May bank holidays fall 6 May and 27 May in 2019 and we recommend you book your trains soon to get the best fares. Let’s get out there and make May memorable.
May bank holidays are a bit like buses. There hasn’t been one for ages and then, all of a sudden, two come along at once. People used to mark this time of saying a final farewell to winter by dancing and drinking, feasting and frolicking. Indeed some British people still mark this time of year in the company of thousands of other people - at a standstill on the motorway, usually. Here are some of our recommendations for travelling by train, to places that are far from the madding May crowds.
The French Riviera by train
May is the most perfect month to visit the French Riviera and its exquisite environs. When it comes to early summer train travel, it’s France’s three MMMs that stand out. Travel from Paris to Montpellier, Marseille or Monaco for something coastal, chic and charming. From Montpellier, for example, you can hire a bike (plenty available in town), or use their local Vélomagg bike scheme to head to the Med, just 12km away. Ask the tourist board for a map of their ‘Pistes Cyclables’. A favourite route is from Montpellier to Agde, clinging to the coast for 64km, including the exquisite Etang de Thau wetland. You can get the train back to Montpellier from Agde too.
A breather from city breaks
May bank holidays are great favourites for city breaks, but with the crowds starting to pour into to many cities at this time of year, it’s a good idea to seek out escapes from some of the urban greats too. Read more in our day trips from Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and London blogs for some ideas. Whether you want to go hiking, biking or seeking out lesser known museums and galleries, there is plenty of prettiness to be found on the peripheries of these great cities.
When trying to work out the best things to do in Barcelona, for example, you might want to add a day out of the city. In an hour by train you can get to Figueres, where the Teatre-Museu Dalí is a brilliant day trip from Barcelona. Right up there with the Prado and the Guggenheim in fact. You can even stop at Girona en route, as it only 40 mins by train and one of Europe’s most impressive walled cities. For something completely different, swimmers may also want to explore the open water swimming lanes that have been created in Barcelona and along the coast, known as Vies Braves. A bit like Park Run, but in the sea.
The Lake District by train
Getting to the Lake District by train is pretty easy really, with prominent stations in Penrith and Oxenholme, both around 2 hrs from London. Further connections are available to stations such as Kendal and Windermere, making large swathes of the Lake District accessible by rail. Just one of fifteen national parks where you can easily escape the bank holiday crowds, read more in our National parks by train and Hostels by train blogs. It’s amazing to us that over 90% of visitors to national parks go by car. Please join us in opting for a lower carbon option.
Edinburgh by train
If you leave Edinburgh until August bank holiday weekend, you will get caught up in the Festival crowds as the Fringe Festival draws to a close that weekend. Head there in May to enjoy Scotland’s historic and hip capital city at a time that feels much more local than tourist-driven. You will also have longer days to get out and enjoy some spectacular day trips from Edinburgh. Getting there by train is quicker than you might think too, the journey from London, for example, taking just under 5 hours. To explore beyond the capital, read more about Scotland's best train routes.
Looking for inspiration?
5 day trips from Paris by train
There's no lack of inspiring locations just a short train ride away from Paris, so if you fancy a break from the city why not plan a day trip (or two).
European city breaks by rail from London
It's easier than ever to take the train across Europe - and capital cities are by no means the only destinations available to those planning a city break by rail.