No-Car Travel in France

Aside from Paris, Nice, and Aix-en-Provence, please share your favorite no-car-needed cities in France. I want to get there by train or bus and and be able to explore the city/surrounding areas by walking or using public transportation. I do not want to rent a car.

Thank you,

Cecily

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
4441 posts

I was in France for a month last summer without a car. I took trains and sometimes buses. Train travel between major cities is fast, but getting to smaller cities took some time and planning.

I used the following cities as bases (with daytrips):

Paris
Nimes
Toulouse
Poitiers
Dijon
Reims
Rouen
Strasbourg
Autun (not a good base but I loved the cathedral)
Amiens

Some of the daytrips included Arles, Orange, Vezelay, Chartres, Angouleme, Pont du Gard.

I missed a lot, but my main interests were Roman antiquities and medieval churches.

Posted by George
Independence, KS, USA
622 posts

Not actually in France, but Monte Carlo is a 6-hour train ride from Paris and you can bus from there or even better, bus from Nice, around 5 hours by train from Paris, to lots of places close by on the Riviera, including Monte Carlo.

Posted by janettravels44
Chicago
663 posts

You can do some interesting spots in Normandy by training to Bayeux and then booking a van trip to Mt. St. Michel with CHurchill Hotel (book early they have a small van and it fills up quickly), and booking an all day tour with Overlord of the landing beaches. Bayeux itself is charming and there is the fine cathedral and Tapestry. You can also train to beach towns like Deuville and Troueville.

Strasbourg is a good destination. Tours is good for the Loire as you can book tours of chateaux once you get there.

Posted by Emma
Oregon
112 posts

Rail service is extensive in France, so you should not feel limited. My favorites include Sarlat (but you need a minivan tour or taxi to get to the prehistoric caves), Albi (cathedral and Toulouse Lautrec museum), Cassis (beautiful beaches), Beaune (wine & architecture), and Colmar (wine, art, architecture). Rick's train/bus itinerary at http://www.ricksteves.com/europe/france/itinerary gives you an idea of how long it takes to get around. Then of course, looking up a train schedule through DB gives you the detailed answer.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
4441 posts

Thanks, Sam, I did get to Colmar from Strasbourg. I also forget to list Beauvais, fabulous Gothic Cathedral that failed in terms of structural support.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
2147 posts

Just about every city or large town in France has very high quality public transport. Bus services in rural areas or to small towns/villages can be very limited indeed, however.

Posted by williamt
Northeast US
1 posts

We enjoyed a trip to Grenoble in November. They have a great tram system and an active student population. Don't miss the Chartreuse distillery in Voiron, also by train.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, WA, USA
435 posts

Hi,

I'll add Avignon, which is a handy train ride from Paris. From Avignon, you can go to Nimes by train, Pont du Gard by bus. We took a half-day mini-van tour to the Luberon villages & lavendar field. They picked us up at our hotel.