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 Málaga 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!
Take a look at Tarjetas de descuento Renfe to check when European train operators release their special deals and offers to see if you can find cheap tickets for your journey.
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 Málaga and Barcelona is 7 hours and 18 minutes, with around 15 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 Málaga to Barcelona is 5 hours and 25 minutes.
Train tickets from Málaga to Barcelona can start from as little as €35.45 when you book in advance and are usually more expensive when purchased on the day. Prices can also vary depending the time of day, route and class you book.
Yes, it is possible to travel from Málaga to Barcelona without having to change trains. There are 2 direct trains from Málaga to Barcelona. Though there may be fewer direct services available depending on your exact departure date.
The first train from Málaga to Barcelona leaves at 06:20. Times and services may vary during weekends and holidays.
The last train from Málaga to Barcelona leaves at 20:13. 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 Málaga to Barcelona cover a distance of around 770km during the journey.
The AVE train from Malaga to Barcelona is one of the longest high-speed routes in Europe – it covers 1,100 km! With AVE you can get from one city to another in about 5h 30m. You may now say that travelling by plane is so much quicker, but just think about the time you need to get from the airport to the city centre, how much you need to wait at the terminals and the usual delays – the travel time is quite similar. Travelling from Malaga to Barcelona by train is certainly the most comfortable and hassle-free way to move from one part of the country to the other.
Málaga-María Zambrano, an incredible train station
I arrived at Málaga-María Zambrano train station at 08:20 and was struck by its huge size. Located a few minutes away from the old town of Malaga, it’s integrated into a shopping centre and has plenty of shops, supermarkets and restaurants where you can buy or eat something before the trains leave. The trains that serve the station include AVE, AV-City, Avant and Media Distancia (middle distance) trains bound for the main cities of Andalucía – Seville, Cordoba or Granada – and the rest of Spain (Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia).
I took the AVE train 3993 at 08:40 bound for Barcelona. Since the trip lasts approximately 5h 30 min and the difference in price between the Second- and First Class tickets wasn’t that big, I decided to buy a ticket for the Preferente class, with a window seat in the direction of travel.
The carriages of the Preferente class are very spacious, have 21 leather seats (two in a row and one in the other), luggage storage, shelves for hand luggage and toilets. My seat was reclining and had everything I needed for a long journey, from footrests to armrests, a big reclining table, power sockets to charge my electronic devices, reading lights, window blinds and a coat hanger.
An AVE train without WiFi?
This is the only AVE train that doesn’t offer onboard WiFi connection. We got on the train at the scheduled time and after stopping at Puente Genil-Herrera, Antequera-Santa Ana and Cordoba train stations, breakfast was served – it was included in my ticket fare.
There are ten special menus to choose from – you need to express your preference at least 24 hours before your date of travel. The menu included a piece of bread and a croissant, a hot dish (I got a tortilla with vegetables), yoghurt and a hot or cold drink – you can choose from hot chocolate, coffee or tea (hot drinks) – or from water, juice, wine, beer or soda (cold).
I worked on the train. Thanks to the large reclining table and the large space between the seats of the Preferente class, working with a laptop is very comfortable.
During my trip, two films were shown on the two TVs that were in each carriage. Renfe staff offer free headphones if you want to watch the film with sounds or listen to the different onboard radio stations, which can be selected with one of the buttons under the armrests.
After stopping at Zaragoza-Delicias, Lleida-Pirineus and Camp de Tarragona, we reached Barcelona Sants at 14:20.
Origin: Málaga-María Zambrano
Train stops: Antequera-Santa Ana, Puente Genil-Herrera, Córdoba Central, Zaragoza Delicias, Lleida-Pirineus y Camp de Tarragona
Departure time: 08:40
Arrival time: 14:20
Service: Renfe AVE
Train: AVE 3993
Maximum speed: 301 km/h
Seat: 4C (Window)
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.