The extensive Parisien metro system has made traveling easy within the city and suburbs but there are several train stations that put many French and European destinations within your reach.
I don’t know about you, but I love train stations! They are filled with anticipation, farewells, and a promise of adventure. (I love to people-watch at train stations!) Paris has picturesque streets and boulevards but its train stations are a sight to see as well.
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Quick Summary: Destinations by Station
- Gare St. Lazare: Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre, Rouen
- Gare du Nord: Northeast France, Lille, Valenciennes, Calais. Also London, Brussels, and Amsterdam (Thalys).
- Gare de l’Est: Nancy, Metz, Reims, Strasbourg. And also Germany and Luxembourg.
- Gare de Lyon: Besançon, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nice, Nimes, and Perpignan. And also Italy Genevaand Zurich in Switzerland and the east of Spain.
- Gare d’Austerlitz: Biarritz, Bordeaux, Limoges, Poitiers, Toulouse, and Tours. Also western Spain.
- Gare Montparnasse: All western TGVs, Brittany, Brest, Nantes and Rennes.
What are the train stations in Paris?
Paris has wonderful public transport, from trains and trams to buses and shuttles. Being the French capital, Paris is connected to several international hubs not only by flights but also by les grandes lignes or the trains. The city strategically built numerous train stations that now act as entry points for destinations from all directions.
Paris has 7 major train stations that connect it to cities across France and Europe. Each station, unique with its architecture, contributes to the love affair that travelers across the globe have with Paris. The stations act as a doorway to the city, and as such, were built with grandiose in mind to impress the arriving passengers.
Almost all the train stations were built in the 19th century (except one). The first station to be constructed was Gare Saint-Lazare way back in 1837, soon followed by Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, and Gare de Lyon. Gare de Bercy is the youngest of them all, being built in 1977.
Made up of exceptional architecture, neoclassical facades, and statues made by famous artists, the train stations were built with the city’s layout in mind and now serve as landmarks for both residents and tourists.
While the facade and some of the construction remind one of bygone eras, the stations themselves have adapted with time and undergone renovations to cater to the high-speed trains and the growing population. Now as lively urban centers, they include boutiques, cafes, and shopping spaces with ever-increasing traffic.
Gare Saint-Lazare was the first train station built in Paris when the trains were just being introduced. Initially, it was a simple wooden structure which was later expanded to be the terminus it is today.
Situated in the heart of Paris, the station is close to Boulevard Haussmann’s department stores, Place Madeline, and the Paris Opera, making it one of the busiest stations in Paris. The station has 3 levels (metro level, street level, and the platform level), each with restaurants and shops catering to simple treats and leisure shopping sprees.
The trains from Gare Saint-Lazare head to the northwest, and the Normandy region. The station can be reached by metro lines 3, 12, 13, and 14.
Fun Fact: The entrance of the station has its unique travel-inspired art showing a stack of clocks and a pile of bronze suitcases, both created by Arman in 1985. The stack of clocks named “L’heure de tous” (The Time of All) symbolizes the long waiting times that are an integral part of all journeys. Each clock has a different time indicating the time of each person, the time of everyone.
The second art piece, “Consigne à vie”, a pile of suitcases made in bronze, symbolizes the most common travel object.
Saint-Lazare has also been featured in Monet and Manet’s artwork. Musee d’Orsay held an exhibition in 1998 named “Manet, Monet and Gare Saint-Lazare”.
Address: 13, Rue d’Amsterdam, 8th Arr. Metro station: Saint-Lazare on Lines 3, 12, 13, and 14.
Gare du Nord
Europe’s leading railway station and a stone’s throw away from Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord is the world’s 3rd largest railway station when it comes to traffic. Situated in the heart of the 10th Arrondissement, the original Gare du Nord, created in 1846, was demolished in 1860 due to its smaller size, and a newer one was inaugurated in 1864 and today welcomes more than 220 million visitors a year.
Every decade of the 20th century brought a new renovation and uplift to the station but the neoclassical facade with 23 female statues, depicting various cities such as Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Brussels, and Vienna, is a sight to behold even today.
The station has 4 main parts – the Eurostar terminal whisking passengers off to global destinations; the Quai Transversal with its Parisian and international shopping amenities; and levels -1 and -2 filled with passengers traveling in the metro lines and the RERs.
Gare du Nord aims to triple in size to welcome the thousands of visitors for the Paris Olympics of 2024 (should they go according to plan), but the city, historians, and architects have wildly criticized the plan of transforming the gare into an urban shopping space.
Gare du Nord serves the northern part of France, and also international European cities such as Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands (via Thalys), and London (via Eurostar). Gare du Nord can be reached by metro lines 2, 4, and 5, and RER B and D.
Fun Fact: Gare du Nord was featured in films like Amelie, The Bourne Identity, and Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
Address: 18, Rue Dunkerque, 10th Arr. Metro station: Gare du Nord on Lines 4 and 5.
Gare de l’Est
Gare de l’Est was inaugurated in 1849 by the Paris-Strasbourg Railway Company and was originally built to service passengers traveling to and from Strasbourg. In 1854, it started train lines to the Alsace region, and from 1883, the original Express d’Orient (Orient Express) traveled all the way to Istanbul.
Gare de l’Est has beautiful and elegant architecture, sculptures representing the Seine and the Rhine, along with allegorical statues of the city of Strasbourg and the city of Verdun. With its half-rose windows and a clock surrounded by sculptures, the station was a backdrop for many a film, including Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain.
Under the Eiffel rose window on the upper floors of the station, you can find one of the most secret Parisian rooftop bars – Le Perchoir de l’Est. With carefully sourced cocktail bites surrounded by a terrace of flowered arches, Le Perchoir de l’Est is a pop-up bar that is open from June to October.
Trains from Gare de l’Est serve the east of France as well as some international regions of Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Istanbul, Poland, and even Moscow.
Did you know: The Gare de l’Est has connections with World War I and II. It saw the mobilization of the French troops during the First World War and a series of bunkers under a platform used as bomb shelters during the Second World War.
The bunkers are intact even today but inaccessible to the public. The main hall even has a mural painting, “Le Depart des poilus, aout 1914”, illustrating the departure of the soldiers. (Read more about it here.)
Address: Place du Novembre 1918, 10th Arr. Metro station: Gare de l’Est on Lines 4, 5, and 7.
Gare de Lyon
Gare de Lyon was originally built in 1847 but was completely renovated for the World Exposition of 1900. The station was designed in Belle Epoque style with allegorical statues and a high clock tower modeled after Big Ben in London. Initially, it carried passengers to Lyon and Marseilles.
Gare de Lyon has 3 large halls – Hall 1 is the historical center with the Le Train Bleu restaurant and a forecourt that is filled with pop-up stores and terraces in the summer. Hall 2 is more modern and welcomes passengers with a wide range of restaurants. Hall 3 is underground and gives access to the OuiGo trains, the metro lines, and the RER.
Trains from Gare de Lyon travel to central-east and south-east of France, along with southern Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Monaco. Gare de Lyon can be reached by metro lines 1 and 14, as well as RER A and D.
Fun Fact: Hall 1 of Gare de Lyon is home to one of the most celebrated restaurants in Paris, Le Train Bleu. It was built along with the station to create an unmissable gourmet experience in a luxurious setting for travelers. Initially, it was a station buffet that attracted artists and people from high society but was renamed ‘Le Train Bleu’ in 1963 as a tribute to the Paris Vintimille line that served the Mediterranean coast and the French Riviera.
One of my favorite spots is Le Train Bleu inside the Gare de Lyon train station. A gorgeous bar and restaurant, it is decorated with luxurious gold ceilings and chandeliers. The restaurant has been open since 1901 and is renowned for being the choice of celebrities and the upper class for dining and scenery in the World War II era.
Some of its halls were listed as historical monuments in 1972. The restaurant has also been a backdrop for films such as Nikita and Place Vendôme. The restaurant remains unchanged and has beautiful Belle Epoque decor of chandeliers, paintings, gilt floor, and paneling.
Address: Place Louis Armand, 12th Arr. Metro station: Gare de Lyon on Lines 1 and 14.
Located right across the Jardin des Plantes, Gare d’Austerlitz was opened in 1840. Initially, it connected Paris with Bordeaux, Limoges and Toulouse, and Barcelona. The station was listed as a French historical monument in 1997.
The station was originally called Gare d’Orléans but was later renamed Gare d’Austerlitz after France’s victory in the most important Napoleonic Wars, the Battle of Austerlitz in 1905 (the Arc de Triomphe also celebrates this battle). The station suffered a series of tragedies, from the metro line 5 piercing through the great hall of Austerlitz in 1906 to the flooding of the Seine in 1910.
Gare d’Austerlitz serves the central and southern regions of France such as Lyon, Grenoble, Dijon, Neims, Orleans and Toulan. The station can be reached by metro lines 5 and 10.
Did you know: During World War II, Gare d’Austerlitz was the terminus used to evacuate children to the countryside, while at the same time, it was also the terminus to carry thousands of Jews to internment camps.
Address: 85, Quai d’Austerlitz, 13th Arr. Metro station: Gare d’Austerlitz on Lines 5 and 10.
Originally opened in 1840 as Gare de l’Ouest, it was rebuilt and renamed in 1848 and 1852 and rebuilt again to become the modern Gare Montparnasse in the 20th century (during the same time as the Montparnasse Tower). It is located at the crossroads of the 6th, 7th, 14th, and 15th arrondissements.
The station was well-known for the accident that occurred in October 1895 when the Granville-Paris express crashed through the station and plummeted to the sidewalk below.
The gare today is divided into 3 sections – Maine (which contains the Paris metros), Pasteur, and Vaugirard. The Maine terminus was built under the art deco influence but was torn down in 1960 to make way for the glass structure that we see today.
The station also has a rooftop garden. Built in 1994, the Jardin Atlantique is a public park and a green space covering the tracks and the platforms of Gare Montparnasse.
Trains from Gare Montparnasse travel to the west and south-west of France, from Brittany and Tours to Acquitane and Pyrenees, and even northern Spain. The station can be reached by metro lines 4, 6, 12, and 13.
Did you know: Gare Montparnasse has a connection with World War II. In 1944, the German commander, General Von Cholitz, was captured by General Philippe Leclerc, who used the station as his military base. The capture of 14th August 1944 led to the Liberation of Paris.
Address: 17, Boulevard de Vaugirard, 15th Arr. Metro station: Gare Montparnasse on Lines 4, 6, 12, and 13.
Gare de Bercy
Built primarily as a motorail terminal in 1977, the Gare de Bercy is without a doubt the ugliest modern station in Paris. Apart from receiving a few trains, the main role of Gare de Bercy is to transport cars of passengers to the south of France. Travelers can drop their car at the station, choose a destination and have it transported there while they sit back and relax on a train from Gare de Lyon.
Trains from Gare de Bercy travel to Dijon, Lyon, Auxerre, and Clermont-Ferrand. The station also has buses and coaches that travel internationally to major European destinations such as Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and the UK.
Address: 48 bis, Boulevard de Bercy, 12th Arr. Metro station: Bercy on Lines 14 or 6.
Bonus: Gare d’Orsay
The Gare d’Orsay was built around the same time as Gare de Lyon but due to its smaller platforms, it was closed down in 1939, and later converted into the wonderful Musee d’Orsay that we know and love today.
Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 7th Arr.
A Few Train Tips
- The train operator in France is SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer).
- To check train schedule, and fares and to buy your tickets you can use the SNCF site or Rail Europe.
- Most train tickets in France (and much of Europe) are now electronic. Download the SNCF mobile app so you can have your tickets sent directly to your phone. NOTE: Using apps outside the US requires data on your cell phone. Plan accordingly with your cell phone provider. If you own your phone, then think about buying a sim card for Europe (we buy ours from Amazon) to use while you are in Paris.
- You can also do Print-At-Home Tickets which you print off and show to the conductor on the train when he checks tickets. This is only convenient if you have access to a printer.
- You can also pick up your tickets at the station. You’ll need to use your credit card or a booking confirmation number. You’re required to use the SAME credit card used to purchase the tickets to collect them up at the station.
- You have to have a reservation in advance for a TGV trip. You do NOT have to have a reservation in advance for TER (Trains Express Régionaux) trains.
- There are no baggage fees or weight limits on trains. Just bring your bags with you onto the train and put them on the racks at the end of each car, or if they are small enough, above your head.
- Arrive early to find out which platform the train goes from.
- Do not look for your destination on the departures list panel. The trains are listed by number and where they terminate. Look for your train number to ensure you get to the right train.
- There are a fair amount of strikes. Check to see if your plans are disrupted by visiting the SNCF site.
All aboard! You now know about all the train stations in Paris. Even if you aren’t taking a train out of Paris, consider dropping by to look at the architecture, have a meal, or simply people-watch!
How about you? Have you been to any of the Parisian train stations? Do share!
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