The Best Way to Travel Between Barcelona and Madrid
Barcelona and Madrid are arguably the two most important cities in Spain. For this reason, visitors to the country tend to want to see them both if possible.
Despite being native to the same land, I found Barcelona and Madrid to be incredibly different in all aspects. Historically, culturally, traditionally… the only real similarity is the language.
If Madrid is on the itinerary, here’s everything you need to know about getting between the two cities.
Madrid, Madrid, Madrid
While Barcelona lies on the easternmost coast of the Spanish peninsula, Madrid lies completely inland, basically at the very center of the country.
Barcelona is bordered by the Balearic Sea, while Madrid is bordered by vast open land and small towns.
Madrid is the Spanish capital. It’s a cluster of expansive boulevards, beautifully manicured public parks and rich repositories of European art. Site seeing in Madrid is very much based around architecture and Spanish government institutions.
In my opinion, one needs little more than three days to completely soak up Madrid to its essence. While holidays in Barcelona can easily be stretched over much longer periods of time, Madrid has a lot to see but it is best seen in a more condensed period of time.
I find this is usually the case with cities that don’t have beaches.
Interestingly enough, more and more people are actually opting to make Madrid a day trip destination, as opposed to a whole portion of a trip. This is thanks to the new high speed trains that can get travelers between the two cities in a very short amount of time — more on this in a bit!
I tend to have one recommendation for anyone visiting Madrid, be it for a day or extended period of time: visit the Reina Sofia Museum!
I actually did this on an eight hour layover in Madrid, going between Amsterdam and Africa. The museum is in the city center. I spent the few hours I had making my way between the floors, and I left without competing the entire space, but it remains one of the most enjoyable and downright mind-blowing experiences I’ve had on the European continent. I’ll leave it at that.
Barcelona to Madrid
To get from Barcelona to Madrid, you’ll have a few travel options. Lucky for you both of these cities are considered transportation hubs for the rest of Europe, so transportation companies have invested time and money into making them easily accessible.
As I said, it’s the high speed trains that are making it possible to day trip to Madrid from Barcelona, or day trip to Barcelona from Madrid.
There are two train options to choose from. They both depart from the Sants train station in Barcelona, and make their way through to Madrid’s primary station, the Puerta De Atocha.
The fastest train is the Renfe AVE. It will get you to the capital in just two and a half hours, and it is also the most convenient train as there are scheduled departures every two hours.
The SNCF is another high speed train option that can get one between the two cites in two hours fifty five minutes. This is still much faster than any other transport route but the only catch is that there is only one of these trains daily.
The total distance between Barcelona and Madrid is 620km. Traveling by car is therefore an option, and the journey without stops will set you back just over six hours.
Given the nature of the Spanish countryside, you’ll want to set aside time to detour to sites and attractions along the way. Stopping to eat after the first 300km is also common practice on this road route.
Renting a car in Barcelona and dropping it off in Madrid is a frequent option by travelers. There are private car companied who will assign a driver to take you across country, but they come at a hefty price.
Even though the flying time between Barcelona and Madrid is obviously the most time efficient way of traveling, the journey on a whole usually works out to a lot longer than taking the train.
There are multiple flights from Barcelona to Madrid daily, with a flight time of just one hour and twenty minutes.
Bear in mind, however, that while in Barcelona there will be an average of 30 minutes commute to the airport from just about wherever you are in the city. Once there, you’ll need to make sure you have an hour or more to spare for luggage and security checks before the actual fight.
The airport in Madrid is quite a way out of the city center. Upon arrival you’ll catch the train or a taxi to take you to where you need to get to, and this always takes a minimum of 30 minutes (usually closer to 40).
In a realistic total, you’re looking at around three and a half hours of travel, more if you’re moving with children.
For the really brave (or the really broke) there is always a bus option between Barcelona and Madrid.
The bus between the cities will depart Barcelona around 2:40am every morning, you’ll be in Madrid’s center by 11:30am, giving you a seemingly full day in the capital.
The journey itself takes eight hours and forty minutes, and there are a few bathroom stops along the way for whomever might need them.
The big perk of the bus route is definitely the price. You’ll rarely pay more than €50 for a ticket, almost half of what you’ll pay to use any of the other modes of transport.