Where to go in France by train (besides Paris)
France is bigger and more diverse than many people realize. While Paris is an unmissable attraction, there’s a seemingly endless number of cities to visit in all corners of the country. If you’re trying to decide where to go in France on your rail trip, here are 5 fantastic cities across various regions you should consider. All of these cities have direct and convenient train connections from Paris.
Where to go in France
Annecy is a small alpine town in south-eastern France, set on the banks of the picturesque Lake Annecy. A network of canals running through the enthralling old town gives it a distinctly laid back feeling, and have earned it the moniker of the Venice of the Alps. While the town, adjacent lake, and soaring peaks are enough to hold your attention for several days, many choose this as a base to explore the nearby Rhone Alps. They’re packed full of activities come snow or shine.
Don’t miss: In the summer there are endless hikes and several mountain bike trails in the beautiful mountains; in the winter, they transform into ski runs for all skill levels.
How to get there by train from Paris: There are trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to Annecy approximately every hour on the TGV. Journey time is roughly 4 hours.
The city of Rennes is the capital of Brittany in France’s north west. Many treat the city as a gateway into the nearby coastal towns, but the city is well deserving of a longer stop. Medieval half-timbered houses define the old town, but the diversity of influences over the years is also clearly visible. A vast public park, cathedral, and vibrant, youthful population add to the city’s appeal.
Don’t miss: A walk through the old town and Parc du Thabor.
How to get there from Paris: There is an hourly TGV train from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes that takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Bordeaux wines are world famous, and in recent years the city of their origin has seen a marked resurgence. This port city on the Garonne River has majestic architecture, beautiful bridges, vast mansions, and celebrated art museums. Just out of town you’ll find some equally impressive vineyards, where you can sample and purchase various high-end Bordeaux wines.
Don’t miss: A walk along the river, with a visit to Place de la Bourse and the Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool, is a rewarding way to spend an afternoon and early evening.
How to get there by train from Paris: There are TGV trains from Paris Montparnasse to Bordeaux throughout the day which take approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Avignon is the starting point for many journeys into France’s Provence region. It’s located on the famous Rhône River, and the walled town offers interesting history and beautiful medieval architecture. In many ways, walking through the town walls is like taking a step back into history. It’s also the perfect hub from which to spread out into one of several nearby villages.
Don’t miss: The Pont d’Avignon is perhaps the city’s most famous structure, though a walk through the walled old town is possibly more rewarding.
How to get there by train from Paris: There are hourly trains from Paris Gare de Lyon to Avignon which take approximately 3 hours.
Strasbourg sits in the country’s north east, close to the German border. It’s geographical proximity to Germany means that much of the city has strong Germanic influences, from street signs through to cuisine. The city’s interesting medieval history and ability to stay relevant and modern at the same time makes this an intriguing destination to visit, particularly if you’re traveling between France, Germany, and the rest of Europe.
Don’t miss: Strasbourg’s Cathédrale Notre-Dame is an unmissable attraction in the city.
How to get there by train from Paris: There are trains from Paris Est to Strasbourg every couple of hours. The journey is approximately 2 hours.
France is a country that deserves lengthy trips and return visits. Just a few hours in Paris will tell you this. So if you’re planning a rail journey in France, don’t just zip through the capital – plan a route that allows you to explore as many regions as possible. You can do this with a Eurail France Pass, NEW in 2017!