Fastest journey19hr 30m
Paris to Lisbon by train is an easy journey, one that can be accomplished in just 20 hrs. The Sud Expresso used to run right through from Paris to Lisbon. But with the introduction of high-speed trains in France, the night train now starts at Irun on the Spanish border. So you'll speed from Paris to Irun on a comfortable TGV, to reach the Spanish border by early evening - just in time to connect at Irun onto the Sud Expresso (also sometimes called SUREX) night train which runs overnight to Lisbon. There is just one departure a day on this itinerary. Leave Paris just after midday, and your TGV will connect with the onward night train.
If you are making this journey from Portugal towards Irun, note that the night train from Lisbon continues beyond Irun over the border bridge to terminate at Hendaye, the first station in France. A high-speed TGV service departs for Paris just over 1 hr after the overnight train from Lisbon pulls into Hendaye.
Tickets for the above journey from Paris to Lisbon become available 3 months in advance - and that's when you get the best price.
One alternative favoured by many travellers is to break the journey in Spain. Travel from Paris to Barcelona and then continue at your leisure via Madrid to Lisbon. But bear in mind that the only direct trains from Madrid to Lisbon are overnight services. The Madrid to Lisbon hotel train is called the Lusitania. It departs from both the Spanish and Portuguese capitals just after nine in the evening.
Paris to Irun
The TGV high-speed train from Paris to Irun departs from Paris Montparnasse station. Two direct daytime trains serve this route, taking 6 hrs for the journey. One departs in the early morning and the second around lunchtime. The journey starts with a very fast non-stop run from Paris to Bordeaux. Thereafter the pace slows, with the train stopping at Biarritz and other communities along the coast.
After the last stop in France at Hendaye, the train crosses the border into Spain to terminate in Irun, the first station in Spain. Additional train services run from Paris to Hendaye, from where a frequent light-rail service (part of the Basque Metro Donostialdea network) makes the 3-min journey across the bridge to Irun.
Irun to Lisbon (night train)
The overnight train from Irun to Lisbon is a useful option for travellers heading to the Portuguese capital from Paris, London or many other cities in France, the Low Countries, Germany and Switzerland. Transfer at Irun from the French TGV onto the Trenhotel service is quick and simple. On arrival in Lisbon, the train stops first at Lisbon Oriente and then ten minutes later at Lisbon Santa Apolónia. The latter is more convenient for the heart of the old city.
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Image credits: Railway station, Lisbon © Serban Enache