Madrid is one of the most popular destinations in Spain, and rightly so! With more than three million inhabitants, and 11 million tourists visiting annually, this modern metropolis is incredibly dynamic and diverse. There’s plenty on offer here, from cultural attractions to gastronomical delights, making catching the train to Madrid all the more worthwhile. And, being the capital of Spain, it's one of the most connected cities in the country. Madrid is served by several train stations, but the main rail hub in the city is Madrid Atocha railway station. This bustling transport hub provides intercity routes, with regional trains and AVE high-speed trains from major destinations across Spain. Many services are operated by Renfe. The train to Madrid from Barcelona, for example, is incredibly quick and convenient, with direct services taking a mere 2h30mins.
Thanks to the wide rail network operated by Renfe, Madrid is one of the most well-connected cities in Spain. Keep reading for more information about the most popular national and international routes to Madrid and the train types serving them.
There are five high-speed trains connecting Spain's major cities to Madrid:
AVE: Using Madrid as their major terminal, AVE trains travel throughout the country, connecting the rural south to the urban centre at speeds of up to 310km/h (193 mph). Some of the main routes operated by AVE include Seville to Madrid, Barcelona to Madrid and Valencia to Madrid
From the 25th of November 2022, the new high-speed iryo trains started operating on the route from Barcelona to Madrid. They travel between Barcelona Sants and Madrid Atocha stations and stop in Zaragoza along the way.
Their latest-generation Frecciarossa 1000 trains can reach speeds of up to 223 mph (360 km/h), so you can travel with iryo from Barcelona to Madrid in just 2 hours and 30 minutes. And that’s not all! With iryo, you’ll get to travel in the most comfortable way thanks to their super-quiet trains, latest-generation 5G WiFi and onboard restaurant service. iryo trains are also good for the environment as 98% of the parts of the trains are 100% recyclable, making this trip sustainable as well!
Forget about flying: it’s time to take the train between France and Spain! Renfe, Spain’s national train company, has just launched new routes between France and Spain. Whether you’re planning a trip from Lyon to Barcelona or Madrid to Marseille, you can travel in style on a high-speed AVE train. Tickets start from €29 when travelling from Lyon or Marseille to Spain.
Sit back and relax as you enjoy free WiFi and plug sockets at your seat, plus the freedom to stretch your legs and grab a coffee from the onboard café-bar at any point throughout the journey. Tickets available to buy now with Trainline.
* Prices subject to availability.
There are four types of regional trains connecting the other Spanish cities to Madrid:
Just a few steps from Atocha station, there are countless museums on offer, including El Prado, El Reina Sofia and the Thyssen. Known for hosting world-renowned works such as The Venus of the Mirror by Velazquez, visitors will be able to marvel at some of the most iconic pieces of artwork across the globe.
After visiting the museums, why not take a 5-minute stroll towards El Retiro? It’s a huge park where visitors can enjoy a peaceful hour next to the Palacio de Cristal or the adjacent pond. Nearby is the Puerta de Alcalá, which gives access to Gran Via — an avenue known for hosting fabulous musical events. There's plenty of mouth-watering treats to be savoured here too, including Cocido Madrileño (a beef and vegetable stew), followed by delicious churros and chocolate.
The colourful Plaza de Callao is located between Plaza del Sol and Gran Via, a 15-minute walk from all the museums. From there, reaching the grand Plaza Mayor is a breeze. Tourists can enjoy a stroll past a road full of shops and restaurants, before taking a break on Plaza Mayor or enjoying a taste of some local tapas in the nearby neighbourhood of La Latina, which is just 10 minutes further on. The Palacio Real and the cathedral of La Almudena are two of the most iconic monuments in the city and are both located on Plaza de Oriente (about 7 minutes from Plaza de Callao). The Baroque style of the palace, built by Felipe V, is complemented by beautiful gardens. For a completely different atmosphere, those travelling with children will be glad to know that there are two theme parks to choose from, offering fun for all the family!
Feeling peckish after all this exploring and sightseeing? Make sure you stop by the Mercado de San Miguel in the bustling Los Austrias district. From local beer, seafood and patatas bravas to pinchos, tapas and sangria, you'll be spoilt for choice!
Why not make the most of your time in the city and check out our 5 best things to do in Madrid. If you're not sure where to eat or where to shop in the Spanish capital, make sure you also read our guides to the best restaurants in Madrid and the best shops in Madrid.