Here’s everything you need to know about catching the Paris to Barcelona train from Gare de Lyon. Read on for my near-disastrous experience or scroll down to the bottom for all the European train information you will ever need in your life.
Paris to Barcelona by train
I travel. A lot. Which is why I didn’t think twice about catching a Paris to Barcelona train from Gare de Lyon. Here’s what I learned: Anything can be confusing if you’re me. I don’t want to speak for anyone else (except I kind of do), but catching a train at Gare de Lyon in Paris might be confusing for you, too. So. If you want to learn more, or just gloat because you’re more savvy than I am, read on.
We start our TGV journey from Gare de Lyon to Barcelona with lunch and a random coincidence
My Paris to Barcelona adventure began at Le Train Bleu, a historic restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. In my opinion it’s the best train station restaurant in the world. The experience was doubly delicious because of all the bizarre coincidences in the universe, my friend from Toronto, writer Patricia Sands and her husband were also in Paris and had made reservations at Le Train Bleu on the same day at the same time I had.
I’m still shaking my head about that, and I swear it’s true. If you don’t believe me then go over to Part 1 of this 2-part Paris to Barcelona Gare Lyon blog post, about Le Train Bleu, the best train station restaurant in the world – because if it’s in writing it’s clearly true.
Le Train Bleu is so sumptuous and fun that of course I lingered until I was nudged out by Patricia’s lovely husband, who possibly has a better concept of time than I do. I wasn’t worried, however, because I’d factored in time to 1) visit the Grand Voyageur 1st Class Lounge before departing, 2) buy a baguette with mozzarella and tomato for the journey, even though I’d just eaten and 3) had wisely validated my Four Country Select Rail Pass from Rail Europe before lunch.
Europe on a Rail Pass tip: To learn how to validate your rail pass, scroll to the train info section below.
While we’re on the subject, for all boring but essential information on Europe rail travel scroll down to the coloured boxes below. I’ll explain how to book, what you need to know and – most importantly – what NOT TO DO. Because I did it, and barely made my train.
Finding your Paris to Barcelona train at Gare de Lyon – do NOT trust the kindness of strangers
Being a diligent sort of traveller I decided to find my platform before going to the Grand Voyageur Lounge. Easy, peasy, I thought, looking at the neat row of train platforms in front of me. The problem was that THE PARIS TO BARCELONA TRAIN WASN’T THERE.
Flapping around in confusion, I asked a young Frenchman where to go. Here’s what I have to say about that: Never trust a stranger who tells you the train from Paris to Barcelona is downstairs, because he doesn’t have a clue. That’s the metro down there.
(Eating crow note: I have since learned there is a lower concourse called Hall 3, by which all tracks can be accessed, but I didn’t see it.)
Do not trust the kindness of other strangers
A second stranger told me my Paris to Barcelona TGV train was on Track 7. IT WASN’T.
Now I was seriously flustered. After wasting so much time following the wayward directions of others, I realized I would not only have to give up the Grand Voyageur Lounge, I might not even get a baguette.
Calm down, I told myself. Take a breath. Walk to the lit up board calmly and read it carefully like you should have done to begin with.
I joined the crowd clustered in front of the information board and saw that the 9715 high speed Paris to Barcelona train left Gare de Lyon from Track 29. Don’t worry, I told myself. You still have 7 whole minutes.
The train plot thickens
If only there was a Track 29. It was a total Harry Potter moment because Platform 29 simply did not exist. It was like looking for the Hogwarts Express.
“There’s another hall,” a woman finally told me as I stopped her with a panicked stream-of-consciousness rant. “You need to go up along the left side of the tracks and you’ll find it.”
I speed walked up there as best I could, but my suitcases were acting like two fat pigs who thought they were truffle hunting and wanted to sniff everything in sight. Come on, you stupid bags, I muttered, hoping I didn’t trip over them (which has happened, in Toronto, when I was trying to catch an airport bus – and thank you, kind bus driver, for putting a bandaid on my knee).
Gare de Lyon Hallway 2
And then, as I scurried along the side of the tracks to the end of the station and looked left, a whole new world of train platforms opened up to me. The wonderful Hallway 2. Home to the mystical Platform 29. Where a train was waiting. Now all I had to do was find Car 11.
I asked the conductor for Car 11 on the Paris to Barcelona train. “This isn’t the right train,” he said. “Yours is the next one further down the platform.” He looked at his watch.
When taking a train through Europe travel light and try not to scream
“Arggggh!” I shrieked politely. Two trains on the same track? Who makes this stuff up? When I saw the man in front of me start to run, I broke into a sort of lumbering trot, puffing heavily and thinking, why are my bags so heavy? Why did I buy that sweater at Morgans? And the other sweater? And those tops? And that Balenciaga purse? Why do they weigh a million tons?
Fact: Gare de Lyon’s Hallway 1 to Hallway 2 is farther away than Paris to Barcelona – at least it feels that way
At the far end (the very far end) of the second train on Track 29 was Car 11. With exactly three minutes to spare, fuelled by an adrenalin-filled burst of superhuman strength, I hoisted my bags onto the train, up the stairs of the double decker car and found my seat on the train. My glorious glorious seat with a view.
Leaving Gare de Lyon
It was so wonderful to be on the train, the high speed Paris to Barcelona train, and in 1st class in the most comfy window seat in the world, that after my heartbeat had slowed down, I blissfully looked out the window as the train whipped past two-toned green hills and yellow canola fields, thinking that France must be the most beautiful country in the world, almost as beautiful as the 41 painted scenes of it on the walls of Le Train Bleu.
A world of train travel coincidences
The only downside was that a TGV is fast. Normally, on an international rail trip, that’s a good thing, but at speeds of 300 km per hour (186 mph) let me just say it is not easy to take photos.
After managing to capture a few not-too-blurry shots I asked the American man behind me to take my picture so I could document the proud happy moment of actually catching my train in the most beautiful country in the world after visiting the most beautiful train restaurant in Europe.
Another Paris to Barcelona train coincidence
“Are you going to Barcelona?” I asked the man as the TGV rocketed through the French countryside towards Spain.
“Yes,” he said.
“Me, too, with a stopover in Girona. Where were you before Paris?”
“Me, too!” I screamed (perhaps a smidge too loudly.) But what a coincidence we were following the same route, I thought. And what a coincidence that my trip to Spain had started with the coincidence of my friends going to Le Train Bleu and was continuing with a random coincidence of meeting another traveler on a Budapest-Paris-Barcelona route.
And then I thought it was no coincidence that travellers of all types are drawn to the romance of train travel with its history, monumental stations and comfy seats with a view, and that once you’ve found your platform, traveling through Europe by train is the best way to travel of all.
Travel guide for a Europe rail trip from Paris – and probably all the train facts you will ever need in your whole life
To learn more about Le Train Bleu, go to Part 1 of this Europe on a rail pass adventure.
About Rail Europe
On the Rail Europe website you can learn about different rail passes (eurorail/eurail), single train tickets, find fares, routes, schedules and make a booking.
How much does a Eurail Select Pass cost through Rail Europe? For 5 days of travel within 2 months in 1st class, a Eurail Four Country Select pass is $568. Check the Rail Europe website for specials.
What not to do when taking a train through Europe: Don’t forget to validate your pass, don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to find your train and never leave your bags unwatched.
About the Paris Gare de Lyon Train Station:
Address: Gare Lyon Station is at 20 boulevard Diderot in the southeast of Paris.
Getting to Gare de Lyon: Take the Paris Metro on line 1 or line 14 to Gare de Lyon Metro Station. You can also take the RER on Line D.
Traveling 1st class? If you have a first class train ticket you are entitled to free lounge access at the Gare de Lyon’s Grand Voyageur Lounge on Level 1 of the station.
How to validate your Europe rail pass at Gare de Lyon in Paris
If you’re travelling with a rail pass, you NEED to validate your pass before you use it for the first time. At Gare de Lyon you do this at the ticket office, also known as the Billets SNCF Grandes Lignes in a hallway called the Galerie des Fresques. It’s on the left side of the station (if you’re facing the platforms in Hallway 1) parallel to Rue Chalon.
At the ticket office you have to take a number at the machine. And then you panic because the line is so long. And then, if you’re lucky, you talk to the man who is standing at the ticket machine helping people and he will miraculously validate your European rail pass for you.
Europe on a Rail Pass tip: You can validate your rail pass up to 6 months before you travel.
If you’re traveling by TGV or high speed train on any kind of Europe Rail Pass – here’s what you need to know:
Do you need a reservation for the TGV if you have a rail pass?
Yes, yes and yes. I cannot stress this enough: Buy your ticket reservation early. There are only a certain amount of TGV tickets allotted to rail pass holders, and you need to reserve your seat months (yes, months!) in advance. I tried to reserve online more than a month prior to traveling from Paris to Barcelona on the Rail Europe website and none was available.
Do you need a reservation for a high speed train like the TGV if you’re not traveling with a rail pass?
Yes, yes and yes. There’s really no way around it. With some regional trains you don’t but on high speed trains in Europe a reservation is essential.
What to do if you can’t get a reservation for the TGV or other train online before your trip?
Call Rail Europe at 1-800-622-8600 from the USA or 1-800-361-7245 from Canada. After some major wrangling on his part, the man I spoke at Rail Europe miraculously got me a reservation on the train I wanted. Hurrah!
Be flexible: You may have to take another route. For example, another high speed Paris to Barcelona train route from Gare de Lyon involves a train change in Nimes.
What you need to know about taking a TGV train from Paris to Barcelona:
Technically it’s not a TGV train that travels the Paris to Barcelona route: It’s a High Speed France-Spain Train, I refer to it as a TGV because it’s shorter (and because everyone else does). And Rail Europe calls it the Renfe-SNCF high-speed train. So pretty much you can call it whatever you want.
Where do you catch the high speed Paris to Barcelona train? Gare de Lyon.
Is there a Paris to Barcelona night train? There is a night train from Paris to Toulouse. In the morning you can transfer for a train to Barcelona. Note: You do not catch this Paris to Barcelona train from Gare de Lyon, it leaves from Paris Austerlitz Station.
How much does a reservation on the TGV from Paris to Barcelona cost?
Train reservations for high speed trains aren’t cheap but they are necessary. My 1st class train reservation for the France-Spain High Speed train Paris to Barcelona cost me $49 on top of my Eurail Select Pass, plus I needed to pay a Rail Europe booking fee of $18 plus a UPS shipping fee of $18 for a total of $85. (This is Canadian currency so it would be more like $70USD.)
How long is the train from Paris to Barcelona? About 6.5 hours on the direct France-Spain High Speed Train.
Planning a trip? Here are more destinations in Europe to visit.
Disclaimer: My pass was subsidized by Rail Europe (thanks, lovely train people.)