Train Tour de France
All aboard for your Train Tour de France! Throughout this itinerary, we will show you the top places to visit in France on a round-trip tour, such as Mont Saint Michel, Nice, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Versailles. This is your guide to seeing the best of the country in a matter of 2 weeks.
From iconic tourist attractions of the Eiffel Tower and the Mont St Michel Abbey, to cooking classes and food tours, to wine museums and the machine island of Nantes. There is an incredible amount to see and experience along this itinerary and Interrail France Pass route, and who knows, next time you might stay a bit longer or venture out with an Interrail Global Pass!
Price Range: $$$
Recommended Days: 14-18 Days
Riding Hours: Approx. 30 hr
Distance: 1.921 km
Transportation: Train, Bus
Paris: One Of The Most Popular Cities In The World
Paris is a great stop along any European train trip, and it’s where we get to start this French journey of ours today. Known for love and lights and food and art, Paris isn’t lacking much of anything. The city is made up of 20 distinct neighborhoods, or arrondissements, where you will find gardens and old cobblestone streets to explore.
Top attractions in Paris include the famed Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sacre Couer, Musee de Orsay, and the Arc du Triomphe. Paris is full of must-see places but there are also plenty of other off-the-beaten-track attractions and activities to partake in.
Interested in perfume? Take a perfume-making class. Can’t get enough croissants in your life? Take a croissant and baguette baking course or even a macaroon-making course. World-class chefs make their start in Paris, so you might as well go home with some recipes in your pocket! Love a different view? Enjoy Paris by boat on the Seine. Enjoy the greenery of the Promenade Plantée and the Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, attend a burlesque show, or tour the interesting sewer museum (and no it’s not smelly)!
Montparnasse Paris/Saint-Michel Notre-Dame → Versailles Chantiers | Duration: 0:12-0:36 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Metro
The next stop is Versailles, which you are more than welcome to stay a night there, but since it’s a short journey by metro from Paris, we recommend staying an extra night in Paris and treating Versailles as a day trip/half day-trip.
Depending on where you are staying in Paris, one option may be better than another. If you are staying near Montparnasse station, then hop on the N Metro line here where trains leave every couple of minutes and take only 12 minutes to reach Versailles.
If you are staying somewhere near Notre Dame or the C Metro line, then take the C train to Versailles. The journey takes around 36 minutes from Notre Dame and leaves every 15 minutes. You can buy any of these tickets easily at the train station before getting on the train.
Versailles: Day Trip From Paris
The city known for its amazing Château de Versailles as well as its gardens is well worth the visit even just for these attractions alone. Also known as the Palace of Versailles, inside there are several things to see; to account for enough time, we recommend a tour to soak up as much history from this place as possible.
Notable places within the palace are the hall of mirrors, the palace apartments, the royal chapel, and the Grand Trianon (designed for the king’s mistress…ooh la la). The Palace and Estate of Trianon require a ticket, however, access to the gardens is free except on the days of magical fountain shows. Check here for details.
Other things to do and see in Versailles include the Market of Notre Dame which is the largest farmers market in the region. It is open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays however next door is an indoor market open every day but Mondays. Enjoy local cheese, freshly baked bread, vegetables, flowers, and more!
Versailles Chantiers → Paris Montparnasse | Duration: 0:12-0:36 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Metro
From Versailles Chantiers, take the same metro back to Paris as you took to Versailles. The N Metro line leaves every couple of minutes and takes only 12 minutes to reach Paris Montparnasse. The C Metro Line leaves every 15 minutes and takes 36 minutes to reach Notre Dame. You can buy any of these tickets easily at the train station before getting on the train.
Paris Montparnasse → Le Mont Michel Bus Stop | Duration: 4:30-5:09 h | Transfers: 2 | Transport: Train, Bus
Upon leaving Paris to Mont St Michel, you have two options.
Option 1: Take the train from Paris Montparnasse station to Rennes (1:20-1:40h) and then another train to Pontorson Le Mont St Michel (0:48h) and then a bus to Le Mont Michel bus stop (0:20h). With how often the trains and bus operates, there are only two options to reach Le Mont Michel, leaving in the mid-morning at 8:56 am or afternoon at 2:43 pm*.
Option 2: Take the train at 7:32am* from Paris Montparnasse station to Villedieu Les Poeles (2:55h), then a bus from Villedieu Les Poeles to Pontorson Le Mont St Michel, where you can catch another bus to Le Mont Michel bus stop.
* Always double-check the train station or with SNCF with the latest timetables.
All tickets can be bought ahead of time online from SNCF, both bus and train tickets.
Mont-Saint-Michel: Iconic Located Monastery
A truly iconic location, Mont-Saint-Michel is the second most visited place in France after Paris. And we aren’t really surprised by that because it’s truly breathtaking. This tiny island boasts the famous monastery, Abbatiale du Mont-Saint-Michel, and a handful of restaurants and hotels. Hotels are few and on the higher end of the price scale if wanting to stay on the island but there are plenty of options if you want to stay in the town across the bridge.
Built in 706 AD, the island was only accessible at low tide and then in 1879, a raised causeway was built for tourists, monks, and pilgrims alike to visit the monastery. In 2014, this causeway was rebuilt and serves as a safe access point to reach the island at any time of day. From the shuttle bus stop at the beginning of the causeway, it takes 50 minutes to reach the island on foot.
Tip: Tickets for the abbey can be bought onsite the day of; however, we recommend saving time by buying them online ahead of time.
Le Mont St Michel Bus Station→ Nantes | Duration: 4:27 h | Transfers: 2 | Transport: Bus, Train
From Mont St Michel, take the bus from the main stop in town to the Pontorson Mont St Michel train station (0:20h). This bus operates 4 times daily during the work-week and on the weeks 2 times per day. Plan for the correct train connection. From the Pontorson Mont St Michel train station, take the TER train to Rennes.
These operate once daily on the weekends, and twice daily during the work-week (0:50h duration). The train times are staggered enough with the bus times that you won’t have to have a long wait in Pontorson before heading to Rennes (about a 15-minute wait).
After arriving in Rennes, take the TER train to Nantes (1:16h-2:18h duration). Connections leave every 20-60 minutes so if you’d like to have lunch or a look around in Rennes, there are plenty of trains to take later in the afternoon/day to Nantes.
Tickets can be bought ahead of time online from SNCF, both bus and train tickets.
Nantes: Influenced By Jules Verne
Nantes is the next stop on this train journey and it’s a city that’s easy to see on foot! Thanks to the Nantes tourist department then made up the popular Le Voyage à Nantes which is a self-guided tour around the city to hit all the best attractions and all you have to do is follow the green line on the ground. The green line wraps around the city and highlights the best of Nantes. In the summer there are art installations along the way, but its green line self-guided tour is accessible throughout the year.
Home to Jules Verne, Nantes was influenced by him in a couple more ways than one. Not only is there a Jules Verne Museum but there is Les Machines de l’Île. Les Machines de l’Île was designed by a theater director but was heavily inspired by Verne himself, and there you can ride the mechanical Grand Éléphant through the park.
Check out the Talensac Market a large outdoor farmers market, or the Place Viarme which hosts a Saturday flea market. Enjoy a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants at the Quai des Antilles or visit the Musée de l’Imprimerie, a very intriguing print museum.
Nantes → Bordeaux St Jean | Duration: 4:08 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
The Intercity trains connect Nantes to Bordeaux and there are four direct trains per day. The journey takes a little over 4 hours and passes through wine country as well as through the Regional Natural Park of the Marais Poitevin. You can buy your tickets ahead of time from SNCF.
Bordeaux: Wine, Fresh Food And More…
The wine capital of France, Bordeaux the city, and the region is chocked full of any wine you could be searching for. Take a wine tour out in the countryside and visit some of the best vineyards in the region. Another way to visit a vineyard is accessing it by tram, such as these three: Château du Taillan in Le Taillan-Médoc, Château Pape Clément in Pessac, and Château Haut brion in Pessac.
In the city you can also visit the Musée du Vin et du Négoce which is the wine museum of Bordeaux, where they explain the history of wine in this region; however, if you’re looking to learn a bit more about all wine in general, make a visit to the world’s largest wine museum Cité du Vin. If you’re looking for something else to indulge in on your visit, there is plenty of delicious food to be found and history to delve into.
Make sure to get your hands on Dunes Blanches or a Canelé, a regional pastry, grab some chocolate from Pâtisserie Chocolaterie David Capy. Wander the Capucins Market for all sorts of fresh food, or grab a coffee or a cocktail on the iboat all while attending a DJ sesh or concert on this three-level ferry.
When visiting Bordeaux there are a handful of places that are must-see places besides the insides of restaurants. Grosse Cloche being one of them, this gate serves as one of the few remaining gates to the city, as well as Porte Cailhau. A great spot to people watch and watch the world go by is the Place du Parlement and Place du Palais. Catch a ballet performance at the Grand Theatre or snap your best picture at the Miroir d’Eau.
Bordeaux St Jean→ Carcassonne | Duration: 3:01 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
There are seven direct Intercity connections per day to Carcassonne. The journey is around 3 hours long. There are also two indirect options with TGV and TER trains which also take around the same amount of time with a transfer in Toulouse. Buy your tickets online from SNCF.
Carcassonne: Wander The Medieval Alleyways
Next up is not just one city but two; there is the old town and citadel (La Cité) of Carcassonne and lower Carcassonne (Bastide Saint-Louis) which was built below the citadel. We highly recommend a visit to both as they both have their own characteristics.
La Cité is the reason visitors typically flock to Carcassonne. People want to see the amazing walls of the city lit up at night, and wander the medieval alleyways. There are plenty of restaurants offering delicious local cuisine within the city walls too. A great vantage point is to walk along the ramparts or from the Porte d’Aude.
To reach the lower town, Bastide Saint-Louis, take Pont Vieux, which blends almost seamlessly into another medieval area of the city. Here you can take a boat ride on the Canal du Midi, sip a coffee in Place Carnot, shop at the local farmers market, or dine at a not-so-pricy Michelin Star restaurant. Since it boasts fewer tourists than the citadel, there is a different and more local feel to the area.
Carcassonne→ Nice Ville | Duration: 6:45 h | Transfers: 1 | Transport: Train
There are no direct trains to Nice but with a short transfer in Marseille, you’ll be in Nice in no time. Seven trains leave Carcassonne daily to Marseille. This Intercity connection takes around 3 hours and hugs the coast on some parts of the journey.
From Marseille, the Intercity trains leave hourly to Nice. Peak around a bit in Marseille or head on your way to the Nice beaches, the journey to Nice takes 2:45-3 hours. It’s a long day of riding on the train but with beautiful landscapes, the time passes by quickly! You can check the timetables and buy your tickets online from SNCF.
Nice: Soulfulness At The French Riviera
Next up, Nice! Perfectly situated on the Mediterranean, Nice is the iconic beach destination in the French Riviera and we aren’t surprised. With countless beaches, there are plenty of options to choose from such as a public beach or a private beach.
There are around 20 public beaches that won’t often have restroom facilities or lounge chairs but are free for anyone to access. As for the private beaches, there are 15 beaches that require an entrance fee and include access to towels and lounge chairs. Here, you are not allowed to bring in food and drink but there are restaurants nearby (at a tourist price) to buy food and drink from.
If laying on the beach isn’t your thing, no worries because a walk or an elevator ride to Parc de la Colline du Château offers one of the best panoramas in the area. Enjoy wandering through both the old town (Vieille Ville) and stop into a creperie or browse at the Saleya Market. Here you can find flowers and fresh food and on Mondays, it turns into a large flea market. Take a stroll along Promenade des Anglais, drink coffee in Place Massena and watch the world go by, or stop into one of the many art museums in the city.
Nice Ville→ Lyon Part Dieu | Duration: 4:32 h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
There are three connections per day to Lyon on the TGV trains. The journey takes around 4:30 h and follows the Rhône River after passing Avignon.
Lyon: Gastronomy Hotspot
Known to be a gastronomy hotspot of France, hands down you will need to eat your way through Lyon and the best way to do that is with a food tour. Pick up something tasty at Les Halles Paul Bocuse (a famous food hall) or search for bouchons or Coq au vin on a local menu.
Explore a different side of the city by searching for the Traboules. Traboules are hidden renaissance passageways which there are said to be at least 400 but only a small amount are open to the public. Getting a little lost is a great way to find them, or you can easily ask a local for directions. Our tip is to look for the yellow and green arrows, and start near Quai Fulchiron Rolland.
A great vantage point of Lyon is offered at Fourvière Hill, where it’s best to catch the sunrise or sunset. Visit one of the two Roman amphitheaters, With plenty of museums, you certainly won’t be bored. Highlighted museums include, La Maison des Canuts (the silk workers museum), Contemporary Art Institute, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée Miniature et Cinéma, and the Testut-Latarjet Museum.
We hope you have enjoyed your trip on this train tour de France! End your trip in Paris by taking the TGV train (2:00h) or maybe you’re not quite done yet! Tack on an extra trip to Geneva to explore Switzerland (1:57h with hourly connections) or visit Italy by traveling to Turin (4:00h with direct connections twice daily). Find tickets back to Paris on SNCF as well as your tickets to Turin and Geneva.
*Disclaimer: Due to the fluidity of transportation schedules, the information seen on RailwayHero may not be up to date at the time of readíng. Always double-check with the operator for the latest information.