Take Eurostar to Spain!

London to Paris by Eurostar in 2h20...

London to Barcelona by train, aboard a TGV Duplex

...Paris to Barcelona by 199mph
double-decker TGV Duplex in 6h25.

 

A first class table for two on the upper deck of the TGV Duplex train to Barcelona

To Spain in an armchair:  Watch the video!

 

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Barcelona... by train!

It's easy to travel from the UK to Spain by train, in fact it's amazing some people think you need to fly.  A morning Eurostar to Paris just 2½ hours, lunch at the remarkable Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon, then the afternoon double-deck TGV Duplex to Figueres (home of the amazing Salvador Dali museum), Girona and Barcelona.  I recommend a first class Club Duo seat on the upper deck, wonderful!  Put your feet up & relax, watch the pretty French villages of the Rhone Valley pass by, catch up on your reading & your emails, perhaps watch a movie on your iPhone.  You can buy some wine from the bar car or feel free to bring your own.  To anyone who has only known the stresses of airports, flights & motorways, chilling out on a high-speed train is a revelation...  It's far more environmentally-friendly, too.  Alternatively, why not sail to Spain on a Brittany Ferries luxury cruise ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth?  This page explains the best routes, train times & fares from the UK to Spain and tells you how to buy tickets.

Select your destination:  

Train times, fares & how to buy tickets...

  London to Barcelona, Girona & Figueres - watch the video!

  London to Madrid & Zaragoza

  London to Seville, Cordoba, Malaga, Costa del Sol

  London to Granada

  London to Alicante, Valencia, Tarragona, Salou, Benidorm

  London to Cadiz, Jerez, Almeria, Murcia, Cartagena, Ronda, Algeciras

  London to San Sebastian

  London to Pamplona & Bilbao

  London to Segovia, Toledo, Salamanca

  London to Santiago de Compostela, Vigo & A Coruña

  London to Ibiza, Minorca, Mallorca

  London to Las Palmas, Tenerife & Canary Islands

  London to Gibraltar

  Starting your journey from other UK towns & cities

  How to buy train tickets from the UK to Spain

  How to buy train tickets within Spain

  Free suburban travel with a long-distance Spanish train ticket.

  UK to Spain by ferry with Brittany Ferries

  A guide to train travel in Spain

  Trains to Spain from other European cities

  Trains from Spain to other European cities

  Paris to Barcelona by TGV train

  Barcelona Sants station facilities & Sala Club

Other train travel information...

  Tailor-made holidays & tours to Spain by train

  How to cross Paris by metro, taxi or private transfer

  Changing stations in Madrid from Chamartin to Atocha

  How to buy Spanish train tickets at www.renfe.com

  Left luggage facilities in Paris, Barcelona & Madrid

  Luggage on trains 

  Send your luggage in advance

  Taking your car - Motorail  

  Taking your dog by train  

  Taking your bike by train

  Child age limits & travel with children

  Passengers with disabilities

  Train seat numbering plans

  Car hire in Spain

  Cruises from Barcelona around the Mediterranean

  City tours by Open Top Bus

  Hotels & accommodation in Spain

  Travel insurance, EU Health Cards & SIM cards

Interactive map:  Click on a destination for train times & fares from the UK...

Sponsored links...

 


Country information

Train operator in Spain:

 

RENFE (originally Red Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Españoles).  See www.renfe.com for train times, fares & online booking within Spain, but first see this advice on using it - it can be easier to use www.petrabax.com/renfe or www.raileurope-world.com.  RENFE's UK agent for trains to & within Spain: www.spanish-rail.co.uk.  Local trains around Bilbao, San Sebastian, French frontier:  www.euskotren.es.  Local trains in northern Spain (ex-FEVE):  www.renfe.com/viajeros/feve.  To check for problems affecting trains through France (in French) see www.infolignes.com.  Paris bus & metro: www.ratp.fr.  Madrid metro: www.metromadrid.es.  Barcelona metro:  www.tmb.cat

   

Railpasses:

 

Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

Time zone:

GMT+1 (GMT+2 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:

 

+34

Currency:

£1 = approx 1.15 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

www.okspain.org     Escorted holidays by train from UK to Spain

Cars & car hire:

Taking your car by train = Motorail     Car hire in Spain

Hotels & hostels:

Find hotels in Spain    Hotel reviews see www.tripadvisor.com.

Page last updated:

26 September 2014.  Train times valid 15 June to 13 December 2014.


London to Barcelona, Girona, Figueres

 

Chill out by high-speed train from London to Barcelona!

All aboard the new
high-speed train to Spain!

A morning Eurostar to Paris just 2½ hours, lunch at the remarkable Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon, then the afternoon double-deck TGV Duplex to Figueres (home of the amazing Salvador Dali museum), Girona & Barcelona.  I recommend a first class Club Duo seat on the upper deck (pictured, above), wonderful!  Put your feet up & relax, watch the pretty French villages of the Rhone Valley pass by, catch up on your reading & your emails, perhaps watch a movie on your iPhone.  You can buy some wine from the bar car or feel free to bring your own!  To anyone who has only known the stresses of airports, flights & motorways, chilling out on a high-speed train is a revelation.  Watch the video here...

A first class 'club duo' table for two on the upper deck of the TGV Duplex train to Spain

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Spain...

You can travel from London to Barcelona by train in a single day through great scenery with a glass of wine to hand and not an airport security queue in sight...

The northern part of the Perpignan-Barcelona high-speed line opened in December 2010, when two double-decker TGV Duplex high-speed trains started running from Paris to Figueres in Spain with an easy cross-platform connection onto a Spanish local train for Girona & Barcelona.

The southern part of the high-speed line to Barcelona opened on 9 January 2013, and the Spanish local train between Figueres & Barcelona was replaced by a high-speed AVE running all the way to Zaragoza & Madrid, cutting a further hour off the Paris-Barcelona journey time, but still with a change of train at Figueres.  And at last, on 15 December 2013 the TGVs from Paris were extended all the way to Girona & Barcelona. Paris to Barcelona in as little as 6h25, city centre to city centre, no airports, no flights, no stress.  Two Paris-Barcelona trains a day in each direction because 3 in March and will become 4 per day in summer from 6 July 2014.

Stay overnight in Barcelona and continue next day to Madrid in 2h30 by AVE, Alicante in 4h45 by EuroMed or to Seville or Malaga by AVE in around 5h30 or so.

Note that the Elipsos sleeper trains from Paris to Barcelona & Madrid were sadly discontinued from 15 December 2013, but it's still possible to travel overnight in a couchette as an alternative to the high-speed option, see here for the route via Perpignan or see here for the scenic route via Latour de Carol & the Pyrenees.

In this section...

  Train times, London to Barcelona

  Train times, Barcelona to London

  How much does it cost?

  How to buy tickets

  What are the trains like?

  What is the journey like?

  The overnight option via Perpignan

  The overnight alternative via Latour de Carol

Option 1, London-Barcelona by high-speed train...

London ► Barcelona (morning departure, every day)

London ► Barcelona (late morning departure, runs 30 March to 30 Aug 2015)

London ► Barcelona (evening departure, overnight in Paris)

Barcelona ► London (early morning departure, runs 5 July to 30 Aug 2015)

Barcelona ► London (mid-morning departure, daily)

Barcelona ► London (late afternoon departure, overnight in Paris)

How much does it cost?

How to buy train tickets to Spain...

 

 
 

Video tutorial...     

Booking is easy, but if you need more help or reassurance, I'll talk you through buying a train ticket to Spain, including the money-saving 'ticket split' at Perpignan...

 

Book your hotels...

Try my two favourite hotel sites...

(1) www.booking.com allows you to book your accommodation before train bookings open, at no risk with free cancellation.

(2) hotelscombined.com has just been named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013:

Click here for suggested hotels in Barcelona, either near the station or in the old town.

Option 1, buy online at www.loco2.com...

Option 2, buy online using www.eurostar.com + www.capitainetrain.com...

Option 3:  Buy tickets by phone:  UK 0844 248 248 3, overseas +44 844 2482483...

Option 4:  Have your trip professionally arranged for you:  Railbookers.com...

Option 5:  Take an escorted tour to Spain by train...

What are the trains like?

Eurostar from London to Paris:  See the Eurostar page...

TGV Duplex from Paris to Barcelona...    Watch the video guide

The new Paris to Barcelona trains are impressive 199mph TGV Duplex double-decker high-speed trains.  You board the train through a wide sliding external door into a small hall at one end of the lower deck, where an internal door opens into a lower deck seating area.  A wide, short & easy flight of carpeted stairs leads from the entrance door to a landing at one end of the upper deck.  You walk along the train from car to car at the upper level, and the café-bar is also at the upper level.  There are toilets & luggage racks both upstairs & downstairs, and power sockets at all seats.  When booking, you can choose a seat on either upper or lower decks if you use www.capitainetrain.com or www.loco2.com or book by phone, but not if you book at any of the Rail Europe websites.  If you have problems with stairs or very heavy luggage, the lower deck might be best.  But for the best views (over the top of the occasional sound barrier along the high speed lines!), definitely choose an upper deck seat.  For couples in first class, an upper deck 'club duo' table-for-two is easily the best option.

A TGV Duplex about to leave Paris Gare de Lyon   Upper deck second class on board a TGV Duplex.

Boarding a double-deck TGV Duplex in Paris.  You can now easily travel from London to Barcelona in a day by Eurostar & TGV, a relaxing day catching up on your reading over a bottle of wine.  And it isn't even particularly expensive if you follow the advice on this page!  Watch the video guide

 

The upstairs landing on a TGV Duplex showing the stairs down to the entrance door...

Upper deck second class on board a TGV Duplex.     The bar on the upper deck of a TGV Duplex

2nd class seats on TGV Duplex upper deck.  There's a mix of unidirectional seating & some tables for 4 like this.

 

The cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks and microwave-style hot meal dishes....

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An impressive TGV Duplex.

1st class seats on TGV Duplex upper deck.  That's a 'club duo' on the left & a 'club quatre' on the right.

 

The morning TGV Duplex to Paris, at Barcelona Sants station.  The red near the door indicates 1st class, pale green 2nd class.

What is the journey like?

Paris Gare de Lyon, from where the TGV trains to Barcelona leave   The Train Bleu restaurant at Paris Gare de Lyon

1.  Paris Gare de Lyon & the Train Bleu restaurant...   The train to Barcelona leaves from the magnificent Gare de Lyon in central Paris.  I recommend booking an earlier Eurostar and having lunch or at least a drink in the bar at the wonderful Train Bleu restaurant (pictured above right) inside the Gare de Lyon before catching your train to Spain.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

2.  The Rhone Valley...  The train joins the Sud-Est high-speed line and accelerates smoothly to 186mph through the Paris suburbs, soon emerging into open country.  The train now speeds along the scenic Rhone Valley, passing pretty French villages with picturesque churches.  The dark line of the Massif Central mountains are on the far side of the valley to your right, and on a clear day you can see the snow-capped French Alps in the far distance to your left.  The TGV leaves the high-speed line towards Nimes, continuing on the classic line.

Lunch from the cafe-bar on the train to Barcelona   The hilltop cathedral at Beziers

3.  Béziers...  After calling at Nimes and Montpelier, the train passes non-stop through Béziers station and crosses the River Orb.  Look to your right for a magnificent view of Béziers' 13th century cathedral.

Time for dinner?  Above left, food from the cafe-bar, a magret de canard avec pommes de terre and some wine.  Or feel free to bring your own picnic and bottle of red!

The glistening Mediterranean, seen from the train   Countless vineyards!

4.  The Mediterranean coast...  Between Montpellier & Perpignan the train skirts the glistening Mediterranean coastline with deserted beaches & marshland...

 

5.  Vineyards.  The train passes countless vineyards.  Glass o' red from the bar car, anyone?

Watch for flamingos on the etangs in the Midi!

6.  Étangs & flamingos...  The train passes numerous étangs (lakes), where flocks of flamingos stand one-legged in the shallows.

 

7. The Fort de Salses...  Just before Perpignan, the train passes by the impressive Fort de Salses on the right, a 15th-century Catalan fortress captured in 1642 and French-held ever since, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_de_Salses.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

8.  Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees...  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

X-ray baggage check at access to platforms 1-6, Barcelona Sants   Barcelona Sants

9.  Barcelona Sants station is in central Barcelona, with plenty of taxis available, and a clean & modern metro to all parts of Barcelona.  There are left luggage lockers (consigna), bars & restaurants.  More information about Barcelona Sants station.

Watch the video:  Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex...

The video takes you on a journey by TGV Duplex from Barcelona to Paris.


Option 2, London to Barcelona time-effectively overnight...

Although the excellent Elipsos sleeper trains from Paris to Barcelona & Madrid were sadly discontinued from 15 December 2013, it's still possible to travel overnight from Paris to Barcelona using a French couchette train and an onward connection.  The option shown below is the fastest overnight option as it uses a high-speed TGV between Perpignan and Barcelona.  Mind you, a night sleeping on an overnight train from Paris to Perpignan then taking a TGV to Barcelona only saves around two hours compared to staying in a hotel in Paris and taking the direct 07:15 TGV from Paris to Barcelona.  But it saves the cost of a hotel room and gets you to Barcelona two hours earlier.  If you'd prefer a more leisurely and scenic option, see the route via Latour de Carol below - indeed, southbound the Latour route takes no longer and is slightly cheaper.

London ► Barcelona

Barcelona ► London

How much does it cost? 

How to buy tickets...

What are the trains like?    Watch the Intercités de Nuit video

 

The intercité de nuit overnight train has 1st class 4-berth & 2nd class 6-berth couchettes, each with lightweight sleeping-bag & mineral water...

 

Turista (2nd class) seats on the S100 AVE from Perpignan to Barcelona.  Panorama photo of turista (2nd) class Panorama photo of Preferente (1st) class.


Option 3, London to Barcelona overnight via Latour de Carol & the Pyrenees...

Although the excellent Elipsos sleeper trains from Paris to Barcelona & Madrid were sadly discontinued from 15 December 2013, it's still possible to leave London in the late afternoon by Eurostar, sleep in a couchette on an overnight train from Paris to the Pyrenees, then take a scenic local train into Barcelona.  It's an interesting alternative to the high-speed option above, watch the video here.  Here's how...

London ► Barcelona

Barcelona ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?     Watch the Intercités de Nuit video

 

The intercité de nuit overnight train from Paris to Latour de Carol has 1st class 4-berth & 2nd class 6-berth couchettes, each with lightweight sleeping-bag & mineral water...

 

Into the Pyrenees.  For the last hour & a half of the journey, the train climbs into the Pyrenees...

Latour de Carol, where two nations, two trains and two track gauges meet.  On the right, the French standard-gauge train arrived from Paris.  On the left, the Spanish broad-gauge suburban train about to leave for Barcelona.  In Fact, there's also a third train & gauge at Latour, the narrow-gauge Petit Train Jaune to Perpignan, its platform is behind the couchette cars shown here.

The snow gives way to autumnal browns & golds as the train to Barcelona wends its way south...

Watch the video here - By slow train across the Pyrenees


Option 4, alternative overnight option via Portbou...


London to Madrid & Zaragoza

The Paris to Madrid Elipsos sleeper train was sadly discontinued from 15 December 2013 and will be missed, but it's still easy to travel from London or Paris to Madrid by train.  You can get from London to Madrid in a single day by high-speed trains, or break the journey up with an overnight stop in Paris or Barcelona.  Or you can travel overnight using a French couchette train, see option 2 here.

Option 1, London to Madrid by high-speed train...

London ► Madrid (morning departure)

Now choose one of these three options:

London ► Madrid (evening departure)

Madrid ► London (with evening arrival)

Madrid ► London (with morning arrival)

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets?

By Eurostar from London to Paris:  See the Eurostar page

By TGV Duplex from Paris to Barcelona:  See the photos above...

By Spanish AVE train from Barcelona to Madrid...

Club class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   An S103 AVE train at Madrid Atocha station

Club (premium 1st class) on the AVE train.  A meal with wine, coffee & liqueurs is included.  Used as Preferente seating on some departures.

 

An S103 AVE train as used between Figueres, Barcelona & Madrid, seen here at Madrid Atocha station...  See virtual tour

Turista class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Preferente class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Turista (2nd class) on the AVE train from Figueres to Madrid...

 

Preferente (1st class) seating.  Used as Turista Plus on some departures.

Madrid Atocha station - the tropical garden in the old trainshed   At Madrid Atocha, high-speed trains depart from a modern extension.

Madrid Atocha station...  One of my favourite stations, the grand old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden complete with turtle pool.  High-speed trains leave from a modern extension (pictured above right), when leaving Madrid you must go up the escalators to the first-floor departures area (The photo above left is taken from the top of the escalators with the entrance to the departures area right behind me).  There's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the departures area (but no metal detectors, only your bags are scanned).  The Sala Club first class lounge is inside the departures area.

Why can't you book Club class on some trains?  What is Turista Plus? 

These S103 AVE trains come with Turista, Preferente & Club class seating as shown above.  However, Club class is now only offered on some departures and when you book you may find many AVE trains shown with Turista, Turista Plus and Preferente.  Turista Plus is simply Preferente seating but without any extra preferente service.  And if you book a Preferente ticket you may find yourself in a Club class seat, but without the on-board service that goes with Club.  Feedback would be appreciated.


Option 2, London to Madrid overnight via Perpignan...

Although the most comfortable and fastest option between London and Madrid is to use high-speed trains as shown above, you can still use an overnight train if you like, as follows.  It's a French overnight train between Paris & Perpignan which only has couchettes not sleepers, but it's comfortable enough and it saves a hotel bill so can be cheaper.

London & Paris ► Madrid (overnight)

Madrid ► Paris & London (overnight)

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What are the trains like?

 

The intercité de nuit overnight train has 1st class 4-berth & 2nd class 6-berth couchettes, each with lightweight sleeping-bag & mineral water...

 

The S100 AVE from Perpignan to Madrid, with turista (2nd class, pictured above left) & preferente (1st class) seats.  Above right, an S100 AVE arrived at Madrid Atocha.  Panorama photo of turista (2nd) class Panorama photo of Preferente (1st) class.


London to Malaga, Cordoba & Seville

London to Andalucía & the Costa del Sol by high-speed train...

You can easily travel from London to Seville or Malaga by high-speed trains with an overnight stop in Barcelona.  Here's how...

London ► Malaga, Cordoba, Seville (morning departure)

London ► Malaga, Cordoba, Seville (evening departure)

Malaga, Seville, Cordoba ► London  (morning departure)

Malaga, Seville, Cordoba ► London  (afternoon departure)

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets?

Torremolinos & Fuengirola...

Local Cercanias trains link Malaga's main Maria Zambrano station with Torremolinos (journey time 23 minutes, fare €1.95) and Fuengirola (journey 47 minutes, fare €3.50). They run every 20 minutes from 05:30 to 22:30.  If you need further information, see www.renfe.com, click 'welcome' for English, click 'Commuter trains' then select 'Malaga'.  You won't need to pay for a local train ticket if you have a Spanish long-distance train ticket, see the advice here about Renfe's CombinadoCercanias offer.

Marbella & Estepona...

Option 1 is to take a train from Malaga to Fuengirola then a frequent connecting bus.  Option 2 is to take a direct bus from Malaga to Marbella.  Buses run from Malaga bus station (right next door to the railway station) every hour or so, fast buses take 45 minutes, slow buses take 75 minutes, fare about €6.74.  See www.avanzabus.com.  There are also buses from Malaga to Estepona, journey time 2 hours, fare about €9.90, see www.avanzabus.com.

By Eurostar from London to Paris:  See the Eurostar page

By TGV Duplex from Paris to Barcelona:  See the photos above...

By AVE from Barcelona to Malaga or Seville...

These superb-quality AVE high speed trains are amongst the classiest trains in Europe.  They have three classes, Preferente (true 1st class with real leather seats), Turista Plus (1st class seating) and Turista (2nd class).  AVE trains run at up to 186 mph over the new high-speed lines from Barcelona to Malaga & Seville.  Most trains on this route are the S102 type shown below, little articulated single-axle Talgo carriages sandwiched between strange-looking duck-billed power cars, hence the nickname pato, Spanish for duck.

Complimentary at-seat meal in Club class & Preferente Class   AVE Club class on an S102 AVE train from Madrid to Malaga

AVE S102...  Known to staff as pato (duck).  No prizes for guessing why!

 

AVE Preferente class...  Leather reclining seats, all with power sockets...

AVE Tourist class seats on an S102 AVE train from Madrid to Malaga   AVE Preferente seating on an S102 AVE train from Madrid to Malaga

AVE Turista class...  Comfortable seats, 2 abreast each side of the aisle, mainly unidirectional but some bays of 4 around a table like this...

 

AVE Turista Plus...  Reclining seats, power sockets for laptops & mobiles, mainly unidirectional but some tables for 2 and tables for 4...

The Sala Club (1st class lounge) at Barcelona Sants station.   An S102 AVE train from Madrid to Malaga at Madrid Atocha

1st class lounge:  Club & Preferente ticket holders (including Promo+ tickets, but not Promo) may use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants, Cordoba, Seville & Malaga, with coffee, juice & beer.

 

All aboard the train to Malaga & Seville!  This is an S102 AVE high-speed train.  All AVE trains have a cafe-bar serving drinks and snacks, or feel free to bring your own food, wine or beer on board. 

 


London to Granada

London ► Granada

Granada ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Remember to book early for the cheapest prices, ideally 2-3 months ahead, as just like air fares prices increase closer to departure.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

...or ask European Rail to book your tickets for you.

If you'd rather ask an experienced agency to book tickets for you, simply fill in this simple booking form and email it to sales@europeanrail.com.  They will call you back to confirm the cost, usually within 24 hours.  If you're okay with the price you can give them your credit card details and they'll send you the tickets.  European Rail (Erail) is a London-based ticketing agency who can access the cheap fares for Eurostar and the TGV and trains within Spain, including Renfe's cheap Promo fares.  They charge a £35 booking fee which includes postage to any UK address, or they can send to any address worldwide if you pay the courier fee.  Seat61 gets some commission if you buy tickets using this form.

...or ask Railbookers to make tailor-made travel & hotel arrangements for you.

If you need hotels booked for you as well, the easy option is to get reliable specialist agency Railbookers to arrange your whole trip, with train bookings, hotels and transfers all sorted with one phone call.  Just tell them when and where you want to go, and they'll create the best rail holiday for you.  In the UK, call www.railbookers.com on 020 3327 0761.  US & Canadian residents can call them toll-free on 1-800-408-3280 or see website.  Australian residents can call their Sydney office toll-free on 1300 971 526 or see www.railbookers.com.au.  New Zealand residents call toll-free on 0800 002 034 or see website.  Just tell them what you want, and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get very positive reviews.


London to Valencia & Alicante

London to the Costa Blanca by high-speed train...

You may prefer comfortable high-speed daytime trains, with an overnight hotel stop in Barcelona.

London ► Tarragona, Salou, Valencia, Alicante  (morning departure)

London ► Tarragona, Salou, Valencia, Alicante  (evening departure)

Alicante, Valencia, Salou, Tarragona ► London  (morning departure)

Alicante, Valencia, Salou, Tarragona ► London  (afternoon departure)

The Benidorm connection...

To reach Benidorm, first travel to Alicante by train as shown above.  On arrival at Alicante mainline station, walk a few minutes along the Avenida de La Estacion to the Luceros tram station in the Plaza de los Luceros.  Trams leave Luceros tram station every 30 minutes or so throughout the day for Benidorm, journey time 1 hour 12 minutes, fare €3.35 one-way, €5.70 day return (the tram was extended to Benidorm in early 2009, so there's no longer any need to switch to a conventional local train to reach Benidorm).  You can find tram timetables & fares at www.fgvalicante.com.  Alternatively, buses are available to Benidorm from just outside Alicante station. 

Money-saving tip:  If you bought your Barcelona-Alicante ticket directly from renfe.com or from petrabax.com or Loco2.com, there will be a code printed on it which you can tap into the tram ticket machine at Alicante Luceros tram station to get a free ticket valid on any Alicante-Benidorm tram the day you arrived in Alicante.  In the return direction, your Renfe Alicante to Barcelona ticket will be accepted on the tram from Benidorm to Alicante on the day you are booked to leave Alicante.  When you arrive at Alicante Luceros tram station you need to tap the code into a tram ticket machine to get a free ticket to exit through the barriers.  This is part of the Renfe CombinadoCercanias (free suburban connection) offer explained on the Train Travel in Spain page.

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Remember to book early for the cheapest prices, ideally 2-3 months ahead, as just like air fares prices increase closer to departure.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

...or ask European Rail to book your tickets for you.

If you'd rather ask an experienced agency to book tickets for you, simply fill in this simple booking form and email it to sales@europeanrail.com.  They will call you back to confirm the cost, usually within 24 hours.  If you're okay with the price you can give them your credit card details and they'll send you the tickets.  European Rail (Erail) is a London-based ticketing agency who can access the cheap fares for Eurostar and the TGV and trains within Spain, including Renfe's cheap Promo fares.  They charge a £35 booking fee which includes postage to any UK address, or they can send to any address worldwide if you pay the courier fee.  Seat61 gets some commission if you buy tickets using this form.

...or ask Railbookers to make tailor-made travel & hotel arrangements for you.

If you need hotels booked for you as well, the easy option is to get reliable specialist agency Railbookers to arrange your whole trip, with train bookings, hotels and transfers all sorted with one phone call.  Just tell them when and where you want to go, and they'll create the best rail holiday for you.  In the UK, call www.railbookers.com on 020 3327 0761.  US & Canadian residents can call them toll-free on 1-800-408-3280 or see website.  Australian residents can call their Sydney office toll-free on 1300 971 526 or see www.railbookers.com.au.  New Zealand residents call toll-free on 0800 002 034 or see website.  Just tell them what you want, and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get very positive reviews.

On board the EuroMed train from Barcelona to Valencia & Alicante...

A EuroMed train from Barcelona to Alicante at barcelona Sants station   Turista (2nd class) seats on a EuroMed train to Alicante

At Barcelona Sants, that's a EuroMed train to Alicante on the right and a TGV Duplex to Paris on the left. 

 

Turista (2nd class) seats on a EuroMed train from Barcelona to Alicante.  The Euromed train is a type S130 pato or little duck.

Preferente (1st class) seats on a EuroMed train to Alicante   A EuroMed train at Barcelona Franca station

Preferente (1st class) seats on a EuroMed train.

 

An S130 EuroMed train at Barcelona Franca.


London to Cadiz, Jerez, Almeria, Algeciras etc.

London ► Cadiz, Jerez, Almeria, Murcia, Cartagena, Ronda, Algeciras

Algeciras, Ronda, Almeria, Cartagena, Murcia, Cadiz, Jerez ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Remember to book early for the cheapest prices, ideally 2-3 months ahead, as just like air fares prices increase closer to departure.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

...or ask European Rail to book your tickets for you.

If you'd rather ask an experienced agency to book tickets for you, simply fill in this simple booking form and email it to sales@europeanrail.com.  They will call you back to confirm the cost, usually within 24 hours.  If you're okay with the price you can give them your credit card details and they'll send you the tickets.  European Rail (Erail) is a London-based ticketing agency who can access the cheap fares for Eurostar and the TGV and trains within Spain, including Renfe's cheap Promo fares.  They charge a £35 booking fee which includes postage to any UK address, or they can send to any address worldwide if you pay the courier fee.  Seat61 gets some commission if you buy tickets using this form.

...or ask Railbookers to make tailor-made travel & hotel arrangements for you.

If you need hotels booked for you as well, the easy option is to get reliable specialist agency Railbookers to arrange your whole trip, with train bookings, hotels and transfers all sorted with one phone call.  Just tell them when and where you want to go, and they'll create the best rail holiday for you.  In the UK, call www.railbookers.com on 020 3327 0761.  US & Canadian residents can call them toll-free on 1-800-408-3280 or see website.  Australian residents can call their Sydney office toll-free on 1300 971 526 or see www.railbookers.com.au.  New Zealand residents call toll-free on 0800 002 034 or see website.  Just tell them what you want, and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get very positive reviews.


London to San Sebastian

San Sebastian is a popular destination - it can help to know that it's Basque name is Donostia, as you'll often see it shown as Donostia not San Sebastian.

London ► San Sebastian in one day

London ► San Sebastian overnight

San Sebastian ► London in a day by 09:45 TGV...

San Sebastian ► London in a day by 12:45 TGV...

San Sebastian ► London overnight

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

This is the cheapest way to buy tickets, and it's really easy.

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

See the London to Paris page for information about Eurostar...

On board the TGV from Paris to Hendaye...

The interior is styled by designer Christian Lacroix, and there are power sockets at all seats.  On the TGV Atlantique route from Paris to Bordeaux & the Spanish border, one 1st class car has a conventional open plan layout, the other two have a unique layout with bays of two seats facing across a table one side of the aisle, and semi-compartments of 4 seats around a table on the other, as pictured below.  Very civilised!

TGVs to the Spanish border at Paris Montparnasse   1st class on a TGV Atlantique showing semi-compartments

TGVs to the Spanish border, waiting to leave Paris Gare Montparnasse...

 

1st class with semi-compartments on TGV Atlantique.  Courtesy Rafal Tomasik.

2nd class seats on the TGV to the Spanish border   The TGV's cafe-bar car

2nd class on the TGV.  Most seats are unidirectional, some are in bays of 4 like this.  See panorama photo.

 

The café-bar car, serving drinks, snacks and microwaved hot dishes.  See a typical menu here...

Euskotren from Hendaye to San Sebastian...

Euskotren train to san Sebastian at Irun   Inside Euskotren to San Sebastian

These modern air-conditioned local trains run every 30 minutes, a turn-up-and-go metro service branded Metro Donostialdea.  These trains also call at Irun, but Irun's Euskotren station is some 5-10 minutes walk from Irun Renfe mainline station, so it's better to change at Hendaye even if your TGV goes through to Irun.  Photos courtesy of Railbookers.com.


London to Pamplona & Bilbao

Option 1, by daytime trains with overnight stop at Irun...

This is a fast and comfortable option, with daytime travel by high-speed train and an overnight stop in a hotel at Irun on the Spanish border.

London ► Pamplona, Bilbao

Pamplona, Bilbao ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone for Eurostar, the Paris-Spain TGV plus onward trains in Spain, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.


Option 2, by Eurostar & French couchette train...

This is the most time-effective option, using an overnight couchette train between Paris and the Spanish border...

London ► Pamplona, Bilbao

Pamplona, Bilbao ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone for Eurostar, the Paris-Spain TGV plus onward trains in Spain, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.


London to Segovia, Toledo & Salamanca


London to Santiago de Compostela, Vigo & A Coruña

The rail way to Galicia...

This is a comfortable all-daytime journey through interesting scenery with an overnight stop in a hotel at Irun on the Spanish border.

London ► Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, A Coruña

Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, A Coruña ► London

Or travel with overnight (or longer) stop in Barcelona...

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...  Call 0844 248 248 3 (UK), +44 844 2482483 (overseas)...

To buy tickets by phone, call International Rail on 0844 248 248 3, lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.  Overseas callers call +44 844 2482483.  Unlike some other agencies, International Rail are equipped with both the French and Spanish rail ticketing systems, so can sell the cheapest fares for all the trains from the UK to Spain and within Spain.  They charge a £10 booking fee for bookings under £100, £20 for £100-£300, £30 above £300.  Eurostar, TGV & Renfe tickets will usually be emailed to you as e-tickets, so there's no postage fee or delay.  For more information on buying European train tickets, see the How to buy European train tickets page.

The InterCity train Camino de Santiago from Irun to Santiago de Compostela, Coruna, Vigo...

Cafe-bar on the Arco train from Irun to Santiago de Compostella & Vigo   Turista seats on the Arco train from Irun to Santiago de Compostella & Vigo

Cafe-bar on the InterCity train from Irun to Santiago & Vigo.  Courtesy of Martin Hill

 

Turista seating on the InterCity train from Irun to Vigo.  Courtesy of Martin Hill

Preferente seats on the Arco train from Irun to Santiago de Compostella & Vigo   Scenery in Galicia seen from the train

Preferente seating on the InterCity train from Irun to Vigo.  Courtesy of Martin Hill

 

Scenery as the train enters Galicia on its way to Vigo.  Photo courtesy of Martin Hill.

Traveller's report...

Traveller Martin Hill went from the UK to Vigo this way in 2013:  "In Irun we stayed at the Alcazar hotel, a €5 taxi ride from the station. It's very quaint and basic as it's stuck in a time-warp of about 30 years ago. The staff speak little English but are very obliging. Unfortunately there was no restaurant open when we arrived around 9pm from Paris, though there is a bar.

The scenery from Irun to Vigo is very varied. The first hour or two the line follows river valleys through the Pyrenees. Due to recent storms the rivers were severely flooded and quite spectacular. Much of the journey is then across a plain with distant views of snow-capped mountains, including the southern edge of the Picos de Europa.  As you reach Galicia the journey gets exciting, as the line climbs through mountains, and at one stage does a 360-degree spiral to change levels. It follows a very attractive river and several lakes.

The InterCity train has music channels and shows a couple of videos during the journey. They bring earphones round free of charge, but you may want to have your own. There was a buffet car which was open pretty much throughout the journey with the same staff all the way. Prices were quite reasonable after the TGV. On the InterCity coffee was €1.50, cake €1, a half-bottle of wine €4.10 and a very nice microwaved pizza €4.30. There were three locomotive changes with scheduled stops of about 20 minutes each time which enabled us to visit the station buffets with a more varied selection. We recommend having a copy of the complete train timetable so that you know where the long stops are. The train changed direction twice.


London to Ibiza, Minorca, Mallorca

  Acciona Ferry 'Fortuny' sailing from Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona
 

The Acciona Trasmediterranea ferry Fortuny leaving Palma de Mallorca for Barcelona.  Similar ferries operate from Barcelona to Ibiza (Eivissa in Catalan)...

  Balearia fast ferry 'Jaume I' about to sail from Barcelona to Minorca & Alcudia on Mallorca
 

The 17:00 Balearia fast ferry to Alcudia about to leave Barcelona.  That's the Columbus Monument at the foot of La Rambla in the background, it's that central!

  Inside the Balearia fast ferry 'Jaume I' to Alcudia
 

Inside Balearia's fast ferry Jaume I from Barcelona to Alcudia on Mallorca...

  Sunset from the Barcelona to Alcudia (Mallorca) fast ferry
 

No Ryanair, no EasyJet.  The sun sets as the fast ferry from Barcelona speeds across the Med towards Mallorca.  We spotted some dolphins earlier...

It's easy to travel from London to Ibiza, Mallorca or Minorca without flying.  You take a Eurostar to Paris & TGV to Barcelona on day 1, then take the daily overnight ferry from Barcelona to the islands arriving in the morning of day 2 - or on some dates you can spend a night and morning in Barcelona, then take an afternoon fast ferry to Mallorca arriving in the evening of day 2.

London to Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) in less than 24 hours!

London to Ibiza, often in less than 24 hours...

Fares from Barcelona to Ibiza, Minorca or Mallorca:

By overnight ferry:  From £64 return in a seat, rising to £173 return in a deluxe single cabin.

By catamaran:  £76 return in tourist class.  Club class also available.

How to buy tickets...


London to Lanzarote, Las Palmas, Tenerife

Two ferry companies now link Spain with the Canary islands, Acciona Trasmediterranea and Naviera Armas.  Here's how to travel from the UK to the Canary Islands without flying:

Option 1:  UK to the Canary Islands by train & ferry with Naviera Armas via Huelva...

www.navieraarmas.com started a weekly ferry from Huelva in Spain to Tenerife and Gran Canaria in March 2011. It's reportedly higher quality than the Acciona ferry, but feedback is welcome!

London  ► Tenerife & Las Palmas/Gran Canaria

Tenerife & Las Palmas/Gran Canaria  ► London

Fares & how to buy tickets...

Option 2:  UK to the Canary Islands by train & ferry, with Acciona Trasmediterranea via Cadiz...

A weekly Trasmediterranea Line cruise ferry links Cadiz in mainland Spain with Arrecife (Lanzarote), Las Palmas and Tenerife in the Canary Islands, a 2-night voyage.  The whole journey from London to Tenerife will take 3 or 4 nights.

How to buy tickets...


UK to Spain by direct cruise ferry

  Brittany Ferries' ferry 'Pont Aven'

Cruise to Spain with www.brittanyferries.co.uk...

Why not cruise from the UK to Spain, on a luxury ferry that has more in common with a cruise liner than old-fashioned Channel ferries? 

Brittany Ferries operates three direct ferry routes from the UK to Spain with a crossing time from Portsmouth to northern Spain of just 24 hours and for much of the year an unprecedented 5 cruise ferry sailings a week.

Why not go one way by train and the other by ferry?

Click here for the ferry to Spain page...

Click to watch the video...

Pictured right:  Brittany Ferries superb flagship, the Pont Aven.


 


Barcelona Sants station

Barcelona Sants Estacio...

It may win the award for Europe's most un-prepossessing station, but Barcelona Sants (Sants Estacio) is clean and modern inside.  The TGV from Paris arrives here, and it's Barcelona's main transport hub used by virtually all suburban, mainline, & high-speed trains, plus the metro.  A few trains start at the classically beautiful Estación de Franca, but often these call at Sants afterwards.  You'll find plenty of shops, bars & restaurants at Sants station, including a MacDonald's, and there's also a Tourist Information Office.  See suggested hotels near Barcelona Sants station.  Travel tip:  For a cooked breakfast before catching your train, I recommend the €18 buffet breakfast in the top-floor restaurant or the Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya, it's the tower block across the road to the right when you walk out of the main station exit.  The top floor restaurant gives great views over Barcelona.

X-ray baggage check at access to platforms 1-6, Barcelona Sants   Barcelona Sants

Baggage is X-rayed before access to long-distance & high-speed trains...

At Barcelona Sants and all other Spanish stations, there's a simple X-ray check of all baggage before you access the high-speed platforms.  This includes boarding a northbound TGV to France.  The photo below right shows the X-ray machines at Barcelona Sants at the entrance to platforms 1-6.  There are no metal detectors, so you can carry what you like on your person, it's only the baggage that's checked (make sure any penknives etc are in your pockets not your baggage so don't get scanned, to avoid a jobsworth refusing to allow them on, as happened to one passenger).  Beyond the baggage checkpoint is a small departures waiting area, with escalators down to each platform. There is no baggage check at any French station, just free & easy access to all trains.  The check only takes a minute, but don't arrive for your train with seconds to spare!

Barcelona Sants   X-ray baggage check at access to platforms 1-6, Barcelona Sants

Left luggage lockers...

There are luggage lockers (pictured above left, signed 'Consigna' in Spanish) on the left-hand side of the building as you walk in the main entrance doors.  See the left luggage page for opening hours & prices.  Bags are X-rayed just inside the entrance before being left.

The Sala Club 1st class lounge...

Sala Club entrance   Sala club lounge area

Anyone with a Preferente or Club class ticket (except the cheapest promo type, but including Promo+) can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge.  That includes anyone with a 1st class ticket on the TGV or AVE to Paris or France.  The Sala Club at Barcelona Sants is open 05:30-22:00 Mondays-Saturdays, 06:15-22:00 Sundays, with complimentary tea, coffee, snacks & beer.

Sala Club tables & drinks bar.   AVE S103 at Barcelona Sants

Barcelona metro:  www.tmb.cat...

Barcelona's modern air-conditioned metro links Barcelona Sants (Estació Sants) with all parts of Barcelona, see www.tmb.cat.  You can buy a ticket from the touch-screen machines (which have an English-language facility) for a couple of euros and hop on the next train.

Inside a Barcelona metro train   Barcelona metro train
     

Holidays to Spain by train..

 

020 3327 0761 (UK)

1-800-408-3280 (USA)

1300 971 526 (Aus)

0800 002 034 (NZ)

 

01904 527120

 

020 7619 1080 (UK)

Please quote 'seat61'

If you want a holiday to Spain by train not plane, but want someone else to organise all the train tickets & hotels for you, several specialist companies do just that, for a holiday without airport hassles or whole days in cramped coach seats on motorways.  Railbookers & Erail offer tailor-made individual holidays with departure on any date you like, whereas Rail Discoveries & Great Rail Journeys offer escorted tours with specific departure dates.

Railbookers tailor-made tours, holidays & breaks to Spain by train...

Railbookers can tailor-make a flight-free holiday or city break to Spain for you, with train travel, transfers & hotels, leaving on any date you like.  For example, they can do a 2-night short break to Barcelona or an 8-night trip to Madrid, Valencia & Barcelona with standard class Eurostar and first class on the TGV to Barcelona.  If you tell them what you want, they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get a lot of repeat business!  See the Railbookers Spain page for suggested itineraries & prices.

  UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

Call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.

Erail, www.erail.co.uk, 020 7619 1080.  Please quote 'Seat61.com' when you call...

Erail can also tailor-make a holiday to Spain by train for you, with departure on any date you like.  They suggest a Highlights of Andalusia tour, 10 days to Seville, Cordoba, Granada, or they can do a 3-night short break to Barcelona by Eurostar & TGV.  Call 020 7619 1080 to enquire or book, please quote 'Seat 61' when you call.

Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com, 01904 527120:  Escorted tours...

GRJ offers five-star upmarket rail-based escorted tours to Spain, including a tour to Barcelona, Madrid and Seville with travel from London by train and a range of departure dates.  Great Rail Journeys also offer rail-based escorted tours to other European countries.  Check the holiday details & prices online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.


The European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Click to see sample.  Buy online for €13 + €5.50 postage worldwide at www.treinreiswinkel.nl/railway_map_of_europe.

 


Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Spain - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring - click to buy onlineThe Man in Seat 61 book - click to buy onlinePaying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller I'd recommend either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, both provide an excellent level of practical detail and useful background. You won't regret buying either of these guides! My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon with shipping worldwide.

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk...

Alternatively, download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.


City Tours by Open Top Bus

City Sightseeing Open Top Bus TourBuy a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off Open Top Bus...

City Sightseeing's red-and-yellow open top tour buses are now a familiar site in 100 major cities on 6 continents.  They do a hop-on, hop-off tour bus ticket for Barcelona, Granada, Malaga, Seville, Cadiz, Palma de Mallorca, Santander (although strangely not Madrid!).  I find their bus tours a good way to orientate yourself in a city, returning to explore in more depth later.  It's also less wearing on the feet, especially with kids!

Buy your tour tickets online before you go, redeemable on any day you like within 3 months of buying it, see www.city-sightseeing.com.


Hotels & accommodation

Find a hotel or guesthouse in Barcelona, Madrid or anywhere else in Spain...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Suggested hotels close to Barcelona Sants station...

If you're arriving late evening by train from London, and setting off by train next morning, here are some hotels close to Barcelona Sants station with good or great reviews:  Hotel Barcelo Sants (4-star, situated directly above Barcelona Sants station itself, around £79-£120 per night), Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya (4-star, around £95-£110, across the road from the station), Hotel Just Style (around £105), AC Hotel Sants by Marriott (4-star from around £85, located just 50m from the station), Hotel Catalonia Roma (3-star from around £79), Hostal Baler (2-star from around £58), Hotel Transit (1-star from around £58 per night).

Suggested Barcelona hotels for a longer stay...

If you're staying longer in Barcelona, you want a hotel in the old quarter, perhaps on or near La Rambla itself,  Here are some suggestions which get good or great reviews:  Hotel DO Plaça Reial (5-star, fabulous, around £200+), Hotel Espana (4-star, around £190, one of Barcelona's most historic & well-known hotels in a quiet location just off La Rambla), Hotel MonteCarlo (4-star), Hotel Jazz (3-star with roof-top pool, from around £160 per night), Hotel Catalonia Portal de l'Angel (3-star with outdoor swimming pool, Gothic quarter, around £130 for a double), Hotel Curious (2-star, 50m from Las Ramblas, from around £90 for a double).

Double room, Hotel Espana, Barcelona   En suite at Hotel Espana, Barcelona

A double room at the Hotel Espana, just off the famous Ramblas in Barcelona...

Suggested hotels close to Paris Gare de Lyon.

If you need to stop overnight in Paris on your way to or from Spain, these hotels near the Gare de Lyon get good reviews:  Hotel Terminus Lyon (right in front of the station, 3-star, doubles €139);  Mercure Paris Gare de Lyon (on the station itself, 4-star, doubles €120);   Novotel Paris Gare de Lyon (opposite the station, 4-star, doubles €139);  Mistral Hotel (800m from Gare de Lyon, 1-star, doubles €68);  Hotel de Reims (5 min walk from Gare de Lyon, 2-star, doubles €86);  More Paris hotels.  Next morning, cross Paris by metro or taxi to the Gare du Nord.

Other hotel sites to try...

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelbookers.com...

Homestays: www.homestay.com...

Environmentally aware, actively ethical adventures in Spain:  www.wildsideholidays.com...

For environmentally-aware guesthouses offering walking, hiking, riding or nature-watching in the Spanish countryside and national parks, try www.wildsideholidays.com, a new site listing independent, environmentally-aware properties across Spain.  It was started by British ex-pats Clive Muir and Sue Eatock, when they found nowhere to advertise their own wonderful property deep in the heart of the Sierra de Grazelema near Ronda in Southern Spain.


Send your luggage in advance

Ride the trains without heavy luggage... 

Send your suitcase ahead by Luggage Mule from around £30 each way.


Car hire

Take the train to Spain, then hire a car:  www.holidayautos.co.uk

Spanish city centres and cars don't mix well, so stick with the train for city-based tours.  But if you want to get out of the cities and into the countryside, hiring a car can be a great idea.  Start by trying Holiday Autos, www.holidayautos.co.uk, they're part of Lastminute.com so are reliable and have a wide range of locations and very good prices.

Compare 50 different car hire companies:  www.carrentals.co.uk

The award-winning website www.carrentals.co.uk compares many different car hire companies including Holiday Autos, meaning not only a cheapest price comparison but a wider choice of hire and drop off location.


Travel insurance, health card, SIM cards

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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