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As two of Spain's most important cities, Madrid and Barcelona feature numerous attractions. Madrid, the capital and largest city of Spain, is a popular starting point for explorations of the country's many fascinating medieval towns and cities, as well as for its rich history and prestigious museum and gallery offerings. On the north-eastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, Barcelona is, on the other hand, perfect for a beach-centric vacation, both within the city and in the surrounding area.


Whether traveling from Madrid to Barcelona or vice versa, riding the train is one of the most convenient ways to get between the two cities. It takes around three hours to go from Madrid to Barcelona by rail, during which time passengers can take in the scenery and use the train's comfortable and secure modern amenities.

Related: Is This Madrid Train Station The Most Beautiful Railway In The World?

The Many Pleasures And Comforts Of Train Travel

Discovering Spain by train is a time-honored experience for a good reason. Unlike airports, most train stations in Spain are conveniently located in the city's heart, saving passengers time and money compared to going to and from the airport. Even though planes are faster and more convenient in some ways, taking a train is far less of a hassle. There's no need to check in hours in advance, and there's no need to limit the volume of liquids in your carry-on.

All a traveler needs to do is arrive a few minutes before departure, hop on the train, enjoy their spacious seats and ample legroom, and they are very well on their way to their destination. In most countries, you can even bring your own snacks and beverages on board. Another reason to explore the world by train is that it has the lowest carbon footprint of any method of transportation, unlike cars or planes. Taking the train results in 75% reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and trains contribute less than 3% of greenhouse gas emissions in various countries.

How To Travel Between Madrid And Barcelona By Train

Taking the high-speed AVE train between Madrid and Barcelona is the quickest option. The AVE trains in Spain run over the most extended high-speed network in Europe, which totals 3,100 kilometers of track. Spain's vast network provides lightning-fast connections between cities at speeds of up to 310 kilometers per hour. The trip on this cutting-edge, high-class train takes only about 3 hours. Passengers with a Eurail Pass don't have to worry about buying tickets; they pay a nominal reservation charge and may kick back with a drink of their choice while taking in the sights.

The Barcelona terminus for AVE trains is Barcelona-Sants, while Madrid's Puerta de Atocha is the system's central hub. In contrast, the trip time between Madrid and Barcelona on a regional train is longer than on a high-speed rail. However, passengers don't have to book ahead of time. They can make pit stops in lovely Spanish places like Zaragoza, known for its beautiful Basilica of El Pilar and annual October celebrations; it is considered one of Europe's greatest cities. El Tubo's tapas bars and the Moorish palace and Roman forum are two of the city's many attractions, along with a museum dedicated to the famed Spanish artist Francisco de Goya.

Travelers can also view or stop by Tarragona, which has 15 kilometers of coastline lined with fine sand beaches, and, even further out, the water is just a few meters deep. From June through September, the weather is reliably pleasant enough for swimming. Moreover, most train lines follow routes that are difficult, if not impossible, for any other kind of transportation to follow, allowing passengers to get up close and personal with some fantastic sights only viewed through the window of a train.

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Where To Find The Best Train Deals In Spain

The official Renfe site is more cumbersome than a variety of private portals for customers seeking the cheapest tickets and most straightforward booking when traveling in Spain, and between Madrid and Barcelona in particular. Strange translation errors and technological difficulties with non-Spanish payment and debit cards are typical on the website of the national train operator. The good news is that there are several third-party services available that are considerably more straightforward. When travelers buy a train ticket on Omio or Trainline, they'll typically receive an electronic ticket that they can show at the gate. If that is not possible, they can pick up their tickets at the train station. Omio and Trainline accept credit or debit cards without a hitch and can be used to reserve seats on any train, fast or slow.

  • Helpful information about AVE: Tickets and reservations are validated at the station before boarding an AVE train. AVE check-in begins 30 minutes before departure and concludes 5 minutes before. There's 10-minute express check-in. Before boarding a train in Spain, passengers must X-ray their luggage. More info here.
  • Train times and schedules from Barcelona to Madrid: Trains depart Barcelona for Madrid as early as 05:50 on weekdays, with the latest train leaving at about 21:25. On Saturdays and Sundays, the first train departs Barcelona at approximately 06:05, and the last train leaves at approximately 21:25. More info here.