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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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VIDEO: 7 of the most beautiful train journeys in France

From Alpine valleys to the Mediterranean coastline via viaducts, gorges and vineyards - France boasts plenty of stunningly beautiful train journeys. Here's our pick of some of the most spectacular.

VIDEO: 7 of the most beautiful train journeys in France

There’s no doubt that train travel is having a bit of a moment, as travellers shun planes for the greener and more relaxing alternative of the railways – French rail operator SNCF has added an extra 500,000 seats to cope with soaring demand this summer.

With its high-speed TGV network, France is particularly good at train travel. But as well as being better for both the planet and your sense of adventure, railways have one extra advantage – great views.

Here’s our pick of seven breathtaking rail journeys in France that will show you way train travel is still the best travel.

The Côte d’Azur

A – very affordable – train journey along the coast of the Côte d’Azur is one of the great French travel experiences – the train hugs the cliffs on one side, as the sea laps against the coast on the other. 

Head from Marseille to Nice – and perhaps on to Monaco, Menton and Italy – on the Marseille-Ventimiglia line – passing through the glamorous Riviera resorts of Cannes and Antibes, as well as Juan-les-Pins, and Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cap d’Ail if you opt to head towards the Italian border.

La Ligne des Hirondelles

This two-and-a-half hour, 123 km journey between Dole and Saint-Claude in eastern France on a typically comfortable TER train passes far too quickly.

It goes through the forest of Chaux, the Jura vineyards, the valley of Grandvaux, the Valley of Bienne… not to mention crossing 36 tunnels and 18 viaducts.

A joy from start to finish.

La Ligne de Cerdagne

If you haven’t heard of the train jaune, you’re in for a thoroughly pleasant surprise.

A true emblem of the south west, the yellow train travels the heights of the Pyrénées-Orientales through forests, chasms, gorges, viaducts, past old fortresses and a precariously perched monastery on a 63k m picture-postcard journey between Villefranche-de-Conflent and Latour-de-Carol, nearly 1,600m above sea level.

Two types of trains operate on this route, a modern enclosed train as well as an older historic train that sometimes runs with open carriages when mountain weather allows.

Le train de Montenvers

Not to be outdone by those upstarts in the Pyrenees, the Alps has the bright red train de Montenvers, which climbs from the Chamonix valley around Mont Blanc, before stopping at the Mer de Glaces all year round.

In winter, you can watch skiers doing their thing on the slopes. In summer, the stunning scenery will just have to do…

La Ligne des Cévennes

The 304 km journey from Clermont-Ferrand to Nîmes never looked so good, passing through astonishing landscape including the spectacular Gorges de l’Allier and the peaceful Cévennes national park.

The train route also crosses numerous equally astonishing 19th-century bridges and viaducts – including the twin curved 433m Chapeauroux Viaduct, and the 409m Chamborigaud Viaduct.

Le Mastrou

The age of steam still has the power to get rail travel lovers all emotional.

The 130-year-old Le Mastrou train travels from Tournon-Saint Jean through the stunning Ardèche landscape, crosses the Gorges du Doux for a relaxing lunch in the picturesque town of Lamastre in the mountains. 

Interloire

One for cyclists – the link between Orléans and Le Croisic, on the Atlantic coast, cuts through the painfully pretty Loire Valley and passes through Nantes and Angers, following the Loire à Vélo path. In summer, cycles can be safely stored for the journey in a dedicated wagon.

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