The letters A, V and E stand for Alta Velocidad Espanol - the name of the Spanish high-speed train. It connects larger cities such as Seville, Madrid and Barcelona. In this blog, I want to share my experience taking the trip from Barcelona to Madrid on board the AVE high-speed train.
Barcelona to Madrid is Spain's most important train connection. It is exclusively used by the AVE high-speed trains and spans a length of 600 km. Travel times vary from 2h 30min to 3h 10min - depending on how often the train stops. Possible stops are Tarragona, Lleida, Zaragoza and Guadalajara-Yebes. Tickets can be booked easily via Trainline, ACPRail or Renfe. I recommend booking early in advance as tickets are sought after and prices are lower this way.
Timetable of the route from Barcelona to Madrid
The frequency on Spain's most important route is kept high with more than one train per hour, but schedules vary from day to day. You can check connections for your desired travel day at any time at plan.rail.cc. Note that there are no trains between 23:00 h and 06:00 h. The night train between the two cities has been discontinued, as well.
Before the trip by AVE train
AVE trains depart from Barcelona-Sants Station. It is not located in the centre of Barcelona but can still easily be reached on foot. It is also connected to metro line L3, where you have to get off at "Sants Estacio".
I recommend being at the station about half an hour before departure. Before reaching the platform, you will have to pass a baggage check and your ticket will also be checked again before departure. Only then you get access to the train.
The train journey from Barcelona to Madrid: 600 km in 2 hours and 30 minutes
For my journey I chose the fastest connection "Directo Madrid".
My train departs at 18:25 h, and the platform number was announced well in advance.
After passing the baggage check, you enter the waiting area. There you will find various food options, as well as a free toilet and, of course, seats.
About 20 minutes prior to departure, ticket inspection is opened. Once through that, you go down the escalator to the platform and enter the train. It offers enough space for luggage and comes with a dining car.
Large luggage racks are also available.
Luggage rack in the AVE Renfe train
The dining car is still relatively empty at the beginning of the journey.
Right on time, at 18:25 h, the train leaves the station and starts its journey through the long tunnel under the city of Barcelona. Then it accelerates to up to 298 km/h, a speed it keeps almost the whole time without interruptions.
There are two classes of compartments on the train. First class has three seats in a row and second class has four seats in one row. Aside from this, there is another second class "Tourist Plus", which used to be first class, and also only has three seats in one row.
As the ride starts, everyone is given a pair of headphones to be able to watch a movie, the view outside the window is not very exciting.
I choose to pay a visit to the dining car that is now considerably more crowded. There is a range of cold and warm drinks as well as a wide selection of sandwiches and snacks to choose from. I opt for a muffin and a cup of tea for 4,30 Euro in the early evening.
Soon, the ride is almost over. In the last minutes, we approach Madrid-Puerta de Atocha at low speed and I have time to admire the sunset, while on the other side AVE trains in their full glory are parked.
Exactly on time, as always, we arrive in Madrid at 8.55 pm. I immediately make my way to Madrid-Chamartin (blog on changing stations in Madrid), where the night train to Lisbon leaves.
For timetables and prices of train tickets, have a look at the websites of Trainline, ACPRail or Renfe.
I was very happy with the ride on board of the AVE high-speed-train. Even if it does in fact not accelerate to over 300 km/h, it is still a long way ahead of the German ICE. For comparison: the route Berlin-Munich is just about the same distance, but it takes the train 3h 55min.
The long and somewhat awkward check-in process unfortunately takes away a bit of the attraction of traveling by train. Anyone who thinks about going the same route, I would advise to choose one of the slightly slower connections for example going via Zaragoza. The higher travel time is hardly noticeable, and prices can be significantly cheaper. Read about my onward journey through Iberia in my blogs changing stations in Madrid and night train to Lisbon.
If you have any questions, just ask in our friendly rail.cc forum.