Coastal Trains Along the French Riviera

Thirty charming train stations wait to tempt you along the coast, varying from tiny, to gorgeous (Villefranche- and Theoule-sur-mer), to mythic (Cannes, Monaco), to… well, Italy.  

Tips on cost, ticketstiming and schedules are below, but first, a couple of notes on some of the most popular train destinations along the French Riviera

  • On your way back from Ventimiglia or Monaco, know that all trains that say Grasse or Marseilles, automatically stop in NiceAntibes and Cannes.
  • Also, be aware that there are three Nice train stations on this line: the main one is Nice-Ville which is also known in town as Gare Thiers, but there is also Nice St Augustin near the airport, and Nice Riquier near the Port.
  • You can get some discounts by showing your same-day TER train ticket:
    • 3€ off the Nice Open Tour hop-on-hop-off bus (regularly 22€)
    • 2.50€ off admission to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and Villa Kerylos
    • 2.50€ off admission to the Monaco Oceanographic Museum (regularly 14€)
    • and 2€ off the Monaco Grand Tour hop-on-hop-off bus (normally 21€)

Monaco:  After all the quaint train stations on the coast, the Monaco station is a shock: a giant white marble cavern.   When you get off the train you have two choices: take the marble tunnel down to the Port (where you can walk or bus to the Palace), or go up to Monte Carlo via a series of escalators and elevators.  You will emerge to find yourself in what looks like the middle of nowhere, but just go left for a short 10-minute, mostly downhill, walk that will bring you to the top of Monte Carlo.  Don’t forget, show your same-day TER train ticket for 2.50€ off admission to the Monaco Oceanographic Museum, and 2€ off the Monaco Grand Tour hop-on-hop-off bus.

Cannes:  With everything in such close proximity to the train station, you can’t go wrong.  Go right for the budget shopping along rue Meynadier walking street, then the lovely morning Forville covered-market, and finally the tiny old town road that leads to a chapel and museum.  Or, go left from the train station an in one block for the designer boutiques of rue Antibes.  Or go straight to the seaside for the famous Cannes Film Festival Palais, the red carpet and famous handprints; walk left along the Croisette with its grand hotels, or walk right for the Port, the boat to the Iles des Lerins, and the little street leading uphill through the Old Town (Le Suquet).

Antibes:  The train station is a 10 minute walk from the picturesque Old Town, but before you plunge into its captivating alleyways, first take a walk along the Port… keep going on the dock as far as you can, through each successive arch, to see bigger and bigger super yachts, the most impressive collection you may ever see.  Now go into the Old Town… has a great morning market, an Absynthe Bar (scroll to the bottom of Food Finds in the Old Town), and the wonderful seaside Picasso Museum.

More Coastal Towns:  Here’s a great article from The Guardian, which details some of the most charming little towns to tempt you along the coast (the pass that it talks about, however is now called the Zou Pass and is 15€ for unlimited train travel in a day)

Going to Italy:  The train is the best way to go the the Ventimiglia Friday Market, just walk out of the train station and in minutes you’re in the thick of it.  Here’s the Italian train site in English, click Ticket On-Line, and put in ‘Nice City’ for Nice.  Italian trains are always late, so download the Pronto Treno app (in English) which is especially useful since Trenitalia doesn’t have printed train schedules, and Here is the Trenitalia mobile site just in case.

If you’re going further in Italy, you’ll save a lot of money by buying your Italian portion once in Ventimiglia.  Also, unlike French tickets, you can buy Italian tickets far in advance and use them anytime within 3 months… just be sure to punch them in the little machine the day you use them.

Grasse:  Some trains go direct to Grasse, for others you have to change trains in Cannes. Even though this train goes inland, you can find the train times on the regular coastal route schedule.

Saint Raphael for Saint Tropez:  Saint Raphael is the closest train station to very remote Saint Tropez.  The train schedule is 03: Les Arcs Draguignan-St Raphael-Cannes-Nice.  The Saint Raphael tourist office is just across from the train station, so once you arrive, just pop in, pick up a boat schedule and map, and if you have a little time to kill get them to point you to the daily morning market.  Saint Raphael is a little bit what Nice and Cannes might have looked like 100 years go, and is worth taking a little time to explore.  The boat to Saint Tropez costs 15 euros round trip, takes an hour, and runs every couple of hours from April through October.

Farther afield: Past the Coast and on to Provence…

Aix-en-Provence and Avignon are both around just 4 hours away by train.  Here’s the schedule from Nice-Marseilles, where you have to change trains, and then Marseilles-Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles-Avignon (get off at the Avignon Center stop, not the TVG one).

 

Coastal Train Fares and Discount Passes:  

There are also some great train pass deals, including

  • Zou Pass with unlimited travel in a day for 15€ (summer only)
  • Carte Isabelle Family day pass for 35€, or 3-day for 80€
  • Plus deep-discount Zou weekly passes available, with the cost depending on how much terrain you want to explore.

 

To help you compare, here are some sample 2015 train fares from Nice

Going East:

  • Villefranche-sur-mer  1.80€ one-way, 3.60€ round-trip
  • Monaco  3.90€ one-way, 7.80€ round-trip
  • Ventimiglia, Italy 7.70€ one-way, 15.40€ round-trip

Going West:

  • Antibes  4.60€ one-way, 9.20€ round-trip
  • Cannes  7.00€ one-way, 14.00€ round-trip
  • Grasse   10.10€ one-way, 20.20€ round-trip
  • Saint Raphael  12.30€ one-way, 24.60€ round-trip
  • Aix-en-Provence 39.40€ one-way, 78.80€ round-trip  (or take the less expensive and quicker Nice-Aix bus)
  • Avignon Center 49.30€ one-way, 98.60€ round-trip

 

Train Schedules:

The coastal trains go roughly every half hour in both directions until around 11pm, but check the schedule ‘04: Mandelieu-Nice-Ventimiglia‘ to be sure, especially for the smaller stations.  Here is the approximately time it takes to go from Nice to:

 

  • Villefranche-sur-mer:  less than 10 minutes
  • Monaco:  25 minutes
  • Ventimiglia, Italy: 1 hour
  • Antibes:  30 minutes
  • Cannes:  45 minutes
  • Grasse:   1 hour 15 minutes (only the :37 train goes to Grasse)
  • Saint Raphael:  1 hour 20 minutes

Going farther west…

  • Marseilles:  2 1/2 hours
  • Aix-en-Provence  45 minutes after changing trains in Marseilles, leaves on the :05 and :45 (or take the convenient Nice-Aix bus)
  • Avignon Center  1 hour 10, after changing trains in Marseilles

The printed schedule for this route is ‘04: Mandelieu-Nice-Ventimiglia‘ which can be printed from this link or picked up at the station, the tourist office, or the front desk of your hotel.

The SNCF website is really difficult to use, but you can click here to try to get specific train schedule info for a particular day: under recherche par ligne choose 04 Mandelieu-Cannes-Nice-Ventimiglia, add where you want to go, put in your dates, and voila… er no, it will now make you re-enter where you want to go, but this time from a drop down list, and now… voila.

The SNCF Direct smartphone app is infinitely easier than the horrible SNCF website: with one click this app replicates the big board at the train station on your phone.   Great for when you want to know the timing of the next trains, during the frequent strikes, or if you’re late and want to know if you have to run.

See Related Pages:  

Back up to main Train Page

Photo credits:  Monaco Train Station by Christopher Cotrell, Cannes by Rita Molnar, Ventimiglia by Gilber Bochenek, Lavender Fields by Andy Blind,  coins by Imelenchon,  Pocket Watch by Isabelle Grosjean, all licensed under Creative Commons.

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