Want to know more about the journey from Madrid to Barcelona by train? Look no further! 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.
The average train time from Madrid to Barcelona is 2 hours and 54 minutes, although it takes just 2 hours and 30 minutes on the fastest direct services. All trains depart from Madrid Atocha station and arrive into Barcelona Sants station. and there are now 3 high-speed trains to choose from on this route, Renfe's AVE and Avlo trains, and OUIGO trains.
If you want to travel in style, why not choose a First Class train ticket from Madrid to Barcelona? Renfe AVE trains have a Confort class that offers wider reclining seats, more privacy and access to Renfe's First Class lounge at the station. Just look for Confort 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.
Whether you’re heading to Barcelona for a wander along Las Ramblas or to admire La Sagrada Familia, travelling by train over flying means your journey starts and ends in both city centres, cutting out the hassle of airport transfers and waiting around before your flight.
Keep reading for train times, FAQs about the journey and tips of how to find cheap train tickets from Madrid to Barcelona. 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 operates trains on the longest high-speed railway network in Europe, and the second-longest in the world. The country's major cities are linked up by the high-speed AVE and Avlo trains, while other long-distance routes are served by Altaria, Talgo, Alvia and Euromed trains. Renfe also operates cross-border services into neighbouring Portugal and France. Depending on which service you are travelling on, you'll usually find two classes on Renfe trains - Estándard (Standard Class) and Confort (First Class). Fare types range from the cheapest (but least flexible) Básico fare, to the more flexible Elige fares, to the Premium fare for seats in Confort carriages.
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 two comfort classes – Estándard (Standard Class) and Confort (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. There are three fares for AVE services: the cheapest but least flexible Básico fare, the Elige fare (slightly pricier but more flexible), and the Premium fare for seats in Confort Class.
OUIGO is the low-cost brand of French rail company SNCF, who operate trains in France and Spain. In France, all seats on OUIGO are Second Class and tickets can only be purchased online. You can also pay for additional extras, such as reserving a seat in the ‘quiet area’, at-seat power sockets and extra luggage. OUIGO has been operating in Spain since May 2021, and their trains include an onboard bar and a premium class of service called OUIGO Plus.
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 51 minutes, with around 17 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 €5.70 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 16 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 06:30. Times and services may vary during weekends and holidays.
The last train from Madrid to Barcelona leaves at 19:00. 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, 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 checks 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 bought an Elige ticket in Estándar (Standard) 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 an Elige ticket because the basic Renfe fare doesn’t allow for changes or cancellations. The Elige 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.
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 Confort (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.