Main-Line Railway Provence
The main Paris-Marseille-Nice-Italy rail line connects the coastal towns and villages along the Mediterranean coast [map], and links Beyond north to Lyon and Paris and east to Italy.
For travelers arriving in France by air, a TGV railway station is located right at the Charles de Gaulle airport.
Another TGV station east of the city is at Marne-le-Vallée, beside Disneyland Paris [Disneyland-Paris Area Map].
This station, and the Charles de Gaulle airport TGV station, connects with the northern-Europe TGV that serves Brussels and London.
Avignon is the first main-line TGV stop coming into Provence from Paris. This modern, light-filled station, opened in 2001, is about 4 km from the center of the historic town.
Transportation between the TGV station and town center is by bus or taxi. The Avignon-Carpentras rail line can also be used, with just a few minutes between the Avignon TGV station and the Gare d'Avignon Center station, with frequent service.
Travel time between Avignon and Paris is about 2-1/2 hours by TGV, making it easy for locals to live in the Provencal area of Avignon and commute to work in Paris. For tourisme, Avignon is not only fast and easy from Paris, but during the summer there is direct service (sort of ) between London and Avignon on the EuroStar TGV line.
Aix-en-Provence is about 3 hours from Paris by TGV. The modern station, opened in the summer of 2001, is located in the countryside 15 km southwest of the town center.
Shuttle bus (navette) service between the TGV station and the town center (bus station) runs every 30 minutes, and the trip time is 30 minutes.
Marseille railway station is the Gare St Charles [our photo] in the town. The high-speed TGV choo-choos into here at old-time speeds, but still only about 3 hours from Paris.
The train that continues east from Marseille, along the coast, is still the TGV, but running at slower speeds on non-TGV tracks. It's about another 2-1/2 hours from Marseille to Cannes or Nice.
It's a 15-minute walk from the Gare St Charles to the old port in the center of Marseille. Go down the monumental staircase [our photo] and continue south about 6 blocks along Bvd d'Athènes and Bvd Dugommier, then turn right (west) on the famous La Canebière and follow it to the Port.
From Marseille, the mainline railway runs along the Mediterranean coast. The tracks are sometimes a bit inland, through the hills, and often through tunnels, but there are places with wonderful views of the coast. Try to get a seat on the right-hand side (heading East).
We've listed here all the possible stops along the way, but not all trains stop at all these stations. Toulon is the first stop, about 45 minutes after Marseille.
Past Toulon, the train heads northeast through the countryside, passing a number of small, perched villages, to Gare Les Arcs - Draguignan. This is a local stop (skipped by express trains) about 1h30 from Marseille. The small station serves the towns of Les Arcs, which is about 1 km north of the station, and Draguignan, a good 10 km north of the station.
The gets back to the coast at St Raphaël [photo, above] about an hour after Toulon. The train passes through Frejus five minutes before St Raphaël, but usually doesn't stop. There are local trains, taxis and bus service for the 2.5 km between Frejus and St Raphaël.
Antibes is is a wonderful (and ancient) seaside town, about 10 minutes past Cannes on the train line.
Two of the smaller stops past Antibes Juan-les-Pins, Cagnes-sur-Mer and Saint Laurent-du-Var, are local stops only. If your destination is there, you'll probably have to transfer at Antibes to a local line.
Nice, France is the main destination for the Paris to Provence trains. Some of the trains from Paris terminate here, and some continue down the coast towards Menton and Italy. There are also frequent local trains for the next stretch of the French Riviera coast.
Villefranche-sur-Mer is a local stop a few minutes east of Nice.
The rail station for Eze by the seaside at Eze-Bord-de-Mer. This is not a practical stop for visiting the perched village of Eze, which is on the mountain side up above.
The Monaco (the principality) and Monte-Carlo (the town) railway station is a 25-30 minute train ride from Nice. Be sure to bring an empty suitcase for your casino winnings.
Roquebrune-Cap-Martin is the seaside railway station for this commune, but the picturesque, perched village is, again, high up the mountain side above the station. The nearby seaside site of Cap Martin is also a very long walk, and it's mostly high-end residences.
Menton is the last French town before the Italian border. The railway station is in the town, and Menton town is well worth visiting.