Fastest journey7hr 35m
It is an easy journey by train from London to Cluses in the French Alps with a choice of routes. Some passengers opt for the Eurostar train to Lyon, others favour the route via Paris. On peak travel days there are direct TGVs from Paris to Cluses, but more usually it’s necessary to change along the way. Here we describe the fastest option, which uses Eurostar from London to Paris and then continues via Bellegarde to Cluses.
The journey starts with a high-speed run on Eurostar from London to Paris. In the French capital, you join a TGV Lyria service bound for Switzerland. You alight at Bellegarde (which is well before the Swiss border), connecting there onto a regional express TER train to Cluses.
Tickets for journeys from London to Cluses normally go on sale three months prior to the date of travel, but there are times when Loco2 is able to sell tickets on this route as much as four months in advance.
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 Bellegarde-sur-Valserine
High-speed TGV trains to Bellegarde depart from Paris Gare de Lyon station. Most of the trains on this route are TGV Lyria services bound for the Swiss city of Geneva. Some trains on this route make no stops at all on the 470-km journey from Paris to Bellegarde. Other services make one or two stops en route. The train speeds south from Paris, crossing Burgundy and then heading east through increasingly hilly country towards the Swiss border. The last half hour through the Jura hills is full of drama. You’ll alight at Bellegarde, where it’s worth taking a look at the striking circular building which is the centrepiece of the modern station.
Bellegarde-sur-Valserine to Cluses
Regional TER trains generally run every two hours direct from Bellegarde (Ain) to Cluses, with most trains making about a dozen intermediate stops along the way. The train runs east towards Geneva, skirting the southern suburbs of the city but never actually crossing the Swiss border. At Annemasse, the train reverses and then heads south into the Alps. The TER train service from Bellegarde to Cluses is supplemented by an occasional SNCF bus (on which tickets purchased through Loco2 are valid).
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Image credits: Aeroeths