To Belfort by train

This is the bar car on the upper level of the French double-decker TGV train that runs once a day — except during coronavirus lockdowns — from Frankfurt am Main (Germany) to Marseille (France) by way of Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Belfort, Besançon, Chalon sur Saône, Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. TGV stands for Train à Grande Vitesse (= Train of Great Speed).

I have taken this particular TGV train several times since its inauguration in 2012. The first time, I rode it all the way to its final destination, Marseille, but I have since also taken it to Avignon, Besançon and Strasbourg. In August 2016 I took the same train again and got off at the station called “Belfort-Montbéliard TGV”, on the outskirts of Belfort.

TGV train in the station Belfort-Montbéliard TGV

This station has four tracks. The two middle tracks are for trains that stop here, very briefly, at a shared platform in the center. The two outer tracks have no platforms and are used by other TGV trains that barrel on through at 300 km/h without stopping.

View from the station building at Belfort-Montbéliard TGV

The station building extends outward over the first two tracks, so as to provide access to the platform in the middle.

What this station does not have (unlike similar stations on the outskirts of Reims, Avignon and Besançon) is a fifth track for a shuttle train to the city center. To get to the center of Belfort you have a take a local bus, line number 3, which gets you to Belfort’s traditional main station in just under half an hour. This is not an ideal arrangement, obviously, but for me it was no great hardship since I wasn’t in any particular hurry.

I suppose it would also be possible to walk over to the closest traditional train stop, Méroux, and get a train from there, but the bus appears to be faster and more convenient.

Gare de Belfort

This traditional station, in the city center, is now served only by local and regional trains. You could get a TER train to Mulhouse, for example, or to Bourg-en-Bresse or Lyon-Perrache or even to Paris-Est via Nogent-sur-Seine. TER stands for Transport express regional.

Location and aerial view of Gare de Belfort on monumentum.fr.

My photos in this post are from 2016. I wrote the text in 2020.

See more posts on Belfort, France (coming soon).
See more posts on train travel in Europe and Vietnam.

11 thoughts on “To Belfort by train”

  1. We love the trains in France. It’s so much more pleasant than flying. We have a direct flight to Paris and can then take a train, TER or TGV, to wherever we are staying or picking up our leased car.

    When we’re staying in the country, we take the TERs into the city so we don’t have to worry about parking. Sure wish we had all those trains here on the USA.

    1. The train from Frankfurt to Marseille takes seven hours and forty-five minutes, with ten stops along the way. There are non-stop trains from Paris to Marseille (one today, for instance, taking three hours and six minutes), but not from Frankfurt to Marseille.

  2. I’ve not been to Belfort before, but I’ve taken the TGV multiple times throughout my stint in France. It really is a comfortable ride, with plush chairs, Wifi, and a mini-bar…all the while zipping cross-country within a span of three hours. I miss taking the train, as my part of the US doesn’t really have that option as feasible; I’ll have to return abroad someday to experience it again!

  3. The TGV has obviously had a revamp since I last used one. Admittedly that was some while ago (in the late 1990s I used to get the TGV from Lyon to Paris regularly). It looks a lot smarter if that’s a representative example.

  4. Have you compared the TGV to the German equivalents? I have only ridden the German ICE’s from Frankfurt up to Essen several times. I do enjoy passing Mr Benz on the adjoining autobahns, though the 200+ kph speeds always seem a bit shortllived – something TGV doesn’t experience around Verdun en route to Strasbourg?

    1. ICEs and TGVs take turns making the run from Frankfurt to Paris, so I have ample opportunity to compare them (in non-Corona times, of course). Overall, I’d say the ICEs are more comfortable but the TGVs are more dependable.
      As for the tracks, France has more and longer uninterrupted high-speed tracks than Germany does, and not so many intermediate stops. The difference on the way from Frankfurt to Paris is remarkable: low speeds and three intermediate stops in Germany, high-speeds (often over 300 km/h) and no more intermediate stops in France.

    1. Some of the newer French trains are really nice — and fast. But they also have a bunch of old shabby trains still in circulation on some of the slower routes.

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