Paris is the perfect place to visit any time of the year but the French capital is also a convenient jumping off point for countless onward European journeys. Here’s how not to be left in the dark when changing trains in the City of Light.
When it comes to European train stations, all rails lead to Paris. Or so it seems. Many journeys from the UK to the rest of Europe pass through Paris, and if travelling onwards from the French capital, a station transfer is often required. Most commonly, for our UK customers, train transfers in Paris begin from Gare du Nord, where the Eurostar terminal is located. Reaching most of Paris’ other railway stations requires added journey time (an hour is usually recommended) and some forward planning. Here are some of our top tips for changing trains in Paris.
How to get from Gare du Nord to Gare de l’Est
Unsurprisingly, Gare de l’Est is where travellers head to catch trains going east to European cities such as Frankfurt, Nancy, Munich, Reims, Strasbourg and Stuttgart. Gare de l’Est is by far the easiest train station to get to from Gare du Nord, with only a 10 mins walk separating them, either via Rue d’Alsace or via Boulevard Magenta. For step-free access, go via Rue du Faubourg St Denis. Going by taxi will likely take the same amount of time as walking, but if you have lots of luggage, grab a cab for less than €10.
How to get from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon
Catch a connection at Gare de Lyon for trains rolling southeast out of the city to Avignon, Barcelona, Dijon, the French Alps, Italy, Lyon, Nice, Marseille and Switzerland. Keep your eyes out for RER line D at the end of Gare du Nord’s Eurostar platform and take the RER train going towards Melun/Malesherbes to Gare de Lyon. You need a Metro ticket for this journey which you can buy locally. The train takes roughly 7 mins and the entire transfer shouldn’t take longer than 25 mins.
Top tip: You can either buy Metro tickets from a machine at the station, or, to avoid queues, purchase a carnet (10 one-way tickets) of Metro tickets on Eurostar trains in the restaurant car. These are valid for a single trip between any two Paris Metro stops or the RER, and they don't expire so you can save them for a future trip if you have any left over. Bring cash for these, as they sometimes don’t accept card payment in the buffet for the Metro tickets.
How to get from Gare du Nord to Gare d’Austerlitz
Gare d’Austerlitz handles Intercité trains from Paris to Brive, Cahors, Limoges and Toulouse, overnight trains to Briançon, Latour de Carol, Perpignan and Toulouse and regional trains to Blois, the Loire Valley and Orléans. At the end of the Eurostar platform at Gare du Nord, look for signs indicating Metro Line 5, ‘direction’ Place d'Italie. This is a direct line to Gare D’Austerlitz and shouldn’t take more than 20 mins. As above, you will need a Metro card for this journey.
How to get from Gare du Nord to Gare de Bercy
More of a secondary station, Gare de Bercy only caters to mainline Intercité trains to Vichy and Clermont-Ferrand, TER regional trains to Dijon and Lyon and a few other local trains. From Gare du Nord, look for signs pointing towards the RER line D towards Melun/Malesherbes and stay on until Gare de Lyon. From there, you can either walk just over 5 mins to Gare de Bercy, or take the Metro line 14 one stop, ‘direction’ Olympiade. As above, you will need a Metro card for this journey.
How to get from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse
If the southern section of the Atlantic coast is calling, you need to head to Gare Montparnasse where you can catch the TGV Atlantique high-speed line to Biarritz, Bordeaux, Brittany, Lourdes, Tarbes and the Spanish border at Hendaye and Irun for onward journeys to Lisbon and San Sebastian. From Gare du Nord’s Eurostar platform, find Metro Line 4, going towards Mairie de Montrouge. The journey should only take about 30 mins and, as above, you will need a Metro card for this journey.
How to get from Gare du Nord to Gare Saint Lazare
Paris’ second busiest station, Gare Saint Lazare serves trains going to Caen, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Le Havre, Rouen, Normandy and suburban routes. From Gare du Nord, look for the departure point for RER trains, taking the RER line E westbound towards Haussmann St. Lazare. This is the last stop on the line and the stop needed for Gare Saint Lazare. The transfer will take around 30 mins and, as above, you will need a Metro card for this journey.
Don’t be tripped up by transfer times
Because Paris has so many different train stations, it’s important to take note of what kind of transfer your selected ticket is asking you to make. For most Parisian train transfers, it’s recommended to allow at least an hour to get from one station to another. When booking with us, some results may display a shorter interchange. In this case, we will flag this up with a warning. Only book these shorter transfer journeys if you are fully confident crossing Paris between the named stations. Otherwise, we recommend allowing more time to switch between train hubs.
Top tip: Travelling between two stations is known as a “transfer,”. This is different to when you have to change trains at the same station, which is called an “interchange.”
Treat yourself between transfers
Another great reason to pad out time between transfers is to go exploring and potter around Paris for a while. Treat yourself to lunch at Gare de Lyon’s world-famous Le Train Bleu restaurant, where the likes of Coco Chanel, Salvador Dalí and Brigitte Bardot have dined
Or, if at Gare du Nord, wander across the road to Brasserie Terminus Nord, where Art Deco meets Art Nouveau and a gourmet welcome is always on the menu.
For a green escape, head over to the Lariboisiere Hospital courtyard, a peaceful green space a stone’s throw away from Gare du Nord where you can gather your thoughts and recharge before your onward journey.
You may also be interested in our blog on Renting Cars at French train stations if your onward journey can’t be made by train.
Image credits top to bottom: Railway station in Paris iStock ©Jannick Tessier, Gare du Nord iStock ©Photitos2016, Eiffel tower and Metro train in Paris iStock ©zefart, Horloge Gare de l'Est Flickr Commons © Lapichon
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