Fastest journey10hr 9m
It’s perfectly possible to travel by train from Cambridge to Cannes in a day! The entire journey can take less than 11 hours and, thanks to a straightforward journey, it's easy to travel in comfort and style from Cambridge to the French Riviera. You have a choice of routes, but probably the most popular is via Paris since it offers the most choice and flexibility.
Your journey starts with a short hop on the Cambridge Express which takes you into King’s Cross station in London. From there you walk over to St Pancras station to join a Eurostar train to Paris. There’s an easy change of stations in Paris, from the Gare to Nord to the Gare de Lyon. The latter is the departure point for the fast TGV trains which take just over five hours for the 940-km journey from Paris to Cannes. This last leg of the journey is usually served by double-deck TGV Duplex trains, so book a seat on the upper deck for the best views.
Booking for the entire journey from Cambridge to Cannes usually opens 12 weeks in advance of travel, and that’s when you’ll find the cheapest tickets. You may consider booking the journey from London to Cannes earlier, as that’s available three months in advance. You can then always add the connecting domestic UK leg when tickets are released a little later.
Cambridge to London
The trains used on the fast run from Cambridge to London King’s Cross are not in their first youth, but they positively dash all the way from the Fenland university city to the capital. Most Cambridge Express services run non-stop to London. It’s a breathless ride which takes about 50 minutes and initially traverses open agricultural country. You’ll catch a glimpse of the world’s first garden city as you speed through Letchworth and before long the train is weaving through London suburbs on its final approach into London King’s Cross station.
London interchange: London Kings Cross to London St. Pancras International
It's just a short walk between stations to transfer between London Kings Cross and St. Pancras International, with step-free access. When you alight from a national rail train, simply walk to the end of the platform where you will find ticket barriers and an exit onto Kings Cross Square. Turn right and cross this large pedestrianised area, walking towards the grand red brick clock tower of St. Pancras hotel. When you meet St. Pancras road, cross the road but resist the temptation to use the first entrance - that is to Kings Cross St. Pancras Underground station. Instead, turn right and walk along between the two stations. The entrance to St. Pancras International is on your left after 150m, with Eurostar check-in clearly signposted.
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 Cannes
Every day, four or five direct TGV services depart from Paris Gare de Lyon station for Cannes. These high-speed TGV trains (usually double-deck TGV Duplex units) run non-stop to at least Valence in the Rhône Valley. Many don’t make a single stop until well into Provence. There’s a nice balance to this journey: an impressive high-speed run at the start, giving a sense of real progress towards the south of France, and then a more leisurely pace for the last couple of hours as the train cruises the Riviera coast.
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Image credits: ROSS HONG KONG