How to Take the Train in Paris

What to Know Before Riding the Rails Through France
Paris train station Paris train station
June 18, 2020
Hop on a train in Paris and in a couple of hours you can find yourself on the beaches of Normandy, exploring Aix-en-Provence, or even in another country. It’s easy to travel by train in France and these useful tips will help your journey go smoothly.
Portrait of Urbansider Paris author Ulrike
by Ulrike

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Fantastic public transportation is one of the best things about living in France, and I don’t just mean the inner-city options. The French rail system not only connects you to every corner of the country but also to the rest of Europe. 

In Paris, we have plenty of choices for traveling by train, as the city is nothing if not full of train stations. There are a total of seven train stations in Paris: Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare de Paris Saint-Lazare, Gare Montparnasse, Gare d’Austerlitz, and Gare de Bercy.

Map of the different train stations in Paris
The seven train stations in Paris are spread throughout the city and are easily accessible by public transportation.

Paris Train Stations

Each gare whisks passengers off in a different direction, the names of some stations serving as a clue for where their tracks can take you. Here’s a quick list of which Paris train stations go where:

  • Gare du Nord serves destinations north of Paris, including northern France, Belgium, northern Germany, and The Netherlands. If you’re traveling to London from Paris on the Eurostar, this is where you’ll go.
  • Gare de l’Est sends you east, taking you to French cities like Reims in Champagne or on to Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, and Moscow.
  • Gare de Lyon goes south, with trains going to Lyon, Montpellier, Marseille, and the Côte d’Azur.
  • Saint-Lazare takes you to Normandy and around the northern commuter circle of Paris.
  • Montparnasse goes to western and southwestern France, branching off to Brittany or heading to Tours, Bordeaux, and down to the Pyrenees mountain range and northern Spain.
  • Gare d’Austerlitz serves central and southern France, stopping in cities like Lyon, Grenoble, Dijon, Toulon, and the nearby Orleans.
  • Bercy is mostly an auto-train station, allowing travelers to transport their vehicles to and from central France with destinations like Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand, and Auxerre.

My favorite train station in Paris is Gare de Lyon for its mix of modernity and grandeur—be sure to check out its glamorous restaurant Le Train Bleu. But you don’t get a choice which gare you go to if you have a destination in mind, so go where your ticket tells you!

Paris train station Gare du Nord
Entrance to Paris’s Gare du Nord train station.

Although every train station is different, they do have one thing in common that you might not expect — a piano! Nearly all of the larger train stations in France have a piano available to the public. And more often than not, someone is playing a tune. The spontaneous concerts only add to the bustling atmosphere that I love so much about train stations.

Buying Train Tickets

First thing’s first! Before you hop on a train, you need to pick a destination and purchase a ticket!

Choosing where to go is definitely the hardest part — the national state-owned railway company, called the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer), covers some 3,000 stations in France alone.

Wondering where to go? These are my Top 5 Paris Day Trip Destinations

Traveling by train in France

Luckily, buying your ticket is much easier than deciding which part of this beautiful country to visit next.

Since the SNCF owns and operates all the passenger rail services in France, you can’t do much price shopping. They do, however, offer discounts, rail passes, a loyalty program, and even a low-cost train line — just like a low-cost airline — called the OUIGO.

The easiest way to buy a train ticket in France is through the Official SNCF Website or the Official OUI.sncf App. If you reserve through the website, you’ll need to download your e-ticket and print it out or open and save the email with your ticket on your phone.

Book your train tickets in France now via SNCF.

If you’re looking to save a bit of money, subscribe to the SNCF newsletter to learn about special offers each week, or consider purchasing a Eurail pass (for non-European residents) or Interrail pass (for European residents) to explore France or Europe over the course of a month.

Bon voyage!


Would you like to discover more of France but don’t have time to plan a trip? Reserve one of these luxury Paris vacation packages.

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