There are two train stations in Aix en Provence, the TGV station in the countryside 15 km (9 miles) south-west of the city and Aix Centre, the regional (TER) station in the centre. This is a guide to both of them and to rail travel to and from Aix.
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Aix TGV Station
Long-distance rail travellers to and from Aix will almost certainly pass through the TGV station, which opened on 10 June 2001 as part of the high-speed rail link between Paris and Marseille. You can book a high-speed train between London and Aix en Provence here.
Click here to view live train arrivals at and live train departures from Aix TGV station. Click here to view the station website for Aix TGV station.
A new direct rail link between London Saint Pancras to Aix TGV ran weekly for a trial period between 4 May and 29 June 2013 and proved a huge success, running at 90% capacity. As a result Eurostar has announced plans for a fuller, year-round service to the South of France starting in 2015.
Getting To And From The Station
The Aix TGV station has been a roaring success, much more so than originally projected, mainly because it's not only used by people travelling to Aix itself. Many passengers find it quicker and more convenient to get from Aix TGV station to the airport or to areas north of Marseille, than from Saint Charles station in Marseille.
Consequently, the station's facilities are woefully over-stretched especially at peak periods. One of the most obvious examples is the shortage of car parking.
There is free access - up to 45 minutes - to drop off or pick up passengers and 12 car parks at various prices and of various specifications (long-term, short-term, subscription only, etc). You can book your parking at Aix TGV station in advance here.
Note that these car-parks are often full and, as a result (as well as in order to avoid car-park charges), drivers leave their cars along both sides of the approach roads for some distance around the station. It can cause major traffic jams at peak travel periods, so anyone planning to drop off a car before travelling on by train should bear this in mind.
If you do intend to rent a vehicle, you will find a cabin housing a number of car hire companies - National, Hertz, Europcar, Avis and Sixt - outside the station. Take the "Cézanne" exit by the northbound tracks towards Paris, and it's about 100 metres along on your left.
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The taxi rank is outside the exit on the "Zola" side by the southbound tracks towards Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 42 27 71 11. Click here to pre-book a holiday taxi to or from Aix TGV station.
Book a low-cost private taxi transfer with HolidayTaxis.com: the smarter way to arrive.
There is a regular bus shuttle service to the centre of Aix and to Marseille-Provence airport at Marignane, which lies 12 km / 7.5 miles to the south-west of the station. Click here for the bus timetable from Aix TGV to Aix centre and Marseille-Provence airport.
This shuttle leaves from stops on the road running underneath the station. For buses into Aix, the lift (elevator) or stairs to the lower level are by Door (Porte) D. For buses to the airport, the lift and stairs are at the other end of the station, by Door A.
The buses from the city centre to Aix TGV leave from the bus station (la gare routière) at avenue de l'Europe. Tel: (+33) 8 91 02 40 25.
Aix TGV has no direct connections to the local (TER) rail network to other towns in Provence. But some municipalities have set up bus routes.
Payan, tel (+33) 4 92 61 12 26, runs buses to Manosque, Malijai and Digne. Autocars Bremond, tel (+33) 4 94 68 05 01), runs the service to Saint Maximim, Brignoles and Le Luc. These routes leave from the stop underneath Door D.
Buses to Vitrolles and Martigues leave from the stop underneath Door A and are run by Cartreize, tel (+33) 4 32 76 00 40.
In winter, a snow bus shuttle (navette blanche) runs to a range of ski resorts at weekends. Click here for details of the snow buses from Aix TGV.
The main station entrance is on the west, "Cézanne" side. Most of the station's meagre facilities are located here including a newsagent, a bar serving snacks and drinks and a few tables for diners. The bar is open from 7am to 9pm (8am to 9.45pm on Sundays). Opposite is the ticket office and, next to that, an information desk.
There is no enclosed waiting room. Instead seats are scattered around the high-ceilinged inner concourse.
Automatic glass doors seal this space off from the platforms, but the station's exposed location can make it a very chilly place to wait in when the Mistral is blowing.
There are two (pay-for) toilets and some vending machines; a cashpoint (ATM) is outside the station. Take the Cézanne exit and it's a few metres on your right.
The main concourse is linked to the southbound platform by a footbridge across the tracks with lifts (elevators) on both sides. There is another entrance/exit on this, the "Zola" side, but not much else, apart from a small waiting area.
In October 2012 an agreement was signed with GOWEX for a pilot scheme to supply free high-speed wi-fi in Aix TGV station. The free wi-fi should be operational shortly: watch this space for further details.
Train Routes To And From Aix en Provence TGV Station
The TGV route from Paris has slashed journey times from the capital to Aix en Provence to three hours. If travelling from London, take the Eurostar and change trains in either Lille or Paris.
The advantage of Lille is that the onward TGVs leave from the same station. Paris offers more trains and the total journey time is shorter, but you will need to cross the city, either by taxi or by RER, from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon: allow at least 90 minutes.
You could do this trip in a leisurely style and have a drink or a meal in the incredible Le Train Bleu restaurant (pictured) in the Gare de Lyon. Built in 1900, it is decorated in full Belle Epoque splendour with 41 magnificent ceiling frescos giving Parisian diners a foretaste of their destinations in the South of France.
Another, cheaper restaurant near the station is the Brasserie l'Européen, right opposite the main entrance to the Gare de Lyon. It has a flamboyant interior with Art Nouveau chandeliers and Tiffany lights (and a clock whose hands go backwards), a handy locker room for suitcases, and a medium-priced set menu.
The choice is small and basic, but of excellent quality and hot meals are served throughout the day. The set menu might feature "ocean pearls" (aka oysters), steak, duck or fish and a dessert. The house speciality is rum baba. Brasserie l'Européen, 21 bis boulevard Diderot, 75012 Paris. Tel: (+33) 1 43 43 99 70.
There are also direct TGV services to Aix from Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Geneva, Avignon, Marseille, Toulon and Nice, as well as less frequent ones from Nantes and Strasbourg.
There is a ticket office at the station but you can book high-speed train tickets in advance on the official TGV-Europe booking site. TGV tickets can be printed on your own computer before departure, just like a low-cost airline ticket.
If travelling from the UK, bear in mind that it is often cheaper to buy a Eurostar ticket to Paris or Lille and then a separate onward ticket to your final destination through the SNCF (French Rail) booking site. It is also worth checking the first-class fare, which might be little more than the second-class fare for the same journey and is sometimes even cheaper.
Look out for trains marked iDTVG when booking trains from Paris to Aix en Provence. They are exactly the same as other TGV trains except that all the seats are offered below the standard full fares, and can only be bought in advance on the Internet. The iDTGV fares are targeted at younger travellers but in fact there is no age restriction on them.
Some iDTGVs are double-deckers, or "duplexes". To secure a seat on the top deck, select the seating zone option "iDzap" when booking online. The lower-deck seats are in the zone "iDzen", which is supposedly quieter though in practice there's not much difference between them.
Aix Centre Station
Aix Central station is at the junction of the avenue Victor Hugo and rue Gustave Desplaces, a short walk from La Rotonde at the bottom of the Cours Mirabeau. Click here to view live train arrivals at and live train departures from Aix Centre station.
It is open from 4.30am to 12.10am (Mon-Fri) and from 5.30am to 12.10am at weekends and on public holidays. Station website (in French only).
One train line passes through the station, from Marseille Saint Charles in the south to either Pertuis or (less frequently) Manosque, Gap and Briançon in the north.
The ticket office is not in the concourse but in an annexe a few metres to the right as you face the station. It's open from 7am to 7pm and there are also ticket machines. Click here to read about the ZOU! card which offers up to 75% discount on local train travel.
Automatic vendors sell drinks and snacks and a newsagent is open during the day. A cashpoint (ATM) is on the wall outside by the ticket office.
Where to eat and drink: Two bars serving food can be found right opposite the station. The Brasserie Le Versian is also a bureau de tabac (tobacconist). Le Capitole has free wi-fi and serves excellent, cheap hot meals at lunchtime and snacks during the rest of the day.
Click here to reserve car parking at Aix Central station.
A rank of rental bikes can be found opposite the station and a Hertz car hire office is on the avenue Victor Hugo next to Le Capitole.
For a taxi, telephone(+33) 4 42 27 71 11 or book one in advance via Holiday Taxis or the Taxi Aix website (in French only). There is no taxi rank at the station.
In winter, a snow train (train des neiges) runs from Aix Central station to a range of ski resorts at weekends. Click here for details of the Aix snow trains.
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When Travelling To Or From Either Station
As on all continental railways, you need to date-stamp (composter) your ticket before boarding the train at one of the yellow machines at the entrance to every platform. This does not apply to tickets which have been printed on your own computer and are tied to a particular train.
It's wise prior to travel to check for French train strikes, delays, breakdowns and cancellations as the SNCF is susceptible to all of these (click on the relevant region on the website map).
It's in French only but not difficult to understand. "Supprimé" is "cancelled", "interrompu" or "perturbé" is "disrupted", "panne" is a breakdown, "delai" or "retard" is a delay and "grève" or "mouvement social" is strike action.