A French Mediterranean Rail Expedition From Lyon to Marseille

From Lyon to Marseille A French Mediterranean Rail Expedition

Take the LGV Mediterranee from Lyon to Marseille for a vibrant city break. Stroll along the Vieux Port and marvel at the quintessentially French architecture of the old town.

Designed with traveler’s comfort in mind, the trains on this route offer ample legroom, headrests and power sockets at every seat. Enjoy onboard services like a buffet car and dedicated family carriages.


Paris, the D-Day Beaches of Normandy, and Bordeaux typically come to mind first when travelers think about visiting France. But Lyon, the country’s third largest city and gastronomical capital, flies under the radar. A look at the impressive sights, historic landmarks, and fun traditions demonstrates why this city deserves to be in the spotlight.

Lyon’s history is as much about its people as it is about its buildings. During the French Revolution, its inhabitants staged two major uprisings to improve their working conditions and pay. It was also a hub of the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century, a silk trade boosted the economy. The city is proud of the fact that loom inventor Joseph Marie Jacquard and silk workers are buried here, and it has preserved their legacy in museums, theaters, and streets named for them.

The city’s modern era began with a drive to improve town planning, and the results are evident. In the 1980s, new neighborhoods were developed and a policy of respect for historical cultural assets was instituted. The result is a city that proudly boasts of its past while embracing the future. You see it in the so-called Crayon building that caps the skyline with its pencil-like point, and in avant-garde neighborhoods such as Confluence (famous for its sustainability) and the Cite Internationale complex.

From the center of town, a short walk takes you to Fourviere, “the hill that prays.” This neighborhood boasts a highly decorated basilica, several convents, and the Palace of the Archbishop. Nearby is the Croix-Rousse, “the hill that works.” Here you’ll find silk workshops and a funicular railway.

If you’re hungry, the city has many culinary treats to tempt you. Try one of the bouchons, the Lyonnaise restaurants that specialize in local cuisine, and sample the famous Beaujolais wine. Or visit the Marche Saint-Antoine along the river Saone, where you can buy anything from second-hand books to local produce. The city’s most upscale food emporium is Les Halles Lyon Paul Bocuse, where you can watch chefs whip up delectable dishes. It’s open for lunch and dinner.


Provence is a treasure trove of historical and architectural gems, from ancient ruins to grand cathedrals. It’s also a paradise for gourmet cuisine and local wines. So if you’re planning a trip to France this winter, check out the new TGV service from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to Marseille that launches on 10 December 2017.

This fast, comfortable train will whisk you straight to Toulon, a charming Mediterranean port city with sandy beaches and a rich naval history. With a single round trip a day, the journey takes around nine hours including connections in Lyon and Aix-en-Provence.

From here it’s just a short hop to Marseille, which lies in a sheltered depression surrounded by hills that inhibited its development as a suburb of Lyon. The city’s Old Port is a natural harbor, and it has one of the rocky coastlines typical of the northeastern Mediterranean that was so attractive to early mariners and explorers. Today, visitors come to sample Marseille’s bouillabaisse and Pastis anise liquor, and to play petanque on the city’s shady streets.

A highlight of a visit to Marseille is the basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, which sits high on the city’s highest hill. This Neo-Byzantine landmark is topped by an impressive gilded Virgin Mary, and it offers fantastic views over the city from its perch.

In the center of the city is the Palais Longchamp, a grand palace built in 1869 that has housed two important museums and now serves as a cultural venue. The building is an imposing monument that’s well worth visiting for its fountains, water features and colonnades, and it overlooks the Parc Longchamp.

Traveling from Marseille to Nice by train is a scenic adventure that allows you to enjoy jaw-dropping scenery while traveling in comfort. It’s also a great way to avoid the stress and congestion of driving on French roads, especially if you’re traveling in a group. You can easily book tickets online at transport sites like Raileurope and Omio, which compare prices and journey lengths to other options, including bus tours. Once you’ve booked, your tickets will be either delivered to you as digital tickets or available for pickup at the station.


There are plenty of ways to explore France’s glistening Mediterranean coast, whether it’s for a beach vacation or to soak up the culture in a city like Nice. You can hop on a high-speed TGV for fast and comfortable journeys between cities, or take your time with local TER regional trains that let you discover rural France one charming village at a time. Either way, you can get there easily with a Eurail Pass.

The fabled French Riviera includes Cannes, the glitzy film festival town made famous by Brigitte Bardot; Nice, with its beautiful beaches and five-star restaurants; and Monaco, home to the Grimaldi royals. Each offers a unique blend of glamour, luxury and laid-back charm, and is easy to reach by train.

If you want to see the French Riviera without spending a lot of time at the beach, you can choose to travel via Bordeaux. This option gives you the chance to see the stunning hillside vineyards and endless lavender fields that make this part of France so alluring. There are several direct TGV services per day, taking from around 4h28 to 4h47. Fares vary, so it’s best to check the exact schedule before booking.

Once in Bordeaux, you can explore the old port by foot or jump aboard a boat cruise to explore the nearby Cap Ferrat peninsula. Then, it’s a short train ride to the famous fishing and trading hub of Marseille, where you’ll find an independent spirit that’s regaining its confidence and appeal after a tough past.

From here, you can hop on a train to the beautiful university city of Montpellier. With its magnificent architecture and its 1500-year-old history as a port, it’s an elegant place to relax. Here, you’ll find a mix of cultures from the sea and the mountains, with bullfighting (which differs from its Spanish cousin), paella (and Camargue rice) and jazzy manouche music all playing an important part.

In the long term, plans include the LGV Mediterranee line, which will connect the Garonne Valley with the Mediterranean coastline, reducing the current train journey time between Paris and Toulouse to under three hours. But the line seems unlikely to be built before 2030, when budget constraints will likely make the project less attractive.


The journey from Nice to Marseille is a scenic one, with sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea and the white-sand beaches that line this stretch of France’s Riviera coastline. The best way to get between the two cities is by train, but bus and flight travel are also available options.

The quickest and most comfortable way to travel from Nice to Marseille is by train. The SNCF’s trains are spacious and well-appointed, and you can choose from a variety of seating options to ensure that your trip is as enjoyable as possible.

Depending on the season, trains between Nice and Marseille depart as often as every hour. If you want to ensure that you can catch the perfect train for your vacation, be sure to book your ticket in advance.

You can save money by booking your tickets online. SNCF offers discounts for families and individuals traveling together, as well as senior citizen and student discounts. Tickets are available up to 90 days prior to departure, with greater savings available the earlier you purchase. You can also save money by purchasing a rail pass if you’re planning to travel extensively in France.

Although it’s a little off the beaten track, a visit to Nice deserves its own place in your French itinerary. From the city’s UNESCO-listed Old Town to its glamorous stretches of beach and its cosmopolitan gastronomy scene, this is a destination that offers something for everyone.

The city’s roots extend far back in history, with vestiges of the Greeks and Romans visible in the Gallo-Roman ruins at Cimiez and in the ancient local language, Nissart, which is still spoken by some elderly residents. A tidal wave of visitors have made their way to Nice since the 1700s, when it became part of the prestigious French Riviera.

While most travelers spend their time in the seaside resorts of Cannes and St-Tropez, a visit to the gritty port city of Marseille reveals another side of this Riviera jewel. Its 1500-year-old history as a trading hub provides an interesting contrast with its modern-day resurgence as a booming arts and culture center.

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