We aren’t usually first-class kinds of travelers. Ethan is tall and has long legs and appreciates more space, sure. Rebecca will never say no to free meals, fine. But usually we’re pretty content with economy. We’re more concerned with just getting to where we’re going. But when we were magically upgraded to TGV Lyria First Class on our journey from Basel, Switzerland to Paris, France, we weren’t going to say no. Here’s our review of the TGV Lyria in first class. (Keep in mind that we rode Standard First Class. Business First Class is another game entirely).
What is the TGV Lyria?
TGV stands for train à grande vitesse – it’s just a high-speed train. The TGV Lyria service is just the part of the TGV that connects France and Switzerland. It goes to Geneva, Basel, Lausanne, Zurich, and Bern, and it reaches speeds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h).
The SNCF, which is the French train service, does offer different speeds of travel, so whenever you’re traveling in France and see TGV, you can expect that the train will be faster (and it may cost a little more). There are often cheaper, slower options than the TGV. You can, for example, cobble together a journey to Switzerland (or to many destinations in Europe) on local, slower-running trains than the TGV Lyria train, but it will certainly take more time.
In our experience, the TGV in general is usually quite enjoyable, so we were just hoping to discover if first class was even better, or if it was more or less similar to second class.
In first class, you have a bit more space
We found that in first class, you do have a little more room on board. Not more room for your luggage, but more room for you. Instead of four seats across with an aisle in between, in first class there are three seats across. This means if you’re traveling by yourself, you can sit with no neighbor. That said, there doesn’t really seem to be more leg room, just more width for each seat.
The TGV Lyria first class seating plan is such that some of the seats are facing each other and some are facing the back of another seat. So, on one side of the car is a column of individual seats. Some of these face the back of another seat, so they are really individual. The others face another seat with a small table in between, so they are in a pair. On the opposite side of the car is a column of paired seats. Some of these pairs face the back of the next row of seats, making them perfect for two people. Others face another pair across a small table; they’re designed for families or groups of four.
Bear in mind that if you’re traveling in a pair, you might still get stuck sitting knee-to-knee with a pair of randos, or you might not, just like in the regular 2nd class seats. It’s all down to the luck of the draw, and there seems to be no way to know in advance. There was even a couple in our first-class car whose ticket said they were to be facing each other. Instead of being placed in two individual seats facing one another, they were placed in a pod of four seats beside another couple who was also facing each other. The two individual seats remained empty for the entirety of the journey. Weird.
The luggage situation is similar to second class. Some bags can be stored on the luggage shelf in the car, others can be stored on the luggage shelf by the door. There’s a small overhead shelf that fits small, small bags and coats.
There are no free food or beverages
At least not in Standard First Class (standard 1ere). If you’re in Business First Class (Business 1ere) then there is, by the looks of the menu, a fancy, champagne-drenched meal presented to you. This is prepared, apparently, by one Chef Michel Roth. No such luck for us. In Standard First Class you just have a little coffee-and-snack cart roll through with things available for purchase. The exact same cart that rolls through second class. Ah, well.
Things aren’t cleaner or fancier
We love the TGV. We had a great experience on the first leg of our journey in second class. We were comfy and content. We weren’t sure if first class would somehow be fancier, but it wasn’t, really. At our seat, in fact, there was a giant, sticky puddle of chocolate on the floor, making it impossible for Ethan to put his feet down flat. Just bad luck, I suppose.
It is indeed possible that the bathroom was slightly larger in first class. That was my general sense. Could be wrong, though, full disclosure.
The outlets and wifi are excellent as always
Even in a TGV’s second class, the wifi is shockingly fast and usable. In fact, I am writing this blog post on the train wifi. Additionally, there are plenty of power sockets everywhere for phone-charging, etc. Same same in first class. Same wifi, same outlets, all very nice.
Lounge access is a perk
If you’re traveling from Paris to Switzerland, then you can access the SNCF Grand Voyageur Lounge in Paris Gare de Lyon. This involves free water and hot drinks, wifi, power outlets, etc.
Is it worth the money?
No! Well, probably not. Maybe if you are traveling solo and really don’t want to have a neighbor, then go for it. Or if the prices are very similar, as they sometimes are, then why not. Otherwise, probably best to stick to the cheap train tickets – 2nd class it is. Travel by rail is always nice, no need to worry!