Train system in spain: Spain By Train from $152

Trains between Barcelona & Madrid


Renfe AVE from Madrid to Barcelona, at Madrid Atocha.

Buy Renfe, Iryo, Avlo or Ouigo tickets in , or $ and print your own ticket. 
More info
on how to book.

Choice of 3 high-speed train

The 621 km (386 mile) high-speed line from Barcelona
to Madrid opened in 2008, and high-speed trains now link
Barcelona Sants
& Madrid Atocha
in as little as 2h40 at up to 310 km/h (193 mph) with departures every hour or
so.  Before it opened, trains took 7 hours on the classic line. 
Spanish high-speed lines were opened up to competition in 2021, and you now
have a choice of 3 train operators:  Renfe (Spanish national railways),
lo-cost operator Ouigo and lo-cost operator Avlo.   A 4th operator, Iryo,
started on 25 November 2022.  You can compare prices and
buy tickets for all 3 current operators at 
This page will help you choose…

Which train to

Option 1:  Renfe’s AVE

Option 2:  Lo-cost Ouigo trains

Option 3:  Lo-cost Avlo trains

Option 4:  Iryo trains
starting 25 Nov 2022

Travel tips for all operators

Route map

What’s the journey like?

How to buy tickets

  • Renfe’s AVE trains are
    the most frequent, with 10 or more departures a day from 19 upwards. 
    Think of these as the normal ‘full-service’ Barcelona-Madrid trains,
    top choice for comfort.  It’s a normal
    train service, so no draconian luggage limits or extra fees to pay for
    suitcases or backpacks.   There’s a cafe-bar, and if you want a premium first
    class journey with at-seat food & wine included (when not affected by
    Covid-19), choose Premium Comfort class on an AVE. 
    More about AVE trains.

  • Iryo starts running on 25
    November 2022.  A consortium of airline Air Nostrum & Italian national
    operator Trenitalia, these are also high-quality ‘full-service’ trains, also top
    choice for comfort and no draconian luggage limits fees for baggage. 
    More about Iryo trains.

  • Ouigo is a new lo-cost
    operator, a subsidiary of SNCF French Railways.  It offers around 5
    departures per day from just 9.  There are strict baggage limits,
    you need to pay an extra 5 for a suitcase or backpack.  Ouigo trains
    are all one class, but there are several cars of roomier first class ‘XL’ seating for
    a 9 surcharge.  There’s a cafe-bar.  More
    about Ouigo.

  • Avlo is a new lo-cost
    operator, a subsidiary of Renfe Spanish Railways with around 3 departures
    per day from just 7.   There are strict baggage limits, you need to pay an
    extra 10 for a suitcase or backpack.  There’s no cafe-bar, just
    vending machines, and no first class.  More
    about Avlo.

This is the principal train
service between Barcelona & Madrid, with the most frequent departures.  Renfe is Spain’s national train
operator, their
premier high-speed trains are branded AVE which
stands for Alta Velocidad
(Spanish High-Speed).  It’s also the Spanish for bird,
hence the AVE logo. 
Most AVE services between Madrid & Barcelona are operated by smart S103 AVE
trains built by Siemens as shown below, hence the resemblance to Germany’s

AVEs are fully air-conditioned
with free WiFi and power sockets at all seats.  There’s a convivial
cafe-bar selling alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks, snacks and hot dishes. 
As with most European trains, suitcases & backpacks can be taken at no extra
cost, you just take it with you and put it on the luggage racks inside each car.

AVEs have 2 classes of seating,
Standard (2nd class, seats 2+2 across the car width) and Comfort (1st
class, seats 2+1 across the car width). 

There are 3 fare types,
(you get a standard class seat), Elige (you get a
standard class seat but can pay to upgrade to a comfort class seat) and
(you get a comfort class seat, flexible tickets, access to the

Sala Club lounges in Barcelona & Madrid and a meal with wine included in the
fare).  If you’re sitting in comfort class and the person next to you is
served a nice hot meal from the trolley, but you aren’t, they paid the
fare, you only paid the Elige fare, even though you’re both
in comfort class!

For a seating plan of an
AVE S103,
see the seat numbering page.

There is no formal check-in for
an AVE, you can board any time up to a minute or two before departure, but as
there’s a brief X-ray baggage scan & ticket check before boarding at Spanish
high-speed stations, so don’t arrive at the last minute,
see the travel tips section below.

An S103 AVE train
from Madrid to Barcelona, about to leave Madrid Atocha. 
virtual tour of an AVE S103.


Standard class (2nd
class) on an AVE-S103…


Comfort class (1st class) seating.


Comfort class
(premium 1st class) seating on an AVE-S103 train.  At-seat food & wine included.


Cafe-bar on an AVE S103
between Barcelona & Madrid, serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, snacks, soft drinks
& hot dishes.

An AVE-S103 from Madrid Atocha, arrived
at Barcelona Sants.

Option 2, lo-cost Ouigo trains

Ouigo is the lo-cost subsidiary of SNCF (French Railways), offering 5 or so
trains per day from Barcelona to Madrid and vice versa.  Fully
air-conditioned, free WiFi, power sockets at all seats and (unlike
Ouigo in France) a spacious cafe-bar on
the upper deck in car 4.

Ouigo is a lo-cost train with budget airline-style baggage limits, so you’ll
need to pay an extra 5 for a suitcase or backpack when you book.  Bags go
on the racks inside the seating area in each car.  Small pets in carriers
can be carried, at extra charge.  Bikes are not carried.

Ouigo uses French double-deck TGV Duplex trains.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the
best views, it’s just 9 easy, wide & shallow steps with handrails from the
entrance to the upper deck, which Ouigo calls
– they call the lower deck Earth.   There are toilets & luggage racks both
upstairs & downstairs in each car.

First class?  Although Ouigo bill their trains as all one class, the seats
are unchanged from the TGV
Duplex trains used in France.  Cars 1, 2 & 3 retain
their larger, more comfortable 1st class seats with extra legroom,
arranged 2+1 across the car width.  Cars 5-8 remain 2nd class with seats to 2+2
across the car width. 
Ouigo call the former first class seating ‘XL’ and charge a 9 fee for it on top
of the basic fare – a bargain.  The XL fee includes an extra-baggage fee for one suitcase or
backpack, it’s easy to miss this perk when booking XL, so don’t accidentally pay

There’s a formal 30-minute minimum check-in for Ouigo trains, a ticket check
happens before boarding and as for all operators there’s an X-ray baggage check
before accessing the platforms, see the travel tips
section below.   Within a few months of the service starting, Ouigo was
achieving 90% load factors.

Ouigo train from Madrid to Barcelona,
at Madrid Atocha.  Photos courtesy of Matt from


XL seats in
cars 1, 2 & 3, upper deck – other XL seats are on the lower deck.  Note
the luggage rack on the right.


A Ouigo train from Madrid, arrived at Barcelona Sants.  Click the
interior photos for larger images.


Cafe-bar on an Ouigo train, upper
deck car 4.


Regular seats on an Ouigo train, upper deck.

A Ouigo train at Madrid Atocha.

Option 3, lo-cost Avlo trains

Avlo is a subsidiary of Renfe (Spanish Railways), operating three or so lo-cost
trains per day in each direction between Barcelona & Madrid.  Fully
air-conditioned, free WiFi, power sockets at all seats.  But no cafe-bar,
just credit-card-operated vending machines, and no first class.

Avlo uses a version of Renfe’s S112 AVE
train, repainted in Avlo colours with an all-new one-class (but
high-quality) interior.  It has leather seats and plenty of legroom. 
The S112 is nicknamed Pato (duck) by Renfe staff, no prizes for guessing

If possible, avoid seats in car 6 as this was the former cafe-bar.   It’s been
converted into a seats car, but the small high-level windows have not been
changed, so you can only see out if you stand up!

Unlike normal trains, Avlo is a lo-cost train with strict airline-style baggage limits, you need to
pay an extra 10 for a suitcase or backpack.  You take your bags onto the
train and put them on the racks inside
the seating area in each car.  Only folding bikes are carried.  No
pets allowed.  If your bags are found to exceed the set dimensions when you
arrive at the station (even if they simply bulge a bit) you’ll have to pay a 30
fee – if in any doubt about luggage, stick with the normal Renfe AVE service.

Boarding closes 5 minutes before departure, for all operators there’s an X-ray
baggage check before accessing the platforms so don’t cut it fine,
see the travel tips below.

An Avlo train at Barcelona Sants, originally a
Renfe S112 AVE converted to one-class for Avlo services.   Courtesy of


Car 6, note the windows in this
Courtesy Ekain Munduate.


Comfortable seats on an Avlo train.  Courtesy Ekain Munduate.

Option 4, Iryo trains

A consortium of Air Nostrum & Trenitalia called Ilsa launched another
competing train service between Barcelona & Madrid on 25 November 2022. 
Branded Iryo, it uses a version of
Frecciarossa 1000.  Tickets are on sale at & 
See video of a journey by

The new trains offer 4 classes: Inicial, Singular, Singular Caf
& Infinita.

2nd class
seating 2+2 across the car width, a refreshment trolley serves drinks and

Singular has identical 2nd class 2+2 seating, but tickets are more flexible and you
can pre-order meals online at

Singular Only You is sold as an upgrade to
.  This gets you 1st class 2+1 seating in a car with tables to
work at or dine at.  Meals & drinks can be served at your table at extra
cost, you can pre-order meals online at

Infinita offers 1st class
seating 2+1 across the
car width, with a meal & drinks from the bistro menu served at your seat,
included in the fare.

All seats in all classes have power sockets and free WiFi.  Pets under 10 Kg
in carriers are carried in Infinita class.

There are two types of fare:  Flexible, which offers a good level of
flexibility and Abierta (open) which is
100% fully-flexible, see
iryo. eu for details.

Iryo offers free connections by suburban train (Cercanias) at the
beginning and end of your journey within the urban areas in both Barcelona &
Madrid, similar to the Cercanias Combinado arrangement offered by Renfe
explained here.

An Iryo train at Madrid Atocha. 
Courtesy of
@AndyBTravels &


2+1 Infinita or Singular Only You
(1st class) seats. Courtesy of
Simon Andersen


Food included in Infinita class.  Courtesy
of Nonstop Eurotrip


Scenery crossing Spain by train. Courtesy
of Nonstop Eurotrip


2+2 Inicial or Singular (2nd class) seats on an
Iryo train.  Courtesy of
Simon Andersen

  • Seat reservation is
    compulsory on all these high-speed trains, all tickets come with a
    specified reserved seat automatically included.  For a seating plan of an
    AVE S103,
    see the seat numbering page.

  • Security checks before boarding…  At Spanish stations including
    Madrid Atocha &
    Barcelona Sants
    there is a quick and simple baggage X-ray check before entering the departures
    area and your ticket may be checked.  It only takes minutes,
    much easier than any airport, but
    don’t turn up with seconds to spare. 
    How to
    board a high-speed train at Madrid Atocha. 
    How to board a
    high-speed train
    at Barcelona Sants.

  • Luggage limits:  You
    take your luggage with you onto the train and put it on any suitable rack near
    your seat.

    On Renfe’s AVEs & Iryo,
    luggage is easy, as on most other European trains.  There’s no extra cost
    for a suitcase or backpack, and (unless you take the mickey) nobody weighs it, measures it
    or argues about its exact size.

    On lo-cost operators Avlo &
    you need to pay a luggage fee for suitcases or backpacks, added when you buy a
    ticket.  Check permitted dimensions carefully when you book.  If you need to add an
    oversize or additional bag on the day of travel it will cost significantly more. 
    If your bags are found to exceed the strict size limits on these lo-cost
    operators you’ll be charged a hefty fee – one traveller on Avlo was charged 30
    for a bag which was a few millimetres over the permitted size and his lo-cost
    journey became more expensive than the normal full-service AVE!  Train
    travel really shouldn’t be like that.

  • Babies & infants need a ticket. .. 
    Babies and infants under 4 years old travel for free if you’re happy to have them on your
    lap, but unlike other European countries where you can just bring them along without a ticket,
    on Spanish high-speed trains they need a zero-cost ticket
    booked in their name.  You’ll get this if you enter them as a passenger
    with their actual age, when you buy tickets.  If you want to them to have
    their own seat, enter their age as 5+ so the system gives you a child ticket.

  • Food & drink… 
    Renfe’s AVEs have a cafe-bar and Premium Comfort class includes food & wine served at
    seat.  Iryo has a refreshment trolley service and in some classes, food
    served at your seat.  Ouigo has a cafe-bar.  Avlo has no catering other than
    credit-card-operated vending machines.  You are of course free to bring
    your own food and drink along to eat & drink in your seat, even a beer or bottle
    of wine if you like, on all these trains.

  • WiFi & power outlets… 
    There are power outlets at all seats in all these trains, of the usual European 2-pin type. 
    All these trains have free WiFi, the network name on AVE & Avlo is PlayRenfe,
    with some free content to stream too.

  • Station guides…  To
    get familiar with the stations, see the
    station guide and Madrid
    Atocha station guide.

  • First class lounge (Sala Club)… 
    If you have a Premium Comfort ticket for a Renfe AVE you can use the

    Sala Club lounge at Barcelona Sants and

    Sala Club lounge at Madrid
    Atocha before departure, with complimentary tea, coffee, beer, soft drinks &

  • Onward connections… 
    If you are making a same-day connection into or out of an SNCF high-speed
    TGV to or from France, or another Renfe train within Spain, I’d
    stick with the main Renfe AVE service between Barcelona
    & Madrid.   Iryo, Avlo & Ouigo are separate companies and if you combine them with
    onward trains run by Renfe or SNCF you will not be covered for missed
    connections if there’s a delay. 
    about passenger rights.

  • Interrail & Eurail: 
    Passes are good for Renfe’s AVE if you pay the

    reservation fee.  Passes are not valid on Iryo, Ouigo or Avlo.

  • A slow train still takes the old
      For the record, one train per day still links Barcelona &
    Madrid via the classic line.  Run by Renfe, it’s an air-conditioned
    Regional Express
    taking 9 hours, leaving Barcelona Sants around 09:03
    westbound and leaving Madrid Chamartin around 07:15 eastbound.  It has one
    fixed price, around 43.  You may see it in your search results, don’t book
    it by mistake!

Click for
larger map.  

= 310 km/h high-speed line.  Black
= classic lines.  Green = scenic sections.

Reproduced with kind permission of the
European Rail Timetable people.  Buy a copy of the European
Rail Map at

All these Madrid-Barcelona trains take the same
route through the same scenery.  The platforms at
Barcelona Sants
are underground, but the train soon emerges into daylight as it accelerates to
310 km/h (193 mph).  High-speed lines in Spain are built to standard gauge
(4′ 8″) like the majority of Europe, even though Spain’s classic railways are
Iberian broad gauge (5′ 6″). Soon after leaving Barcelona, look out for the
distinctive jagged ridge of Montserrat on your right (on the left, see  The rest of the
high-speed journey to Madrid is pleasantly undulating and often scenic, as you
can see in the second photograph below.   All trains call at Zaragoza, the
major city between Barcelona and Madrid.

View from a Madrid to Barcelona
Ouigo train.  The jagged mountain in the distance is Montserrat, a
major landmark, see  Courtesy of

Scenery an AVE train from Barcelona
to Madrid.  Courtesy of

    sells tickets for Renfe AVE, Ouigo, Avlo & Iryo so you can easily check times &
    buy tickets for all 4 operators, all in one place.  Quick & easy to use, overseas credit cards no problem, you can pay in , or $. 
    There’s a small booking fee.

  • Omio. com
    also sells tickets for Renfe AVE, Ouigo, Avlo & Iryo, all 4 operators all
    bookable in one place.

    Easy to use,
    you can pay in , or $.  There’s a small booking fee.

    sells tickets for Renfe &
    Ouigo, but doesn’t sell tickets for Avlo or Iryo.  Easy to use, overseas credit cards accepted,
    you can see fares & pay in , or $.  There’s a small booking fee.

  • You can of course book at the
    operator sites.  For Renfe’s AVE it’s, in , not the easiest site to use as it tends to slip back
    into Spanish even if you select Ingles, it’s often poorly worded and it has a reputation
    for rejecting some overseas credit cards.  For Ouigo, it’s, this allows you to choose a seat from a seating plan for a
    small fee (free if you pay for XL) although you can’t tell which seats face
    forward or backwards as the train could enter service either way round.   For Avlo, it’s either or, also allowing seat choice from a seating plan for an
    8 fee, this time with direction of travel shown.  For Iryo it’s

Recommended hotels…

Back to home

Madrid Atocha station – a short guide

Madrid Puerta de Atocha: 

Location map

It’s one of my favourite
stations, a beautiful historic trainshed now a tropical garden, next to a modern
terminus for the high-speed trains south and southeast to Barcelona, Cordoba,
Seville, Malaga, Cadiz, Algeciras, Granada, Alicante & Valencia. 
There has been a station here since 1851, although the old
trainshed dates from 1892.  Note that from August 2022 onwards, some trains
to/from Alicante will use Madrid

The old trainshed & tropical garden


Arriving at Madrid Atocha by high-speed train


Changing trains at Madrid Atocha

Leaving by train from Puerta de Atocha


Leaving by train from Atocha Cercanas

Left luggage

Sala Club 1st class lounge


Local transport to/from the city centre


How to
transfer between Atocha & Chamartin


On other pages

Madrid Chamartin station

Trains from
Madrid to other European cities

Trains from other European cities to

General information for
European train travel

How to buy European train
tickets online


Madrid Atocha’s beautiful original train shed opened in 1892.   A hundred
years later, in 1992 it had its
tracks removed and is now a lovely tropical garden.  There are several bars & restaurants with
outside tables, making this a great place to wait for your train.  The
left luggage lockers are in the far
right corner in the photo below.  There’s an exit to the ground level taxi
rank on the left.

Exterior of the old 1892 trainshed.  Courtesy of
Simon Andersen

The old trainshed of 1892 with
cafes, bars & tropical garden. 

See panorama photo of Madrid Atocha old hall.  Courtesy of

A wider shot, showing the ramps
up to the departures lounge.  Taken from
roughly where the white arrow is in the photo here.  
Courtesy of


The former turtle pool in Atocha’s tropical garden. 
Sadly, it’s now been removed…


Egg, eels & chips (well, why
not?) at a bistro table in Madrid Atocha’s tropical garden…

  • If you arrive in the Puerta de
    terminus platforms as all AVE trains and most other high-speed trains
    do, you need to go up the travelators/escalators onto the arrivals footbridge
    then through the long arrivals passageway to the arrivals exit.  From there
    you can head back down to the main concourse and the tropical garden in the old

    Unfortunately, you can’t just walk forwards off the end of the platform
    straight ahead onto the concourse and into the tropical garden which would be
    much more direct!

  • The taxi rank for arrivals is on the top
    level, where the roadway passes over the modern terminus platforms.

  • A handful of Talgo & Altaria
    trains from Alicante or Almeria head north beyond Atocha to Chamartin and/or
    northern Spain.  If you’re on one of these it will arrive at platform 5 at
    Madrid Atocha-Cercanias.  Similarly, a
    handful of Talgo or Altaria trains from Gijon or Santander run south beyond
    Madrid Chamartin to Madrid Atocha-Cercanias
    platform 6 then south to Almeria or Alicante.  Arriving at platforms 5 or 6
    you walk up the escalators at the northern end of the platform and through the
    ticket barriers onto the main concourse.  Turn left to reach the old
    trainshed with the tropical gardens.

  • Some journeys involve an easy
    same-station change at Madrid Atocha, such as Barcelona to Algeciras, or
    Barcelona to Seville or Malaga if the direct trains don’t suit you. 
    Unfortunately, you can’t just arrive on one platform, walk over to another
    platform and get on your onward train as you can anywhere else in Europe.

  • You normally need to
    follow all the other passengers up the travelators from the platform (level 0)
    into the
    long passageway to the arrivals hall on level 1.  In the left hand corner
    of the arrivals hall, there’s an inconspicuous exit marked Salidas /
      This takes you directly into the level 1 departures hall
    without having to go downstairs into the tropical garden and back up through the
    normal departures entrance.

    interchange passage has its own ticket check and X-ray baggage check at the
    entrance to the departures hall, usually without any queues, so you by-pass the
    busy row of X-ray scanners at the main entrance to departures.  When
    boarding starts, you go down the travelators onto the platform with all the
    other departing passengers.  I’d allow at least half an hour between

  • However, Renfe sell some
    through journeys with guaranteed connections of as little as 18 minutes at
    Madrid Atocha (for example, Barcelona-Madrid-Malaga) and in such cases you may
    be met by a member of staff holding a board saying (in this example) Enlace
    Cordoba Malaga
    , (Enlace means connection) and they’ll show
    passengers directly to the onward train without having to go through departure
    screening again.   There’s no easy way to know beforehand if this
    arrangement will apply, just be on the lookout!

  • Today’s high-speed trains leave
    from 15 modern terminus platforms built
    as a southward extension to the old trainshed, referred to as Madrid Puerta de Atocha
    These are Puerta de Atocha platforms 1 to 15, numbered from left to right as you
    look towards the trains.  There are two
    ways to access these platforms, depending on your destination.

  • To board an AVE to
    Barcelona, Zaragoza, Figueres, Girona, Cordoba, Seville, Malaga, Perpignan,
    Avignon, Marseille, or an Altaria train to Ronda, Algeciras, Jerez or Cadiz…

    Starting in the old trainshed
    with the tropical gardens, go up the
    travelators shown in the photo below and go through the gateway to the departures area
    marked by the big white arrow.

    At the entrance to the
    departures area there’s a X-ray check of all baggage, it’s immediately behind
    the white arrow in the photo below.   There are no metal detectors so you
    can carry what you like on your person, it’s only the baggage that’s checked -
    make sure
    any penknives etc are in your pockets not your baggage so don’t get scanned, to
    avoid a jobsworth refusing to allow them on, as happened to one passenger

    The check is quick and simple, it only takes minutes, but don’t arrive for
    your train with only seconds to spare!  The baggage check can get busy at
    peak times, so I’d go through into departures at least 10-15 minutes before your

    Immediately after the
    baggage check you’re in the departures waiting area.  It has several
    shops, a cafe, and seating.  You’ll find the
    Sala Club first class
    lounge in the corner to your right.  When your train is ready for
    boarding, staff will check your ticket at the top of the relevant
    travelator, then you descend the travelator onto the platform below and board
    your train.   They close the gate 2 minutes before departure.

  • To board an AVE to
    Alicante or Valencia or an Avant, Alvia or AV City train…

    Walk from the tropical garden
    through the ground floor passageway marked by the smaller blue arrow in the
    photo below into a small concourse area with shops, and look for the entrance to the ground floor departures
    area.  There’s a simple X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the
    departures area which can get
    busy at peak times, so I’d go through into the departures area at least 10-15
    minutes before your train. 
    There’s a Sala Club first class
    lounge here too.  Staff will check your ticket as you pass through the
    glass doors onto the relevant platform.  The door will be closed 2 minutes
    before departure.

This photo shows the south end
of the old historic trainshed, facing away from the tropical garden.   It
shows the travelators up to the departures area
on the first floor.  The white arrow indicates the gateway with the X-ray
baggage check through to the departures lounge.  The modern high-speed
platforms are out of sight behind all of this.  To reach the
platforms, walk through the wide passageway on the ground
floor in this photo and turn left.  Courtesy of Willy Kaemena.

The modern high-speed terminus
platforms.  This photo is taken from the arrivals overbridge.  Courtesy of

  • Immediately on the east side of the
    high-speed terminus platforms which constitute Madrid Puerta de Atocha, there are
    10 through platforms one level below ground referred to as Madrid

    These are used by
    suburban trains (= cercanias in Spanish, hence the name) which pass
    through Madrid linking the southern suburbs with the northern suburbs via the
    long tunnels under the city between Madrid Atocha & Madrid Chamartin.

    They are also used by
    Media Distancia trains to Badajoz & Jaen plus a handful of mainline Talgo & Altaria
    trains which pass through Madrid on cross-country routes such as Alicante-Santander or

  • If your train is shown on your
    ticket or at
    or as
    leaving from Madrid-Atocha Cercanas, (sometimes abbreviated on tickets
    as Madrid A.C.) do not go upstairs to
    the normal high-speed departures area.  Follow the signs to
    until you reach these suburban platforms, accessed on the
    ground floor two minutes walk from the tropical gardens in the old trainshed.

  • If you’re catching a suburban
    you simply you go through automatic ticket gates at ground level then down
    escalators to the platforms.

  • If you’re catching a Media Distancia or Longa
    mainline train, you must go through a staffed entrance at ground
    level a little way from the gateline, through a brief X-ray bag check then down
    the escalators onto the platform.   The staffed Media Distancia &
    Longa Distancia
    entrance takes a little finding, see the photo below so you
    know what you are looking for!

  • Atocha-Cercanas platforms
    are numbered 1 to 10 from left to right as you look south.  The Altaria & Talgo trains
    northwards to Santander or Gijon usually use platform 5, as do trains arriving
    from Badajoz or Jaen.  Media Distancia trains heading south to Badajoz &
    Jaen, and Talgo & Altaria trains to Murcia, Cartagena or Alicante usually use
    platform 6.  But of course the departure screens will
    the platform.


The staffed entrance to Atocha-Cercanias
platforms for long-distance passengers.


A media distancia service to
Badajoz about to leave platform 6 at Atocha-Cercanias.   Photos courtesy of

  • There were luggage lockers
    (Consigna in Spanish) in the northeast corner of the old trainshed with
    bags X-rayed just inside the entrance before being deposited.  However,
    it’s reported that this is closed and has been for some time.  To leave
    bags, check sites such as for
    nearby locations.

  • Anyone with a Premium
    ticket can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge.  You can also use it with a
    1st class ticket on the international AVE to France.  You cannot use the
    lounge with an Elige ticket.

  • The main Sala Club at Madrid
    Atocha is open 05:15-21:30 Mondays-Saturdays, 06:00-21:30 Saturdays & Sundays,
    with complimentary tea, coffee, snacks & beer.  It is
    located inside the main high-speed train departures area on the first floor.

  • There’s a second lounge for the
    ground floor departures
    area with different opening hours.


Madrid Atocha Sala Club
with complimentary WiFi and refreshments… 


Down the travelator from
departures area to platform to board an AVE to Barcelona…


  • Madrid’s modern air-conditioned
    metro links Madrid Atocha with all parts of
    Madrid, see 
    Metro line 1 (coloured light blue on maps) connects Atocha Renfe metro
    station with Sol (the Puerta del Sol in the heart of central Madrid) and
    Chamartin (for Renfe trains to Lisbon & northern Spain).  You can buy a ticket from the touch-screen machines (which have an
    English-language facility) for a couple of euros and hop on the next train.

  • There’s a taxi rank on the
    top level, on part of the roof of the modern terminus easily reached up
    travelators from the arrivals hall when arriving by high-speed train. 
    There’s another taxi rank at ground level, just outside a west-side exit
    from the tropical garden in the old trainshed.

  • A taxi to Puerta del Sol
    costs around 8, to Chamartin station around 21.

Trains to and from northern Spain usually use Madrid Chamartin station in the north of the city. 
The trains south to Seville, Granada, Malaga leave from Madrid Atocha station. 
Metro line 1 links these two stations, but it’s easier and faster to transfer between stations by frequent suburban train
as this is just a handful of stops. 
The Spanish for suburban train is Cercanias, look for the orange and white ‘C’

Atocha ►

  • You can buy a suburban ticket to Chamartin from the self-service machines
    which have an English language facility.   The fare is only around 2.20, the
    machines accept euro notes & coins.  If you have an AVE or other
    long-distance train ticket you may get a suburban ticket free,
    see the advice here.

  • Go to platforms 1 & 2. 
    Trains from these platforms all go to Chamartin, every 5-10 minutes.  The journey is 3 stops and it
    takes just 10-15 minutes.

  • If you have a Premium-fare
    Comfort class ticket you can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at
    Madrid Chamartin station, through a poorly marked door next to platform 14. 
    In the Sala Club you’ll find a quiet, civilised and relaxing place to wait,
    with complimentary tea, coffee, juices and free beer.  It’s open
    06:00-22:45 Mon-Fri, 06:10-22:45 Sat, 07:10-22:45 Sun.

Chamartin ► Atocha

  • You can buy a suburban ticket to
    Atocha from the self-service machines which have an English language
    facility.   The fare is around 2.20, the machines accept euro notes & coins.  If you have an AVE or other long-distance train ticket, you may get a suburban
    ticket free, see the advice here.

  • Go to platform 6, 7 or 8. 
    Trains run to Atocha every 5-10 minutes.  The journey is 3 stops and
    takes 10-15 minutes.

  • On arrival at Puerta de Atocha
    Cercanias platforms, follow the Salida (Way out) then Grandes Lineas (Main Line Trains) signs to the mainline concourse. 
    For departures, take the escalators one floor up.  Your luggage will be
    X-rayed before access to the departure area.  When your train is ready
    for boarding you descend via a travelator to the
    platform to board your train.  Note that a handful of mainline trains
    start at Chamartin and call at Atocha suburban platforms (Atocha Cercanias)
    rather than starting from Atocha’s terminal platforms like other mainline

  • If you have a Premium-fare
    Comfort class ticket you can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Madrid
    Atocha station just off the first floor departure area (turn right after going through the
    luggage X-ray check, walk along a bit, then the door it’s on your right).  In the Sala Club
    you’ll find a quiet, civilised and relaxing lounge in which to wait, with complimentary
    tea, coffee, juices and free beer.  It’s open 06:00-22:00
    Mondays-Saturday, 06:30-22:00 Sundays.

An air-conditioned suburban train
(Cercanias) at Madrid Chamartin.  Courtesy of

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Spanish Railways. Spain in Russian

Spain is one of the most economically developed countries in the Eurozone. At present, the country has a powerful and well-established transport network, in which the railway system plays an important role. Railway transport, being an important link in the overall transport network of the country, is closely connected and well coordinated with the systems of road, sea and air transport. There are high-speed train (AVE) lines that are in strong competition with air transport, especially on the Madrid-Barcelona route.

Spanish Railway History

In the Iberian Peninsula, in particular in Spain, the first railway line was built in 1848. It is still operational, has a length of about 30 kilometers and connects Barcelona and Mataro. The construction project was developed in 1840 by the Catalan Miguel Biado. A native of Mataro, he was one of the founders of a company that built a railroad in Cuba. In 1837, at the inauguration of Mataro, in a conversation with the governor of the island, General Tacon, he said: “Back in the country, in less than a year I will connect Barcelona with my village.” In reality, the plan took nearly a decade to implement.

During the second half of the XIX – early XX centuries. large railway companies were established, and railway lines connected all the main cities of the country: Barcelona, ​​Tarragona, Zaragoza, Madrid, Alicante. In 1841, simultaneously with the nationalization of the Spanish railways, the RENFE company was founded, which existed as a monopoly until 2005. In 2005, RENFE was split into ADIF (Administrador de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias – Infrastructure Management Company) and Renfe Operadora (passenger and freight operator).

Types of trains in Spain

1. Suburban trains

Connect provincial capitals to adjacent cities and towns, as well as neighboring provinces. Commuter trains belong to the urban transport network and usually have a radius of no more than 60 km. They, like the Russian electric trains familiar to us, can arrive and depart from open ground platforms. In large cities, for example, in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​a system of single tunnels for rail and metro is used. Suburban trains on their way to cities dive underground, dropping off and picking up new passengers directly in the station buildings.

2. Medium distance trains

Connect adjacent regions. Usually these trains are called regional. The network of medium-distance trains is divided into five large zones, in each zone there are lines of varying degrees of congestion: from 1-2 trains per day to heavy traffic of more than 10 trains.

3. High speed and long distance trains

Long-distance trains connect all major cities of the country, as well as Madrid and Barcelona with the cities of other European countries: Lisbon, Milan, Paris, Zurich, Geneva. In Spain, there are several night trains called “hotels on wheels”. They are used over long distances, when the move takes more than 9 hours. Most of them connect Barcelona with the south coast, as well as with the aforementioned European cities. Unlike Russian long-distance trains, Spanish trains not only have two or four-seater compartments with separate toilets and showers, but also provide ordinary extra-comfort seats, similar to the “preferente” class seats on daytime trains.

Spanish high-speed trains

AVE is an abbreviation for Alta Velocidad Española (“Spanish high-speed (train)”) and a play on the word “ave” (Spanish for bird). AVE is a high-speed rail system operating at speeds up to 350 km/h on a dedicated track. The construction of a new station in Barcelona for the high-speed line Madrid-Barcelona-French border has already begun. Completion of the construction of the terminal, as well as the section of the road from Barcelona to the city of Figueres, located near the border with France, is scheduled for 2012. At the end of this year, it is planned to complete the construction of the high-speed line Madrid – Castilla La Mancha – Comunidad Valenciana – Región de Murcia. By 2020, it is planned to connect Madrid with high-speed lines to all provincial capitals.

There are currently seven high-speed trains: Madrid-Seville, Madrid-Malaga, Madrid-Barcelona, ​​Madrid-Huesca, Madrid-Valladolid, Malaga-Barcelona and Sevilla-Barcelona. Traveling in the first three directions takes about two and a half hours, and from Madrid to Valladolid can be reached in just an hour.

On all AVE trains on the Madrid – Seville route, the service guarantees a maximum delay of 5 minutes and a full refund of the ticket price if the train is late for more.

On other routes, if you are late for more than 15 minutes, a refund of 50% of the ticket price is guaranteed, and if you are late for more than 30 minutes – its full cost.

High-speed trains are fierce competition for domestic flights. At comparable prices, traveling by rail is characterized by almost zero risk, independence from weather conditions, no need to arrive at the landing with a margin of time for registration and inspection, the ability to use mobile phones and laptops.

Tourist routes

In Spain, you can take a week-long tourist trip in a comfortable “hotel on wheels” Transcantábrico. The idea of ​​the tourist train is based on the myth of the Orient Express. Since 2009, the train has been running along the entire northern coast of Spain from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela with numerous stops and excursions along the route. There are also short tourist routes in the suburbs of Barcelona, ​​Madrid and Mallorca. Usually, old restored trains from the beginning of the 20th century are used for trips.

Spanish railway timetables and tariffs

Information on tariffs, as well as timetables for all types of trains, can be obtained from travel agencies, Renfe ticket offices and on the company’s official website: You can also buy tickets for medium and long distance trains and high-speed trains.

Suburban train tickets are sold at automatic or regular ticket offices in the station buildings. It should be remembered that the suburbs of Madrid and Barcelona are divided into zones and for each zone, depending on its distance from the center, there is its own tariff.

Tickets can be checked at the entrance, by the controller or at the exit from the platform when passing through the turnstile.

Renfe Operadora provides a flexible system of discounts when buying tickets. The company divided all passengers into several large groups: those who buy a round-trip ticket, young people under 26, the elderly, children, large families. Each group enjoys its own fares for ticket purchases, exchanges or refunds, as well as discounts depending on the date of travel and the type of train. So, when buying a round-trip ticket for long-distance trains and AVE, the discount will be 20% if the distance between dates does not exceed 60 days. Web-fare gives a discount of up to 60% on tickets purchased on the company’s website no later than 15 days before the date of travel. Tickets purchased at this fare are not refundable or exchangeable. The Estrella tariff allows you to purchase a ticket with a 40% discount 7 days before the date of travel and is subject to exchange with a fine of 15-20% of the cost.

Madrid and its suburbs are divided into several sectors, for visiting which you can purchase a special tourist pass – Abono Turístico. They are sold at metro ticket offices and allow you to travel by any transport in the selected area, including public transport. Travel cards can be bought for a different number of people and for a different number of days.

Main stations in Spain

1. Madrid’s Atocha Station is the capital’s largest railway junction, ranking first in national traffic and second in international traffic, behind Barcelona. Atocha currently consists of three terminals: Puerta de Atocha, Atocha Cercanías and the Atocha Renfe station of the first line of the Madrid metro. Railway lines are built on a beam principle, giving access to trains in all directions.

2. Chamartin Station is located in the north of Madrid and is the center of communications connecting the Spanish capital with the northwestern part of the country. From it, as well as from Atocha, trains of medium and long distances depart, as well as the high-speed AVE train to Valladolid.

3. Barcelona Sants is the main railway station in Barcelona and Catalonia. Lines connecting Spain with neighboring France pass through it.

4. Estacio de France – the second largest station in Barcelona, ​​serving mainly medium and long distance trains. With the expansion of the construction of high-speed lines, the commissioning of the new Barcelona-Sagrera railway terminal and the centralization of long-distance traffic at the Sants and Sagrera junctions, there is a strong possibility of a decrease in passenger and freight traffic at this station

Competitors: buses in Spain

If high-speed traffic has created fierce competition for domestic air travel, then buses, in turn, are real competitors to trains. The compact territory of the country and excellent highways make it possible to make all kinds of bus routes connecting all the cities of Spain, as well as Spain itself with neighboring Portugal and France. And bus prices are often several times lower than train ticket prices. So, from Madrid to Barcelona on the AVE you can get in two and a half hours at a one-way ticket price of 115 euros in tourist class and 172 euros in preferente class. The price of the bus will be only 28-35 euros, but you will have to spend about seven hours on the road.

There is no doubt that in the near future the economic struggle for each passenger between airlines, bus networks and railway workers will only intensify.

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What is special about trains in Spain?

Is it possible to feel the country without having traveled through it at least on one train? This is where you will encounter what is now called cultural identity. For you, citizens of the post-Soviet space, for example, it will be a wonder that you and your wife will be seated in different cars (male and female!), although you bought a ticket for two. But the gypsies, deaf-mutes and others in need, on the contrary, will remind you of your native electric trains. Let’s try, however, to figure out why Spanish trains are good and convenient.

More than 15,000 kilometers of railway lines cross Spain. International railways connect Spain with neighboring France and Portugal. The highlight of today’s article is the national railway network RENFE, which connects all the regional capitals with the capital of the country – Madrid, offering a huge number of high-speed train (AVE) lines, both connecting points that are at great distances from each other, and short lines between neighboring cities (Cercanías).

High-speed rail (AVE) A network of high-speed rail links 20 Spanish provincial capitals: Alicante, Albacete, Barcelona, ​​Ciudad Real, Córdoba, Cuenca, Girona, Guadalajara, Huesca, Leon, Lleida, Madrid, Malaga, Palencia, Segovia, Seville, Tarragona, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza.

Maximum speed of AVE trains:

  • train AVE S-100 – 300 km/h;
  • train AVE S-102/112 – 330 km/h;
  • train AVE S-103 – 350 km/h.

At the same time, the travel time is, for example, from Madrid to Seville 2 hours 20 minutes (price on average from 50 euros), from Madrid to Barcelona 2 hours 30 minutes (price on average from 55 euros), from Malaga to Barcelona 5 hours 45 minutes (price on average from 84 euros), from Valencia to Seville 4 hours (price on average from 57 euros). On the section Madrid – Salamanca, Madrid – Zamora, Madrid – Galicia region, high-speed railways have non-standard track widths, so other types of trains are used on them. There are plans to change the width of the tracks for the movement of standard high-speed trains.

In addition to the AVE trains, Renfe is launching a new line called AVLO, which will run from Madrid to Barcelona. High-speed trains will run 3 times a day: one route is direct (2.5 hours), and the other two will stop in Zaragoza. Ticket prices vary from 10 to 60 euros per trip, depending on the route and time. Travelers under the age of 14 who are accompanied by an adult will pay a fare of only 5 euros. At the same time, flights between Barcelona and Madrid are expected to be canceled. This is necessary to reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

Suburban trains

The provinces of Spain also have their own network of suburban trains – Cercanías, which carry out short distance transportation within the province. The centers of each network are located in major cities. Suburban networks are conveniently connected to the city’s subway and other rail links. Suburban lines are served by the national operator RENFE, FEVE and in several regions also by their own operators: FGC (Catalonia), FGV (Valencian Community), SFM (Balearic Islands), EuskoTren (Basque Country).

International trains

To the nearest neighbors of Spain: to Portugal and France, you can also go by high-speed train. There are 3 high-speed night trains with sleepers departing from Spain to Portugal (Trenhotel Lusitania from Madrid and Trenhotel Surexpreso from France, whose Spanish departure city is San Sebastian). At the same time, the travel time will be, for example, from Madrid to Lisbon 9 hours 5 minutes (about 25 euros per ticket), and from Barcelona to Paris 6 hours 19minutes (about 112 euros per ticket).

Hotel train

Yes, yes, and there is such a miracle in Spain, and I want to talk about it separately. Transcantábrico is the main luxury train route in Spain. Sleeping on the train and visiting the best sights in Spain is exactly what you will do when choosing a train hotel for your trip. The hotel train has different routes, one of them starts in Santiago de Compostela with stops in Bilbao, Leon and Oviedo and on the stunning Picos de Europa mountain range.

Of course, this luxury hotel on the rails is primarily a tourist destination. For example, a trip to Andalusia for 6 days / 5 nights will cost you about 1950 euros.

Benefits of traveling in Spain by train:

Traveling by train in Spain is cheaper than in most other European countries. A ticket for a long-distance train in Spain can cost half as much as, for example, in Germany or France. Rail travel in Spain can be very comfortable. Especially if you are on the AVE high-speed train, or choose one of the narrow-gauge routes in northern Spain.

The train ride can be very fast. Select routes, such as the AVE Madrid-Seville and Madrid-Barcelona routes, allow you to reach your destination very quickly. Ticket types such as Eurail and Inter Rail will significantly reduce the cost of the trip.