There are six Paris train stations, or gares, taking passengers to destinations throughout France and the rest of Europe — Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare d'Austerlitz, Gare Montparnasse, Gare Saint-Lazare. France has one of the most developed railway systems in the world and it's easy to see why so many travelers choose to use trains over airplanes or automobile rentals.
The railway system is convenient, safe and economical. The six train stations in Paris were built in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s and have a wonderful period feeling to them. (The exception is Gare Montparnasse, which was rebuilt in the late 20th century.) They look like train stations should look. Once you have booked your France train travel you'll need to know which train station you'll need to be traveling from or arriving at.
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Gare du Nord, in the 10th Arrondissement, is where you catch the Eurostar to London and other northern destinations — Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It also connects with Paris urban transportation, including the RER and the Metro. The RER train from Charles de Gaulle Airport (line B) connects at Gare du Nord. It's no wonder it's called the busiest train station in the world.
Gare du Nord can be reached on Metro lines 4 and 5 and on RER lines B and D.
Gare du Nord train destination highlights —
Gare de l'Est is the neighbor of Gare du Nord up in the 10th Arrondissement, nearly in the 18th. It's one of the oldest train stations in Paris. This is where you'll leave from if you want to spend the day in Champagne. Trains from Gare de l'Est also head east towards Nancy, Strasbourg, Reims, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, with sleepers to Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and even Moscow.
Gare de l'Est is also found on Metro lines 4 and 5.
Gare de l'Est destination highlights —
Travel over to the 12 Arrondissement, sort of at the intersection of the Canal St Martin and the Seine, and that's where you'll find Gare de Lyon. Built for the World Expo of 1900, this station with a clock tower is the hub for many southern destinations in France as well as Switzerland and Italy. In fact, it's the gateway to the Rhone Valley, Provence and Cote d'Azur.
Gare de Lyon is also known for the historic Le Train Bleu restaurant that's been serving customers since 1901 and which was restored in 2004 to its original glory. It's worth a visit just to see the ornate decorations. (You can see the restaurant up on the second floor in the photo.)
Gare de Lyon is reached on Metro line 1 and RER lines A and D.
Gare de Lyon train destination highlights —
Across the river from Gare de Lyon, on the border of the 13th and 5th Arrondissements, is Gare d'Austerlitz, the gateway to the center of France as well as the Alps, and Cote d'Azur. This used to be where you'd take a night train to Spain, but all those famous sleeper trains have been discontinued.
The station was first constructed in the 1840s when it was known as Gare d'Orléans, serving trains traveling to that French city. Now, one of the oldest Paris train stations is being completely renovated and revamped to modernize and accept new trains. Work should be completed in 2020. During the time of the work there is no TGV service at Gare d'Austerlitz, but rumor has it this is where the new TGV to Bordeaux will call home. Austerlitz is on Metro line 5 and 10 and RER C.
Gare d'Austerlitz train destination highlights include —
Paris train station Gare Montparnasse was also original built in 1840 (as Gare de l'Ouest). It is the only train station in Paris to be torn down and rebuilt — as part of a complex of office buildings and the Tour Montparnasse skyscraper, in an unfortunate wave of modernization that was in vogue among French politicians in the 1960s. (International tourists voted the tour the 2nd ugliest building in the world, but the photo shows the view of Paris from the 56th floor.)
From here you'll access the west and southwest cities including Bordeaux, Tours, Nantes and Rennes. Gare Montparnasse is on Metro lines 4, 6, 12 and 13. It's a major urban terminus.
Gare Montparnasse train destination highlights —
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The Impressionist painters had a soft spot for this train station — both Edouard Manet and Claude Monet chose this railway station as the focus of many of their paintings. There's a famous story of how Monet showed up unannounced, with his painting equipment and his assistant in tow, and demanded to see the station master who was either so impressed or so confused that he "posed" the trains to The Master's instructions.
Gare Saint-Lazare is where you'll depart to get to Mont-St-Michel and Dieppe. It's reached on Metro lines 3, 12, and 13.
Gare Saint-Lazare destination highlights —
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