Trainline and Atout France want you to visit Nouvelle Aquitaine, and we’re happy to tell you all the reasons why!
Trainline has joined forces with Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency and the Nouvelle Aquitaine Regional Tourist Board. On the Atout France website, you can find out what’s going on in France, places to go, hidden gems, and all sorts of things to do! Check out their Instagram account for irresistible travel inspiration.
The Nouvelle Aquitaine Regional Tourist Board website offers plenty of ideas for any sort of getaway that tickles your fancy, in one of the most beautiful regions in all of France.
Considering we have offices in Paris, France, we tend to have a bit of a bias when it comes to train travel here in the Hexagon. But we’re not the only ones! Over 80 billion tourists visit France each year, and France’s landscapes are so lovely that the best way to see France is inarguably* by train.
Paris is the 3rd most visited city in the world, but we’re not here to flap our gums too much about the City of Light—besides, you’ve heard it all before. Let’s talk about some lesser-known parts, where you can get a true taste of French culture and what this country really has to offer!
Our suggested routes:
- Paris to Bordeaux (~2 hours, fares between €14 – €60)
- Poitiers to Cognac (~1.5 hours, fares between €14 – €52)
- Poitiers to La Rochelle (~1.5 hours, fares between €6 – €44)
- La Rochelle to Rochefort (~1 hour, fare is €13.20)
- Rochefort to Cognac (~1 hour, fare is €26.80)
- Bordeaux to Bayonne (2-3 hours, fares between €8 – €43)
- Bayonne to Biarritz (10 minutes, fares between €2 – €6)
Put yourself in Poitiers, a city along the Clain river with intriguing Medieval heritage. Poitiers is a nice calm town with picturesque buildings, quaint squares, and charming parks around every corner. Visit the botanical gardens or see churches and cathedrals that offer a true glimpse into the past, like the Baptistère Saint-Jean, built in the 4th century, or the Church of Sainte-Radegonde, built in the 6th century.
Or step from the past into the future at Parc du Futuroscope, an extraordinary amusement park with multimedia delights, based on cinematographic futuroscope and audio-visual techniques that sling you into fantastical worlds beyond your greatest imaginings!
Feeling thirsty? If you’re seeking to sit back and soak up a little silence and solitude, Cognac is an inviting hideaway with simple delights.
In Cognac, you can relax on a quiet terrace and lazily swirl some of the world’s best-known brandy in a snifter. Go ahead and light up a cigar, no one will bat an eye. Afterwards, you can weave through the Old Town’s cobblestone streets and wonder if those buildings are as unusual as they seem, or perhaps you knocked back one too many. No, the town really does have a curious air about it, there’s just something about that eau de vie.
In the area surrounding Cognac you’ll find many castles and Romanesque churches, plus an art and history museum, and the Cognac Public Garden, one of the few English gardens open to the general public in France.
La Rochelle and Île de Ré
Up in northern Nouvelle Aquitaine you’ll find The Old Harbour of La Rochelle and across the bridge, the tiny but famous island of Île de Ré. La Rochelle swells with fresh sea air and is host to one of the biggest ports of pleasure boats in Europe. You can eat amazing fresh seafood or admire your dinner from behind glass in the Aquarium La Rochelle, a 2 or 3-hour experience that’s delightful for all ages. Île de Ré is a charming and calm island where you can hear the boat halyards clinking in the breeze. And it’s in heavy competition with Côte d’Azur as a celebrity hotspot, with rumoured sightings of folks like Johnny Depp, Katy Perry, and Orlando Bloom. If you’re more concerned with relaxation than posing as paparazzi, trot around on horseback or just lean back on the dock and soak your feet in the cool Atlantic waves.
Rochefort is quiet. It doesn’t want to draw too much attention to itself. It’s the type of town for someone looking to take a day trip around La Rochelle, to walk through its little streets and enjoy unadulterated, simple French cuisine. It’s also the place where you might want to go to see a a 32-gun Concorde-class warship, the only reproduction of the 1779 Hermione that ferried General La Fayette to the USA in 1780 to fight for the Americans during the Revolutionary War!
L’Hermione has completed her 2018 voyage and since June 17th 2018 can be admired in the charming little town of Rochefort. For those interested in French and American history or maritime thrills, consider taking a jaunt to Rochefort!
Bordeaux and Saint-Émilion
Bordeaux, Port of the moon. Bordeaux arrives in second place behind Paris when it comes to French cities with the most historical monuments (okay, that’s our last mention about Paris, we swear). It has 362 monuments, some dating back to the Romans, and it even has a museum full of WWII artefacts, dedicated to the French resistance during the Second World War. It’s a city rich with history and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007.
Bordeaux is the largest wine-growing region in all of France and is a major producer of red wine, so you can plan to enjoy copious amounts of vin rouge at Two-Buck Chuck prices down there. You should pay a visit to the Cité du Vin, a museum dedicated to wine cultures and civilisations. And only a 50-minute TER ride from Bordeaux, you have Bassin d’Arcachon where you can enjoy unlimited fresh oysters, go for a swim in the ocean, and sink your feet in the sands of Dune du Pilat.
Also, please, for goodness’ sake, do not forget to visit La Toque Cuivrée, where you will find one of the most delightful treats that France has to offer: the carmelized canelé.
Saint-Émilion is just a 40-minute TER train ride away and even though Bordeaux isn’t a very hectic city, Saint-Émilion offers the perfect respite from anyone who’s grown tired of eating in all those critically acclaimed restaurants and watching the sun set like a fading firework over Place de la Bourse (how exhausting!).
Saint-Émilion is a medieval town that is a museum in itself. The two major sights of Saint-Émilion–besides the entire village–are the Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion and the Romanesque church. Stroll out of the town a ways to admire the vineyards from which your delicious wine has been picked, and then pour yourself into one of the medieval themed restaurants for some confit de canard and a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru. Go on, it would be cruel to deprive yourself.
We’re in Basque Country now! You don’t know it yet, but you’ve already met the Basques. They grabbed their buckets and charged into the California Gold Rush, they herded sheep through western America and settled around Boise, Idaho. The Basques fought in the Battle of the Alamo!
The Basques have a history of being adventurous explorers that spread out all over North and South America, but after one tour of Basque Country, one must wonder: why on Earth would anyone want to leave?
Bayonne is a small city settled in the heart of Basque country. It remains rather calm year-round. That is, until the two biggest festivals of the year: the Fêtes de Bayonne and… the Ham Fair (Foire au Jambon)! Bayonne loves ham so much that they dedicate one week of the year to celebrating its salty deliciousness. And the Fêtes de Bayonne are no squealing matter: this 5-day celebration is the largest festival in all of France! If you’re in Bayonne outside of these 5 days, it comes as great surprise that such a charming little city could be host to such an enormous event! After a little bit of time in the town, their welcome attitude towards tourists says it all.
When most people think of beach destinations in France, they conjure up images of the Côte d’Azur, but the west coast of France has a lot to offer in terms of coastal paradise.
Biarritz, just a short train or bus ride from Bayonne, is a luxurious seaside destination known for sun, surfing, and its two seafront casinos. It’s a happening city with breathtaking coastal views. Eat lunch or dinner on a seaside restaurant terrace and watch the surfers bob around on their surfboards, awaiting the next big wave. Or better yet, sign up for surf classes and tango with the tide yourself!
And don’t forget to visit Maison Adam for a little box of macarons, a truly mouth-watering specialty of this area.
Take a train to Nouvelle Aquitaine
We hope this has stirred up some exciting ideas and that you’ll soon find yourself in one of these spectacular towns, off the usual beaten track in France. With the Trainline mobile apps (for Android and iOS) and Atout France, you can turn a nouvelle page and have the experience of a lifetime in Nouvelle Aquitaine.
* Again, this could be a slight bias. We are quite impartial to trains. ↩