Fastest journey4hr 49m
Board a Eurostar train at Ashford International and travel directly to Lyon without the need to change trains along the way. Lyon is served by Eurostar’s new direct train from London and Ashford to Marseille. The travel time from Ashford to Lyon is about four hours – a remarkable example of high-speed rail bringing central and southern France within easy reach of south-east England.
The direct service from London and Ashford to Lyon operates up to five times each week - that peak frequency is reserved for the summer season. During spring and autumn there are typically three trains per week in each direction. Note that winter services are sparse, with at most one train each week - and then only around Christmas, the New Year and the English half-term school holiday in February. So there are winter periods with no direct train at all. But there are of course plenty of alternative routes to the direct train, with multiple options each day requiring an easy change of train in Lille or Paris.
Bookings for the direct train are presently open until autumn 2017. Bookings for indirect routes (ie. with a change at Lille or Paris) usually open three to four months prior to travel.
Ashford to Lyon
Shortly after leaving Ashford International, the Eurostar train to Lyon dives into the Channel Tunnel. A half hour later you’ll already be in northern France, tracking south through Flanders’ fields towards Paris. Skirting the east of the French capital, it’s then a fast dash south through Burgundy to the Rhône Valley where the first stop is at Lyon Part Dieu station. At Part Dieu, there are excellent onward connections to many cities in the south of France, the French Alps and also Barcelona.
On the return journey from Lyon Part Dieu to Ashford, there is an extra stop at Lille Europe. This is required by the UK Border Force in order for the authorities to carry out immigration checks before the train enters the Channel Tunnel.
Travellers taking the train from Ashford to Lyon are spoilt for choice. If you are travelling on a day when there’s a direct train, that’s your best bet. On other days this route described here via Paris makes sense, but there’s also an early morning connection via Lille on certain days.
The journey from Ashford to Lyon kicks off with a high-speed run on Eurostar from Ashford to Paris, where you will need to change stations. The second leg from Paris to Lyon takes just a couple of hours; it includes some very good scenery as the train dashes south from Paris through Burgundy.
Bookings from Ashford to Lyon via Paris normally open three or four months prior to travel.
London to Paris
Board a Eurostar service from London to Paris. There are upwards of 15 trains to Paris from London each day with departures at least hourly from the beautifully restored station at St Pancras in London. The fastest trains speed to Paris in just 2 hrs 16 mins, with slower services taking up to 20 mins longer to reach the Gare du Nord in Paris. The first part of the journey from London sweeps through Thameside landscapes and rural Kent to reach the Channel Tunnel. Little more than an hour after leaving London you'll already be in northern France, tracking south through Flanders fields towards Paris.
Remember to factor in at least half an hour for Eurostar's airline-style baggage check prior to boarding your train. There is a luggage and body scan and you'll be asked to show your passport. There are no restrictions on taking liquids on board Eurostar trains.
Paris interchange: Paris Nord to Paris Lyon
When you alight from the train at Gare du Nord look for signs to the Metro and RER. Once you've bought a ticket follow the signs to 'RER D', direction 'Melun' or 'Malesherbes'. So long as you're heading in the right direction, all the trains on this line stop at Gare de Lyon. The actual train journey takes around 10 mins with just one stop on the way at Châtelet-les-Halles. Upon alighting from the RER train at Gare de Lyon, follow the signs to the mainline station. The signs read 'Accès aux trains Grandes Lignes'. The whole journey from the concourse at Gare du Nord to the mainline departure platforms at Gare de Lyon will normally take about 40 mins but we recommend leaving at least 50 mins.
If you are arriving at Gare du Nord from London, bear in mind that you can buy Paris Métro tickets at the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras and on board the Eurostar train. Similarly, passengers arriving at the Gare du Nord on Thalys trains from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands can buy Metro tickets on the train (at the Thalys Bar). Although universally referred to as Métro tickets, they are in fact valid on RER trains too.
Paris to Lyon
Every day, about 20 TGVs leave the Gare de Lyon in Paris for the city of Lyon, taking just two hours for the 430-km journey. This is a fast dash on France’s oldest dedicated high-speed rail route – it opened way back in 1981. Within little more than an hour you swap Parisian suburbs for the soft contours of Burgundy vineyards and before long the train is gliding into Lyon. All TGV services from Paris stop first at Lyon Part Dieu station. Most then continue to serve Lyon Perrache.
Other journeys to Lyon View all journeys to Lyon
- From Brussels from £52.50
- From Cluses from £29.50
- From Bordeaux from £39.50
- From Annecy from £23.50
- From Bourg-Saint-Maurice from £27.50
- From Mâcon from £7.50
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Image credits: Saone River, Lyon by Dennis Jarvis