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, tickets, timing and schedules are below, but first, a couple of notes on some of the most popular train destinations…
- On your way back from Ventimiglia or Monaco, know that the trains that say Grasse or Marseilles also stop in Nice, Antibes 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 inland from the Port.
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’s Casino Gardens.
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.
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’ll be in the thick of it. Here’s the Italian train site in English 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. The app is only for iPhones, but here is the Trenitalia mobile site for Androids.
If you’re going further in Italy, you’ll save a lot of money to buy your Italian portion once in Ventimiglia. Also, unlike French tickets, you can buy Italian tickets in advance and use them anytime within 3 months.
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 14 euros, takes an hour, and runs every couple of hours during the summer.
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:
Here are some sample train fares from Nice, but remember there are also some great local rail pass deals, with day-passes starting at 14€, plus weekly passes available. If this is your first time buying a train ticket in Nice, see Taking the Local Trains for tips on using the ticket machines.
- Villefranche-sur-mer 1.60€ one-way, 3.20€ round-trip
- Monaco 3.60€ one-way, 7.20€ round-trip
- Ventimiglia, Italy 6.70€ one-way, 13.40€ round-trip
- Antibes 4.20€ one-way, 8.40€ round-trip
- Cannes 6.40€ one-way, 12.80€ round-trip
- Grasse 7.90€ one-way, 15.80€ round-trip
- Saint Raphael 11.20€ one-way, 22.40€ round-trip
- Aix-en-Provence 35.90€ one-way, 71.80€ round-trip (or take the less expensive and quicker Nice-Aix bus)
- Avignon Center 44.90€ one-way, 89.80€ round-trip
Going East, the trains leave Nice roughly around :25 and :55 after the hour. Here is approximately how long it takes to go from Nice to:
- Villefranche-sur-mer: less than 10 minutes
- Monaco: 25 minutes
- Ventimiglia, Italy: 50 minutes
Going West, their are mostly regular trains that leave Nice roughly around :06 and :37 after the hour and stop at all the stations. Here is approximately how long it takes these trains to go from Nice, although there are other, less regular trains that get there a bit faster.
- Antibes: 30 minutes
- Cannes: 45 minutes
- Grasse: 1 hour 15 minutes (only the :37 train goes to Grasse)
Going farther west, these trains leave roughly at :25 and :55 past the hour.
- Saint Raphael: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 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.
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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