How to Travel From Lisbon to Madrid by Train, Bus, Plane, and Car

Skyline of Madrid with Metropolis Building and Gra
Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

Separated by 388 miles (624 kilometers), Madrid and Lisbon are the two capital cities of Spain and Portugal, the two countries that make the Iberian peninsula. Lisbon is a lot smaller than Madrid with 500,000 people compared to Madrid's over six million. The cities are well connected and both will make excellent stops on a tour of southern Europe. The best and easiest way to get to Madrid is to fly, although it's also possible to take a bus or train. If a road trip across Portugal and the Spanish region of Extremadura sounds interesting to you, driving there is also a possibility.

Getting From Madrid to Lisbon
  Time Cost Best For
Train 10 hours from $51 Slow travel
Bus 8 hours from $23 Extreme budget travel
Flight 1 hour, 15 minutes from $28 Quickest route 
Car 6 hours 388 miles (624 kilometers) An exciting road trip

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Lisbon to Madrid?

Bus lines Rede Expressos and ALSA both run trips from Lisbon to Madrid, which takes around eight hours, 10 minutes. Tickets typically cost between $23 and $70, depending on how far in advance you book. If you can find a price on the lower end of the spectrum, this is the cheapest possible way to get to Madrid from Lisbon (although it's usually only marginally cheaper than flying). Buses depart from Lisbon Oriente Station and will arrive at either Madrid Mendez Alvaro or Madrid Avenida de America Stations. If you prefer to break up your trip into smaller legs, you could take the bus to Merida to see the Roman ruins and spend the night. In the morning, you can catch another bus the rest of the way to Madrid.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Lisbon to Madrid?

Cheap flights from Lisbon to the Madrid are offered daily by airlines like easyJet, Iberia, and TAP Air Portugal. A direct flight only takes one hour, 15 minutes so it's the quickest and easiest way to travel between Madrid and Lisbon. From time to time, it may even be the cheapest option and it's possible to find a one-way fare in the price range of $28 and $100. However, if you are flying on a budget airline be aware of strict baggage limits and hidden fees.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

Without stopping, it's possible to drive from Lisbon to Madrid in as little as six hours. However, if you're willing to break up the trip you can take your time and spread the driving out over a couple of days. If you choose to drive, you should be comfortable driving in a foreign country with limited English signage. Also, be prepared for a language change and different rules of the road when you cross the border. Before setting out on your journey make sure you're well acquainted with the driving practices in both Portugal and Spain and map out your route before getting in the car.

To get to Madrid from Lisbon, follow the A2 and the A6 westward until you reach the Spanish and Portuguese border. From here, you'll take A-5, which you can follow all the way to Madrid. Portuguese highways do use tolls, so make sure you have cash on hand since non-European credit cards don't always work at toll booths. The A-5 highway in Spain is toll-free.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

Taking the train to Madrid during the day will take up to 12 hours, as the route is not very direct and requires many stops along the way. The overnight train is a little bit faster, taking about 10 hours, 15 minutes, and it's cheaper too. Basic tickets typically cost somewhere in the range of $50 to $70. If you'd like to sleep more comfortably, sleeper car tickets may also be available for a higher price.

The train journey takes about two hours longer than the bus, but it's a more comfortable ride. If you're going to spend that much time sitting down, you might want to add a couple of hours to the journey and enjoy the extra comfort. Trains are also a great option for travelers who want to walk around a bit during the journey. If you're traveling by train, your main stops en route are in Salamanca in Spain and Coimbra in Portugal. However, if you opt to take the night train, you will get to these cities at awkward times and probably won't even be awake to get a glimpse of them.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Madrid?

For the best weather and least amount of crowds, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are definitely the best time to visit Madrid. Summers in Madrid are extremely hot with temperatures sometimes rising up to the 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (32 and 38 degrees Celsius). Because Madrid is the capital of Spain and a major metropolis, you can count on finding interesting cultural events throughout the year, but among the most popular are Carnival in February, Madrid Pride in June, and Christmas in December.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Madrid?

While the drive from Lisbon to Madrid isn't particularly "scenic," there are several charming and historic towns you can stop in on both sides of the border. Which towns you visit just depends on what route you take. If you take the most direct route, you'll drive right through Trujillo, a quintessentially enchanting Spanish town, as well as Mérida, famous for its well-preserved Ancient Roman amphitheater. In Portugal, make a stop in Evora to enjoy the splendor of the Portuguese countryside.

If you'll be driving roundtrip, consider taking the northern route on your way back to see something new. It takes about an hour and a half longer than the direct route, but you can stop in two college towns that are home to two of the oldest universities in the world: in Coimbra, Portugal, and Salamanca, Spain.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Madrid?

Both Portugal and Spain are members of the European Union (EU), so you don't need any special visa to enter or cross the border. American citizens do not need to apply for a visa to enter an EU country and can travel with just their passport as long as they don't plan to stay for longer than 90 days.  

What Time Is It in Madrid?

When you cross the border into Spain, you will change time zones and gain an hour. Portugal operates by Western European Time (GMT +1) while Spain is set to Central European Time (GMT +2). Both countries recognize Daylight Saving Time, so the time difference is consistent throughout the year.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

The Madrid-Barajas International Airport (MAD) is approximately 11 miles (18 kilometers) away from the city center. To save money on a taxi, you can instead take either the Airport Express Bus, which costs 5 euros (about $6) one-way and takes between 30 and 40 minutes or the metro, via Line 8, which costs 3 euros. Alternatively, if it's more convenient for getting to your particular destination, you could also take the Cercanías commuter train for about $3 (2.6 euros).

What Is There to Do in Madrid?

Madrid is one of Europe's most eclectic and exciting cities and offers plenty for travelers to do. Art-lovers can see some of Europe's greatest works at the Prado Museum like "Las Meninas" or take in Pablo Picasso's powerful "Guernica" at the Reina Sofia Museum. Couples may enjoy a romantic boat ride in Retiro park and everyone can appreciate taste-testing the iconic Spanish flavors of Iberian ham and Garnacha at the San Miguel Market. If you're itching to go out, there are more than enough bars to socialize in, or you can finish up your special day in Madrid with a nice dinner at one of Madrid's top restaurants.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How long does it take to get from Lisbon to Madrid by car?

    The distance between the two cities is 388 miles (624 kilometers). The drive typically takes about six hours.

  • How long is the train ride from Lisbon to Madrid?

    The train from Lisbon to Madrid is not very direct and makes several stops. It can take anywhere from 10 to 12 hours depending on the train you catch.

  • How much does the train from Lisbon to Madrid cost?

    Depending on which train you take, tickets can range from $50 to $70.