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.
Inspired by my favourite travel website @seatsixtyone, I just went from London to Barcelona and back by train. I’m keen to cut down on air travel, so I want to share how easy, pleasant & inexpensive it was. 🧵
— Alex von Tunzelmann (@alexvtunzelmann) May 17, 2022
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, but obviously prices change depending on when you travel and when you book.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And if you want to plan ahead for next year, there will soon be a new sleeper train from Paris to Berlin, as well as from Paris to Vienna!