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

AVE train

Denis Doyle / Getty Images

Combining a trip to France and Spain is a popular way of broadening your European travels. Paris, France, and Madrid, Spain, are the capitals and two of the most frequently visited destinations in these countries. Paris is 789 miles (1270 kilometers) away from Madrid. The fastest and one of the most economical ways to get between the two cities is by plane. But there is so much to see between the two cities that travelers with more time might want to explore by train, car, or bus.

  Time Cost Best For
Plane 2 hours from $40 Fast and economical
Train 9 hours, 30 minutes from $161 Comfortable ride with Wi-Fi
Car 13 hours 789 miles (1270 kilometers) Scenic route
Bus 16 hours, 5 minutes from $60 Adventurous travel

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

The cheapest mode of transportation between Paris and Madrid is a plane (from $40). Keep in mind there will be costs for getting to and from both airports, higher-priced meals at the airport, and such. Typically a flight between Paris Orly Airport and Madrid-Barajas Airport takes about two hours, a much quicker option than the other forms of transport. Airlines making the trip throughout the week include Air France, Transavia France, and Air Europa.

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

The fastest way to get from Paris to Madrid is also the cheapest. Even when you factor in the time it takes getting to and from the two airports, checking in, passing through security, and other airport delays, flying is usually the quickest method. Typical one-way flights from Paris Orly Airport to Madrid-Barajas Airport last only about two hours.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

The 789-mile (1270-kilometer) journey from Paris to Madrid takes about 13 hours by car so it is probably best to stop and rest overnight. You will travel on the A10 and A63 Autoroutes in France, and the AP-8, E-5/E-80/AP-1, and A1 in Spain. Note that the A10, the A63, the AP-8, and the AP-1 are toll roads. If you would rather not drive, ride-shares are also available, though they take a bit longer—roughly 14 hours, 30 minutes. BlaBlaCar (from $90) drives this route twice a day.

In Madrid, street parking can be difficult to find, though there are several paid parking lots that charge by the minute. You can leave your car somewhere safe or in a suburb and take public transportation.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

A journey from Paris to Madrid via Barcelona is the best option by train, taking approximately nine hours, 30 minutes. Passengers go on a Renfe SNCF train (twice daily, from $161) from Paris Gare de Lyon to Barcelona-Sants. After a 30-minute transfer, you will board the high-speed Renfe AVE train that leaves hourly for the Madrid Atocha station. Travelers enjoy free Wi-Fi, a dining cart, and comfortable seating. You can book train tickets online or at any Renfe station.

Is There a Bus That Goes From Paris to Madrid?

The bus from Paris to Madrid is slower and less comfortable than the train. FlixBus leaves from Percy Seine once daily and arrives at either Madrid South Station or the Madrid-Barajas Airport in about 16 hours, 5 minutes (from $60). You can also try ALSA, which departs once daily, taking approximately 16 hours, 35 minutes from Paris City Centre to Madrid South Station (from $100).

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Madrid?

The best time to visit Madrid is in the spring from March through May, or in the fall from September to November. During these months, the city has nice weather, fewer crowds, and fun events. In May, check out the live music and parades at the Fiesta de San Isidro in honor of the patron saint. Tourists and locals also enjoy the performing arts at the Autumn Festival in October or November.

What Is the Most Scenic Route to Madrid?

Driving from Paris to Madrid—even just along the main A10 route you start out on—allows for various chances to soak up some lovely scenery. Orléans is a nice city along the way known for historic attractions like 18th- and 19th-century streets, gardens, and a châteaux (castle). On the UNESCO World Heritage List, The Loire Valley where Orléans is located is home to additional châteaux and beautiful scenery including the Loire, France's longest river. Further toward Madrid, Châtellerault along the Vienne river offers historical sites of interest. The area has the Descartes house (Artothèque), where French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who was born in 1596, lived as a child. You can also explore the Henri IV bridge and its slate towers, finished in 1611.

Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Madrid?

France and Spain are part of the Schengen Zone, which allows free travel between most European Union countries. Depending on what country you are from, your French visa is usually valid within the Schengen Zone. However, confirm with the French embassy or consulate that issued your visa about whether you will need one for Spain. Though you may not be asked to show your passport at the border, the authorities may check, so always carry the document when crossing international borders. 

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

Madrid-Barajas Airport is 14 miles (22 kilometers) from the city center. There are many ways to make the trip from the airport. RENFE Cercanías C1 and C10 train lines (every 15-20 minutes, from $3) take 29 minutes to the Madrid Atocha station. The Empresa Municipal de Transportes Line 203 bus (every 10 minutes, from $2) is a 55-minute journey. Several major rental car companies are available, or you can take a taxi (from $34) found in various airport terminals—each option takes about 22 minutes. You can also reserve a 22-minute ride-share with Uber (UberX starts at $35 or Black at $50).

What Is There to Do in Madrid?

The enticing capital of Madrid is full of many things for tourists to love, such as strolling around the main historic square, Plaza Mayor. When the sun goes down, enjoy some of the square's restaurants and cafes or the city's famous nightlife. Museums are another highlight: The Reina Sofia features modern art, and the Museo Nacional del Prado has numerous classic pieces. Madrid is known as Europe’s greenest capital, and if you are seeking some nature, head to the gorgeous Buen Retiro Park to see a (manmade) lake, a crystal palace, and a rose garden.

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