Riviera Rails – A Journey Along the Mediterranean Coast

As train travel continues to make a comeback, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, A Belmond Train, will be making its way along this stunning coastline. Discover everything you need to know about this incredible journey.

This dazzling stretch of the Mediterranean coast has inspired everyone from Jean Cocteau to Mick Jagger. And the best way to take it all in is by train.

Getting There

The Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region is served by an efficient network of trains operated by the national train company, SNCF. The TER regional routes serve dozens of coastal villages and towns, while the TGV trains offer quick connections between cities. For all routes and schedules, visit the official SNCF website (in English) or download the Oui SNCF mobile app, which lets you purchase tickets and passes directly from your phone.

The train service throughout the Riviera is frequent and relatively reliable, but during rush hours – especially during the height of the summer season when locals head to Monaco or Nice for work – there may be limited standing room in some carriages. If you are traveling with luggage, consider purchasing a seat reservation in advance; this can be done online, at the sales offices and automatic ticket machines situated at stations, or onboard the train itself. Alternatively, consider using the Lignes d’Azur Bus service, which operates on many coastal and inland routes with stops at most villages and towns in the region.

If you’re planning a long trip, or if your travel plans are flexible, consider taking a sleeper train. These services allow you to make the journey in one day and arrive at your destination refreshed, without the stress of navigating a rental car or public transit system with luggage. They are also often more cost-effective than flying to get from the airport to your destination. Two options are the Caledonian Sleeper, which connects London Euston with Scotland in both directions, and Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera sleeper, which runs between London Paddington and Cornwall in both directions.

Helicopter flights can be a fun and glamorous way to arrive in the region, but are typically only available for short trips from Nice-Cote d’Azur International Airport (NCE). If you’re interested, book your flight with a tour operator or through your hotel. They’ll arrange your transfers to hotels, villas and apartments along the Riviera for you. A taxi ride from the airport to most destinations is between EUR30 and EUR50. A private transfer can be significantly cheaper and be much more convenient if you’re travelling with family or a group of friends; it’s generally booked through your hotel or travel agency.

Ports & Destinations

There are countless ways to experience the Mediterranean coastline. Cruises are a great way to visit multiple destinations with ease, but ferries don’t always run on the same schedule as trains. Driving can be a challenge on these cliff-hugging roads, but offers the freedom to linger where you like. And flying may be the fastest, but you miss out on some of the gorgeous scenery (unless you’re soaring at 30-40,000 feet).

This is one of the most picturesque coastal regions in Europe. It’s also the birthplace of Western civilization and a region of contrasts. Gleaming azure seas meet stacked cliffside villages where fresco-filled churches, history museums, a national park, and even an endemic breed of sheep invite exploration.

The French Riviera, with its cobalt waters and pristine sandy beaches, draws visitors from around the world. The quaint fishing village of St-Rémy de Provence serves as the gateway to a trove of Romanesque architecture, including the Romanesque church of Saint-Barthélemy and the ruins of the Roman amphitheater.

Villefranche-sur-Mer has an intriguing “hidden” street painted in a mural by Jean Cocteau, as well as a lovely public beach. Juan-les-Pins is a popular hangout where you can join the in-crowd on pricy private beaches, or walk to the Cap d’Antibes peninsula to la Garoupe beach where F. Scott Fitzgerald summered and set his novel Tender is the Night. Mandelieu-la-Napoule is an adorable tiny town with a surprising seaside castle/museum.

Explore the Italian Riviera with a visit to glitzy Portofino, a village set within a natural harbor, and discover the enchanting villages of Riomaggiore, Vernazza, and Monterosso – which are best visited when they’re quiet in early or late season (Great Rail Journeys tours this area only during these times). Or, enjoy a day at the beach in a charming resort like San Fruttuoso before uncovering Genoa’s fascinating links to Christopher Columbus and pesto. You can do all this and more with a single Riviera rail pass. This is a trip you won’t want to miss.

Train Timetables

The Train des Merveilles, or Train of Wonders, hugs the coast and unveils new wonders at every turn. From easy day trips from Nice to a weeklong outdoor adventure into the mountains of Mercantour National Park, it’s an ideal way to explore the Riviera.

From Rome to Naples, Italy’s west coast offers irresistible beaches with dazzling views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and steep-sided mountains. Travelling on high speed Frecciarossa and Frecciabianca trains (marked red on the map) is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.

Alternatively, the Riviera Line runs along the beautiful English coastline from Exeter to Paignton. Its promenade, pier and long sandy beach provide the perfect setting for relaxing summer days of swimming, rock pooling and building sand castles. The South West Coastal Path also passes through the town.

In Provence, France’s mediterranean coastline is easily accessible by the TGV Lyria, which operates five round trips daily from Nice to Aix-en-Provence during the summer. The service is operated by SNCF, the national railway company. Seat reservations aren’t required and tickets are valid on any departure. For added convenience, hop on and off as often as you wish with a TER Regional ticket.

The Exeter-Paignton rail line is a vital artery that connects communities, businesses and visitors across 50 towns and villages in the Devon and Cornwall region of England. It was badly damaged by a huge storm in early 2014, but a great deal of work has since been completed to ensure its resilience. Thanks to funding from the European Union and the Interreg IVB NWE programme, as well as support from Devon County Council, Torbay Council and Great Western Railway, we have been able to deliver additional services, station improvements and a sustained community engagement campaign to build the resilience of the line. We have also developed the Night Riviera sleeper train, which is one of only two sleeper services in the UK. Click here to find out more.


The pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and ancient history of the Mediterranean Coast make for an unforgettable vacation. Whether you want to tour Pompeii and gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenal location or soak up the sun in luxury resorts like Portofino, there is an array of accommodations along the Mediterranean to suit your style and budget.

Often, it is the most intimate accommodations that offer the best value and most unique experiences. This is especially true in Greece, where staying at an Airbnb or private villa can give you the opportunity to experience the Greek way of life. These types of accommodations can also be much more affordable than staying at a hotel and can provide the perfect home base for exploring the city of Athens and beyond.

Another place where accommodations are both affordable and authentic is the Turkish Riviera. A popular coastal destination, the Turkish Riviera is a place where modern amenities meet centuries-old Ottoman houses and artisan shops. The sweeping arc of the coastline is interrupted by small villages that sometimes stretch ribbon-like along the shore and at other times huddle on the edge of steep ravines. Painted in dusty rose, periwinkle, and tangerine hues, they are picturesque against the blue sea and green pine forest.

The best way to experience the dazzling Riviera is by train. A trip aboard the famous Ferrovia delle Meraviglie (“Railway of Wonders”) will take you through the Maritime Alps and Mercantour National Park, as well as the Italian and French Rivieras. It is a remarkable railway journey that has been in operation for more than 100 years. It is the only line in Europe that traverses so many vertical peaks and ravines, and has an amazing series of engineering feats, including spiral tunnels and lofty viaducts.

The glitz and glamour of the Cote d’Azur draws international celebrities to Cannes, British families to Antibes, and French tourists to dozens of lower-key Riviera resorts. A rail pass allows you to easily visit them all in one day, delivering you right into the heart of these famous beachside towns.

Related Posts