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6 European cities less than seven hours from France by train

Looking to travel outside of France this summer, but want to avoid flying? Take advantage of France's excellent high-speed train network to explore Europe.

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, 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.

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

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 for next year, 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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Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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