The average train time from Madrid to Barcelona is 3h, although it takes just 2h 30m on the fastest direct Renfe Ave services. There are around 26 trains per day running from Madrid to Barcelona, the first train leaves Madrid Atocha at 06:10 and the last train leaves at 21:30.
As two of the biggest cities in Spain, it’s no surprise that Madrid to Barcelona is one of our most popular train routes with locals and tourists. Whether you’re heading to Barcelona for a wander along Las Ramblas or to admire La Sagrada Familia, travelling by train means your journey starts and ends in both city centres, cutting out the hassle of airport transfers and waiting around before your flight.
If you want to travel in style, why not choose a First Class train ticket from Madrid to Barcelona? Renfe AVE trains have a Preferente class that offers wider reclining seats, more privacy and access to Renfe's First Class lounge at the station. Just look for Preferente tickets in our Journey Planner. Want to find out more about First Class train travel in Europe? Check out our guide to First Class v Second Class on European trains.
Keep reading for train times, FAQs about the journey and tips of how to find cheap train tickets. Ready to book? Search your search in our Journey Planner at the top of the page.
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 flagship high-speed service, with trains capable of reaching up to 193 mph (310 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 Madrid to Barcelona 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 by train between Madrid and Barcelona is 2 hours and 50 minutes, with around 13 trains per day. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays, so use our Journey Planner on this page to search for a specific travel date.
The fastest journey time by train from Madrid to Barcelona is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Train ticket prices from Madrid to Barcelona can start from as little as €5 when you book in advance. The cost of tickets can vary depending on the time of day, route and class you book and are usually more expensive if you book on the day.
Yes, it is possible to travel from Madrid to Barcelona without having to change trains. There are 13 direct trains from Madrid to Barcelona each day. Though there may be fewer direct services available depending on your exact departure date.
The first train from Madrid to Barcelona leaves at 11:30. Times and services may vary during weekends and holidays.
The last train from Madrid to Barcelona leaves at 09:30. Trains that depart in the early morning hours or very late evening may be sleeper services, time and services may also vary during weekends and holidays.
Trains travelling from Madrid to Barcelona cover a distance of around 314 miles (506 km) during the journey.
With around 25 services a day, Renfe connects the two biggest cities in Spain in just 2h 30m. For the early risers, the first AVE train leaves Madrid Atocha station at 06:10 hours and the last leaves at 21:25, arriving into Barcelona Sants station at 23:55.
Atocha station – the busiest in Spain
Located just a few minutes from the centre of the capital, Madrid Atocha station sees around 18 million passengers pass through its doors each year. Split across several levels, and high-speed services depart from both the upper and ground floors – boarding for trains from Madrid to Barcelona is located on the upper floor.
For my trip, I arrived at the station just after 17:00. Although my train – the AVE 3181 – left Madrid at 18:00, I decided to arrive almost an hour earlier to have plenty of time to wander around the station and pass the security check without rushing. As I was travelling on a Friday afternoon, I assumed it would be busier than usual in the centre of Madrid.
To Barcelona in just two and a half hours
Before I get into the details of my trip, it’s worth pointing out that although I travel a lot by train, I’d never made the journey from Madrid to Barcelona on an AVE high-speed service before. In fact, my friends and family had spent years wondering why I normally drive to Barcelona considering how far it is and how boring the A2 is – I’ve never been able to give them a good excuse.
So, back to the review. For this trip, I brought a Promo + ticket in Turista (Standard) Plus Class that cost me just over €90. Although it may seem a lot, travelling by car between Madrid and Barcelona is quite expensive when you consider the cost of tolls and how the time you spend driving and the difficulty of parking in Barcelona adds to your fuel consumption. Plane tickets aren’t cheap either – unless you buy in advance with a low-cost airline, the price of the Iberia Puente Aereo (a dedicated Madrid to Barcelona air route) will easily exceed the cost of round-trip AVE tickets.
I chose a Promo + ticket because the basic Renfe (Promo) fare doesn’t allow for changes or cancellations. The Promo + fare, however, cost only €7 more and allows you to cancel the ticket up to five minutes before departure by paying 30% of the total price.
Although the Turista (Standard) seats are perfectly comfortable for this journey, I chose the Turista Plus Class (20% extra, in this case, an extra €6.85) as the seats are wider, even more comfortable and there are fewer seats in the carriage.
Comfortable and modern trains
All seats on AVE trains are foldable and have footrests, armrests, folding tables and two sockets for charging electronic devices. Although most of the trains offer a WiFi connection, this service is only complementary in Preferente (First) Class. If you don’t travel in this class and want to use the WiFi during the trip, you’ll have to pay for the service. There are two levels of access – Basic and Premium (you get access from three devices, movies and live TV).
During the trip, Renfe staff offered an à la carte catering service, with a complete menu that included all kinds of drinks and food. There’s also an onboard café carriage where you can stretch your legs while you enjoy a drink.
The AVE trains that take just 2h 30m to travel from Madrid to Barcelona (like the one I took) make no stops along the way. Other services make stops in Guadalajara-Yebes, Zaragoza-Delicia, Lleida or Camp-Tarragona before arriving in Barcelona
Arriving into Barcelona
After reaching speeds close to 300 km/h we arrived into Barcelona Sants station at the scheduled time, 20:30.
Once you’re in Barcelona, don't miss the impressive Sagrada Familia or the mythical Boqueria Market. Take a walk along Las Ramblas for sure, skate at one of the skateparks in the city or wander around the Raval or Borne neighbourhoods.
Jaime is one of our trusted, hand-picked travel writers. The information for this article was recorded first-hand, based on his own genuine experience of the journey.