Fastest journey8hr 3m
It is easy to travel by train from London to Hendaye on the French-Spanish border. The best route is via Paris. The journey starts with a high-speed run on Eurostar from London to the French capital. Then you take the Métro to Montparnasse, connecting there onto a French TGV train direct to Hendaye. It’s a long haul, but perfectly doable in a day. It’s not all on high-speed railway lines. From the Loire Valley south through western France you’ll be travelling on regular rail routes at only modest speeds – that’s in many ways an advantage as you’ll see more of the passing landscape.
Bookings for the journey from London to Hendaye normally open three months prior to the date of travel. However, at certain times of the year, Loco2 may be able to sell tickets for this journey as long as four months in advance. It pays to book early if you are keen to get the best fares.
If you don’t mind an overnight journey, there is on certain evenings also an overnight train from Paris direct to Hendaye.
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 Montparnasse
Cross Paris by Métro from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse. To do so, head underground and follow the signs from the Eurostar platform to Métro line 4. Take the Métro in the direction of Porte d'Orléans or Mairie de Montrouge, which will get you straight to Montparnasse Bienvenüe in about 25 minutes. You should note that there's a 700m walk, along a moving walkway and up stairs and escalators, between the Métro at Montparnasse and the mainline station. We recommend allowing at least 45mins for the entire transfer.
If you arrive 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 Métro 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 Hendaye
Direct TGVs to Hendaye depart from Paris Montparnasse station. Once beyond Bordeaux the train traverses the forested landscapes of Landes, eventually reaching the Atlantic coast at Biarritz. There are occasional glimpses of the sea (to the right) in the final 20 minutes of the journey to Hendaye. The direct trains from Paris to Hendaye all take under six hours for the journey of over 800 kilometres. These services run non-stop to Bordeaux and then make four additional stops between Bordeaux and Hendaye.
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Image credits: © daniel reversat