Since the beginning of May, it’s now possible to take a direct Eurostar from London to Marseille! The Mediterranean sea and the sun have never been so closed to the Thames by train. The journey takes certainly a bit more time than by plane but it’s a serious option to consider if you’ re planning a long weekend in Marseille.
For the moment, the time table has only been established until the end of the year and according to the seasons, with up to 5 trains per week in both direction.
The journey from London to Marseille takes 6 hours and 27 minutes, leaving at 07:19 and arriving at 14:46.
The journey from Marseille to London takes 7 hours 50, leaving Marseille at 15:22 and arriving in London at 22:12. You will understand why this journey is longer a bit later.
Although I would prefer trains to run everyday to have the complete choice of my travel dates, I like the fact that the schedule allows me to enjoy the afternoon in Marseille (even if I’m not too fan of the early start). I also like that it allows me to have a last lunch not in a hurry and arrives in London not too late in the evening. If there is no delay…
If you can’t take the direct Eurostar to Marseille because the days don’t match with your planning, the best option is to take the Eurostar to Lille and then the TVG from Lille to Marseille because you don’t have to change of train station. You can also take the same itinerary on the opposite direction.
Tickets can be booked up to 6 months in advance.
The earlier you book, the more chances you have to find a good deal.
The best price you can get is a return ticket at £99.00 / €123.00.
I took my ticket at the last minute and had to pay €124.00 for the London-Marseille. It was the best option for my dates, as it starts to be the high season in the South of France and the flights were very expensive.
When you take the Eurostar, you are entitled to travel with a small item of hand luggage AND 2 bags (each one needs to be smaller than 85cm at its longest length) and there is no weight restriction, as long as you can carry your own bag(s)! This is definitely one of the main advantage of the Eurostar.
Day of departure
From London to Marseille
In that direction, you have to arrive early at St Pancras International. And when I mean early, I don’t mean 10-15 minutes like for a regular train, you have to arrive about 45 minutes in advance.
Check in starts 75 minutes before the departure time but closes 30 minutes before the same time! It can seem crazy but it’s to allow the necessary time for the security and immigration checks (both for UK and France).
I was supposed to travel on a Friday. I arrived on time at St Pancras. But when I looked at the boards, they showed Paris 07:01 and Marseille 07:19. I assumed that, to avoid the mess, people going to Paris would check in first and then people to Marseille and that I would have the time to buy something to eat. But when I came back, the boards showed Paris 07:55 and I understood that I was completely wrong…
You have to scan your ticket to enter and I was sure that I wouldn’t be allowed so I directly went to the assistance desk. The gentleman confirmed me that I had missed my train but he told me that I could be rebooked for free on the next Eurostar to Paris but that I would have to pay £70.00 for the Paris-Marseille. I didn’t want to pay and I also didn’t want to change train station in Paris, as the Eurostar arrives in Gare du Nord and the TVG for Marseille leaves from Gare de Lyon. This is why I asked him if I could instead be rebooked on the direct Eurostar on Saturday at no extra cost and the answer was positive! I was pleasantly surprised by the great customer service!
So I went back home, not too pissed off because we had managed to find a good solution.
On Saturday, I made sure to woke up earlier and to be much earlier at the St Pancras even if, this time, I already had my breakfast/lunch bag and didn’t have to collect my ticket.
As soon as I arrived, I checked in, just to be on the safe side this time. I didn’t want to miss the train a second time. I’ve never missed a train or flight before (except because of delays) so missing it once was a funny story but missing it twice would have been a stupid story!
Once all the formalities were done, I arrived in a large departure lounge.
And guess what, the train was 1 hour delayed on that day! Couldn’t have been the day before of course!
In the departure lounge, there is a Cafe Nero where you can buy food and drinks and a WHS where you can magazines. So just don’t do like me (and my bloody stomach) who didn’t know and wanted absolutely to have something to eat in the train.
From Marseille to London
In that direction, you don’t have to arrive in advance at Marseille St Charles because the security and the immigration checks will be done in Lille, a procedure scheduled to take 75 minutes. Now you know why this journey takes much longer.
The other difference is that you don’t have to scan your ticket but to punch it before entering the train. There are punchers at the beginning of each platform. If you’re short and don’t have the time to do it, make sure to inform the inspector as soon as possible to avoid to have to pay a fine.
At the time the Eurostar leaves, all the shops are open so you can easily buy magazine and snacks. You can even do some shopping if you have time and still some money.
I don’t know if all the trains for Marseille are the same but the one I took was pretty old.
I was in Standard class (the cheapest) so I can’t write about the Standard Premier and the Business Premier.
There was a lot of space for bags, at the beginning and end of each carriage but also over the seats.
The seat was comfortable even if it couldn’t be inclined. And there was a good headrest, which really allows to rest the head on the sides to sleep.
It was a bit chilly but it’s almost always the case in a train so I was happy to have a jumper and a scarf.
There was no plug and no Wifi connection. I think that it’s a shame because if airlines start to introduce Wifi, it should be even easier for a train company to do so. And it would be such a good selling point. Of course, if the Wifi is free, which it should be. I hope that is will come soon.
There was no bin too. A member of staff came to give us plastic bags several times during the travel and to collect the used ones.
There was a food carriage but I did well to buy something to eat before. It confirmed me that I don’t like train food: it’s quite expensive, not very diversified and not healthy.
The toilets were ok but in general, and it was the same this time, I find them less clean than toilets in planes.
The Eurostar to Marseille is a direct train but it stops 4 times on the way.
1. Ashford International to pick up travelers heading South.
2. Lille to welcome French inspectors. No passenger enter or leave the train.
5. Marseille, which is the terminus. Actually, not so many people travel to Marseille.
It was the first time in my life that I took the Eurostar.
I was a bit afraid of the Channel tunnel, not that I’m claustrophobic but I didn’t like the idea to be in a tunnel under the sea for quite a while.
The day I was supposed to leave, the Friday, the fire alarm was triggered and the traffic was stopped for more about 1 hour 30 minutes. So it was maybe good that I missed the train finally…
But on the Saturday, nothing special happened and it turned out that the crossing of the Channel wasn’t that terrible.
It only took 20 minutes.
I was even surprised to see that my phone had an excellent signal all the time.
Most of the journey takes place in France where you’ll see a noticeable change in the landscape.
In the North, it’s very flat with a lot of fields. The weather is very often disgusting.
In the South, it’s hilly with many pine trees. And the weather is most of the time amazing but it can be very very windy.
When I left London, it was cold and grey and when I arrived in Marseille it was hot and sunny. The first thing I did when I got off the train was to put my sunglasses on because the sun was very bright. I wouldn’t say too bright because it can’t never be!
This is it, you’re now in Marseille and can enjoy a well deserved long weekend under the sun!
PS: The beach is calling me now but I’ll be back soon with another post. A bientôt!