The complete guide to train travel from Madrid (2024)

train travel from madrid

This complete guide to train travel from Madrid (or to Madrid as well…) has all the practical information you need to organize your upcoming trip.

If you’re considering taking the taking from Madrid at some point of your journey, with this guide, you’ll maximize your experience while traveling comfortably.

But first, an important piece of advice.

Get you train tickets online as soon as you have decided your travel dates to Madrid.

Ticket fares for most Spanish trains are regulated by a dynamic pricing system.

What is the main principle of the dynamic pricing system? The higher the demand and the fewer the seats, the higher the ticket price.

The fare depends not only on the distance and popularity of the route, but also on such factors as:

  • Train category (Larga Distance or high-speed train, Alvia, Media Distancia, etc.).
  • Time of year, day of the week, and time of departure.
  • The number of seats offered in the train.
  • The date of purchase of the ticket (ie. the number of days before the departure of the train).

So the best way to save money is purchasing your train tickets in advance.

This guide will make you a pro in train travel from Madrid

It’s super easy to take advantage of Madrid’s extensive network of regional and long-distance trains, but it can be a little dizzying or confusing the first time you arrive if you don’t know what the heck you’re doing…

In this tutorial, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about Spanish trains, and most importantly for you, how to train travel to and from Madrid.

You’ll also learn about the main divisions of the network (e.g., commuter vs. cross-country), big stations and regional hubs, the current state of the high-speed network, a breakdown of the various fares you can buy, and how to actually buy a ticket online!

Here is a complete summary of all the guide:

1. Getting to Madrid by train
2. How to purchase Renfe tickets online
3. 7 tricks to get cheap train tickets in Spain
4. A complete guide to Madrid Cercanías trains
5. How to get your Madrid Cercanías tickets
6. The Combinado Cercanías ticket
7. The Atocha train station
8. The Chamartín train station

You can train travel from Madrid to almost anywhere

Since Madrid is located in the center of the country, it has traditionally been the hub between different areas of Spain and is therefore very well connected to all major Spanish cities by train.

And the best of it all is that since 2021 there are several open access operators (Avlo, OUIGO and iryo) competing with state-owned Renfe on the high-speed network, all bookable online so you can compare prices.

From Madrid to other destinations in Spain

From Madrid you can easily reach many destinations thanks to Spain’s modern and extensive network of high-speed trains.

Barcelona: Experience the vibrant Catalan culture by hopping on a high-speed AVE train that will whisk you from Madrid to Barcelona in about 2.5 to 3 hours. Once there, marvel at Gaudí’s architectural wonders, stroll along the lively Ramblas, and enjoy the Mediterranean breeze.

Seville: Dive into the heart of Andalusia with a train ride to Seville that takes just around 2.5 hours. Explore the historic Alcázar, the lively streets of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, and the mesmerizing flamenco performances.

Valencia: In just under 2 hours, find yourself in Valencia where you can wander through the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, relax on urban beaches, and indulge in the birthplace of paella.

Córdoba: Travel to Córdoba in about 1 hour and 45 minutes to explore its iconic Mosque-Cathedral, flower-lined courtyards, and vibrant festivals.

Málaga: In just around 2.5 hours, you can be soaking up the sun in Málaga, exploring its historic center, Picasso Museum, and nearby Costa del Sol beaches.

Bilbao: Venture into the Basque Country with a journey of about 5 hours to Bilbao, home to the Guggenheim Museum and delightful Basque cuisine.

Salamanca: Reach Salamanca in about 1 hour and 30 minutes to see one of Europe’s oldest universities, striking sandstone architecture, and vibrant student life.

Valladolid: Once the capital of Spain and the residence of Spanish royalty, the city’s architecture reflects its regal past. The journey is swift and comfortable, typically taking about 1 hour.

Burgos: A masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture, its cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The train ride from Madrid to Burgos takes approximately 2.5 hours.

Santiago de Compostela: Embark on a longer scenic journey of about 5 hours to the spiritual city of Santiago de Compostela, the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.

From Madrid to nearby destinations

There are many superb day trips from Madrid by train. Some of these, such as El Escorial or Alcalá de Henares rely on local trains, so you don’t need to get your Cercanías tickets in advance.

But other destinations (e.g. Toledo, Segovia) are served by AVE high-speed trains. So if you plan to train travel from Madrid to these towns, book your tickets as soon as possible. These trains can quickly fill up on peak days.

  • Toledo: A short 30-minute train ride can take you back in time to the medieval city of Toledo. Its ancient walls house centuries of history where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish cultures harmoniously intertwined.
  • Segovia: Just under 30 minutes on a high-speed train, Segovia offers a fairy-tale escape with its stunning Roman aqueduct, enchanting castle, and historic old town.

Advantages of train travel from Madrid

As a seasoned international traveler, I have to say that trains are perhaps my favorite way of getting around. Many of the inconveniences and problems that I associate with flying or driving are often avoided when going by rail.

That’s not to say that trains are always appropriate or practical, but train travel from Madrid does offer many benefits when the circumstances are right.

  • Spanish trains go where you need them to go and are fast, frequent, and affordable. Lace this network together to create the trip of your dreams from Madrid, which is right at the center of country!
  • Madrid train schedules have trains running at regular intervals, giving you lots of options for when to travel.
  • Train travel, though not as flexible as driving, can be less stressful. On a train, you can forget about parking hassles, confusing road signs, speed limits, bathroom stops, and local drivers. Watch the scenery instead of fixing your eyes on the road.
  • It’s also quite time-efficient, especially with Spain’s ever-growing network of super-fast trains. As long as you’re on board when the train leaves, you’re on time.
  • Tiresome procedures such as checking in your baggage, negotiating numerous long lines and undergoing the extensive security measures that one finds in airports are typically avoided. Just take your baggage to the station and get on the train.
  • Forget about being shoehorned into a cramped car or an economy-class airline seat. On the train, you can walk around, spread out in comparatively wide seats, and easily retrieve an extra sweater from your luggage.
  • Unlike Madrid airport which is located many kilometers away from the city center, Madrid train stations (especially Atocha) are usually centrally located, making them easier to access by car, taxis, bus, or subway.

Start planning your upcoming trip to Madrid

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