7 French Foodie Cities to visit from Paris by Train

It’s hard to plan a vacation to France without making Paris your main attraction. After all, it is Paris. But, to truly experience the French lifestyle and culture, it’s so important to explore France through the eyes of different cities. In France, like everywhere in the world, each city has its own vibe, rich history and local cuisine (this is a big reason to explore different regions!). And to make it easier on you, the transportation system in France is so expansive, there is really no crevice you can’t explore by train or bus. No rental car needed!

Here’s a list of 7 short trips you can take by train to get outside of the Parisian bubble within 3 to 4 hours.

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  1. Lille (North-East of Paris, bordering Belgium): Take a trip to Lille in the Spring and you won’t be disappointed. The cherry blossoms are as pink as can be and the locals will be lounged out at the parks enjoying the newly found sunshine. The architecture alone is something to see. The buildings feel more Flemish-style than French and tell a story with each perfectly situated brick. As border buddies with Belgium, there is no doubt a beer influence in this town with plenty of places to try local or Belgian-style beers.

 

 

 

Time Spent Here: 8 hours – a solid day trip exploring the area by-foot

How to Get Here: For cheap tickets, use the discount French train company, Ouigo. For 10 euros, you can get a one-way ticket here from Paris (Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy, near Disneyland). There are also cheap bus options using Ouigo as well – as cheap as 3 euros – some depart from central Paris at Gare du Nord!

Travel Time: 2-3 hours one-way (obviously the bus takes a bit longer but it is fairly direct)

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2. Tours (South-West of Paris): Two things you can’t miss when you come to Tours (pronounced Tour, with no ‘s’) : wine (after all, it is in the famous Loire Valley) and visiting a château. After arriving in Tours by train, you can hop on a bus to visit the wine region of Vouvray just a couple miles away. This wine town may be small but it has 140 wineries set up throughout its region and the winemakers are passionate about telling you all about the terroir of their home.

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And for a step back in time, catch the train from Tours to Chenonceaux (30-minute train ride) to visit Château de Chenonceau. This castle is on beautiful, well-manicured grounds and tells the story of powerful women like Catherine de Médicis who played a strong role in the castle’s history. Also, it’s your chance to see a real life château – a special, historical treat in France!

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Time Spent Here: 2 full days, one-night

How to Get Here: Take a direct train from Paris to Tours using Oui.Sncf, the French train system (we found tickets for 30 euros roundtrip)

Travel Time: 2 hours or less by train

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3. Reims (East of Paris) also known as the ‘Champagne’ region: I may not be able to pronounce the name of this city (it sounds nothing like it looks) but I do know that this town is all sorts of fantastic. Spend some extra time here and get swept away in sunshine and the sweet taste of Champagne, fresh from its birthplace. The big Champagne houses live here and with each home there is history, tours to learn about the science of Champagne and fun tastes for your palate. It’s a trip that makes you instantly feel at ease — the only thing to worry about is which Champagne house to wander to next.

Time Spent Here: 2 nights (can easily be turned into a day trip – visit 2-3 Champagne houses (with appointment) and tour the small town

How to Get Here: Take a direct train from Paris to Reims using Oui.Sncf there are also cheap ticket options through Ouigo (travel to Champagne-Ardenne TGV).

Travel Time: 45 minutes 

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4. Bordeaux/St.Émilion (South-West of Paris): I dare you to think of Bordeaux and not think of wine. Of course, it’s most likely your first thought — and for good reason! This wine-producing region is one of the best of the best in France and you can taste it. Most of the wineries are situated outside of the city center although there are some nice wine bars that offer specialty wines from the region (a couple breweries too). The Bordeaux Tourism office offers affordable tours to explore the surrounding area. We took the St.Émilion tour and were very happy it! There is also an incredible wine museum that is interactive, educational and offers a 360-degree view of the city with a glass of wine. Cheers!

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Time Spent Here: 2 nights, 3 full days

How to Get Here: Take a direct train from Paris using Ouigo for cheaper tickets or Oui.sncf for more options.

Travel Time: 2 hours  

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5. Lyon (South-East of Paris ) : Lyon is known as a foodie city. French-cooking legend Paul Bocuse was based in Lyon. And Lyonaise food is really something special. I think it has something to do with the love and years of perfection it took to pass down some of these recipes. Lyon feels much different than other French cities. You can really feel the history here in each cobblestone and medieval-style building. Things to try: take a cooking class to learn how to make Lyonnaise-style food (we learned from this chef in his home) and after, take a hike to the Fourviere Hill viewpoint to work off all the food you cooked!

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Time Spent Here: 3 nights (Lyon could also be a weekend trip.)

How to Get Here: Take a direct train from Paris using Ouigo for cheaper tickets or Oui.sncf for more options.

Travel Time: 3-4 hours

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6. St.Malo (West of Paris):  Ask a French local where you should go in France and there is a large chance they’ll say ‘Brittany!’ After experiencing France’s bustling city center, taking a trip out west is a must. There’s no better spot to unwind than the French west coast. The Brittany-coastal region is known for its buckwheat crepes, fresh seafood and endless water views. When in Saint Malo, take advantage of walking along the seemingly never-ending walkway along the water and tasting fresh shellfish until you can’t eat any more. You’re also just a short train ride away from the famed Mont St.Michel — the abbey on its own island.

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Time Spent Here: 1 night

How to Get Here: Take a direct train from Paris using Oui.sncf to Saint Malo from Paris’ Montparnasse station.

Travel Time: 3-4 hours

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7. Dijon (South-East of Paris):  Travel to Dijon and you’ll be treated to some of the best (and most expensive) wines in France. Dijon is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which shows that this area means business when showcasing a historic city center and wine. Dijon is the perfect hub for exploring more of the surrounding wine regions like Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. But, Dijon, on its own is a city made for walking and exploring — hello, mustard tastings! The city also has a must-see market on Saturdays full of wine, mussels, local produce and mustard.  If you prefer to book a tour to explore – the city of Dijon also has a tourism site that allows you to book exploration tours.

Time Spent Here: 1 night, 2 full days

How to Get Here: Take a direct train from Paris using Oui.sncf  from Paris’ Bercy station.

Travel Time: 3-4 hours

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