Take the train from the UK to Spain!

UK to Spain without flying:  London to Paris

by Eurostar in 2h20 from £78 return

London to Barcelona by train, aboard a TGV Duplex

...then Paris to Barcelona by 320 km/h (199 mph)

TGV Duplex in 6h30 from €39 each way.

 

First class table for two on upper deck of TGV Duplex train to Barcelona

To Spain in an armchair:  Watch the video!

Buy train tickets to Spain

 

Railbookers.com for holidays to Spain by train

small bullet point  Holidays to Spain by train not plane

 

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Barcelona

It's easy to travel from the UK to Spain by train.  Take a morning Eurostar to Paris in 2h20 from £52 one-way or £78 return, have lunch at the remarkable Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon, then take the afternoon double-deck TGV Duplex from Paris to Figueres (for the Salvador Dali museum), Girona & Barcelona with cafe-bar & free WiFi from €39 each way.  Relax with a glass of wine and watch the pretty French villages of the Rhône Valley pass by, catch up on your reading or watch a movie on your phone.  Compared to the stress of airports & flights, it's a revelation and far more environmentally-friendly.  This page explains the best routes & trains between the UK & Spain and how to buy tickets.

Select your destination:    

UK to Spain by train

small bullet point  London to Barcelona, Girona, Figueres

small bullet point  London to Madrid & Zaragoza

small bullet point  London to Seville, Cordoba, Malaga

small bullet point  London to Granada

small bullet point  London to Valencia & Alicante

small bullet point  London to Tarragona, Salou, Benidorm

small bullet point  London to Cadiz, Jerez, Almeria & Murcia

small bullet point  London to Cartagena, Ronda & Algeciras

small bullet point  London to San Sebastian

small bullet point  London to Pamplona & Bilbao

small bullet point  London to Segovia, Toledo, Salamanca

small bullet point  London to Santiago de Compostela, Vigo, A Coruña

small bullet point  London to Ibiza

small bullet point  London to Palma de Mallorca & Menorca

small bullet point  London to Las Palmas, Tenerife & Canary Islands

small bullet point  London to Gibraltar

small bullet point  How to buy train tickets from the UK to Spain

small bullet point  How to use an Interrail pass from the UK to Spain

small bullet point  Starting from other UK towns & cities

small bullet point  UK to Spain by ferry with Brittany Ferries

Train travel in Spain

small bullet point  Train travel in Spain - a beginner's guide

small bullet point  How to buy train tickets within Spain

small bullet point  Trains between Barcelona & Madrid

small bullet point  Renfe Spain pass

small bullet point  Free suburban travel with long-distance tickets

small bullet point  Barcelona Sants station guide

small bullet point  Madrid Atocha station guide

small bullet point  Madrid Chamartin station guide

small bullet point  How to transfer between Chamartin & Atocha

International trains to & from Spain

small bullet point  Trains from other European cities to Spain

small bullet point  Trains from Barcelona to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from Madrid, Malaga, Alicante to other cities

small bullet point  Paris to Barcelona by high-speed train

small bullet point  Madrid to Lisbon by train

Other useful information

small bullet point  Useful country information: currency, dial code...

small bullet point  Holidays & tours to Spain by train

small bullet point  How to cross Paris by metro, taxi or transfer

small bullet point  Luggage on trains & Left luggage at stations

small bullet point  Taking your dog - Taking your bike

small bullet point  Child age limits & travel with children

small bullet point  Passengers with disabilities

small bullet point  Train seat numbering plans

small bullet point  Eurail passes - the pass for overseas visitors

small bullet point  Interrail passes - the pass for Europeans

small bullet point  Car hire in Spain

small bullet point  Recommended guidebooks

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Spain

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

Interactive map:  Click on a destination for train times & fares

Route map, UK to Spain by train

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.thetrainline.com or www.petrabax.com.

Local trains around Bilbao, San Sebastian, French frontier:  www.euskotren.eus.

Local trains in northern Spain (ex-FEVE): See www.renfe.com, look for Cercanias (commuter) then Cercanias-AM.

To check for problems affecting trains through France (in French) see www.sncf.com/fr/itineraire-reservation/itineraire.

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.spain.info.    Escorted holidays by train from UK to Spain

Cars & car hire:

Car hire in Spain

Hotels & hostels:

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

Page last updated:

17 January 2024.  Train times valid 10 December 2023 to 14 December 2024.


London to Barcelona

 

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

All aboard the
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 table for two on the TGV Duplex train to Spain

Breakfast in London, lunch in Paris, dinner in Spain.  You can travel from London to Figueres, Girona or Barcelona by train in a single day with great scenery, a glass of wine to hand and not an airport security queue in sight.

Impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck TGV Duplex trains link Paris with Barcelona in around 6h30, 667 miles centre to centre with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, past some great scenery.  There are two Paris-Barcelona TGV trains every day in each direction, with a third in summer.

Stay overnight in Barcelona (I suggest some good hotels near the station) 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.

Avoiding Paris:  If you have lots of luggage, small kids or mobility problems and want to avoid crossing Paris, you can go London-Lille-Nîmes, overnight stop, then Nîmes-Barcelona by AVE or TGV see option 2.

Sleeper trains:  The Elipsos sleeper trains from Paris to Barcelona & Madrid were sadly discontinued in 2013, but it's still possible to travel by sleeper train between Paris & the Spanish border, see option 3 using the Paris to Latour de Carol sleeper train then a scenic local train to Barcelona through the Pyrenees or option 4 using the Paris-Perpignan/Cerbère overnight train.

Which route to choose?

small bullet point  Option 1, by Eurostar & TGV via Paris - fastest, easiest

    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?

small bullet point  Option 2, by Eurostar & TGV with overnight stop in Nîmes - avoids crossing Paris

small bullet point  Option 3, by overnight sleeper to Latour de Carol & local train - scenic option through the Pyrenees!

small bullet point  Option 4, by overnight sleeper to Perpignan or Cerbère - another overnight option

Option 1, London-Barcelona by high-speed train

This is the fastest & easiest option, by Eurostar from London to Paris and 320 km/h (199 mph) TGV Duplex from Paris to Barcelona.  You can do the trip in a day or break it up with an overnight stop in Paris.

London ► Barcelona (morning departure)

London ► Barcelona (evening departure, overnight in Paris)

Barcelona ► London (morning departure)

Barcelona ► London (afternoon departure, overnight in Paris)

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

  Buy train tickets to Italy at Raileurope.com
 

Book your hotels

www.booking.com lets you book accommodation with free cancellation - so you can safely book with zero risk before train bookings open.  Any hotel with a review score over 8.0 will usually be pretty good.

Booking.com logo

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

Or book at Thetrainline.com

Or book at eurostar.com + sncf-connect.com + renfe.com

Or use an Interrail pass

Or have your trip arranged as a package

How to buy tickets by phone

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV  See video guide

The Paris-Barcelona trains are impressive 320 km/h (199 mph) TGV Duplex double-deck 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.  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 nicest option.  Free WiFi is coming to these trains at some point.  Paris Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

TGV Duplex:  Stairs to upper deck   TGV Duplex:  Power outlets   TGV Duplex:  Luggage racks

The stairs to the upper deck. 9 steps, wide, shallow with double handrails.  No problem!

 

Power sockets:  All seats in both first & second class have power sockets, European 2-pin type, 230v.

 

Luggage racks:  You take your bags on board with you and put them on the racks.  There are racks upstairs & downstairs, at the car ends and (as here) between the seats.

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.

Scenery from the train along the Rhone Valley

2.  Speeding down 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 Nîmes, continuing on the classic line.

Crossing the Rhone with views of the Chateau de Montfaucon

Between Valence and Nîmes the train crosses a broad stretch of the River Rhone with a view of the wine-producing Chateau de Montfaucon on the right, www.chateaumontfaucon.com.

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.

The Fort de Salses seen from the train   View from the train

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.

Barcelona Sants station concourse   Barcelona Sants station

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 & restaurantsMore about Barcelona Sants station.

Video guide: Barcelona-Paris by TGV

The video takes you on a journey by TGV Duplex from Barcelona to Paris, showing the train & scenery.

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Option 2, London to Barcelona with overnight stop in Nîmes

If you want to avoid having to cross Paris, this is the option for you.  London to Barcelona with one easy same-station change in Lille and another in Nimes.  I think Nîmes makes the best stopover given the timings, but the direct AVE from Nimes to Madrid also calls at Avignon TGV, Montpelier and Perpignan, so you could stop overnight at any of those places instead.

London ► Barcelona

Barcelona ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Lille by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Lille in 1h22, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Lille station guide & tips on changing trains.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Lille to Nimes by TGV

TGV or Train á Grande Vitesse is French Railways high-speed train, with 1st & 2nd class and a cafe-bar.  They come in various types, some single-deck, some double-deck TGV Duplex, you could get either on cross-France routes from Lille.  Most have power sockets at seats, most now have free WiFi.  The photos below show a single-deck TGV with the Christian Lacroix designer interior.  The direct TGVs from Lille to Lyon by-pass Paris on a high-speed avoiding line via Charles de Gaulle Airport station.  More about TGV.

2nd class on a Paris-Milan TGV   TGV from Paris arrived at Luxembourg

2nd class with mix of unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats 2+2 across car width. Larger photo.

 

The business end of a TGV.

Cafe-bar on the Paris-Milan TGV   1st class on the Paris-Milan TGV

Cafe-bar selling tea, coffee, beer, wine, cold snacks & microwaved dishes.  Larger photo.

 

1st class with mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  Larger photo.

3. Nimes to Barcelona by AVE

These AVE type S100 have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  They are now run entirely by Renfe (Spanish Railways) with no SNCF (French Railways) involvement.  More about AVE S100 trains Barcelona Sants station guide.

AVE from Barcelona to Lyon   2nd class seats on an AVE S100

A Spanish S100 AVE at  Barcelona Sants.  It's cool, smooth and quiet on board.

 

2nd class seats, all with power sockets & free WiFi. Panorama photo of 2nd class.

1st class seats on the Barcelona to Lyon AVE train   The cafe-bar on an S100 AVE

1st class seats on an S100 AVE, all with power sockets.  Panorama photo of 1st class.

Cafe-bar on an S100 AVE serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, soft drinks, snacks & hot dishes.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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 Girona to Perpignan, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

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

The scenic route!  The Elipsos sleeper trains from Paris to Barcelona & Madrid were sadly discontinued in December 2013, but 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 with great scenery through the Pyrenees, watch the video here See route map.

London ► Barcelona

Barcelona ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Latour de Carol by French overnight train

The intercité de nuit overnight train from Paris to Latour de Carol has 1st class couchettes in 4-berth compartments & 2nd class couchettes in 6-berth compartments, each bunk supplied with lightweight sleeping-bag & mineral water.  More about intercités de nuitWatch the video guide Paris Austerlitz station guide.

Intercite de nuit overnight train at Paris Austerlitz

Intercité de nuit sleeper train at Paris Gare d'Austerlitz More about Intercités de Nuit.

Intercite de Nuit 2nd class 6-berth couchette   Intercite de Nuit 2nd class couchette

2nd class 6-berth couchettes.

 

A cosy 2nd class couchette.

Intercite de Nuit 1st class couchette   Intercite de Nuit 1st class 4-berth couchette

1st class couchette, made up for the night.

 

1st class 4-berth couchettes.

Mountains in the Pyrenees

The sleeper train heads into the Pyrenees beyond Foix.

L'Hospitalet station in the Pyrenees   Scenery in the Pyrenees

More mountain scenery in the Pyrenees.

The huge international station at Latour de Carol

Latour de Carol, where two nations, two trains and three track gauges meet.  This is the huge international station building.  The station bistro is on the forecourt, just out of shot to the left.

Bistro at Latour de Carol   Bistro at Latour de Carol

The inexpensive Bistro de la Gare (above right) on the forecourt at Latour de Carol is ideal for breakfast or a coffee between trains, check opening hours at www.facebook.com/bistrotdutrainjauneCourtesy of Adrian Fuentes.

3. Latour de Carol to  Barcelona by local train

This is a simple local train, technically classified suburban (Cercanias in Spanish, Rodalies in Catalan) even though this is a very rural route.  2nd class only, no catering so have some supplies with you.

Night train from Paris and local train to Barcelona at Latour de Carol

Latour de Carol, where two nations, two trains and two track gauges meet.  On the right, the French standard-gauge overnight couchette 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 air-conditioned local train from Latour to Barcelona.  2nd class only.  Bring your own food & drink.  The 'R' stands for Rodalies, Catalan for suburban network.

Scenery from the local train to Barcelona

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

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Option 4, London to Barcelona overnight via Perpignan/Cerbère

This runs daily in summer, Fridays & Sundays the rest of the year.  It's similar to option 3, but instead of going straight through the Pyrenees using the overnight train from Paris to Latour de Carol, you use the Paris-Perpignan-Cerbère night train and go around the southern end of the Pyrenees.  The sleeper runs along the scenic Côte Vermeille coastline through Collioure & Port-Vendres to Cerbère, you then take a local train from Cerbère to Figueres, Girona & Barcelona.  Or you can get off the sleeper at Perpignan and take a high-speed train to Barcelona, which is faster but more expensive.  The Paris-Cerbère sleeper is a useful alternative to the Paris-Latour de Carol train, as sometimes the Paris-Cerbère train runs when the one to Latour de Carol is affected by engineering work.  However, the Paris-Cerbère sleeper isn't daily all year, it's daily in summer, only on Fridays & Sundays at other times.  See route map.

London ► Barcelona

Barcelona ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Travel tips

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Perpignan or Cerbère by French overnight train

The intercité de nuit overnight train from Paris to Perpignan & Cerbère has 1st class couchettes in 4-berth compartments & 2nd class couchettes in 6-berth compartments, each bunk supplied with lightweight sleeping-bag & mineral water.  More about intercités de nuitWatch the video guide Paris Austerlitz station guide.

Intercite de nuit overnight train at Paris Austerlitz

Intercité de nuit sleeper train at Paris Gare d'Austerlitz More about Intercités de Nuit.

Intercite de Nuit 2nd class 6-berth couchette   Intercite de Nuit 2nd class couchette

2nd class 6-berth couchettes.

 

A cosy 2nd class couchette.

Intercite de Nuit 1st class couchette   Intercite de Nuit 1st class 4-berth couchette

1st class couchette, made up for the night.

 

1st class 4-berth couchettes.

View from the sleeper train along the coast

Wake up to coastal views like this.  Photo courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

3. Cerbère to Figueres, Girona & Barcelona by local train

This is a simple local train, technically classified suburban (Cercanias in Spanish, Rodalies in Catalan).  2nd class only, no catering so have some supplies with you.

Inside the local train between Portbou & Barcelona   Inside the local train between Portbou & Barcelona

The local train from Cerbère to Barcelona.  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

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London to Madrid & Zaragoza

The Elipsos sleeper train from Paris to Madrid was discontinued in 2013 and is sadly missed, but it's still easy to travel from London or Paris to Madrid by train, with an overnight stop in Paris or Barcelona.  If you want to avoid crossing Paris, option 2 takes you London-Lille-Nîmes on day 1, overnight stop, then Nîmes to Madrid by direct high-speed AVE on day 2.  Also worth considering is the northern route in option 3 with an overnight stop in San Sebastian, this can often be cheaper.

For Zaragoza, use either option 1 or 2, simply book from Barcelona or Nîmes to Zaragoza instead of Madrid.

Which route to choose?

small bullet point  Option 1, by Eurostar & Paris-Barcelona TGV with overnight stop in either Paris or Barcelona - fastest way, with two departures per day

small bullet point  Option 2, by Eurostar & Lille-Nîmes TGV, with overnight stop in Nîmes - avoids crossing Paris if that's important to you

small bullet point  Option 3, by Eurostar & Paris-Hendaye TGV with overnight stop in San Sebastian - often cheapest, with a chance to see Basque country.

Option 1, London to Madrid via Barcelona

London ► Madrid - with overnight stop in Barcelona

London ► Madrid - with overnight stop in Paris

Madrid ► London - in a single day

Madrid ► London - with overnight stop in Paris

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex

Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  More about Paris-Barcelona TGVsParis Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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.

3. Barcelona to Madrid by AVE

AVEs have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats, and they're now being fitted with free WiFi.  Madrid Atocha station guide.

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

Comfort XL class (premium 1st class) seating on the AVE train, meal with wine included on some trains.

 

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

Standard (2nd class) on the AVE train.

 

Comfort (1st class) seating.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

Scenery from the high-speed AVE between Barcelona & Madrid.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

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.  See the Madrid Atocha station guide.

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Option 2, London to Madrid with overnight stop in Nîmes

If you want to avoid having to cross Paris, this is the option for you.  London to Madrid with just one easy same-station change in Lille and another in Nimes.  I reckon Nîmes makes the best stopover given the timings, but the direct AVE from Nimes to Madrid also calls at Avignon TGV, Montpelier and Perpignan, so you could stop overnight at any of those places instead.

London ► Madrid

Madrid ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Lille by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Lille in 1h22, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Lille station guide & tips on changing trains.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Lille to Nîmes by TGV

TGV or Train á Grande Vitesse is French Railways high-speed train, with 1st & 2nd class and a cafe-bar.  They come in various types, some single-deck, some double-deck TGV Duplex, you could get either on cross-France routes from Lille.  Most have power sockets at seats, most now have free WiFi.  The photos below show a single-deck TGV with the Christian Lacroix designer interior.  The direct TGVs from Lille to Lyon by-pass Paris on a high-speed avoiding line via Charles de Gaulle Airport station.  More about TGV.

2nd class on a Paris-Milan TGV   TGV from Paris arrived at Luxembourg

2nd class with mix of unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats 2+2 across car width. Larger photo.

 

A TGV ready to go...

Cafe-bar on the Paris-Milan TGV   1st class on the Paris-Milan TGV

Cafe-bar selling tea, coffee, beer, wine, cold snacks & microwaved dishes.  Larger photo.

 

1st class with a mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & for 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  Larger photo.

3. Nîmes to Madrid by AVE

These AVE type S100 have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  They are now run entirely by Renfe (Spanish Railways) with no SNCF (French Railways) involvement.  More about AVE S100 trainsMadrid Atocha station guide.

AVE from Barcelona to Lyon   2nd class seats on an AVE S100

A Spanish S100 AVE at  Barcelona Sants.  It's cool, smooth and quiet on board.

 

2nd class seats, all with power sockets & free WiFi. Panorama photo of 2nd class.

1st class seats on the Barcelona to Lyon AVE train   The cafe-bar on an S100 AVE

1st class seats on an S100 AVE, all with power sockets.  Panorama photo of 1st class.

 

Cafe-bar on an S100 AVE serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, soft drinks, snacks & hot dishes.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

Scenery from the high-speed AVE between Barcelona & Madrid.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

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.  See the Madrid Atocha station guide.

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Option 3, London to Madrid with overnight stop in San Sebastian

This is slower than options 1 or 2, but often cheaper.  And what's not to like about a stopover in San Sebastian?

London ► Madrid

Madrid ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar:  See the Eurostar page

2. Paris to Hendaye by TGV Duplex:  See TGV Duplex Océane information

3. Hendaye to San Sebastian by Euskotren:  See the photos in the San Sebastian section below

4. San Sebastian to Madrid by fast Alvia train:  See the AVE S100 page

These smart Alvia trains have a cafe-bar and power sockets at all seats.  There's great scenery winding down out of the Pyrenees after leaving San Sebastian.  Alvia trains have adjustable axles so they can leave San Sebastian on the classic Iberian-gauge line, then run on the standard-gauge high-speed line at up to 250km/h the rest of the way to Madrid Chamartin.

Comfort (1st) class seats   Alvia train at Madrid Chamartin

Comfort class (1st class)

 

At Madrid Chamartin

Standard (2nd) class seats   The cafe bar

Standard class seats (2nd class).

 

The cafe-bar does an excellent cafe con leche.

Scenery between San Sebastian & Barcelona

The train descends from the foothills of the Pyrenees onto the plain below.

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London to Malaga & Seville

Which route to choose?

Here are three good options for travel from the UK to Andalusia & the Costa del Sol.  Option 1 is fastest, simplest and usually cheapest, if you don't mind changing trains & stations in Paris.  It's too far to do in a day, so an overnight stop is necessary in Barcelona.  Option 2 takes a little longer, but involves a same-station connection in Lille so avoids having to cross Paris, with an overnight stop in Nimes in the south of France.  Option 3 uses a French couchette train so avoids having to stop overnight in a hotel and involves some nice scenery.  You can of course go out one way and back another.

small bullet point  Option 1, London to Cordoba, Seville, Malaga by Eurostar & TGV via Paris, with overnight hotel stop in Barcelona - Simplest, fastest, usually cheapest.

small bullet point  Option 2, London to Cordoba, Seville, Malaga by Eurostar, TGV & AVE via Lille, with overnight stop in Nîmes - avoids crossing Paris, also fast.

small bullet point  Option 3, London to Cordoba & Seville by Eurostar, French sleeper train & onward connections - the sleeper option!

Option 1, London to Seville & Malaga with overnight stop in Barcelona

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

Malaga, Seville, Cordoba ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

Or ask Railbookers to arrange it as a package

Torremolinos & Fuengirola

Marbella & Estepona

Other routes & options

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex

Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  More about Paris-Barcelona TGVsParis Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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.

3. Barcelona to Malaga, Cordoba or Seville by AVE

These superb-quality AVE high speed trains are amongst the classiest trains in Europe.  They have three classes, Comfort for Premium ticket holders (true 1st class with real leather seats), Comfort (1st class seating) and Standard (2nd class).  AVE trains run at up to 310 km/h (193 mph) over the new high-speed lines from Barcelona to Malaga & Seville.  Most trains on this route are the S112 type shown below, little articulated single-axle Talgo carriages sandwiched between strange-looking duck-billed power cars, hence the nickname pato, Spanish for duck.  AVEs are now being fitted with free WiFi.

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

AVE S112, known by Renfe staff as pato, Spanish for duck.  No prizes for guessing why.

 

AVE Comfort class:  Leather reclining seats arranged 2+1 across the car width.

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 Standard class:  Comfortable seats arranged 2+2 across the car width, mainly unidirectional, but with some bays of 4 around a table.

 

AVE Comfort class:  Reclining seats arranged 2+1 across the car width, mainly unidirectional but some tables for 2 and tables for 4, all seats with power sockets.

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

1st class lounge:  Premium ticket holders may use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants, Cordoba, Seville & Malaga, with coffee, juice & beer.

 

An S112 AVE high-speed train.  All AVE trains have a cafe-bar serving drinks & snacks, or feel free to bring your own food, wine or beer. 

Option 2, London to Seville & Malaga with overnight stop in Nîmes

If you want to avoid having to cross Paris, this is the option for you.  London to Spain with one easy same-station change in Lille and another in Nimes.  I think Nîmes makes the best stopover given the timings, but the direct AVE from Nimes to Madrid also calls at Avignon TGV, Montpelier and Perpignan, so you could stop overnight at any of those places instead.

London ► Cordoba, Seville, Malaga

Malaga, Seville, Cordoba ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

What's the journey like?

1. London to Lille by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Lille in 1h22, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Lille station guide & tips on changing trains.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Lille to Nîmes by TGV

TGV or Train á Grande Vitesse is French Railways high-speed train, with 1st & 2nd class and a cafe-bar.  They come in various types, some single-deck, some double-deck TGV Duplex, you could get either on cross-France routes from Lille.  Most have power sockets at seats, most now have free WiFi.  The photos below show a single-deck TGV with the Christian Lacroix designer interior.  The direct TGVs from Lille to Lyon by-pass Paris on a high-speed avoiding line via Charles de Gaulle Airport station.  More about TGV.

2nd class on a Paris-Milan TGV   TGV from Paris arrived at Luxembourg

2nd class with mix of unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats 2+2 across car width. Larger photo.

 

TGV arrived at Paris Gare de l'Est.

Cafe-bar on the Paris-Milan TGV   1st class on the Paris-Milan TGV

Cafe-bar selling tea, coffee, beer, wine, cold snacks & microwaved dishes.  Larger photo.

 

1st class with a mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & for 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  Larger photo.

3. Nîmes to Madrid by direct AVE

These AVE type S100 have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  They are now run entirely by Renfe (Spanish Railways) with no SNCF (French Railways) involvement.  More about AVE S100 trainsMadrid Atocha station guide.

AVE from Barcelona to Lyon   2nd class seats on an AVE S100

A Spanish S100 AVE at  Barcelona Sants.  It's cool, smooth and quiet on board.

 

2nd class seats, all with power sockets & free WiFi. Panorama photo of 2nd class.

1st class seats on the Barcelona to Lyon AVE train   The cafe-bar on an S100 AVE

1st class seats on an S100 AVE, all with power sockets.  Panorama photo of 1st class.

 

Cafe-bar on an S100 AVE serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, soft drinks, snacks & hot dishes.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

Scenery from the high-speed AVE between Barcelona & Madrid.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

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.  See the Madrid Atocha station guide.

Option 3, London to Cordoba & Seville via sleeper train

The Paris-Barcelona trainhotel was sadly discontinued in 2013, but you can still use a French sleeper train between Paris and the Spanish border, then onward trains.  This can be a useful alternative to using daytime TGV service, which requires an overnight stop along the way.  You can of course go one way by TGV, the other way using a sleeper train, just remember to book the Eurostar as a round trip, because Eurostar return fares are significantly less than two one-ways.

London ► Cordoba, Seville, Malaga

Seville, Cordoba ► London

  • This route doesn't work in this direction as you can't reach Barcelona in time for the local train to the French border - please choose another option.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £97 one-way, £168 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Latour de Carol or Cerbère starts at €20 in a reclining seat, €35 in a 6-berth 2nd class couchette or €63 in a 4-berth 1st class couchette.  A couchette is recommended whatever your budget, for comfort & security.  Like Eurostar, fares vary dynamically.

  • If you go via Latour de Carol, Latour to Barcelona costs a fixed-price €12.  If you go via Cerbère, Cerbère to Barcelona costs a fixed-price €14 or so.  No reservation or pre-booking is necessary or possible for these tickets.

  • Barcelona to Cordoba or Seville starts at around €45.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest prices.

How to buy tickets

  • Step 1, book from London to Latour de Carol at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com and add to basket.  Anyone can use these sites, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, and you can print your own tickets or show them on your phone.  Small booking fee.

    Booking for Eurostar opens 6 months ahead.  Booking for French trains opens up to 4 months ahead, but for Intercités de Nuit it can be less than this.

    Although you can book from London to Latour all in one go, it's better to split the booking like this:  First book from London (or any station in Britain) to Paris and back, add to basket, then book the overnight train from Paris to Latour de Carol one-way and add to basket, then book Latour de Carol to Paris one-way and add to basket.

    This way you can mix & match a 2nd class seat on Eurostar with a 1st class 4-berth couchette on the overnight train, and you can book an earlier Eurostar if it has cheaper seats available or if you'd like more time in Paris.  Always allow at least 60 minutes between trains in Paris, when catching a sleeper I'd allow more than this, say 2 hours.

    Alternatively, you can book from London to Paris at www.eurostar.com, then book the Paris to Latour couchette train at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, this is more work and www.sncf-connect.com can be more fiddly to use, but there's no booking fee.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, book from Barcelona to Cordoba or Seville, add to basket & check out.

    Alternatively you can book this at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com, in €, much more fiddly, see my advice for using it.

  • Step 3, the local ticket from Latour de Carol to Barcelona cannot be booked online and doesn't need to be booked in advance.  It can't even be bought from the SNCF ticket office at Latour de Carol.  Southbound, simply get on the train and pay the conductor on board, no reservation necessary, it cannot sell out.  I repeat, simply get on the train and pay on board!  Northbound, buy a ticket to Latour de Carol on the day at Barcelona Sants station and hop on the next train.  It cannot sell out, it's only a local train.

    Similarly, Cerbère to Barcelona can be bought at the station on the day.

Intercite de nuit overnight train at Paris Austerlitz

Intercité de nuit sleeper train at Paris Gare d'Austerlitz More about Intercités de Nuit.

Intercite de Nuit 2nd class 6-berth couchette   Intercite de Nuit 2nd class couchette

2nd class 6-berth couchettes.

 

A cosy 2nd class couchette.

Intercite de Nuit 1st class couchette   Intercite de Nuit 1st class 4-berth couchette

1st class couchette, made up for the night.

 

1st class 4-berth couchettes.

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London to Granada

London ► Granada

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 14:42 and arriving Barcelona Sants 21:27.

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    The train speeds along the Rhône valley past pretty French villages & picturesque churches, then look out for colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, the Fort de Salses on the right approaching Perpignan and great views of Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees.

  • Stay overnight in Barcelona.  The Hotel Barcelo Sants is top choice here, it's part of the Barcelona Sants station complex with great reviews & good feedback from Seat61 users too.  See other suggested hotels near the station.

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Granada by direct AVE-S112 high-speed train leaving Barcelona Sants at 06:45 and arriving Granada 13:10.

    This train is an AVE-S112 Pato with Standard & Comfort class seats and a cafe-bar, see the photos & information here.  This direct AVE runs once a day.  Later departures are possible, taking an AVE to Madrid & changing onto another AVE to Granada.

  • Remember that at Spanish stations there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms for high-speed trains.  If you have a 1st class ticket of the Premium type you can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants for up to 2 hours before your train leaves.

Granada ► London

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex, leaving Barcelona Sants at 09:28 and arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 16:12.

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    Book an upper deck seat for the best views as the train rolls past Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees, colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, then speeds along the Rhone Valley towards Paris.  In Barcelona, there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £97 one-way, £168 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Barcelona starts at €39 each way 2nd class, €59 each way 1st class.

  • Barcelona to Granada by AVE train starts at €45 in Standard class, €55 in Comfort class.

  • Fares vary like air fares, so book as early as you can and shop around for the cheapest departure.  Children under 4 free.

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

  • It's better to book online to avoid additional phone booking fees and so you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey.  Most ticketing agencies only work office hours on weekdays, but online booking is possible 24/7.  However, if you want to book by phone, see my list of UK ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

Or ask Railbookers to arrange it as a package

  • If you need hotels booked for you as well, the easy option is to get specialist agency Railbookers to arrange your whole trip as a package, with train bookings, hotels & transfers all sorted in one phone call.  Tell them when and where you want to go and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out.  They get very positive reviews.

    UK flag  UK 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US flag  US 1-888-829-4775, see website

    Canadian flag  Canada 1-855-882-2910, see website

    Australian flag  Australia 1300 971 526, see website

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand 0800 000 554 or see website

Other routes & options

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex

Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  More about Paris-Barcelona TGVsParis Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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.

3. Barcelona to Granada by AVE

These superb-quality AVE high speed trains are amongst the classiest trains in Europe.  They have three classes, Comfort class for Premium ticket holders (true 1st class with real leather seats), Comfort (1st class) and Standard (2nd class).  AVE trains run at up to 310 km/h (193 mph) over the new high-speed lines from Barcelona to Malaga & Seville.  Most trains on this route are the S112 type shown below, little articulated single-axle Talgo carriages sandwiched between strange-looking duck-billed power cars, hence the nickname pato, Spanish for duck.  AVEs are now being fitted with free WiFi.

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

AVE S112, known by Renfe staff as pato, Spanish for duck.  No prizes for guessing why.

 

AVE Comfort class:  Leather reclining seats arranged 2+1 across the car width.

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 Standard class:  Comfortable seats arranged 2+2 across the car width, mainly unidirectional, but with some bays of 4 around a table.

 

AVE Comfort class:  Reclining seats arranged 2+1 across the car width, mainly unidirectional but some tables for 2 and tables for 4, all seats with power sockets.

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

1st class lounge:  Premium ticket holders may use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants, with coffee, juice & beer.

 

All aboard!  This is an S112 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 along. 

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London to Valencia & Alicante

Which route to choose?

Here are three good options for travel from the UK to Valencia, Alicante, Benidorm and the Costa Blanca.  Option 1 is fastest and simplest, if you don't mind changing trains & stations in Paris.  It's too far to do in a day, so you need to stay overnight in either in Paris or Barcelona.  Option 2 takes only a little longer, but involves a same-station connection in Lille so avoids having to cross Paris, with an overnight stop in Nîmes.  Option 3 uses a French couchette train so avoids having to stop overnight in a hotel and involves some nice scenery.  You can of course go out one way and back another.

small bullet point  Option 1, London to Valencia & Alicante by Eurostar & TGV with overnight hotel stop in either Paris or Barcelona.  Simplest, fastest and usually cheapest.

small bullet point  Option 2, London to Valencia & Alicante by Eurostar & TGV with overnight hotel stop in Nîmes.  Slightly slower, but avoids crossing Paris.

small bullet point  Option 3, London to Valencia & Alicante by Eurostar, French sleeper train & onward connections - the sleeper option!

Option 1, London to the Costa Blanca by high-speed train

This is the fastest and most comfortable option, by high-speed train with an overnight stop in either Paris or Barcelona.

London ► Tarragona, Valencia, Alicante (morning departure)

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 14:42 and arriving Barcelona Sants 21:27

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    The train speeds along the Rhône valley past pretty French villages & picturesque churches, then look out for colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, the Fort de Salses on the right approaching Perpignan and great views of Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees.

  • Stay overnight in Barcelona.  The Hotel Barcelo Sants is top choice here, it's part of the Barcelona Sants station complex with great reviews & good feedback from Seat61 users too.  See other suggested hotels near the station.

  • Day 2, for Valencia & Alicante:  A EuroMed train leaves Barcelona Sants at 07:15 Mondays-Fridays arriving Valencia Joaquin Sorolla 10:10 & Alicante 12:38 .

    Or have a leisurely breakfast, then take the EuroMed train leaving Barcelona Sants at 10:15 every day arriving Valencia Joaquin Sorolla 13:13 & Alicante 15:32.

    Check train times at www.raileurope.com or www.renfe.com, you can book any train you like through the day.  Says one traveller:  "Barcelona to Valencia was mostly very scenic - mountains and pine trees on one side and the sparkling Mediterranean on the other..."

  • Day 2, for Tarragona or Valencia:  An air-conditioned Intercity train leaves Barcelona Sants at 09:00 arriving Tarragona 10:00 and Valencia Nord at 12:20.  You can check train times at www.raileurope.com or www.renfe.com, there are lots of trains through the day.

  • Remember that at Spanish stations there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms for high-speed trains.  If you have a 1st class ticket you can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants or Alicante for up to 2 hours before your train leaves.

London ► Tarragona, Valencia, Alicante (evening departure)

  • Day 1, travel from London to Paris by any evening Eurostar you like.

    The last Eurostar leaves London St Pancras at 20.01 arriving Paris Gare du Nord 23:18, but by all means book an earlier one.

    Cross Paris by metro or taxi to the Gare de Lyon.

  • Stay overnight in Paris.  If you want a hotel room on arrival at the Gare du Nord, I recommend the excellent 25 Hours Terminus Nord, directly across the road from the Gare du Nord with great reviews & great feedback from Seat61 users.  If you'd rather stay at the Gare de Lyon ready for the morning train to Spain, the Mercure Paris Gare De Lyon is part of the Gare de Lyon station complex with great reviews for staff, cleanliness & comfort.  See other suggested hotels near the Gare du Nord or Gare de Lyon.

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 09:42 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 16:31.

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    The train speeds along the Rhône valley past pretty French villages & picturesque churches, then look out for colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, the Fort de Salses on the right approaching Perpignan and great views of Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees.

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Valencia or Alicante by air-conditioned EuroMed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 18:15 and arriving Valencia Joaquin Sorolla 21:07 & Alicante 23:40.  You can check train times at www.raileurope.com or www.renfe.com.

  • For Tarragona, check Barcelona-Tarragona times at www.raileurope.com or www.renfe.com.  Plain Tarragona is in the city centre, Camp Tarragona is a an out-of-town high-speed station.

  • Remember that at Spanish stations there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms for high-speed trains.  If you have a Premium ticket you can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants or Alicante for up to 2 hours before your train leaves.

Alicante, Valencia, Tarragona ► London (morning departure)

  • Day 1, travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by comfortable air-conditioned EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 06:55 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 09:05 arriving Barcelona Sants at 12:16.  Have lunch in Barcelona.

    From Tarragona, check Tarragona-Barcelona times at www.raileurope.com or www.renfe.com.  Plain Tarragona is in the city centre, Camp Tarragona is a an out-of-town high-speed station.

Alicante, Valencia, Tarragona ► London (afternoon departure)

  • Day 1, from Valencia or Tarragona:  An Intercity train leaves Valencia Nord at 17:12 or Tarragona at 19:54 arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:07.

    By all means take an earlier train, they run regularly.  You can check train times at www.raileurope.com or www.renfe.com and book any train you like.

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex, leaving Barcelona Sants at 09:28, arriving Paris Gare de Lyon 16:12.

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    Book an upper deck seat for the best views as the train rolls past Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees, colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, then speeds along the Rhone Valley towards Paris.  In Barcelona, there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms.

    Cross Paris by metro or taxi, just 2 stops on RER line D.  Why not have an early dinner in Paris and catch a later Eurostar?  The Brasserie Terminus Nord (www.terminusnord.com) is good and typically French, and it's directly opposite the Gare du Nord.

The Benidorm connection

  • To reach Benidorm, travel to Alicante by train as shown above.  On arrival at Alicante Terminal station, walk 6 minutes along the Avenida de La Estacion to the Luceros tram station in the Plaza de los Luceros, see walking map.

    Trams leave Luceros tram station every 30 minutes or so throughout the day for Benidorm, journey time 1h12, fare €2.80 one-way.

    For tram timetables & fares see www.fgvalicante.com.  Alternatively, buses are available to Benidorm from just outside Alicante station. 

  • Money-saving tip:  The tram to Benidorm is included in the Renfe Combinado Cercanias arrangement explained on the Train Travel in Spain page.  So if you bought your Barcelona-Alicante ticket from Thetrainline.com, Raileurope.com, Petrabax.com or renfe.com, there will be a code printed on it which you can tap into the tram ticket machine at any tram station or on board the tram to get a free ticket on the Alicante-Benidorm tram within 4 hours of arrival in (or departure from) 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.

How much does it cost?

  • See the London to Spain by high-speed train section for fares between London & Barcelona.

  • Barcelona to Alicante by EuroMed train starts at around €23 in Standard class or €47 in Comfort class.

  • Barcelona to Valencia by EuroMed starts at around €18 in Standard class or €37 in Comfort class.

  • Fares vary like air fares, rising as the cheaper tickets are sold, so book early for the best prices.  Children under 4 free.

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

  • It's better to book online to avoid additional phone booking fees and so you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey.  Most ticketing agencies only work office hours on weekdays, but online booking is possible 24/7.  However, if you want to book by phone, see my list of UK ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

Or ask Railbookers to arrange it as a package

  • If you need hotels as well, the easy option is to get specialist agency Railbookers to arrange your whole trip, with trains, hotels & transfers sorted in one phone call.  As they are selling you a package they'll look after you if anything happens such as a strike or major delay.  Tell them when and where you want to go and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.

    UK flag  UK 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US flag  US 1-888-829-4775, see website

    Canadian flag  Canada 1-855-882-2910, see website

    Australian flag  Australia 1300 971 526, see website

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand 0800 000 554 or see website

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

  • Byway (Byway.travel) is a new UK-based eco-holiday firm, with a 5-star TrustPilot rating.  If you're nervous about booking train travel yourself, they'll book a trip from the UK to Spain for you as a package, including hotels and starting from any British station you like.  Byway includes package protection, a 100% Covid refund guarantee, free disruption and re-planning and on-demand WhatsApp support while you're away.

    They can build a trip to your requirements if you email them or use this contact form.  Please say you heard about them from Seat 61.

Other routes & options

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex

Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  More about Paris-Barcelona TGVsParis Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex at Paris Est.

1st class seats on upper deck, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

A TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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.

3. Barcelona to Valencia & Alicante by EuroMed train

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. 

 

Standard (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

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

 

An S130 EuroMed train at Barcelona Franca.

Option 2, London to Valencia & Alicante with overnight stop in Nîmes

This is well worth considering as it runs daily all year and avoids having to cross Paris.  I think Nîmes makes the best stopover point, but you could equally well stop for the night at Montpellier.

London ► Valencia, Alicante

  • Day 1, travel from London to Lille by Eurostar, leaving London St Pancras at 13:01 & arriving Lille Europe at 15:27.

    The Eurostar has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  At Lille Europe it's an easy same-station change.

  • Day 1, travel from Lille to Nimes by TGV, leaving Lille Europe at 17:01 & arriving Nimes at 21:39.

    The TGV has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

  • Stay overnight in Nîmes.  The very inexpensive Ibis Budget Nimes Gare is just 50m from the station and gets good reviews.  The Ibis Styles Nimes Gare next door is a more upmarket option, but also inexpensive with good reviews.

  • Day 2, travel from Nîmes to Barcelona by AVE S100 high-speed train, leaving Nîmes Centre at 09:01 and arriving Barcelona Sants at 12:38.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  More about AVE S100.

    Look out for Béziers cathedral on the right, colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, the Fort de Salses on the right approaching Perpignan and great views of the imposing 2,784m Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees.

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Valencia or Alicante by EuroMed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 16:10 & arriving Valencia Joaquin Sorolla 18:57 & Alicante 21:05.  The EuroMed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

Alicante, Valencia ► London

  • Day 1, travel from Alicante or Valencia to Barcelona by EuroMed train, leaving Alicante at 09:20 or Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 11:20 arriving Barcelona Sants at 13:40.  The EuroMed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Have lunch in Barcelona.

  • Day 1, travel from Barcelona to Nîmes by AVE S100 high-speed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 16:34 and arriving Nîmes Centre at 20:23.

    This comfortable Spanish high-speed train has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  More about AVE S100.

    There are great views of Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees.  Look out for the Fort de Salses on the left just after Perpignan, and for colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France.

  • Stay overnight in Nîmes.  The very inexpensive Ibis Budget Nimes Gare is just 50m from the station and gets good reviews.  The Ibis Styles Nimes Gare next door is a more upmarket option, but also inexpensive with good reviews.

  • Day 2, on any day or date:  Travel from Nîmes to Lille Europe by high-speed TGV with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    On Mondays-Fridays you leave Nimes Pont du Gard at 09:33 and arrive Lille Europe at 14:24.

    On Saturdays & Sundays you leave Nimes Centre at 09:27 and arrive Lille Europe at 14:18.

    Nimes Centre is the original station in the city centre.  Nimes Pont du Gard is a new out-of-town station several kilometres outside the city, so you'll need a taxi or bus to reach it, or there's a regional train leaving Nîmes' city centre station at 08:50 which connects with the TGV, check times when you book.

    At Lille Europe it's an easy same-station change onto Eurostar.

  • Day 2, travel from Lille to London by Eurostar, leaving Lille Europe at 15:30 arriving London St Pancras at 15:57.

    The Eurostar has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

  • Alternatively, you could spend a morning in Nimes and leave Nîmes' city centre station at 15:19 arriving London St Pancras 21:57 (21:27 Saturdays).  See the UK to France page for full details of Nîmes-London train service.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Lille by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way, £78 return standard class or £97 one-way, £168 return in standard premier (1st class).

  • Lille to Nimes by TGV starts at €25 each way.

  • Nîmes to Barcelona by AVE high-speed train starts at €39 each way in 2nd class or €79 in 1st class.

  • Barcelona to Valencia by EuroMed starts at around €18 in Standard class or €37 in Comfort class.

  • Barcelona to Alicante by EuroMed train starts at around €23 in Standard class or €47 in Comfort class.

  • Fares work like air fares, so book ahead and avoid busy days or dates for the cheapest rates.  Children under 4 free.

How to buy tickets

  • Step 1, book London to Nîmes at www.raileurope.com and add it to your basket.

    If you're returning, you should book Eurostar as a round trip because with Eurostar a return fare is cheaper than two one-way fares.  With the onward French & Spanish trains it doesn't matter, a return is simply two one-ways.

    If you have any problems getting it to offer a journey via Lille, book London to Lille & back, add to basket, book Lille to Nîmes, add to basket, book Nîmes to Lille, add to basket & check out.  It makes no difference to the price and it's separate tickets either side of Lille in any case.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com, now book from Nimes to Valencia or Alicante, add to basket and check out.

    If you have any problems, book Nîmes to Barcelona, add to basket, book Barcelona to Valencia or Alicante, add to basket & check out.

What's the journey like?

1. London to Lille by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Lille in 1h22, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Lille station guide & tips on changing trains.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Lille to Nimes by TGV

TGV or Train á Grande Vitesse is French Railways high-speed train, with 1st & 2nd class and a cafe-bar.  They come in various types, some single-deck, some double-deck TGV Duplex, you could get either on cross-France routes from Lille.  Most have power sockets at seats, most now have free WiFi.  The photos below show a single-deck TGV with the Christian Lacroix designer interior.  The direct TGVs from Lille to Lyon by-pass Paris on a high-speed avoiding line via Charles de Gaulle Airport station.  More about TGV.

2nd class on a Paris-Milan TGV   TGV from Paris arrived at Luxembourg

2nd class with mix of unidirectional seats & tables for 4.  Seats 2+2 across car width. Larger photo.

 

The business end of a TGV.

Cafe-bar on the Paris-Milan TGV   1st class on the Paris-Milan TGV

Cafe-bar selling tea, coffee, beer, wine, cold snacks & microwaved dishes.  Larger photo.

 

1st class with a mix of unidirectional seats, solo seats, tables for 2 & for 4.  Seats 2+1 across car width.  Larger photo.

3. Nimes to Barcelona by AVE

These AVE type S100 have a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  They are now run entirely by Renfe (Spanish Railways) with no SNCF (French Railways) involvement.  More about AVE S100 trains Barcelona Sants station guide.

AVE from Barcelona to Lyon   2nd class seats on an AVE S100

A Spanish S100 AVE at  Barcelona Sants.  It's cool, smooth and quiet on board.

 

2nd class seats, all with power sockets & free WiFi. Panorama photo of 2nd class.

1st class seats on the Barcelona to Lyon AVE train   The cafe-bar on an S100 AVE

1st class seats on an S100 AVE, all with power sockets.  Panorama photo of 1st class.

 

Cafe-bar on an S100 AVE serving tea, coffee, beer, wine, soft drinks, snacks & hot dishes.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

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 Girona to Perpignan, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

Option 3, London to Valencia & Alicante via sleeper train

The Paris-Barcelona trainhotel was sadly discontinued in 2013, but you can still use a French sleeper train between Paris and the Spanish border, then onward trains.  This can be a useful alternative to using daytime TGV service, which requires an overnight stop along the way.  You can of course go one way by TGV, the other way using a sleeper train, just remember to book the Eurostar as a round trip, because Eurostar return fares are significantly less than two one-ways.

London ► Valencia, Alicante

  • Step 3, travel from Barcelona to Valencia or Alicante by EuroMed train, leaving Barcelona Sants at 16:10, arriving Valencia Joaquin Sorolla at 19:02 & Alicante at 21:34.

Alicante, Valencia ► London

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £97 one-way, £168 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Latour de Carol or Cerbère starts at €20 in a reclining seat, €35 in a 6-berth 2nd class couchette or €63 in a 4-berth 1st class couchette.  A couchette is recommended whatever your budget, for comfort & security.  Like Eurostar, fares vary dynamically.

  • If you go via Latour de Carol, Latour to Barcelona costs a fixed-price €12.  If you go via Cerbère, Cerbère to Barcelona costs a fixed-price €14 or so.  No reservation or pre-booking is necessary or possible for these tickets.

  • Barcelona to Valencia or Alicante starts at around €23.  Fares vary like air fares, book ahead for the cheapest prices.

How to buy tickets

  • Step 1, book from London to Latour de Carol or Cerbère at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com and add to basket.  Anyone can use these sites, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, and you can print your own tickets or show them on your phone.  Small booking fee.

    Although you can book from London to Latour or Cerbère all in one go, it's better to split the booking like this:  First book from London (or any station in Britain) to Paris and back, add to basket, then book the overnight train from Paris to Latour de Carol or Cerbère one-way and add to basket, then book Latour de Carol or Cerbère to Paris one-way and add to basket.

    This way you can mix & match a 2nd class seat on Eurostar with a 1st class 4-berth couchette on the overnight train, and you can book an earlier Eurostar if it has cheaper seats available or if you'd like more time in Paris.  Always allow at least 60 minutes between trains in Paris, when catching a sleeper I'd allow more than this, say 2 hours.

    Alternatively, you can book from London to Paris at www.eurostar.com, then book the Paris to Latour couchette train at the French Railways website www.sncf-connect.com, this is more work and www.sncf-connect.com can be more fiddly to use, but there's no booking fee.

  • Step 2, still on www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com, book from Barcelona to Valencia or Alicante, add to basket & check out.

    Alternatively you can book this at the Spanish Railways website www.renfe.com, in €, much more fiddly, see my advice for using it.

  • Step 3, the local ticket from Latour de Carol to Barcelona cannot be booked online and doesn't need to be booked in advance.  It can't even be bought from the SNCF ticket office at Latour de Carol.  Southbound, simply get on the train and pay the conductor on board, no reservation necessary, it cannot sell out.  I repeat, simply get on the train and pay on board!  Northbound, buy a ticket to Latour de Carol on the day at Barcelona Sants station and hop on the next train.  It cannot sell out, it's only a local train.

    Similarly, Cerbère to Barcelona can be bought at the station on the day.

Intercite de nuit overnight train at Paris Austerlitz

Intercité de nuit sleeper train at Paris Gare d'Austerlitz More about Intercités de Nuit.

Intercite de Nuit 2nd class 6-berth couchette   Intercite de Nuit 2nd class couchette

2nd class 6-berth couchettes.

 

A cosy 2nd class couchette.

Intercite de Nuit 1st class couchette   Intercite de Nuit 1st class 4-berth couchette

1st class couchette, made up for the night.

 

1st class 4-berth couchettes.

Back to top


London to Cadiz, Algeciras etc.

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

  • Day 1, travel from Paris to Barcelona by TGV Duplex, leaving Paris Gare de Lyon at 14:42 and arriving Barcelona Sants 21:27.

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.

    The train speeds along the Rhône valley past pretty French villages & picturesque churches, then look out for colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, the Fort de Salses on the right approaching Perpignan and great views of Mt Canigou as the train rounds the southern end of the Pyrenees.

  • Stay overnight in Barcelona.  The Hotel Barcelo Sants is top choice here, it's part of the Barcelona Sants station complex with great reviews & good feedback from Seat61 users too.  See other suggested hotels near the station.

  • Day 2, take an air-conditioned train from Barcelona into the heart of Spain.

    For Algeciras & Ronda:  Travel from Barcelona to Madrid by AVE S-103 high-speed train leaving Barcelona Sants at 11:00 and arriving Madrid Atocha at 13:45, then travel from  Madrid to Algeciras by Intercity train, leaving Madrid Atocha at 15:16 and arriving Ronda at 19:42 & Algeciras at 21:13.

    For Murcia:  Travel by direct Intercity train leaving Barcelona Sants at 12:00 arriving at Murcia at 19:42.

    For Cartagena:  Travel by direct Intercity train leaving Barcelona Sants at 15:00 arriving Cartagena at 23:49.  Earlier departures are available with a change of train.

    For Almeria:  Travel from Barcelona to Almeria leaving Barcelona Sants by AVE S-112 high-speed train at 06:45, change at Granada, arriving Almeria at 17:52.

    For Jerez & Cadiz:  Travel from Barcelona to Jerez or Cadiz with a simple change at Seville, leaving Barcelona Sants by AVE S-112 high-speed train at 08:35 and arriving Jerez de la Frontera at 16:04 and Cadiz at 16:41.

  • Remember that at Spanish stations there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms for long-distance & high-speed trains.  If you have a 1st class ticket you can use the Sala Club 1st class lounge at Barcelona Sants for up to 2 hours before your train leaves.

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

  • Day 1, take an air-conditioned train to Barcelona.

    From Algeciras or Ronda:  Travel from Algeciras to Antequera-Santa Ana, leaving Algeciras at 10:30 & Ronda at 12:24 by Media Distancia train, change at Antequera Santa Ana (arrive 13:25, depart 16:44) arriving Barcelona Sants at 22:35.

    From Cartagena or Murcia:  Take the direct Intercity train leaving Cartagena at 12:00 or Murcia at 13:07 arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:07.

    From Almeria:  Leave Almeria at 07:32 by Intercity train, change at Madrid Atocha onto a high-speed AVE, arriving Barcelona Sants at 17:20.

    From Jerez or Cadiz:  Leave Cadiz at 14:02 or Jerez de la Frontera at 14:38 by fast Alvia train and change at Madrid Atocha onto a high-speed AVE arriving Barcelona Sants at 21:30.  Earlier departures are available if you prefer.

  • Day 2, travel from Barcelona to Paris by TGV Duplex, leaving Barcelona Sants at 09:28 and arriving Paris Gare de Lyon at 16:12.

    The TGV Duplex is a 320 km/h (199 mph) double-deck high-speed train with 1st & 2nd class, café-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

    Book an upper deck seat for the best views as the train rolls past Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees, colonies of flamingos on the étangs in southern France, then speeds along the Rhone Valley towards Paris.  In Barcelona, there's a brief X-ray baggage check at the entrance to the platforms.

    Cross Paris by metro or taxi, just 2 stops on RER line D.  Why not have an early dinner in Paris and catch a later Eurostar?  The Brasserie Terminus Nord (www.terminusnord.com) is good and typically French, and it's directly opposite the Gare du Nord.

How much does it cost?

  • London to Paris by Eurostar starts at £52 one-way or £78 return in standard class, £97 one-way, £168 return standard premier (1st class).

  • Paris to Barcelona starts at €39 each way in 2nd class, €59 each way in 1st class.

  • Barcelona to Cadiz, Jerez, Algeciras or Ronda by AVE+IC train starts at around €55 in Standard class.

  • Fares vary like air fares, so book as early as you can and shop around for the cheapest departure.  Children under 4 free.

How to buy tickets

  • Buy tickets from London or any station in Britain to any station in Spain using raileurope.com as explained here.

  • If overnighting in Barcelona, you should book from London (or another British station) to Barcelona on day 1, add to basket, then book from Barcelona to Cadiz, Algeciras etc. on day 2, add to basket and check out, paying for both journeys as one transaction.

  • If overnighting in Paris, you should book from London (or any other station in Britain) to Paris on day 1, add to basket, then book from Paris to Cadiz, Algeciras etc. on day 2, add to basket, and check out, paying for both journeys as one transaction.

How to buy tickets by phone

  • It's better to book online to avoid additional phone booking fees and so you can see for yourself which departures are cheapest for each stage of the journey.  Most ticketing agencies only work office hours on weekdays, but online booking is possible 24/7.  However, if you want to book by phone, see my list of UK ticketing agencies with phone numbers & opening hours.

Or let Railbookers arrange it

  • If you need hotels as well, the easy option is to get specialist agency Railbookers to arrange your whole trip as a package, with trains, hotels & transfers sorted in one phone call.  As they are selling you a package they'll look after you if anything happens such as a strike or major delay.  Tell them when and where you want to go and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels.  They get very positive reviews.

    UK flag  UK 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US flag  US 1-888-829-4775, see website.

    Canadian flag  Canada 1-855-882-2910, see website.

    Australian flag  Australia 1300 971 526, see website

    New Zealand flag  New Zealand 0800 000 554 or see website.

Other routes & options

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London to San Sebastian

San Sebastian is a popular destination, rightly so as it's a wonderful place.  It can help to know that it's Basque name is Donostia, you'll often see it shown as Donostia not San Sebastian.  If your budget allows, look no further than the wonderful Hotel de Londres y Inglaterra, located right on the seafront.  Paris to Hendaye on the Spanish border takes as little as 4h36 by high-speed TGV, the half-hourly metro train from Hendaye to San Sebastian then takes just 37 minutes.

London ► San Sebastian in a day, by 07:01 Eurostar

  • Step 3, travel from Hendaye to San Sebastian Amara station on the air-conditioned Euskotren metro, www.euskotren.eus.

    At Hendaye, walk off the platform, through the ticket hall and out of the main station exit.  The little Euskotren station is 100m to your right in a corner of the forecourt, see the photo below.  Buy a ticket from the machines or staffed ticket counter, go through the ticket gates and hop on the next train.  The station only has two platforms and all trains go to San Sebastian, a 37 minute journey.  Metro trains leave every 30 minutes until about 23:00.  The station in central San Sebastian is San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, called San Sebastian-Donostia on the information screens but plain Amara on the station signs when you get there.  The final destination of the train is usually shown as LasarteSee the Euskotren photos below

London ► San Sebastian in a day, by 08:01 Eurostar on Saturdays

  • Step 2, travel from Paris to Hendaye by TGV Duplex Océane, leaving Paris Gare Montparnasse at 14:05 & arriving Hendaye at 18:47.

    This runs on Saturdays.  The impressive double-deck TGV Duplex Océane has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, see the TGV photos below.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.  Times vary so check for your date at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  Hendaye is on the French side of the Spanish border.

  • Step 3, travel from Hendaye to San Sebastian on the excellent air-conditioned metro run by Euskotren, www.euskotren.eus.

    At Hendaye, walk off the platform, through the ticket hall and out of the main station exit.  The little Euskotren station is 100m to your right in a corner of the forecourt, see the photo below.  Buy a ticket from the machines or staffed counter, go through the ticket gates and hop on the next train.  The station only has two platforms and all trains go to San Sebastian, a 37 minute journey.  Metro trains leave every 30 minutes until about 23:00.  The station in central San Sebastian is San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, called San Sebastian-Donostia on the information screens but plain Amara on the station signs when you get there.  The final destination of the train is usually shown as LasarteSee the Euskotren photos below

London ► San Sebastian in a day, by 10:24 Eurostar, daily except Saturdays

  • Step 2, travel from Paris to Hendaye by TGV Duplex Océane, leaving Paris Gare Montparnasse at 16:11 & arriving Hendaye at 20:47.

    This runs daily except Saturdays.  The impressive double-deck TGV Duplex Océane has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, see the TGV photos below.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.  Times vary so check for your date at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  Hendaye is on the French side of the Spanish border.

  • Step 3, travel from Hendaye to San Sebastian on the excellent air-conditioned metro run by Euskotren, www.euskotren.eus.

    At Hendaye, you walk out of the main station exit and the tiny Euskotren station is to your right in the corner of the forecourt, see the photo below.  Buy a ticket from the machines or staffed ticket office, go through the ticket gates and hop on the next train.  The station only has one platform and all trains go to San Sebastian, a 37 minute journey.  Metro trains leave every 30 minutes until about 23:00.  The station in central San Sebastian is San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, called San Sebastian-Donostia on the information screens but plain 'Amara' on the station nameboards when you get there.  The final destination of the train is usually shown as Lasarte.  See the Euskotren photos below

London ► San Sebastian by 20:01 Eurostar, overnight stop in Paris

  • Stay overnight in Paris, see suggested hotels near the stations.

  • Day 2, travel from Paris to Hendaye by TGV Duplex Océane, leaving Paris Montparnasse at 07:11 on Mondays-Saturdays arriving Hendaye at 11:47, or at 10:11 on Sundays arriving Hendaye at 14:47.

    The impressive double-deck TGV Duplex Océane has a cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi, see the TGV photos below.  I recommend an upper deck seat for the best views, any seat number >60 is upper deck.  Times vary so check for your date at www.raileurope.com or www.thetrainline.com.  Hendaye is on the French side of the Spanish border.

  • Step 3, travel from Hendaye to San Sebastian on the excellent air-conditioned metro run by Euskotren, www.euskotren.eus.

    At Hendaye, walk off the platform, through the ticket hall and out of the main station exit.  The little Euskotren station is 100m to your right in a corner of the forecourt, see the photo below.  Buy a ticket from the machines or staffed ticket counter, go through the ticket gates and hop on the next train.  The station only has two platforms and all trains go to San Sebastian, a 37 minute journey.  Metro trains leave every 30 minutes until about 23:00.  The station in central San Sebastian is San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, called San Sebastian-Donostia on the information screens but plain Amara on the station signs when you get there.  The final destination of the train is usually shown as LasarteSee the Euskotren photos below

San Sebastian ► London in a day by 09:34 TGV

  • Step 1, travel from San Sebastian to Hendaye on the excellent air-conditioned metro train run by Euskotren.

    These run every 30 minutes from Sebastian Amara station to Hendaye (Hendaia in Spanish), journey time 37 minutes.  Buy a ticket from the machines or staffed counter, go through the ticket gates and hop on the next train.  At Hendaye, the mainline SNCF station is just across the forecourt from the little Euskotren station.  Always allow plenty of time for the connections!  See the Euskotren photos below.

San Sebastian ► London in a day by 13:06 TGV

San Sebastian ► London by 18:07 TGV with overnight stop in Paris

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or let Railbookers arrange it

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to cross Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Hendaye by TGV

Paris-Hendaye trains are now double-deck TGV Duplex high-speed trains.  Most on this route have the new Océane interior, with cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  There are now automatic ticket gates at the entrance to the platforms at Paris Montparnasse, just scan the barcode on your ticket.  Paris Montparnasse station guide.

TGV from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Hendaye, for the train to San Sebastian

Boarding the TGV Duplex at Paris Montparnasse. Click the images below for larger photos.

TGV Océane cafe-bar   TGV Océane 2nd class seats

TGV Océane cafe-bar, upper deck car 4 (or 14)

 

TGV Océane 2nd class.

TGV Océane 1st class seats   TGV Océane 1st class seat   TGV Océane 1st class drop-down table

TGV Océane 1st class.  An innovation on TGV Océane, all 1st class seats (except the end ones) rotate to face direction of travel, or can be rotated to make a face-to-face group of 2 or 4 seats.  The drop-down tables open to reveal USB & 2-pin power sockets.

TGV from Paris arrived at Hendaye

The TGV Duplex arrives at Hendaye after a dash across France at up to 300 km/h.  Incidentally, Hendaye station is where Hitler met Franco on 23 October 1940.  You'll be treading the same platforms!  Photo courtesy of Alan Uxbridge.

3. Hendaye to San Sebastian by Euskotren

At Hendaye station, the little Euskotren station is outside to your right, 100m across the forecourt.  Buy a ticket from the easy-to-use ticket machines, which have a touch screen with English-language button and accept euro coins & notes or buy at the staffed ticket counter.  Then go through the gates onto the platform.  All trains go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, shown on screens and timetables as San Sebastian-Donostia, shown on the ticket machines as just Donostia and shown on the station name boards when you get there as plain Amara.  It's all the same place!  The final destination of the train is usually shown as Lasarte.

Hendaye SNCF station   Hendaye station Euskotren ticket machine

At Hendaye, get off the TGV, walk off the platform through the SNCF station ticket hall.

 

There's an Euskotren ticket machine to the right of the exit doors, you can either buy a ticket here or in the Euskotren station.

Hendaye SNCF & Euskotren stations

Walk out of Hendaye station & turn right.  The Euskotren station is 50m across the forecourt.  Courtesy of Geoff Phillips.

Hendaia Euskoten station, for trains to San Sebastian   Inside Euskotren station at Hendaye

The new Hendaye Euskotren station, for trains to San Sebastian.  Photo courtesy of Geoff Phillips.

 

Hendaye Euskotren station, looking back towards the station building.  Photo courtesy of Nicholas Brooke.

Euskotren train to San Sebastian at Hendaye   Inside Euskotren to San Sebastian

There are now two platforms.  It's where the trains start, so no worries, you can't get on the wrong train, they all go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara!  These air-conditioned metro trains leave every 30 minutes, a turn-up-and-go metro service.  There's plenty of space for luggage and they even have a wheelchair-accessible toilet.

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

San Sebastian.  The sea front is 10 min walk from San Sebastian-Donostia Amara station, where the Euskotren arrives.

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London to Pamplona & Bilbao

This is a fast and comfortable option, with all-daytime travel by Eurostar & TGV high-speed train and an overnight stop in wonderful San Sebastian on the Basque coast.  The times below show the new faster TGV service from Paris to the Spanish border starting on 2 July 2017, made possible by the new Tour-Bordeaux high-speed line.

London ► Pamplona, Bilbao

Pamplona, Bilbao ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

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London to Segovia, Toledo, Avila & Salamanca

Train from Madrid to Toledo   2nd class on train from Madrid to Toledo

The train from Madrid to Toledo, at Madrid Atocha station.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

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London to Santiago de Compostela, Vigo & A Coruña

Option 1 is to go via San Sebastian, a lovely city for a stopover and it's the quickest and usually cheapest route.  However, if you'd like a simpler journey with fewer changes, option 2 is to go via Barcelona.  Why not go out one way and back another?  Apart from the London-Paris Eurostar (which should always be booked as a round trip as return fares are significantly cheaper than two one-ways), all these trains are one-way ticketed, so there is no cost penalty in going out one way and back the other.

Option 1, London to Galicia via San Sebastian

This is a comfortable all-daytime journey through interesting scenery with an overnight stop in a hotel in lovely San Sebastian. 

London ► Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Vigo

Vigo, A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets, advanced

How to buy tickets by phone

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in at London St Pancras as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to cross Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Hendaye by TGV Duplex Océane

Paris-Hendaye trains are now double-deck TGV Duplex high-speed trains.  Most on this route have the new Océane interior, with free WiFi & cafe-bar.  There are now automatic ticket gates at the entrance to the platforms at Paris Montparnasse, just scan the barcode on your ticket.  Paris Montparnasse station guide.

TGV from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Hendaye, for the train to San Sebastian

Boarding the TGV Duplex at Paris Montparnasse. Click the images below for larger photos.

TGV Océane cafe-bar   TGV Océane 2nd class seats

TGV Océane cafe-bar, upper deck car 4 (or 14)

 

TGV Océane 2nd class seats.

TGV Océane 1st class seats   TGV Océane 1st class seat   TGV Océane 1st class drop-down table

TGV Océane 1st class seats.  An innovation on TGV Océane, all 1st class seats (except the very end ones) rotate to face the direction of travel, or can be rotated to make a face-to-face group of 2 or 4 seats.  The drop-down tables open to reveal USB and 2-pin power sockets.

TGV from Paris arrived at Hendaye

The TGV Duplex arrives at Hendaye after a dash across France at up to 186mph.  Photo courtesy of Alan Uxbridge.

3. Hendaye to San Sebastian by Euskotren:  See the photos in the San Sebastian section above

4. San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela, Coruna, Vigo.  If you get any more photos of these trains or the journey, please let me know!

Alvia & Intercity trains at Vittoria

The connection at Vitoria-Gasteiz:  On the right, the Intercity train from San Sebastian has arrived at Vitoria/Gasteiz.  On the left, the Alvia train from Barcelona to Galicia picks up passengers.  These Alvia-S130 trains are nick-named Patito (little duck) by staff, no prizes for guessing why.  They have adjustable axles so can run on standard-gauge high-speed lines at up to 250 km/h or on Iberian broad gauge classic lines at lower speed. Photo courtesy of Ekain Munduate.

Turista seats on the intercity train   Turista Plus seats on an Alvia train

Standard class seats on the Intercity train, 2+2 across the car width.

Comfort class seats on an Alvia train, 1+2 across the car width.

Scenery in Galicia seen from the train

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

Option 2, London to Galicia via Barcelona

This takes a couple of hours longer overall compared to option 1 and usually costs a few euros more, but it's a simpler journey using a direct train from Paris to Barcelona and a direct train from Barcelona to Galicia, with no need to walk across San Sebastian!

London ► Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Vigo

Vigo, A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets, advanced

How to buy tickets by phone

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London to Ibiza

It's easy to travel from London to Ibiza by train & ferry, no airports, no flights.  You take a Eurostar to Paris, a high-speed double-deck TGV to Barcelona, then sail overnight on a comfortable ferry from Barcelona to Ibiza.  Here, I explain how.

London ► Ibiza

Ibiza ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Ferry to Ibiza

Balearia ferry from Barcelona to Ibiza

Balearia ferry in Ibiza harbour.  Courtesy of Discoverbyrail.com.

Useful alternatives

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London to Mallorca & Minorca

It's easy to travel from London to Mallorca or Menorca without flying.  You take a Eurostar to Paris & TGV to Barcelona, then take the daily overnight ferry from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca.  Alternatively, there's an even easier route from the UK to Menorca & Alcudia on Mallorca using an overnight ferry from Toulon in the south of France which runs several times a week in summer.

The larger island is Mallorca in Spanish, but often written Majorca in English.  Similarly the smaller island is Menorca in Spanish, often written Minorca in English.

Option 1, via Barcelona

London ► Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Useful alternatives

Barcelona ferry terminal

This shows the summer fast ferry from Barcelona to Alcudia, near Pollensa on Mallorca

Barcelona terminals for ferries to Mallorca and Ibiza   Balearia ferry terminal, Barcelona

Blue arrow = Balearia ferry terminal, white arrow = Trasmed terminal.  Above right, the Balearia terminal.  See map of Barcelona showing ferry terminals

Ferry to Palma

Trasmed ferry from Barcelona to Mallorca

Grimaldi Trasmed's ferry Ciudad de Barcelona, at Barcelona port.  Photo courtesy of Luke Sibieta.

Balearia ferry from Barcelona to Mallorca

Balearia ferry.  Photo courtesy of Luke Sibieta.

Fast ferry to Alcudia

Fast ferry from Barcelona to Mallorca

Balearia's fast ferry from Barcelona to Alcudia.  That's the Columbus Monument at the foot of La Rambla in the background - it's that central!

En route from the UK to Mallorca, the ferry leaves Barcelona

Sailing out of Barcelona

Inside the Balearia fast ferry 'Jaume I' to Alcudia   Sunset from the Barcelona to Alcudia (Mallorca) fast ferry

No easyJet, no Ryanair.  We left London in the morning and spent the following day exploring Barcelona.  Now on board the late afternoon fast ferry to Alcudia on Mallorca, the sun sets as we speed across the Med.  We spotted some dolphins earlier.

Option 2, via Toulon

This is in many ways the most convenient option if you're travelling between April & October, using a comfortable overnight ferry which sails several times a week from Toulon in the south of France.  Some sailings go to both Menorca and Alcudia (on Mallorca, near Pollensa), some just go to Alcudia.

London ► Menorca, Mallorca

Mallorca, Menorca ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

The ferry from Toulon to Mallorca

The ferry from Toulon to Mallorca

The Mega Express Two (on the right) is one of the ferries used from Toulon to Mallorca & Menorca.  Photographed in Nice.

Sunset on the Med from the ferry Mega Express Two   A cabin on Corsica Ferries

Sunset on the Med.

 

A cosy cabin with shower & toilet.

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London to the Canary islands

From the UK to Lanzarote, Las Palmas & Tenerife without flying?  It's perfectly possible!  Two ferry companies now link Spain with the Canary islands, Trasmediterranea and Naviera Armas.  Here's how to travel from the UK to the Canary Islands without flying:

Option 1, via Huelva with Naviera Armas

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

London  ► Canaries

Canaries  ► London

Fares & how to buy tickets

Option 2, via Cadiz with Trasmediterranea

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.

Option 3, via Huelva with Fred Olsen

Fred Olsen Ferries sails twice a week all year round from Huelva in southern Spain to Tenerife & Gran Canaria.  It's a joint service with Balearia Ferries, which started in 2018.  The service uses a comfortable modern ship.

How to buy tickets

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UK to Spain by ferry

  Brittany Ferries' ferry 'Pont Aven'

Cruise to Spain with www.brittany-ferries.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-school 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?

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

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Holidays to Spain by train

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 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 logoRailbookers, railbookers.co.uk

Railbookers can custom-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!

UK flag  UK 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

US flag  US 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com

Canadian flag  Canada 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com

Australian flag  Australia 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

New Zealand flag  New Zealand 0800 000 554 or see website

Byway logoByway, byway.travel

Byway (Byway.travel) is a new UK-based eco-holiday firm with a 5-star TrustPilot rating.  If you're nervous about booking train travel yourself, they'll book a holiday to Spain for you as a package, including train travel from the UK and hotels, starting from any British station you like.

They can build a trip to your requirements, email them or use the contact form.  Please say you heard about them from Seat 61.

Byway includes package protection, a 100% Covid refund guarantee, free disruption & re-planning and on-demand WhatsApp support while you're away.

Great Rail Journeys logoGreat Rail Journeys, greatrail.com

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.

Rail Discoveries logoRail Discoveries raildiscoveries.com

Rail Discoveries offers train-based escorted tours to Spain, with 3* hotels and travel from London by Eurostar and high-speed TGV.  Check details & prices online at www.raildiscoveries.com, then book online or call 01904 730 727.

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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 set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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Guidebooks

Lonely Planet Spain - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring - 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!

Amazon logoClick 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.

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Hotels & accommodation

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Hotels close to Barcelona Sants station

Hotels in Barcelona for a longer stay

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

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

Hotels close to Paris Gare de Lyon

Hotel Mercure at Paris Gare de Lyon

Entrance to the Mercure Hotel at the Gare De Lyon, right next to the station's famous clock tower.  Handy for early trains!

AirBnB:  www.airbnb.com

www.airbnb.com began in 2008 when two designers who had space to share hosted three travellers looking for a place to stay.  AirBnB is a platform which connects hosts with guests, so you can now book a room in people's homes, or an apartment, flat or house which people want to rent out.  It can be nicer than a hostel, cheaper than many hotels.

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelworld.com

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

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Car hireCar Hire logo

Car hire comparison:  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.

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!

 


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