AVE Trains in Spain

High-speed rail routes from Madrid and Barcelona

AVE Train Station
••• An AVE train station in Salamanca. Diego Lezama / Getty Images

The AVE is the high-speed train service in Spain. With most services running from Madrid (and a few going north from Barcelona), you can now reach Seville, Valencia, Malaga and Cordoba (as well as travel between Madrid and Barcelona) quicker than you could fly.

AVE trains are luxurious and  efficient way to get around the country. If it wasn't for the AVE, certain day trips from Madrid wouldn't be possible.

See also: Best Train Journeys in Spain

The AVE Train from Madrid to Barcelona

The most popular AVE train route is from Madrid to Barcelona, but this is actually the only route where taking the train is not necessarily the best way to travel. There is now the Iberia Air Shuttle that has advantages of its own, such as the fact you don't need to book a specific flight, you can just turn up and get on the next plane. 

Read more about Madrid to Barcelona by Plane or Train?

Buying AVE train tickets

AVE train tickets can be bought in person at Madrid's Atocha Train Station or Barcelona's Sants Station.

But the easiest thing to do is book your tickets online. You can Book AVE Tickets from Rail Europe or from renfe.es.

Interactive Train Map of Spain

Train travel in Spain is quick and efficient (even the standard lines that are not on the AVE network). Plan your itinerary using this Interactive Rail Map of Spain.

AVE Routes from Madrid

Most AVE services radiate from Madrid. Click on the link to see travel times for these journeys compared to travel by bus or car.

Madrid - Zaragoza - Tarragona - Barcelona

Visit Spain's most popular city direct from Madrid. However, this is one route where flying is also a good alternative (see above).

This journey takes two hours and thirty minutes. Compare times and prices with other forms of transport: Madrid to Barcelona 

Travel Times: Madrid - Barcelona (2h40) 
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Madrid - Cordoba - Seville

The original AVE route, you can get from the capital to the jewel of southern Spain in two hours and thirty minutes. Or stop a bit earlier in Cordoba. Read more about Madrid to Seville and Madrid to Cordoba.

Travel Times:
Madrid - Seville (2h30)
Madrid - Cordoba (1h45) 
Cordoba - Seville (45m) 
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Madrid to Toledo 

Madrid's most popular day trip is just thirty minutes from the capital. But the new  will be better for most travelers (unless you happen to be staying right next to Atocha Train Station).  Read about Madrid to Toledo.

Travel Times:
Madrid - Toledo (30m) 
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Madrid - Cuenca - Valencia

Visit Spain's third biggest city from Madrid in under one-and-three-quarter hours. I heartily remember staying in Cuenca for a night to see its famous hanging houses and to visit the city's world-class modern art museums (the tiny city has three of them!). See more on Madrid to Valencia and Madrid to Cuenca. The AVE route also continues on to Alicante. Read about Madrid to Alicante.

Travel Time: Madrid - Valencia 1h30
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Madrid - Cordoba - Málaga

Visit the south coast's biggest city in just two-and-a-half hours. See more: Madrid to Malaga. 

Travel Times Madrid - Málaga (3h) 
Malaga - Cordoba (50m) Buy Direct

Madrid - Segovia - Valladolid - Leon

The AVE is slowly being rolled out towards the north-west.

Travel Time: Madrid - Leon (2h) Buy Direct

​AVE Routes from Barcelona 

There are also some excellent routes from Barcelona.

Barcelona to Madrid 

See above.

Barcelona to Paris 

Get to the French capital in six hours and twenty minutes, giving the flight route a run for its money in terms of convenience. The route is non-stop as of December 2013. Read more: Barcelona to Paris

Barcelona to Figueres

Getting to the Salvador Dali museum from Barcelona used to be quite a pain but the new AVE route takes just 53 minutes. More: Barcelona to Figueres

Barcelona to Girona 

Travel between Catalonia's two most popular cities in just 37 minutes. More: Barcelona to Girona 

Barcelona to Malaga

Travel Times:
Barcelona - Cordoba (4h30) Buy Direct
Barcelona - Malaga (6h) Buy Direct

Seville - Cordoba - Cuenca - Valencia

Travel Times:
Seville - Valencia (3h50) Buy Direct
Cordoba - Valencia (3h) Buy Direct

Other AVE Routes from Barcelona to France

In December 2013, the high-speed rail route between France and Spain was finally completed. AVE trains now zip between the following routes:

  • Barcelona to Paris See above.
  • Barcelona to Lyon A five-hour train journey is all that separates these two cities. Read more: Barcelona to Lyon
  • Barcelona to Marseille It takes four-and-a-half hours to get from Barcelona to the French Riviera. In fact, this route starts in Madrid, but you're better off flying from Madrid. Read more: Barcelona to Marseille
  • Barcelona to Montpellier Getting to Montpellier by train now takes three hours. More: Barcelona to Montpellier
  • Barcelona to Toulouse Trips to Toulouse also now take just three hours. More: Barcelona to Toulouse

Guided Tours by AVE

With such an efficient train service available in Spain, it makes sense to use it for day trips that would normally be impossible due to the distance between the cities.

The AVE makes it possible to visit Seville as a day trip. However, if you're going to rush around one of Spain's best cities in a single day, you're going to need some help to get the most out of it. A guided tour, with the AVE tickets included in the price, is the best way to see Seville in a day:

Day Trip to Seville from Madrid by AVE (buy direct)

There are some longer tours that include Cordoba and/or Caceres. The trip normally starts out with a tour bus but makes the return journey by AVE:

  1. Two-Day Trip: Seville with Stop in Cordoba
  2. Three-Day Trip: Seville, Caceres and Cordoba
  3. Three-Day Trip: Seville and Cordoba (extra day in Seville)

What's So Great About the AVE Train in Spain?

The AVE is all of the following things...

The AVE is quick The Madrid-Seville AVE service is the quickest and most efficient way of getting between the two cities, making the journey in two-and-a-half hours.

The AVE is convenient Taking the AVE train makes the journey even quicker than flying, as the train avoids the fuss of checking in and getting to and from the airport. Spain's train stations are generally in the center of town, so once you're there, you really are there! More: AVE vs Flying Comparison.

The speed and convenience of the AVE means some of Spain's more distant cities can be seen in a day trip from Madrid. You can even get to the beach and back in one day, as AVE were very keen to tell commuters last year (complementary beach head rests announced the fact on board in summer 2007. 

The AVE is punctual The AVE train service has a 'commitment to punctuality': if your train arrives more than five minutes behind schedule, you get a complete refund of your ticket price. Not bad, eh? Sure beats flying!

The AVE is luxurious Big reclining seats, recent movies (in Spanish) and music (which you can listen to with the free headphones).

The AVE is expensive Unfortunately, all this comes at a price. The AVE cannot compete with the budget airlines for rock bottom prices, but it can't be beaten for convenience. However, if you are traveling at short notice, the train is cheaper than the plane.