Fastest journey10hr 26m
Travelling by train from London to Sanremo became even easier from May 2015 when Eurostar launched a new direct service from London to Marseille. On Saturdays and Sundays this Eurostar train connects perfectly in Marseille with a mid-afternoon EuroCity service to Sanremo operated by Thello.
In Marseille, you change trains at St Charles station, from where the train to Sanremo heads east on a marvellous traverse of Provence to the Côte d’Azur and the Italian border. The entire journey from London to Sanremo takes just 11 hours.
On those days when there is no direct Eurostar train from London to Marseille, you can still travel from London to Sanremo in a day with changes in Paris and Nice.
Bookings for this journey normally open three to four months prior to travel, and that's when you'll find the cheapest tickets.
London to Marseille
The first part of the Eurostar journey from London sweeps through Thameside landscapes and rural Kent. The train stops at Ashford International to pick up passengers before diving into the Channel Tunnel.
Around an hour after leaving London you’ll already be in northern France, heading south through Flanders’ fields towards Paris. Skirting the east of the French capital, it’s then a fast journey south through Burgundy to the Rhône Valley. There are stops in Lyon and Avignon before arriving in Marseille, where the train terminates at Marseille Saint-Charles station.
On the return journey from Marseille to London, there is an extra stop at Lille Europe. This is required by UK Border Force to carry out immigration checks before the train enters the Channel Tunnel. Passengers from Marseille need to alight at Lille, pass through a quick security check and passport control, and then rejoin the train for the onward journey to London.
Marseille to Sanremo
The direct Thello train to Sanremo leaves from Marseille St Charles station. It makes nine stops on its journey to Sanremo. Sit on the right side of the train for the best views of the coast. You’ll be rewarded with early glimpses of rocky coves as the train runs east through Bandol. The journey takes in the main resorts of the Côte d’Azur: Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monte Carlo and Menton. There’s more scenery to come as the train runs along the coast of Liguria towards Sanremo. Approaching the resort, the line dives into the long tunnel to reach Sanremo’s modern underground station.
It is very easy to travel by train from London to Sanremo and other resorts on the Italian Riviera. There is a night train option via Paris and Milan, and a wide choice of daytime routes. On those days when there is a direct Eurostar train from London to Marseille, it is possible to take that, changing in Marseille onto a EuroCity service run by Thello to Sanremo. There is also a daytime route via Paris and Nice, which we describe here.
There are three legs to the journey, which starts with a high-speed run on Eurostar from London to Paris. In Paris it is necessary to change stations, crossing the city to the Gare de Lyon to join a French TGV which runs directly to Nice. You change trains again at Nice Ville, from where there’s a direct EuroCity train along the coast to Sanremo. The route is by no means all high-speed. The last two or three hours, as you run east through Provence to Nice and beyond, is very leisurely. From time to time, you’ll have superb views of the Mediterranean to the right of the train.
Bookings for the journey from London to Sanremo normally open three months in advance. However, for mid-summer travel Loco2 is often able to sell tickets on this route four months in advance.
Lyon to Paris
Every day, about 20 direct TGVs – usually double-deck TGV Duplex trains – leave Lyon for Paris. Within little more than an hour you swap the soft contours of Burgundy vineyards for the suburbs of Paris. All TGV services from Paris serve Lyon Part Dieu station. Most also stop at Lyon-Perrache which is more convenient for the heart of the old city. Arrival in Paris is at the Gare de Lyon.
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 Nice
The direct TGV services to Nice depart from Paris Gare de Lyon station. These 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, then a more leisurely pace for the last couple of hours as the train cruises the Riviera coast. Arrival in Nice is at Nice Ville station, from where it is a 15-minute walk to the beachfront promenade.
Nice to Sanremo
There are three direct EuroCity trains each day from Nice Ville to Sanremo. These services are run by Thello. There are plenty of additional options, but these require a change of train at Ventimiglia. The direct trains take little over an hour for the 50-km journey from Nice Ville to Sanremo, making three intermediate stops along the way. Sit on the right for the best views of the coast. Approaching Sanremo, the line dives into the long tunnel to reach the resort’s modern underground station.
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Image credits: Sanremo © Dimitri Surkov