In October I visited Nice for the 2nd time, this time with my mom. As we left the food market of Nice, I noticed the train station of Chemin de Fer and suggested my mom to take a day trip from Nice with the Train des Pignes.
During my previous visit to Nice, I also took a day trip from Nice and explored the towns with the Train des Merveilles, click the link to read that story. As my mom was super excited about it, we decided we’d take the train the next day!
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Train des Pignes
The train des Pignes is a train route which starts in Nice and takes you all the way to Digne. It is not operated by the French Railway but by a private train company Chemin de Fer de Provence. The train station is located at 4 Bis Rue Alfred Binet, behind Gare de Sud.
Within 3,5 hours, the Train des Pignes (Train of Pine Cones) takes you from Nice to Digne Les-Bains. The route is 151km long and will bring you from sea level up to 1.000m
After careful examination of the online timetable of the Train des Pignes, and the prices, we decided not the take the Train des Pignes all the way to Digne. It would mean 7 hours on the train and we found it a bit too expensive.
We decided to cut our travel time and expenses in half and opted for a return journey to Entrevaux, a medieval town with a fortress along the route.
Every Sunday between May and October (check data), a steam train will depart from Puget to Théniers. This is your chance to experience a part of the route riding an authentic steam train from the start of the 20th century.
The steam train is connected to the regular train service, but you must reserve your seat in advance.
Taking the Train des Pignes to Entrevaux
We took the 9.24 am train from Nice to Digne and we decided we would get off in Entrevaux. We were running a little late as we had troubles finding the actual entrance to the train station.
Once there, the train was signaling his departure and I found a long queue lined up for the ticket office. No vending machines or anything.
As we were almost missing our train, we were directed towards the train and we were allowed to buy our tickets on the train. I was relieved when the train moved away from the station. In all the panic, we didn’t really investigate where we would sit. It would be a 1,5-hour train journey to Entrevaux but we took the first seats we could find.
This can easily be avoided if you buy your ticket in advance online. Check your options here.
As it was Sunday, the train was crowded and we found the only two empty seats at the back of the train. As the Train des Pignes has two engines (one in the front, one at the rear), we had clear uninterrupted views through the control booth.
It turned out this made our day trip from Nice even more spectacular as we had 180 degrees views from our seats.
We left the streets of Nice behind and slowly followed the river into the mountains. One moment, the river Var was to our right, the next to our left. As we were traveling backward, it felt like we were sucked into the gorges of the river Var and her deep valleys.
The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, casting her sun rays every once in a while. This made for dramatic scenery and my mom and I were constantly oohing and ahhing all the while with our noses pressed against the glass window.
Day trip from Nice to Entrevaux
After 1,5 hours, we chugged into the railway station of Entrevaux. It was 11 am and the sun was out. We walked into town and decided to have 2nd breakfast first. Enjoying our coffee and sandwich on this lazy Sunday morning, we saw small French town life come to life. We told each other how lucky we were to experience this together.
Just a few hours ago we were in crowded urban Nice and now we were teleported to medieval Entrevaux. Taking the last bite of our baguettes, we smiled at each other because tomorrow at work, we would not believe we just sat here 24 hours ago.
Entrevaux is only 60km from Nice and its main attraction is the 17th-century town and the Vauban fortress overlooking the valley. You can access the old town of Entrevaux by the stone bridge with the river running beneath it.
After walking around in the old town of Entrevaux, we had visited the old church and had some pretty amazing views of the old streets and city lay out.
We decided to climb to the fortress at the top of the hill. In the town, there is a tourniquet style gate. You need to pay 3€ in coins at the machine (you can also buy a coin at the tourist office down town). Ok, the ascend could begin. Maybe for a fit person, it would take 20 minutes to climb to the fortress.
Let’s just say it took me a little bit longer, but I made it. On our way up, we enjoyed the spectacular views of the valley and the river. We tried to take pictures from all the roofs of the medieval town of Entrevaux.
When we reached the fortress we followed the route and walked around. All the way in the top tower, we had the best views of the whole area. The old city beneath us, the roofs piled up like scales of a fish.
The river encircling the old town, cutting her way through the rocks, and the massive granite stone peaks enclosing the valley. Looking for more enchanted France Castles?
Check out this list of the best castles in France to visit.
My mom and I looked at each other and just smiled: we were so lucky to experience this.
Looking for more inspiration to travel to the hearth of France? Check out these amazing photo’s of France’s Tignes.
Have you ever considered the train for a day trip? Have you been to Entrevaux? Do you like train travel? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.