Coastal Trains Along the French Riviera

Riviera coastlineThirty 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!

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 or any of the daily, weekly, or monthly train passes:

  • 3€ off admission to the Villa Rothschild (regularly 13.50€)
  • 3.50€ off admission to Villa Kerylos (regularly 11.50€)
  • 2€ off the Monaco Oceanographic Museum (regularly 14€)
  • 2€ off the Monaco Grand Tour hop-on-hop-off bus (normally 22€)
  • 20% off the menu at the Nice Hard Rock Cafe (not alcohol though, boo)
  • and 10% off your room at the Nice Holiday Inn on Victor Hugo (which could actually be a big money saver, but you have to reserve with this link)

Train Schedules

Pocket watch

The coastal trains go roughly every half hour in both directions until around 10pm (11pm to near midnight on weekends), but check the schedules below to be sure, especially for the smaller stations.

New for 2018 there are no more printed schedules, so here are the links for the complete schedules on the web:

You can also just plug in your timing and destination here to get the train timings.

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:  20 minutes
  • Cannes:  40 minutes
  • Grasse:   1 hour 15 minutes
  • Saint Raphael:  1 hour 20 minutes

Going even 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

All trains going west automatically stop in NiceAntibes, and Cannes, and all trains going east automatically stop at Nice and Monaco.

The SNCF Direct smartphone app is infinitely easier than the 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.

Coastal Train Fares and Discount Passes  

Euro coins

Here are the 2018 full-fare train rates from Nice:

  • 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  4.80€ one-way, 9.60€ round-trip
  • Cannes  7.20€ one-way, 14.40€ round-trip
  • Grasse   10.40€ one-way, 20.80€ round-trip (or better, take the train to Cannes then catch the bus #600 to Grasse from in front of the Cannes train station)
  • Saint Raphael  12.80€ one-way, 25.60€ round-trip
  • Aix-en-Provence 40.80€ one-way, 81.60€ round-trip  (or take the less expensive and quicker Nice-Aix bus for 30€, or ride-share with Blabla Car for just 10€.
  • Avignon Center 51.40€ one-way, 102.80€ round-trip (or ride-share with Blabla Car for a fraction of the price)

There are some great train pass deals, including

  • The deep-discount Zou weekly (‘hebdo’) pass, with the cost depending on how much terrain you want to explore.  For example, a Nice-Cannes round-trip is 14.40€ whereas an unlimited week pass between Nice-Cannes is just 20€.   It’s a super deal and you get this pass from the Zou office at the train station or the SNCF ticket office if the Zou office is closed.
  • TER Summer Day Pass with unlimited travel in the region for a day for 16€, 32€ for two travelling together, and just 10€ for each friend thereafter. You can buy this from the blue machines or the SNCF ticket office.
  • Carte Isabelle Family can be a day pass for 35€, or a 3-day pass for 80€, is good for 2 adults and 2 kids, and is available all year long.  You can buy from the blue machines: click Products Evenementiel, then you will see your pass choices.
  • TER Summer Family Oceanographic Museum Pass is good for round-trip to Monaco for 2 adults and 2 kids, and gives you museum entry as well, while saving you around 12€.  Buy from the blue machines, see above.

For more details on these passes, how to get them, plus other train passes, click on my Cheap Train Tickets and Rail Passes page.

For step by step instructions on using the blue ticket machines, click here.


The Stops

Monaco Train StationMonaco:  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.

Beaches on the Cannes CroisetteCannes:  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, a not-to-be-missed Absynthe Bar and museum , 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 TER Day Pass and is 16€ for unlimited regional train travel in a day)

Ventimiglia, ItalyGoing to Italy:  The train is the best way to go the massive all-day Ventimiglia Friday Market, just walk out of the train station and in minutes you’re in the thick of it.  The police have mostly chased away the counterfeit designer bag men, but it’s still worth going not only for the discounted delectables, but also for the rock-bottom prices on leather goods, clothes, jewelry, basic housewares, gadgets, etc.    On Tuesday and Saturday mornings (until 1pm) you can find the same stuff tucked into the winding alleyways of the charming village of Sanremo.  It’s very fun, but watch out for pickpockets!

Click here for a whole page on Taking the train from Nice to Italy.

Grasse:  Some trains go direct to Grasse, for others you have to change trains in Cannes, but the best idea, however, is to take the train to Cannes, then catch the bus #600 right outside the train station, leaving every 20 minutes.  It’s not only less expensive, but it drops you off at the top of the village, across from the tourist office, whereas the train station is far from the main village and you have either walk up hill or take the free shuttle.

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 18 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).

See Related Pages:  

Back up to main Train Page

Photo credits: Villefranche by Francais,  Monaco Train Station by Christopher Cotrell,  Cannes Croisette by Bledard92, 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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