Getting to Paris by Train

The French train system is fast and generally very good. It allows fast communications not only within France, but also neighbouring countries (1h15m from Brussels, 3 hours from London, e.g.). The TGV (“Train Grande Vitesse”) is a superfast train running on some lines.

The main train stations (gare du Nord, gare de l’Est, gare St Lazare, gare d’Austerlitz and gare de Lyon, depending on which country you come from) are all located in Paris, a few Metro (subway) stops away from the city center. There is an additional station at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

More information about the train system, schedules and reservations can be found on the Web site of the SNCF, the French national railway company.

The table below indicates how to commute from the train stations to the ISMIR venue (see also the “Commuting in Paris” section).

StationComing from (usually)Commute to ISMIR via:
Charles-de-GaulleBelgiumRER line B (towards Massy Palaiseau), get off at Châtelet les Halles.
Gare d’AusterlitzSpainMétro line 5 (towards Bobigny-Pablo Picasso) until Bastille, transfer to Métro line 1 (towards La Défense), get off at Châtelet les Halles.or

Cross the river Seine to Gare de Lyon and use directions below.

Gare de l’EstGermanyBus line 47 (board at Magenta-Saint Martin towards Fort du Kremlin Bicêtre), get off at Centre Pompidou.or

Metro line 4 (towards Porte d’Orléans), get off at Châtelet les Halles.

Gare de LyonItaly, SwitzerlandMétro line 1 (towards La Défense), get off at Hôtel de Ville.
Gare du NordUK, Northern EuropeMetro line 4 (towards Porte d’Orléans) or RER line B (towards Massy Palaiseau), get off at Châtelet les Halles.
Gare St. LazareNorth-west FranceBus line 29 (towards Porte de Montempoivre), get off at Grenier-St Lazare – Quartier de l’Horloge.or

RER line A2 or A4 (towards Boissy or Marne-la-Vallée), get off at Châtelet-les-Halles.

Text Source : ‘parisculture’

Paris is well connected to the rest of Europe by train. There is no central station serving Paris, the six different stations are not connected to each other. You will probably want to know in advance at which station your train is arriving, so as to better choose a hotel and plan for transport within the city.

  • Gare du Nord, (10th), Métro: Gare du Nord – TGV trains to and from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Cologne, Germany (Thalys), and the United Kingdom (Eurostar) and regular trains from Northern Europe.
  • Gare d’Austerlitz, (13th), Métro: Gare d’Austerlitz – regular trains to and from the center and southwest of France (Orléans, Limoges, Toulouse the long way), Spain and Portugal and arrival of majority of the night trains.
  • Gare de l’Est, (10th), Métro: Gare de l’Est – ICE/TGV to and from Luxembourg, Saarbrücken, Kaiserslautern, Frankfurt, and [Stuttgart, Munich] in Germany and Basel and Zurich in Switzerland.
  • Gare de Lyon, (12th), Métro: Gare de Lyon – regular and TGV trains to and from Southern and eastern France: French Alps, Marseille, Lyon, Dijon, Switzerland: Geneva, Lausanne, Bern and Italy.
  • Gare St Lazare, (8th) Métro: St-Lazare – trains to and from Basse-Normandie, Haute-Normandie.
  • Gare Montparnasse, (15th), Métro: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe – TGV and regular trains to and from the west and south-west of France (Brest, Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse the fastest way and Spain).

The SNCF (French national railway authority) operates practically all trains within France excluding the Eurostar to St Pancras, London and the Thalys to Brussels and onward to the Netherlands and Germany. There are also a few local lines of high touristic interest which are privately owned. All SNCF, Eurostar and Thalys tickets can be bought in railway stations, city offices and travel agencies (no surcharge). The SNCF website allows to book and buy tickets up to two months in advance. There are significant discounts if you book weeks ahead. Reduced ticket prices are different for each day and each train and can be used only on the train the reservation is for. Surprisingly, round trip tickets (aller-retour) with a stay over Saturday night can be cheaper than a single one-way ticket (aller simple). A very limited selection of last minute trips are published on the SNCF website every Tuesday, with discounts of more than 50%.

There are a number of different kinds of high speed and normal trains:

  • TER. Regional trains : TER are slower, stopping at almost all stations.
  • Corail Intercité. normal day (no special name) operate to and from most cities in France and are usually your best bet for destinations all over France. These are the trains you’ll find yourself on if you have a Eurail pass, and don’t want to pay extra for reservations.
  • Corail Téoz. As Corail Intercité but you need a reservation.
  • Corail Lunéa. night trains (no special name) operate to and from most cities in France and are usually your best bet for destinations all over France. These are the trains you’ll find yourself on if you have a Eurail pass, and don’t want to pay extra for reservations.
  • TGV,. The world-famous French high-speed trains (Trains à Grande Vitesse) run very frequently to the Southeast Nice(5-6h), Marseille (3h) and Avignon (2.5 h), the East Geneva (3h) or Lausanne, Switzerland and Dijon (1h15) , the Southwest Bordeaux (3h), the West Rennes (3h) and the North Lille (less than 1h). Eurostar to London (2h15) and Thalys to Brussels (1h20) use almost identical trains.
  • Thalys. A high-speed train service running daily to/from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. It can be a bit expensive compared to normal trains, but cheap enough if you buy in advance.
  • Intercity. Intercity trains leave for all parts of Europe, including overnight trains to San Sebastian in Spain, Porto and Lisbon in Portugal.
  • Eurostar. The Eurostar service connects Paris with London directly and Brussels indirectly, as well many other destinations indirectly through the various west European rail services. Travel time between Paris and London St Pancras International currently averages at 2h15min, following the opening of a new rail link in late 2007. (Text Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia)

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