We tested... the Côte Bleue coast by train!
Would you believe us if we told you the best ever train ride is right here in the Bouches-du-Rhône?
A trip to the Calanques fjords by train, really? Absolutely!
"Mind the doors please" – the adventure is about to begin. The TER regional train to Miramas pulls out of Marseille Saint-Charles station. Welcome aboard what the locals have nicknamed "Le Train de la Côte Bleue".
The trip starts out like a classic Marseille – Paris, but the track soon leads to steep cliffs with views over the sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea, very reminiscent of the Cinque Terre region in Italy.
As soon as you reach L'Estaque station in Marseille's 16th arrondissement, the scenery is simply breathtaking, with views over the sea, beach and this little quarter resembling a village of Provence. And the journey is a sheer delight from then on !
The line goes through a plethora of tunnels, plunging you into darkness for a second before the azure waters of the Med come back to dazzle you !
WOW ! When you go over the famous viaducts you can see when you're on foot – they're even visible from Marseille itself – the waves breaking against the limestone rocks seem so close you have the impression you're about to fall into the sea. You also overlook the fjords, including the beautiful Calanque de l'Everine. And thanks to the train, you don't need to break a sweat to admire Everine's turquoise waters. This is probably the Blue Coast's bluest spot !
The Côte Bleu train definitely offers one of the most impressive view of the Med you'll ever see. So of course, it's a very touristic line and gets pretty busy in summer. You can hop on it like you would a commuter train (although of course it's much nicer !), to escape from the city, visit the next-door fjord, or pop in to see family or friends down the road if you don't have a car or don't want to use it. The service is also used daily by people who work in the little towns and villages it stops at.
The railway line celebrated its centenary in late 2015. Two trains still run on it: a vintage train – daubed with graffiti and worn by years of loyal service and many thousands of passengers – but nevertheless still charming, plus you can open the windows if you want to pretend you're in The Darjeeling Limited... Then there's the brand-new train, with its comfy seats and plenty of space for pushchairs and bikes for example.
Whether you live in the area or are holidaying in Provence, a train ride along the Côte Bleue is a definite must to add to your bucket list!
The tips of Py Provence
**Tip for photographers **: Sit on the left side of the train so you're nearer the sea. And vice-versa on the return trip of course.
**Tip for walkers **: A new Sentier Côte Bleue footpath running between the coast's 5 railway stations between Ensuès-la-Redonne and Martigues is scheduled for this summer. An idyllic walking experience between sea, arid garrigue, fishing harbours and sun-baked hills. Please ask the local tourist offices for details.
Tip for travellers : Make the most of our special summer offers such as the Bermuda Pass: €6 for unlimited day travel on the Côte Bleue railway between Marseille and Miramas on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from July 1st to September 30th. Read more on the TER website.
Tip for culture buffs : Don't miss the Festival du Train Bleu running from March 30th to April 15th and featuring a host of activities and cultural events on the railway theme in the towns served by the train.