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!

Coastal Train Fares and Killer Discount Passes  

Here are the 2021 full-fare train rates from Nice:

  • Villefranche-sur-mer  1.90€ one-way, 3.80€ round-trip
  • Monaco  3€ one-way, 6€ round-trip
  • Ventimiglia, Italy 7.50€ one-way, 15€ round-trip

Going West:

  • Antibes  3€ one-way, 6€ round-trip
  • Cannes  5€ one-way, 10€ round-trip
  • Grasse   7.50€ one-way, 15€ 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  10€ one-way, 20€ round-trip
  • Aix-en-Provence 16€ one-way, 32€ round-trip
  • Avignon Center 35-65€ one-way

Best Discount Train Passes and Deals

The best year-around deal is the deep-discount Zou weekly (‘Hebdo’) passYou get a week of unlimited train travel in th region, and you choose your endpoints, so for example, an unlimited week pass for all the stops between Cannes and Italy is just 35€.   It’s a super deal and available all year, not just in the summer.  You can calculate the cost based on the towns you choose and buy the pass online at the link above.  If you are here for a while, there is the same deal but in a month pass, the Zou Mensuel.

TER Summer Youth Pass (‘Pass Jeune‘)  Available only during July and August and only for those between 12-25, for just 29€ you get a month of unlimited local trains all over France, not just here in the Cote d’Azur.  The weird catch is that with this pass you can’t just hop-on and -off at will, you have to print out a free ticket each time, so it is kind of a hassle, but worth it for the killer deal.

TER Summer Day Pass (‘Pass Touristique’) Available June through September, this pass offers a day of unlimited train travel in the region for 16€, 26€ for two travelling together, and just 10€ for each friend thereafter.

Pass Isabelle Family is a day pass for 2 adults and 2 kids under 16 for just 35€, and is available all year long.

These passes can be purchased…

  • Online by clicking on the links above (in French)
  • At the blue ticket machines in the train station (in English), click Products Evènementiel/Event Products, then you will see your pass choices. For step-by-step instructions on using the blue ticket machines, click here.
  • At the ticket office at the train station (where they speak English), but there is usually a bit of a line, so give yourself extra time.

Once you have your pass, you don’t need any tickets, no validating, no lines… just hop on the train and go (except for that pesky youth pass). The only catch is that you are limited to TER trains, the local trains, and can’t hop on the TGVs (drat!).

And one final deal: Show your same day train ticket/day pass/week pass at the Monaco Oceanographic Museum and get 2€ off on your admission, normally 16€.  Same for the Perfume Museum in Grasse.

For other train passes and discounts, click on my Cheap Train Tickets and Rail Passes page.

Train Schedules

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

The MaGare SNCF smartphone app is infinitely easier than the SNCF website: choose your train station and then with one click (‘see train schedules’) this app replicates the big board currently at the train station of your choice.   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.

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
  • Marseille:  2 1/2 hours
  • Aix-en-Provence  45 minutes after changing trains in Marseille
  • Avignon Center  1 hour 10, after changing trains in Marseille

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

The Stops

Nice: Nice has 3 train stations: 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.

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: go up the escalator and then take the other one down to get to 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 from the train station 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€ off admission to the Monaco Oceanographic Museum.

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 is at the far end), 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 coastIt’s a little outdated (the pass that it talks about is now called the TER Pass Touristique and is 16€ for unlimited regional train travel in a day), but the info on the stops and towns is still right on point.

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.  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 a big hill or wait for the free shuttle.   In any case, once there, show your same-day train ticket/pass and get half-price to the Perfume Museum in Grasse, and also to their gardens in Mouans-Sartoux.

Saint Raphael for Saint Tropez:  Saint Raphael is the closest train station to very remote Saint Tropez. 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 ago, and is worth taking a little time to explore.  The boat to Saint Tropez costs 30€ round trip, takes an hour, and runs every couple of hours from April through October.

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,  Pocket Watch by Isabelle Grosjean, all licensed under Creative Commons.

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