You’re not the only one who sees the appeal of a train trip from France to Spain, the nations themselves have come together to create the perfect travelling solution: Renfe-SNCF trains. Offering a comfortable, high-speed (over 300 km/h!) train from Paris to Spain, the service runs approximately five times a day and takes about 6.5 hours to reach Barcelona if you take the fastest train (8 hours on average and longer on weekends and holidays), plenty of time to sit back and enjoy the view. Want to marvel at the Spanish capital? No worries, it calls there too, with the train from Paris to Madrid taking around 9 hours.
With the earliest train to Spain leaving at around 06:00 and the last one leaving at approximately 22:00, you can choose whether you want to travel by day, enjoying refreshments at the onboard bar, or snooze through the journey in reclining and spacious seats.
Booking in advance is advised as the train can be expensive on the day, and with commuters making up the majority of travellers in mornings and evenings, off-peak tickets offer significant savings too. Check out our guide to find out when tickets are released for the best advance deals.
Types of Renfe-SNCF tickets
This European train offers several types of ticket including their standard fare called an ‘Essential’ or Esencial which is the cheapest but also the least flexible, so any last-minute changes to your departure date or time will end up with you paying an extra fee.
If you don’t like a regimented sort of timetable when you’re exploring the culture capitals, then the ‘Flexi’ ticket’s your best bet. They’re a bit more expensive but with extra cost comes extra freedom, a.k.a. free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure (it’s a 10% fee after that). Plus kiddies under 4 go free, and if you have a Youth Card, Young European Card, Youth Card Go or Tarjeta + Renfe Joven card you can get an extra 25% off too.
Of course, you could always go all-out with a First Class, or Preferente ticket. Legs will get more room to stretch, you’ll be provided with a power socket for laptops, and some departure stations even let you enjoy the comforts of a passenger lounge with complimentary drinks and newspapers. If there’s eight of you cool corporate cats then join the Club Space, essentially a conference hall on wheels, with plenty of room to work and large screens to take meetings from.
The scenic view
If you want to break up your journey into shorter segments and stop to enjoy some je ne sais quoi on your way to Spain, then you’ll be happy to know that French trains are a reliable and well-connected way to make your way through the country. Renfe-SNCF services also run between over a dozen French and Spanish cities so whether you stop off in Lyon, Marseille or Toulouse, or continue from your Barcelona break to Madrid, this speedy train remains a stress-free way to reach your destination.
Trains from Paris to Lyon take around two hours so you can easily transform your Paris city break into a multi-centre getaway. The train to Toulouse from Paris takes around 4 hours and is a great way to soak up the cultural fusion of French and Spanish before you hit up España for real. Finally, you could take the train from Paris to Marseille, taking about 3.5 hours, and enjoy some of the culinary delights of France’s second largest city.
Of course, if you are in no rush to complete your trip, you can stop midway from the capital to your departing city. We recommend Bordeaux, home of excellent wines, as a stop-over on the way to Toulouse, with plenty of day trips deserving of a few extra days in the area. Dijon is an equally as delicious detour on the way to Lyon, and Lyon itself is a great mid-way point if you also wanted to see Marseille while still staying on route to Spain.
Like any border crossing, you’ll need your passport handy, so make sure you have it nearby for inspection (you might also find your luggage gets checked before boarding, so pack sensibly!). Packing light is always a good rule to follow, that way you won’t have to worry about dragging a suitcase around if you fancy breaking your trip up, and with so many trains to Europe tempting you with yet another awesome location, we’re sure this is just the start of your continental adventure!