Madrid to Barcelona on the AVE Train: Experience Train Travel at High Speed


Madrid, Spain

Madrid to Barcelona: travel from Spain’s geographical center and capital to one of the Mediterranean’s busiest ports, and experience the two most popular stops for the high-speed AVE train. These trains are fast enough to ensure that you will not waste valuable vacation time, but leisurely enough to let you enjoy memorable vistas from the comfort of your seat. You’ll be covering a lot of territory in the 2hr 40min journey. From the more sandy, beach vistas of the coastal area to the dotted greenery and fields of central Spain. You’ll pass small towns and villages surrounded by other culture-hungry travelers and locals on the move. So why not soak in the atmosphere with a relaxing drink in your hand? Or enjoy the local flavor with a full stomach? You’re on vacation – it’s OK to act like it.

Here are a few quick facts and tips to keep the planning of your trip as easy and stress-free as possible.

Distance between the cities: About 313.58 miles

Type of train:

The trains between Madrid and Barcelona are the high-speed AVE trains, meaning that no matter which class of service you choose, you’ll be riding in style and comfort. Amenities include air-conditioning, pay phones, audio-visual entertainment system, power outlets for electronic devices, and a buffet car.

The High-Speed AVE Train

First class versus second class on AVE train:

First class is referred to as Comfort Class(called Preferente on the AVE) and second class is referred to as Economy Class car (called Tourist on the AVE).  There is also a first class “Club” service for business travelers. First class tickets include a welcome drink and a snack, and there is more room to move around and store luggage. Since there are also fewer seats in first class, the seats are larger and more comfortable, and there are fewer travelers in each train car, making for a more relaxing and quieter train ride. Second class offers the benefits of the general amenities listed in the previous section for a budget-friendly price. Club class business travelers will also receive a drink and meal at their seat, as well as access to conference lounges on board the train.

How to Travel From Madrid to Barcelona with Point to Point Tickets:

Tickets cost roughly $160 – $240, but pricing varies per season, and prices can also increase as availability tends to run out on each train. Cost will also depend on the type of fare you choose (first class versus second, refundable versus non-refundable). Definitely book in advance!

How to Travel From Madrid to Barcelona with a Pass:

Using a rail pass: Since these are high-speed trains, the pass will cover the ticket price of the train, but you’ll need to purchase the seat reservation supplement. Generally seat reservations start around $13.00 per person, but again, pricing varies depending on availability and current market costs.

Why the train?

Many travelers have a difficult time deciding between train travel and budget airline travel when planning a trip to Europe. When traveling across the entire European continent, planes might be a better way to go, but when traveling between cities like Madrid and Barcelona, it almost seems ridiculous to travel any other way than by train. The trains will travel between the Puerta de Atocha and Sants stations, which are located in the center of each city, meaning you won’t need to worry about arriving at an airport in the middle of nowhere and paying for transportation into the city. Some prefer to rent cars, but with that comes the responsibility of finding directions, understanding speed limits and street signs, and trying not to get in the way of those tiny smart cars as they speed by. On the train, you can sit back, stare out the window, charge your cell phone, and the only thing you’ll need to worry about is what to do in Madrid or Barcelona once you get there.


Known as one of the more artsy cities in Spain, you’ll have plenty to check out in terms of architecture and museums – the Sagrada Familia, Fundacio Joan Miro, Parc Guell, and Casa Batllo, to name a few of the quirkiest. Spend a day at the beach and an evening (and early morning?) at the bars, and soak in the unique culture of the region of Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital. For more ideas on how to keep yourself entertained in this city, check out this post about the Barcelona Card.


Traveling towards Madrid will take you away from the beach, but don’t expect a slower pace once you arrive. Just as energetic and popular as Barcelona, this city has its own artistic wonders to discover: the Museo del Prado and the Centro de Arte de Reina Sofia (home of Picasso’s Guernica!) are the two most visited. Madrid has also perfected the art of the European public square. Check out Plaza Mayor for a cup of coffee and an afternoon of people watching. Once you’ve seen all the sights, you can easily hop on board the AVE train to your next destination, since Madrid is the main hub for trains that head towards Seville, Granada, Valencia, Malaga, and other popular Spanish cities.

Monasterio De El Escorial in Madrid, Spain

Two of the most popular cities in Spain are also two of the most easily connected. The Madrid-Barcelona route is the perfect example of how convenient and relaxing train travel in Europe can be. Overnight trains across an entire country can be fun, but getting from one major destination to the next in the time it could take you to simply make it through airport security is also pretty delightful.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Henry Lee says:

    Thanks for your post! I’m planning on flying out (from Germany) to Madrid to visit some friends in the capital, and I was thinking about how I was going to reach Barcelona.

  2. Fred says:

    Hey, wait a minute, isn’t this the train that stops in Zaragoza? Isn’t Zaragoza the 5th largest city in Spain and one of the most beautiful? We are there right now and it’s amazing. Why not mention Zaragoza in this article?

    1. Betsey says:

      Did you find the answer to your question? I also want to take the train from Madrid to Zaragoza, and from Zaragoza to Madrid.

  3. James Brighton says:

    The AVE trains between Madrid to Barcelona are the high-speed. Thanks for provide this information

    Madrid and Barcelona are the great city of Spain.

  4. Peter Franquet says:

    what ever happened to overnight sleeper trains?

  5. Clark McCartney says:

    Sleeper trains are still around Europe.AVE service is so fast between Spanish cities that overnight trains are limited, e.g. Barcelona to Galicia, Seville to Barcelona, Madrid to Lisbon, and Paris, Zurich, plus Milan. Other examples of overnight trains are Copenhagen/Munich,Paris/Berlin, Munich/ Rome. And just wait there will be overnight service from Edinburgh/Manchester/London to Berlin/ Warsaw/Moscow soon.Yes traveling by High Speed trains in the day and great sleeper trains at night are a reality now in Europe! Went will the USA wake up?

    1. Glenn Krochmal says:

      America just may be a bit larger than Spain, ergo much greater cost of construction. Not on y taxes.

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