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  How to transfer between Chamartin & Atocha

small bullet point  Station guides:

    Barcelona Sants  Madrid Atocha  Madrid Chamartin

    Seville  Malaga  Vigo  Valencia  Alicante & Benidorm

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:

7 June 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

small bullet point  Option 5, by ferry from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao, then train - the ferry alternative!

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   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

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

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants.  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 and a 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

Or use an Interrail pass

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.

2nd class seats on an AVE S100   AVE S100

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

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

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

 

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

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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

Or use an Interrail pass

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

Or use an Interrail pass

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.

small bullet point  Option 4, by ferry from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao then train - the ferry alternative!

Option 1, London to Madrid via Barcelona

London ► Madrid (morning departure, overnight in Barcelona)

London ► Madrid (evening departure, overnight in Paris)

Madrid ► London (in a single day)

Madrid ► London (with overnight stop in Paris)

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Or use an Interrail pass

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   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

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

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona.  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 free WiFi.  Madrid Atocha station guide.

An S103 AVE at Barcelona Sants

A Barcelona-Madrid AVE (type S103) at Barcelona Sants.  See virtual tour

1st class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Cafe-bar on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Comfort (1st) class seating on an AVE train.

 

Cafe-bar on an S103 AVE train. 

Breakfast on a Spanish S103 AVE train   2nd class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

A meal is included if you pay the Premium fare.

 

Standard (2nd class) seating on an AVE.

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

Madrid Atocha station:  One of my favourite stations, the old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden, see Madrid Atocha station guide.

Back to top


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

Or use an Interrail pass

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.

2nd class seats on an AVE S100   AVE S100

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

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

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

 

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

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

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.

Back to top


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

Or use an Interrail pass

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar:  More about Eurostar

2. Paris to Hendaye by TGV Duplex Océane:  More about TGV Duplex Océane

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

4. San Sebastian to Madrid by Alvia train

These smart S120 Alvia trains have a cafe-bar, some but not all have power sockets at 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, at some point during the journey they pass through a gauge-changing shed at 20 km/h, then they run on the standard-gauge high-speed line at up to 250km/h the rest of the way to Madrid Chamartin.

Standard (2nd) class seats   Alvia train at Madrid Chamartin

Standard class (2nd class)

 

S120 Alvia train at San Sebastian Renfe station.

The cafe bar   Comfort (1st) class seats

Cafe-bar.

 

Comfort class (1st class).

Scenery between San Sebastian & Barcelona

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

Back to top


London to Malaga, Cordoba, Seville

Which route to choose?

Here are three good options for travel from the UK to Andalusia & the Costa del Sol, with a fourth in summer.  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 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!

small bullet point  Option 4, London to Cordoba, Seville, Malaga by Eurostar & TGV via Paris, with overnight stop in Paris - runs 6 July to 1 September 2024.

small bullet point  Option 5, London to Spain using a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao - the ferry alternative.

For Torremolinos, Fuengirola, Marbella & Estepona, travel to Malaga then take a frequent local train as explained here.

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 use an Interrail pass

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

Or ask Railbookers to arrange it as a package

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   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

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

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona.  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

Superb AVE S103 trains are now used on this route, with Standard (2nd) class & Comfort (1st) class seats.  The trains have a cafe-bar serving beer, wine, tea, coffee, snacks and some hot dishes.  The train has power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  If you pay the Premium fare you get access to the Sala Club lounge in Barcelona, and a meal with wine served at your seat.  More about Renfe's fares & classes.

An S103 AVE at Barcelona Sants

A type S103 AVE at Barcelona SantsSee virtual tour

1st class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Cafe-bar on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Comfort (1st) class seating on an AVE train.

 

Cafe-bar on an S103 AVE train. 

Breakfast on a Spanish S103 AVE train   2nd class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

A meal is included if you pay the Premium fare.

 

Standard (2nd class) seating on an AVE.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

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

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

Or use an Interrail pass

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

Madrid Atocha:  One of my favourite stations, the old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden.  See 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

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

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.

Option 4, London to Seville & Malaga with overnight stop in Paris

This option runs in summer from 6 July to 1 September 2024, when an additional early-morning Paris-Barcelona TGV allows a same-day connection with the onward afternoon train from Barcelona to Malaga, Cordoba & Seville.  This is a useful option:  An evening departure means you have all day to travel from anywhere in Britain up to London, and/or you have the freedom to book whichever Eurostar departure offers the cheapest tickets.

London ► Seville & Malaga

Malaga & Seville ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Or use an Interrail pass

Back to top


London to Granada

London ► Granada

Granada ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or use an Interrail pass

Or ask Railbookers to arrange it as a package

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   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

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

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona.  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 AVE high speed trains are amongst the classiest in Europe.  They have standard & comfort class, cafe-bar, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  The trains used on the Barcelona-Granada route are the AVE S112 type shown below, built by the Talgo company.  Two duck-billed power cars sandwich a rake of small articulated carriages with just one pair of wheels beneath each articulation, a system unique to Talgo.  Renfe staff call these trains pato, Spanish for duck, no prizes for guessing why.

AVE S112 train at Valencia

A distinctive AVE type S112 at Valencia.  Known by Renfe staff as Pato (duck), for obvious reasons.

Comfort (1st) class on an AVE S112   Premium fare breakfast on AVE S112

Comfort (1st) class on an AVE S112

 

Breakfast, included with the premium fare.

Cafe-bar on AVE S112   Standard (2nd) class on an AVE S112

Cafe-bar on an AVE S112.

 

Standard (2nd) class on an AVE S112

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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!

small bullet point  Option 4, London to Alicante using a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander - the ferry alternative!

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 ► Valencia, Alicante (morning departure)

London ► Valencia, Alicante (evening departure)

Alicante, Valencia ► London (morning departure)

Alicante, Valencia ► London (afternoon departure)

The Benidorm connection

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or use an Interrail pass

Or ask Railbookers to arrange it as a package

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

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   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

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

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona.  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

Euromed trains operate the fastest services on the Barcelona-Valencia-Alicante corridor.  Slower services are operated by Intercity trainsValencia stations guide. Alicante station guide.

Euromed train at Barcelona Sants

Euromed train at Barcelona Sants.  These S130 trains are known as Patito (little duck) by staff, no prizes for guessing why.

Euromed train cafe-bar   Premium fare meal on Euromed train

Euromed comfort (1st) class. 

 

Meal if you pay the premium fare.

Euromed train cafe-bar   Euromed train cafe-bar

Euromed cafe-bar.

 

Euromed standard (2nd) class.

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

Alicante, Valencia ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Or use an Interrail pass

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

Alicante, Valencia ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Or use an Interrail pass

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 Cadiz, Algeciras etc.

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

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

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or use an Interrail pass

Or let Railbookers arrange it

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.  You can also take a ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao then a local train to San Sebastian, see the ferry to Spain page.

London ► San Sebastian in a day, 07:01 departure

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

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

London ► San Sebastian evening departure, overnight stop in Paris

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

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

San Sebastian ► London by 18:07 TGV with overnight 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 double-deck TGV Duplex with the Océane interior shown below, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  Paris Montparnasse station guide.

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

A TGV Duplex at Paris Gare Montparnasse

TGV Duplex Oceane at Paris Montparnasse

Boarding at Paris Montparnasse.  Note the automatic ticket gates at the entrance to the platforms, just scan the QR code on your ticket.

TGV Océane cafe-bar   TGV Océane 2nd class seats

TGV Océane cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4 or 14 (above left) and 2nd class seats (above right).

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

TGV Océane 1st class seats.  All 1st class seats (except the end ones) rotate to face direction of travel.  There are USB & 2-pin outlets above each drop-down table.

TGV Océane stairs and landing   TGV Océane luggage racks

TGV Océane stairs, just 9 easy shallow steps.  There are toilets & luggage racks upstairs & downstairs.  Above right, luggage racks upstairs.

Scenery between Paris and San Sebastian

Scenery under cloudy skies as the train crosses France at up to 320 km/h (199 mph).

Hendaye SNCF station hall

Get off the TGV at Hendaye, walk off the platform and through the SNCF station ticket hall.  Incidentally, Hendaye station is where Hitler met Franco on 23 October 1940, you'll be treading the same platforms!  If you need a coffee, I recommend the Cafe Olé just across the road.

3. Hendaye to San Sebastian by Euskotren

At Hendaye, the little Euskotren station is just outside and to your right, 50m from the SNCF station exit.  Buy a ticket from the easy-to-use ticket machines, these have a touch screen with English-language button, they accept euro coins, notes & contactless debit/credit cards, or buy at the staffed ticket counter.  Then go through the ticket gates onto the platform.  All trains go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, shown on screens & timetables as San Sebastian-Donostia, shown on the ticket machines as just Donostia and on station name boards when you get there as plain Amara.  It's all the same place!  The final destination of the train is usually Lasarte Map of San Sebastian showing stations.

Hendaye SNCF and Euskotren stations

Walk out of Hendaye mainline station & turn right.  The Euskotren station is just 50m away.

Hendaia Euskoten station, for trains to San Sebastian   Inside Hendaia Euskoten station

Hendaye Euskotren station has a staffed ticket counter & ticket machines, cash & cards accepted.  Buy a ticket and go through the ticket gates onto the platforms.

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

The Euskotren station has just two platforms, it's the terminus from which trains start, all trains go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara!  These air-conditioned metro trains leave every 30 minutes.  There's plenty of space for luggage and they even have a wheelchair-accessible toilet.

Inside San Sebastian Amara station   San Sebastian Amara station

San Sebastian Amara station is a terminus with 6 platforms.  A row of ticket gates separates concourse from platforms.  Map of San Sebastian showing stations

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 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

Most Paris-Hendaye trains are double-deck TGV Duplex, usually with the Océane interior as shown below.  There are power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

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

A TGV Duplex at Paris Gare Montparnasse

TGV Duplex Oceane at Paris Montparnasse

Boarding at Paris Montparnasse.  Note the automatic ticket gates at the entrance to the platforms, just scan the QR code on your ticket.

TGV Océane cafe-bar   TGV Océane 2nd class seats

TGV Océane cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4 or 14 (above left) and 2nd class seats (above right).

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

TGV Océane 1st class seats.  All 1st class seats (except the end ones) rotate to face direction of travel.  There are USB & 2-pin outlets above each drop-down table.

3. Hendaye to San Sebastian by Euskotren

At Hendaye, the little Euskotren station is just outside and to your right, 50m from the SNCF station exit.  Buy a ticket from the easy-to-use ticket machines, these have a touch screen with English-language button, they accept euro coins, notes & contactless debit/credit cards, or buy at the staffed ticket counter.  Then go through the ticket gates onto the platform.  All trains go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara, shown on screens & timetables as San Sebastian-Donostia, shown on the ticket machines as just Donostia and on station name boards when you get there as plain Amara.  It's all the same place!  The final destination of the train is usually Lasarte Map of San Sebastian showing stations.

Hendaye SNCF and Euskotren stations

Walk out of Hendaye mainline station & turn right.  The Euskotren station is just 50m away.

Hendaia Euskoten station, for trains to San Sebastian   Inside Hendaia Euskoten station

Hendaye Euskotren station has a staffed ticket counter & ticket machines, cash & cards accepted.  Buy a ticket and go through the ticket gates onto the platforms.

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

The Euskotren station has just two platforms, it's the terminus from which trains start, all trains go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara!  These air-conditioned metro trains leave every 30 minutes.  There's plenty of space for luggage and they even have a wheelchair-accessible toilet.

4. San Sebastian to Madrid by Alvia train

These comfortable Alvia S120 trains have standard & comfort class, a cafe-bar.  They may or may not have power outlets.  The train leaves from San Sebastian's Renfe station, 10 minutes walk from the city centre.  The journey starts slowly with the train wending its way through the Pyrenean foothills as the morning mist clears, then it emerges from the hills and gather speed across the plains.  During the journey the train passes slowly through a shed and changes from Iberian gauge (5' 6") used on the main Spanish network to standard gauge (4' 8½") used for most Spanish high-speed lines.  Once on the high-speed line it reaches 250 km/h (155 mph).

In Madrid it's an easy same-station change at Madrid Chamartin.  I suggest a beer or a meal between trains at the bar or restaurant on the 2nd floor of the Hotel Chamartin The One, away from the bustle of the station.

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

Comfort class (1st class).

 

Alvia train at San Sebastian.

The cafe bar   Standard (2nd) class seats

Cafe-bar.

 

.Standard class seats (2nd class).

Scenery between San Sebastian & Barcelona

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

5. Madrid to Santiago de Compostela, Coruña or Vigo.

These Alvia S730 trains have standard & comfort class, a cafe-bar and power sockets at all seats.  They travel at up to 250 km/h (155 mph) on high-speed lines and can change gauge when necessary, from standard gauge (4' 8½") used for most Spanish high-speed lines to Iberian gauge (5' 6") used on the main Spanish network.

Comfort class seats on a Madrid-Vigo Alvia train   Alvia S730 train to Vigo at Madrid Chamartin

Above left, comfort (1st) class seats on an Alvia S730 train, recently refurbished in tan leather.

Cafe-bar   Iberico meal deal on an Alvia train

The cafe-bar.  Above right, an Iberico meal deal from the cafe-bar on an Alvia train.

Alvia S730 train to Vigo at Madrid Chamartin   Standard class seats on a Madrid-Vigo Alvia train

Above left, boarding at Madrid Chamartin.  Above right, standard (2nd) class seats on an Alvia S730 from Madrid to Vigo.

Scenery between Madrid & Vigo, not far from Madrid

Scenery at high-speed, north of Madrid.

Scenery between Madrid & Vigo, south of Ourense

Scenery between Madrid & Vigo, a little way south of Ourense.

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

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

The 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

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

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

  Sunset from Brittany Ferries' ferry to Spain

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:  Sunset on the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander.

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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 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.

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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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