Madrid & Barcelona to Toulouse, Avignon, Marseille, Lyon from €29...

High-speed trains link Barcelona with various cities in France, jointly run by SNCF (French Railways) and Renfe (Spanish Railways).  The Barcelona-Paris trains are operated by French double-deck TGV Duplex trains, but the trains from Barcelona to Carcassone, Toulouse, Avignon, Marseille & Lyon are operated by Spanish AVE trains of a specific type called S100, as shown on this page.

AVE is the Spanish Railways brand name for its high-speed trains, of which there are various types.  AVE stands for Alta Velocidad Espańola (Spanish High-Speed) and it's also the Spanish for bird.  The S100 AVEs were originally used on the Madrid-Seville high-speed route when it opened in the 1990s.  A number of these S100s have been refurbished & equipped with the SNCF signalling system for use on services from Barcelona to French cities, with one train per day extending to & from Madrid.  They are spacious, smooth and comfortable, a pleasure to travel on.

small bullet point  What are the trains like?

small bullet point  Travel tips:  Luggage, WiFi, food & drink...

small bullet point  How to check train times, fares & tickets

small bullet point  Route map

small bullet point  Scenery & sights

What are the trains like?

AVE-S100 trains have 1st & 2nd class & a cafe-bar.  The train is air-conditioned with power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

AVE S100 at Barcelona Sants

An AVE S100 at Barcelona Sants on a high-speed service to Perpignan, Montpellier, Nîmes & Lyon.

1st class seats on an AVE S100   Table for two on an AVE S100

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

 

Table for two in 1st class.  Larger photo.

Food from the bar car   Cafe-bar on an AVE S100

Food & beer from the cafe-bar...

 

The cafe-bar.  Larger photo.

AVE S100 boarding at Barcelona   2nd class seats on an AVE S100

Boarding at Barcelona Sants...

 

2nd class.  Larger photo.

Travel tips...

2nd class seats on an AVE S100 train   Luggage rack on an AVE S100 train

2nd class seats.  Larger photo.

 

Luggage rack at the car end...

Times, fares & tickets...

Route map...

Barcelona to Toulouse, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille train route map

 

Click for larger map

Highlighted = High-speed trains from Barcelona.

Red = high-speed lines Black = conventional lines. 

Green = scenic routes

Reproduced from the excellent European Rail Map with kind permission of the European Rail Timetable people.

I recommend buying a copy of the European Rail Map for your travels, www.europeanrailtimetable.eu with shipping worldwide.

European rail map and timetable

Scenery & sights...

These trains pass some great scenery.  I describe the Barcelona-Lyon & Barcelona-Avignon-Marseille routes below as if you're travelling east from Barcelona to France, but you see the same sights in either direction.  Obviously when I say something is on the left hand side, it'll be on the right hand side when going west.

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

1.  Barcelona Sants is a modern station in central Barcelona with plenty of taxis and a metro to other parts of the city.  There are left luggage lockers (consigna) and a Sala Club 1st class lounge which you can use if you have a 1st class ticket for the TGV for up to 2 hours before it departs, although not on arrival.  More information about Barcelona Sants station.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

2.  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 left hand side all the way from Girona to Perpignan, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

Fort de Salses, seen from the train   2nd class seats on the AVE from Barcelona to Lyon

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

Watch for flamingos on the etangs in the Midi!

4.  Étangs & flamingos...  The AVE from Barcelona to Toulouse turns left at Narbonne, but AVEs to Avignon, Marseille & Lyon continue towards Montpellier.  on this section the train passes numerous étangs (lakes), where flocks of flamingos stand one-legged in the shallows.

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

Countless vineyards!

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

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

7.  Béziers...  After Nîmes the trains pass through Béziers.  As the train crosses the River Orb just west of the station, look left for a great view of Béziers' 13th century cathedral (yes, the photo above was taken from the train, these all were!).

The view from the train as it crosses the Rhone at Avignon

8.  If you're on the AVE from Barcelona to Avignon & Marseille...  Beyond Nîmes the AVE from Barcelona to Avignon & Marseille turns southeast.  The train crosses the River Rhône just before arriving at Avignon TGV, you can see Avignon's Palais des Papes in the distance on the left (pictured above) - although if you can see anyone dancing Sur le Pont d'Avignon, you have better eyesight than me...

Crossing the Rhone with views of the Chateau de Montfaucon

9.  If you're on the AVE from Barcelona to Lyon:  Beyond Nîmes the AVE from Barcelona to Lyon veers north and crosses the broad River Rhone (pictured above) with a great view of the wine-producing Chateau de Montfaucon on the left, www.chateaumontfaucon.com.

AVE from Barcelona, arrived at Lyon Part Dieu

10.  Lyon...  This is the morning AVE from Barcelona, arrived at Lyon Part Dieu...

Watch the video:  Click here...

The video shows a journey from Barcelona to Paris on a French TGV Duplex, but the AVEs from Barcelona to French regional cities take exactly the same route past exactly the same scenery, as far as Narbonne if going to Carcassonne or Toulouse, as far as Montpellier if going to Avignon or Marseille, and all the way to just south of Lyon if going to Lyon.


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