The efficiency of the French rail infrastructure have made train travel one of the most popular transportation methods in France. High-speed trains, known as TGV services to travel in France, are perfect for traveling between France’s major cities, while regional (TER) trains allow travelers to reach numerous small towns and villages. From popular destinations and train routes to information about train companies and how to buy cheap train tickets, this page provides an overview of everything you need to know about trains in France.
Most major urban areas in France are connected by train. The most popular train journeys in France are those connecting Paris to other major cities like Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Rennes, Bordeaux and Strasbourg. International travel is also frequent here as the train network connects many major routes through Europe. Trains from London to Paris via the Channel Tunnel are also very popular. Some of the other most frequented journeys include trains to Brussels offered by Thalys and those that cross the Alps to arrive in Turin, Italy. Sleeper trains are another option to travel within France and across its borders into Switzerland, Germany or Italy.
The major provider of all rail services in France is SNCF, the national rail company. The service provided is considered one of the best train operators and networks in the world. Eurostar is also a major rail provider, operating the renowned Paris-London service. There are three main types of trains used in France: regional trains (TER), interregional trains (Corail, Téoz, Lunéa) and high-speed trains (TGV, Thalys). While the high-speed trains are the fastest train travel options, the TGV can't always reach their top speed (320km/h) on some high-speed lines such as Paris-Marseille or Lyon-Turin.
SNCF: is the National Society of French Railways, France's national rail provider. SNCF is responsible for all train routes in France at a local level, while regional trains or intercity trains are covered by TGV and iDTGV and Ouigo subsidiaries. The SNCF also covers international routes going in and out of France, like the Paris - Barcelona train.
TGV: TGV trains, soon to be known as TGV INOUI, are high-speed trains operated by SNCF. Despite their name, only a few routes on the French rail network actually use high-speed trains including Paris-Lyon, Paris-Marseille, Paris-Montpellier, Paris-Lille and Paris-Tours. However, TGV has plans to extend its network of high-speed trains in the future. The new TGV IN QUI trains will cover more routes as well as having ameneties such as WiFi, charging sockets and an onboard bar.
Eurostar: Eurostar is a Franco-British company that connects the UK with France and Belgium by traveling through the Channel Tunnel. The main route the Eurostar runs connects Paris and London; however, other French cities like Lille, Calais, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille and Marne-la-Vallée also connected with the UK via Eurostar trains.
Thalys: Thalys trains connect France with Belguim and the Netherlands. Thalys trains connect French destinations like Paris, Lille, Lyon and Marseille with Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam in Belgium and the Netherlands.
TGV Lyria: TGV Lyria trains travel between France and Switzerland with more than 4 million passengers traveling on Lyria trains every year. You can reach Geneva, Basel, Lausanne and Zurich (and other major Swiss stations) from Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Lille or Dijon.
Thello: Thello was created as a partnership between SNCF and Trenitalia in 2010 and provides trains between France and Italy. Three lines currently exist: Paris - Venice (via Dijon and Milan), Milan-Marseille (serving major stations of the French Riviera) and Milan - Nice. To continue your journey by train in Italy you have to use Trenitalia or Italo.