Renfe is the national train operator in Spain. It has the widest network of high-speed trains in Europe, linking major cities with AVE, AV-City, Avant, Alvia, and Euromed trains. Long-distance routes are served by Altaria and Talgo trains, while regional routes are operated by Media Distancia, Regional and Express Regional trains. Renfe also operates on international routes to France and Portugal. Renfe trains offer four different travel classes, depending on the train you’re travelling on – Turista (Standard), Turista Plus (Premium Economy), Preferente (Business Class) and Club (First Class).
AVE is Renfe's high-speed train, with trains capable of reaching up to 330 km/h. It’s one of the fastest trains in Europe and connects the main cities of Spain. Most AVE trains offer four comfort classes – Turista (standard class), Turista Plus (wider, more comfortable seats), Preferente (lounge access, wide leather seats, food and drink service) and Club (First Class equivalent, with 1-1 configuration, ultra-wide seats, gourmet food and drink and lounge access). All AVE trains have air conditioning, power sockets, free WiFi and a buffet carriage serving a selection of food and drinks.
Most of the train companies across Europe release their tickets around three to six months in advance, many of which can be cheaper the earlier you book. If you know the dates you want to travel, you may be able to find some cheaper train tickets from Barcelona to Madrid by booking early.§
Many of the train services in Europe are also popular commuter services, lots of train companies increase ticket prices during “peak hours” (generally between 06:00 – 10:00 and 15:00 – 19:00 on weekdays). If you can, consider travelling outside of peak hours to find lower priced tickets.
On some of the busier routes, you might also have the option to take a slower or connecting train. It may take a little longer than some high-speed or direct services, but if you have a little extra time on your hands, you might find a cheaper fare. Plus, you'll have more time to enjoy the view of the countryside!
For specific information about how to get your hands on cheap tickets, check out our European train tickets hub.
The average journey time between Barcelona and Madrid is 3 hours and 2 minutes and the fastest journey time is 2 hours and 30 minutes. On an average weekday, there are 25 trains per day travelling from Barcelona to Madrid. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays; use our journey planner on this page to search for a specific travel date.
The first train from Barcelona to Madrid departs at 05:50. The last train from Barcelona to Madrid departs at 21:50. Trains that depart in the early morning hours or very late evening may be sleeper services. Alternatively, some popular routes may run throughout the night at a reduced frequency. There may also be less services on weekends and holidays; use our journey planner on this page to search for a specific travel date.
Yes, it is possible to travel from Barcelona to Madrid without having to change trains. There are 24 direct trains from Barcelona to Madrid. Though there may be fewer direct services available depending on your exact departure date.
The AVE train from Barcelona to Madrid is one of the most important high-speed routes in Spain. Even if you can travel by plane, car or bus between the two cities, the train is definitely the best way to do so. Thanks to the AVE high-speed service, you can take a train from Barcelona city centre and get off in Madrid after only 2h 45m.
Barcelona Sants train station
Since its inauguration in 2008, this train has seen more than 35 million passengers between the two cities. About 25 Renfe trains run daily between Barcelona and Madrid, with possible variations based on the day and time of year.
Even if most of the AVE trains stop in cities like Guadalajara, Zaragoza, Lleida or Tarragona, some trains are direct and take 2h 45m rather 3h 10m to get to the final destination.
Located in the Sants-Montjuïc district, Barcelona Sants is the second most important train station in Spain both for connections and passenger traffic. The station is served by Renfe’s regional trains (Rodalies), long and middle-distance trains and high-speed trains that go to many Spanish cities as well as many international destinations, including Paris and Marseille.
My last journey from Barcelona to Madrid was very fast and comfortable. For work reasons, I had to go to Barcelona on a Tuesday and work from there for a couple of days. However, on Wednesday evening I was told to go to an important meeting in Madrid on Thursday early morning. Luckily I managed to find a quite cheap train ticket to Madrid with an AVE train departing from Barcelona at 07:00.
Since you need to go through security checks before boarding an AVE train, I got to Barcelona Sants at 06:30. After a nice coffee and security checks, I went to the platform from which my train was leaving. In my case, it was the AVE 3072 departing at 07:05.
As I bought a last-minute train ticket, I couldn’t choose the 07:00 train which goes directly from Barcelona to Madrid in only 2h 30m. For this reason, I had to pick the next available train and a Promo ticket in Second Class (Clase Turista), which doesn’t allow any refund or cancellation.
Once I got to my seat, I used the two available plug sockets to charge my cell phone and laptop. The seats had armrests, footrests, reclining tables, coat hooks and luggage racks.
Train stop in Zaragoza
The AVE train from Barcelona to Madrid can reach speeds of more than 300 km/h. While I was working, the staff came to offer coffee, tea and an a la carte breakfast. Unlike First Class (Clase Preferente), Second Class (Clase Turista) train tickets neither include meals nor free WiFi. If you want one of these services, you’ll need to pay an extra fee.
Jaime is one of our trusted writers. The information for this review was obtained first-hand and is based on his own travel experience.