will be filed.  The Local will update this story with the latest – but here’s what we know so far.

January actions

Tuesday, January 31st – this is the next one-day mass strike, which will likely see severe disruption on many services, particularly public transport – full details here.

February actions

Trains – two rail unions – the hardline Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots – have filed a renewable strike notice for “mid-February” in addition to a two-day strike which is to take place on Tuesday, February 7th, and Wednesday, and 8th. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Ski resorts – two of the largest unions representing French ski lift operators and seasonal workers, FO (Force ouvrière) and the CGT, have filed “unlimited” strike notices starting on January 31st – the same day that unions across other sectors have called for another ‘mass strike’.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the strike will continue throughout February, but unions say they want to put pressure on the government to discuss both pensions and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affect ski industry employees.

The CGT union in particular has threatened further actions during the Ski World Championships, held in Courchevel from February 6th to February 19th. Strikes in ski resorts usually primarily affect the operation of ski lifts. You can read more here.

Oil refinery workers – refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. 

The national union coordinator for French oil giant, TotalEnergies, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions would result in “lower throughput” and “the stoppage of shipments.”

The most concrete effect of this is likely to be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

Power cuts – the hardline CGT have also threatened more “direct action” with employees of the State electricity sector threatening to cut the power to certain towns. This isn’t a scheduled action (or indeed a legal one, the government has promised to prosecute workers who do this) but short targeted power cuts could continue into February.

UK border – finally, if you are travelling to or from the UK, be aware that a UK Border Force strike is planned for February 1st and 2nd, which is likely to increase waiting times at the border.

We will update this story as more details are released, and you can also find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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