France and Spain always greet travelers with beautiful landscapes, exciting discoveries, and singular gastronomic experiences. Thanks to high-speed service connecting 21 French and Spanish cities, the train offers hands down the most efficient, convenient, and comfortable way of getting from place to place — not to mention scenery beyond compare along the way. And good news: you can book tickets today for travel as far out as September 1, 2019!
To help you prep for that summer vacation across Europe, we’ve put together a list of our Perfect Pair cities between France and Spain. Vote on your favorite itinerary below, and you’ll be entered to win:
- Two round-trip France-Spain High Speed tickets in First class between the city pair you chose AND
- A $300 Hotelgift Gift Card to use for hotel accommodation.
1. Madrid – Montpellier
Travel time: 6 hours, 12 minutes
Our first France-Spain journey connects two widely contrasting but equally beautiful destinations at speeds of up to 300 km/h. On one side, you have Madrid, a city that offers both great historic wealth from the Kingdom of Spain and a vibrant contemporary metropolis, with scores of activities to take part in any time of the day. Enjoy Madrid by day by walking along its iconic boulevards and charming alleyways, and pop into one of a myriad of bars to enjoy live music and flavors to surprise your palate, from haute cuisine to the typical “tapas.”
On the other side, Montpellier awaits, small in size but massive in heritage and contemporary treasures. The magic of Montpellier begins in the Place de la Comédie, a symbol of the city and this author’s favorite postcard picture. Just a few steps from this square, you can walk through the Écusson, a labyrinth of narrow medieval streets lined with spirited cafés and restaurants.
Nowadays, Montpellier stands out not only for its proud past but also for its impressive display of contemporary architecture and design with sustainable development projects completed by renowned international architects such as Ricardo Bofill, François Fontes, Christian Lacroix, among others. Thanks to constructions like Le Nuage from Philippe Starck, the New York Times recently included Montpellier among its 45 recommendations of must-visit places.
2. Paris – Barcelona
Travel time: 6 hours, 19 minutes
Paris: city of lights, romance, and…beaches? Every summer, the banks of the Seine go into full seaside resort mode, with parasols, beach chairs for sunbathing, a swimming area, and lots and lots of sand. Combine that with music and arts festivals happening citywide all summer long, and summer in Paris is your cultural paradise.
Barcelona: city of districts, parks, history and modernism, not to mention great weather year-round. The essence of the buzzing Catalan capital cannot be captured without names like Gaudí, Miró, Domènech i Montaner, Picasso or Puig i Cadafalch. Visits to the Sacred Family, Park Güell or Picasso Museum are a must.
Pop into La Boquería market or one of the Michelin restaurants to enjoy the unique Mediterranean flavors Barcelona has to offer.
3. Barcelona – Lyon
Travel time: 5 hours, 6 minutes
From Barcelona, head to Lyon, the ideal city to discover the charm of the French lifestyle. Declared the World Capital of Gastronomy, Lyon has long been the destination for world-class cuisine and today boasts more than 2,000 restaurants, from Michelin restaurants to authentic bouchons. Lyon offers up beautiful Renaissance architecture, best appreciated in UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the hill of Croix-Rousse, the Peninsula located between the Rhône and the Saône rivers, and the hill of Fourvière where the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière is (along with the best views of the city).
4. Barcelona – Carcassone
Travel time: 2 hours, 24 minutes
A journey to Europe would not be complete without an experience that literally takes you back in time. To do that, look no further than the medieval wonder that is Carcassone. The 2,500-year-old city is divided into two parts: the “lower town,” located in Aude zone, and the “fortified city” that stretches 3 kilometers and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The restoration work of the city is a work of art in and of itself, completed over the course of more than 50 years by the famous revival architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. The romantic old-world atmosphere of Carcassonne is like no other, and the splendid wines of the region, as the history of Carcassone, are the result of years of unmatched tradition.
And there you have it, our top city pairs to discover France and Spain by high-speed train. Which is your perfect pair?
Enter the Giveaway
Cast your vote below and enter for a chance to win round-trip high-speed train tickets + a $300 gift card to Hotelgift. Below, you can enter the sweepstakes and boost your chances of winning by:
- Tweeting “Hola/Bonjour! I entered @raileurope France-Spain Perfect Pair Sweepstakes. Try your luck too!” with the hashtag #raileuropesweepstakes (required)
- Voting on your perfect city pair (required)
- Following Rail Europe on Pinterest (1 bonus entry)
- Following @raileurope on Twitter (1 bonus entry)
Rail Europe’s “Perfect Pair France-Spain Sweepstakes” is open to all legal residents of the United States and Canada (excluding Rhode Island and Quebec), at least 18 years of age or older. Void in all other geographic locations. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Contest runs from 12:00 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, March 6, 2019 through 12 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Alternative means of entry available. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. See Official Rules.