From London To Lisbon By Train

Travelling from London to Lisbon by train has got to be one of the best ways to view some of the most beautiful vistas in Europe. Travelling through the southeast of England, from the North of France, through Paris and down to the French/Spanish frontier, on through northwest Spain and down through Portugal makes for not only a wonderful journey but one filled with delightful sights, experiences and a fair bit of fun.

London to Lisbon is incredibly easy. And a great form of alternative transport if you dislike flying, as I do. It is more expensive - expect to pay around £100 more for the experience. But it is worth it.

Twenty four hours of amazing sights through four separate countries is worth the extra money. And more so if you prefer your feet on the ground. Plus you'll get to travel on one of the oldest, most decadent and definitely most dilapidated trains in Western Europe - the Lisbon Night Train. Think of it as a very poor man's Orient Express - only with twice the fun.

You'll meet fellow travellers, get the chance to see a little glimpse of Paris - more so if you leave 3 hours or more between the Euro-star and the French TGV high-speed train. If you have a camera (and you should!) you'll be able to take some wonderful photographs at some of the stations - more so once you cross into Portugal.

Though many would find train travel tedious and overlong, not everyone has the same view. I thoroughly recommend travelling overland as it's a great way to while away time, happily ensconced in comfortable seating, and the views through Portugal are second to none - well worth the time and trust me - you'll see far more from the ground that you will from the air!

Front of Gare du Norde
Front of Gare du Norde

London Lisbon Rail Travel

London Lisbon rail travel is as straightforward as the following steps:

  1. Book your London to Paris Eurostar seat. Make sure that your time of arrival in Paris is no later than 14:00 - you need to get across Paris, from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse.
  2. You need to book the French TGV high-speed train from Gare Montparnasse, departing no later than 15:50- this will take you to the French/Spanish border of Irun/Hendaye for 21:26
  3. Book the Lisbon Night train - otherwise known as the Sud Express. This departs at 22:20. You will arrive in Lisbon at the Oriente station (Estação do Oriente) 10:31 the following morning.

Booking the reverse journey:

  1. Book the Lisbon Night train - this departs from St. Apolonia at 16:30 or Oriente Station at 16:37. Arrival at Hendaye 07:10 the following morning.
  2. Book the French TGV - departing at 07:56 for Paris Montparnasse. Arrival at 13:45
  3. Book your Eurostar seat no earlier that 16:00 - remember you need to travel across Paris to reach Gare du Nord. Book for either 16:13 or 17:13


TGV - a fantastic train, bullets along at upwards of 200kmph.
TGV - a fantastic train, bullets along at upwards of 200kmph.

Train Prices

Train prices will vary, according to the day of the week and how far in advance you choose to book your seats. The sooner you book - the cheaper the price.

  • Eurostar - expect to pay from £50 and up for a 2nd class seat, one way. £70 or more for a return ticket.
  • French TVG - usually the cheapest. For a 2nd class fare £35 one way or £50 return.
  • Lisbon Night train - around £85 one way, 2nd class for a six berth sleeper, £135 or so return.


Hendaye - the stunning French/Spanish border town.
Hendaye - the stunning French/Spanish border town.
Paris Metro - route. Marked from Gare de Nord to Gare Montparnasse.
Paris Metro - route. Marked from Gare de Nord to Gare Montparnasse.
Six berth cabin on the Lisbon Night train.
Six berth cabin on the Lisbon Night train.
Portugal - stunning from the North to the South. Source: rei-artur wikicommons.
Portugal - stunning from the North to the South. Source: rei-artur wikicommons.

Train Travel Tips

Ok some great travel tips - most handy and you will need them!

  1. You can exit the Eurostar and travel to Gare Montparnasse via taxi. However - I don't recommend this as it's at least €20 or more. It's far cheaper to travel on the Paris Metro - and twice as easy if you know where you're going: Line 4 - direction: Porte de Orleans - depart the Metro at Montparnasse Bienvenue.
  2. Once you've climbed up through the tunnels and stairwells, you will find yourself in Gare Montparnasse.
  3. The reverse is as follows: Line 4 - direction: Porte de Clignancourt - depart the Metro at Gare du Norde.
  4. The cost of a Metro ticket is: €1.60. Top Tip: if you're making the journey in reverse, buy the return ticket as it saves you having to queue twice - the ticket will remain valid.
  5. I don't recommend that you buy the cheaper 'seat only' ticket for the Lisbon Night train. You'll be in for an uncomfortable night. Spend a few extra pounds and purchase a sleeper ticket instead. A six berth will suffice, unless you prefer your privacy.
  6. Food: on the Lisbon Night train, either way - avoid the main meals. Over priced and not the quality that is usual with Portuguese food. Instead have a soup - filling, tasty and cheap. With a coffee or drink, you'll pay around €5 or €6 instead of around €25 or more for a tasteless dinner. The breakfast is worth the cost though - so do have one. Try to remember to buy sandwiches and drinks before you enter the French TGV - otherwise you'll be stung for some very expensive pre-packed sandwiches.
  7. Try and book a window seat on the TGV. Far more enjoyable overall. You get to see the fabulous countryside as you pass through France, plus it's easier to doze off with your head resting against the window!
  8. Don't allow yourself to become engaged by the gypsy beggars that frequent the front of the Paris train stations. They're persistent and can be 'in your face'.
  9. Expect the Lisbon Night train to make frequent stops, both inbound and outbound. The Portuguese train does have designated stops but - the Portuguese people are largely a nation of smokers. I've never yet been on the train without at least three or four impromptu cigarette stops - for the train staff!
  10. Don't forget your travel I.D. documents. You will be expected to produce them at: St Pancras - departure for Eurostar. French/Spanish border - customs. Don't expect polite conversation from the border police! The Portuguese police (GNR) usually board the train at some point - and will ask to see your documents.


European Rail Tickets

A word about Europeanrail tickets. Or maybe a few words. Best tip: Book in advance. Don't be fooled by the advertising nonsense - no matter how early you'll book, you'll still pay (pretty much) more than the advertisements claim.

However, there are still bargains.

  • Book before or after peak times -
  • Book midweek - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
  • Check the difference between a return and a single. Sometimes two single tickets can be a little cheaper
  • Consider an InterRail Global Pass, especially if you're going for a week to ten days. Interrail allows you to travel 5 days in 10 - for around £150 (youth) or £232 (adult). But - you will need to pay more (to the train providers you'll be using) to pre-book seats. That said, if you intend to stop off in say Coimbra (Portugal) on your way to Lisbon, then catch a train up to Porto, for a night, then continue onto Lisbon the day after, an interrail pass could work out cheaper. Check the differences - best to know than not
  • European rail tickets can be purchased from the sites already linked above - if in the US, change the URL extension (e.g .co.uk to .com) to find the right train ticket prices available

Whatever you choose to do, remember to enjoy the journey. Train travel really is a wonderful way to see the world beyond your front door.

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Comments 30 comments

missmaudie profile image

missmaudie 6 years ago from Brittany, France

You almost make the journey sound romantic frogdropping. Compare the cost of your journey to the one I'm making next week and it sounds cheap. Return ferry fare to Brittany £136 (that does include one night crossing), one night hotel £56, return train fare Portsmouth to B'ham £123!!!!!! I nearly died when I found out the train fare. Yours sounds much better. Flying doesn't work in my case, the times are all wrong. Very useful hub for those making the journey.


Justine76 6 years ago

Wow, I would sooooo take a train. I love the castle picutre. Ciggarette stops, that's funny! Here in the US no way would that happen. My husband and I were just talking about how sad it is the US doesn't use its trains more.


Jai Warren profile image

Jai Warren 6 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

Traveling by train is much more civilized than by air. Your travelogue brings back memories of my cross country move here in the US. Moving from Chicago to Dallas, I took the train (Amtak). It was a wonderful experience. Would do it again if the opportunity presented itself. Very well done frogdropping. Your travel tips would help anyone using the train.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

drbj - the last time I did the journey, last month, I was held up in Paris for 24 hours. I was put up (free) in a 4* star hotel (which was wonderful by the way) plus my tickets for the connecting TGV were upgraded to first class. So, I got to spend more time in Paris, had a wander around, had a wonderful dinner and got to lay over in a top quality hotel. The room, dinner and service was fabulous.

Even better was the first class travel the day after. I had a waiter lol! Loved every minute of it and thoroughly recommend train travel full stop :)


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

missmaudie - the train fares in the UK are disgusting. My last trip, my return fare from London to Yorkshire was in excess of £142! When you think that I travel for 1000 miles across Europe for around the same price, it makes UK prices a travesty! And that's only for about 150 miles, no service, cramped crappy seating too. The UK train network should be ashamed.

Compared to the French TGV, the speed, class of travel, distance covered and quality of the train and service over all, I'd hang my head in shame were I the UK minister for transport!


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Justine - the Portuguese tickle me so much on the Lisbon night train. They're so friendly, always wanting a ciggy or hiding in the rest rooms and having one anyway! I'm not so keen on some of the train staff - they can be rather abrupt but mostly you're left alone. On my last journey I had the cabin to myself - it was totally delicious!

Jai - hey :) A fellow train lover huh?! You can't beat it, if you enjoy a leisurely pace of travel. Most people forget that their vacation start when they leave home - not when they actually arrive. Train travel can be a fantastic way to start a break from the norm.

One day I intende to travel on the Orient Express. A dream form of travel but I will do it one day :)


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

This sounds wonderful and probably a bit more comfortable than our 2 day train across India. Ha Ha ,. That was great too.

I quite agree it's so much nicer than flying.

Lovely hub . Thank you.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Dim - thankyou :) And yes, it is more enjoyable than flying, that's for sure!


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 6 years ago from USA or America

Hey Frogdropping, I am not sure when or if ever, I am going to making the trip you have written about. I have only been outside the U.S., but once in my life and never left North America. I do enjoy your point of view and writing. I have always made it my experience to take the scenic ride and enjoy the ride. I've taken train rides and they are better than flying, which I've done also.

If I cannot drive in under 24 hours, then it will be train and if it takes 2 days or longer driving, then it will most likely be by plane. Then again, some people have been able to drive west to east or east to west in about 3 days(fastest time). But, thank you for taking time and putting the effort forward to show everyone the best route.

It was a great hub and excellently written. :)


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Hey cags! I can't imagine travelling across America, though I'd love to do it by train. My journeys are done regularly enough that I don't need to plan the route or think about coordinating the connections. And I still haven't got bored of the journey, I really do enjoy it. The worst part is (believe it or not) when I get to the UK and use national rail or whatever. Absolutely dire lol!

*bump*


Polly C 6 years ago

This was really interesting, I have always thought of travelling across Europe by train, though have never actually done it. You provided lots of really useful information, I'll have to give it a go one day, stopping off at other places along the way. Though I'm not sure it would be practical now, as would have two children in tow - what do you think?


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Polly :) I have met quite a few parents that have done the journey with children. A couple of trips back I shared a cabin with one woman that had three children with her, one a baby, a toddler and her son was about 8.

I think the secret, from what I've seen, is the fact that they're kept their children entertained - and kept a good supply of juice and food!

I don't see why you shouldn't all have fun. And like you say, you can stop off in Paris for a night or similar. I'd have enjoyed taking my children when they were younger :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Sounds like a great trip! I like trains, find them very comfortable, and enjoy the motion of a train. I'd love to go from London to Lisbon on one.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Paradise it really is a wonderful journey. So far as I'm concerned at least. It's not as tiring as some would think and the Lisbon night train is so shabby and decadent, I love it :)


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 6 years ago

Really enjoyed this hub! Train rides are so much more romantic and idyllic than plain rides. Great info!


gilpc 6 years ago

Thanks for your informations.

Right now, I bet you're one of the most seen blogs in London :)!!

I'm not a great fan of train travelling, but due to this volcano thing, here I go tomorrow to do that extc trip.

Cheers,

Gilpc


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Ahhh of course - the planes are grounded! Well, I sure hope you reach your destination - and thanks for stopping by :)


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney

I wish I'd read point 5 before I made the trip! Not that I went to Lisbon - I was going to Madrid, but it's very similar. The only positive was that I got a row of seats to myself and was able to lie down - but it's still not my favourite memory of travelling around Europe.


liswilliams profile image

liswilliams 6 years ago from South Africa

sounds awesome, thanks for all the details


Amez profile image

Amez 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

Really nice Hub was all most like actually taking a trip across London with a guide. I want to go back just one more time with my grand Children. Thanks for a nice tour on Londons train.


Gregory 6 years ago

Hi, great article. this remind me 2 trips :

1- in february 1998, i travelled with 2 friends from Rennes (France) to Nerja (next to Malaga in Spain) : this was about 36 hours of travelling by train and then 1.30 hour coach from Malaga to Nerja. There was a slow train from Rennes to Bordeaux then TGV from Bordeaux to spanish frontier then a slow night train from irun to madrid. then fast train from madrid to malaga (with amazing landscapes). On the way back i felt it was a bit too long travel but for sure this was a great experience. A week after we came back the french police found a bomb in the TGV in Hendaye : it wasnot mine !! but this make you think !

2- The second long trip was from Tours (France)to Tomar (Portugal). the trip started with 1h30 travel from my hometown to Tours and few hours wait for the start of the coach travel. Yes this time was by coach : it was very cheap. it was during new years eve holidays so the coach was full of portuguese. it was a night trip so till early hours near the frontier in Portugal , i did not see much, only to know that the drivers were a bit crazy drivers, specially after the frontier in Spain, the can speed on the downhill motorways.

The scenery in Portugal was great but the last itinerary in portugal was slow and i couldnot wait when the trip would finish. It tooks finally 22 hours in a coach to arrive to my final destination : I tell you it is too much. I prefer the plane it is much faster but i will always remember those 2 great trips.


Narain.K.D. profile image

Narain.K.D. 6 years ago from India

I feel like I myself went on this trip.I dont think any travel agent would have given such a detailed description. Very informative and interesting.


Charles James profile image

Charles James 6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

Do people share food and drink? If so, what would you recommend to take to share?


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Marisa - train travel is, for me, sublime. The best way to travel, though not the cheapets unfortunately!

Liswilliams and amez - thankyou and you're welcome :)

Gregory - your trips sound perfect, so far as I can tell. You were on a train, gliding through the countryside, what could be better?! And thankyou for your detailed account, I enjoyed reading :)


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 6 years ago Author

Narain - thankyou, a lovely compliment :)

Charles - sme people share, some don't. The Portuguese are very generous. Generally, fresh cut sandwiches, fruit, juice. Crisps (fries) are good too. A few bars of chocolate doesn't seem to go amiss.

You know - I once travelled sat next to a cat. Maybe some cat biscuits wouldn't be a bad idea :)


Sylvie Strong profile image

Sylvie Strong 6 years ago

This is a fascinating hub. It would be great if you could write another one (or expand this one), to add more color about the train trips you've taken on this route and the adventures (or mischief) you have gotten into, the characters you have met, etc. I once traveled around Spain by train and loved it. This is going on my list.


hubpageswriter 5 years ago

This is just amazing. I hope to do this someday. Great adventure and a very detailed written hub too. I also enjoy looking at the pictures.


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 5 years ago Author

Hey hubpageswriter - I loved the times I got to travel up and down on the train route. Originally I had a lot more pictures but when I got to writing this my laptop broke so the switch meant all were on the other. Still - I enjoyed writing it. Had a lot of fun and great experiences :)


MariaSings 4 years ago

Thank you thank you thank you!

I am 33 and I've traveled around the world ( mostly by plane)

but I love to travel by train, unfortunately my opportunities have been few, I moved to Lisbon from Copenhagen last year and will be in London this summer!

you have inspired me to take the train back to Portugal.

I am so exited and grateful that you wrote such a wonderful,detailed guide!

prices and times are two years all, do you know if it has changed?


frogdropping profile image

frogdropping 4 years ago Author

Hey Maria - the prices have changed but not by much. All prices on the sites I used are current. It really is incredibly easy to travel back and forth by train. More expensive than flying, sure, but London to Lisbon by train (or the reverse) is so deliciously decadent.

You can print the guide out - I'd just take the important details. Good luck, and I hope you take the plunge. Let me know if ever you do it :)

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