Taking a night train can be a fun experience. The rickety-rick-rickety-rick of the train lulling you to sleep as silent landscapes rush by. Waking up in a different city to the one you went to sleep in. Travelers the world over have romanticized journeys such as the Orient Express or the Trans-Siberian Express ever since these journeys were made possible by the steam engines of yesteryear.
Traveling on a night train is quicker than a cruise and less stressful than air travel. But a night train isn’t only for the romantic. It can also save you a night’s accommodation and time out of your daytime schedule. If you are short on time or money, a night train can be an excellent way to save both.
But which night train routes are there in Spain?
Spain is not the largest of countries, so the biggest problem with a night train is that you quickly run out of track. However, there are a few good night trains available for those looking for such an experience.
These night trains all leave at a sensible time of night before the bars and restaurants close and early enough for you to settle down to some sleep. Likewise, we’ve ensured that they pull in to your final destination at a reasonable time, with somewhere open for you to get a coffee before starting your day. There are also always sleeper cabins available, though cheaper seats (usually but not always reclinable) are available on all routes.
According to The Guardian, Europe's night trains are rapidly disappearing (indeed, Spain's night trains to Paris recently ended) so try out these routes before they too are canceled.
Times and prices are correct at the time of writing but may vary according to season or other factors. Check directly with Rail Europe or Renfe for exact prices and times.
Madrid to Barcelona by Night Train
Update:This service was suspended in April 2015.
There is a much faster high-speed AVE train from Madrid to Barcelona, but there is one train per night between Spain’s two largest cities.
This journey would be good for someone trying to get from Barcelona to Seville. Hop off the train in Madrid, check your bags into the Atocha train station left luggage and then visit the Golden Triangle of Art Museums, three of the best art museums in the world, all found within walking distance of each other. You could then take the high-speed train from Madrid to Seville (preferably during the hottest time of the day — have your siesta on the train).
Madrid to Lisbon
Travel between the two Iberian capitals with an overnight train. In fact, this is the only train that goes from Madrid to Lisbon. With bus times painfully long, your only option is to take this train or to fly.
This train passes through Salamanca, leaving you with just under eight hours on the train. It also stops at Coimbra, but at an awkward time.
Madrid to Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña
Reach the heart of Galicia in time for breakfast on this train from the capital.
We arrived in Santiago on this train once and were disappointed to discover that the Galicians get up a little later than in Madrid: it took us a long time to find a cafe that was open.
Barcelona (and Valencia) to Granada
One of the longest train journeys in Spain. A good way from getting from Barcelona to Andalusia (there are no night trains to Seville). This is a good option if you start your trip in Madrid and head up to Barcelona before going south.
Passes through Valencia at a reasonable time too, though not on the way back.
Barcelona to A Coruña
There are actually two trains from Barcelona to A Coruña per night. This is the longest train journey in Spain.
Note: Train 2 only runs seasonally. This train doesn't stop in Santiago de Compostela.
Train Tours in Spain
The Transcantabrico and La Robla are multi-day train tours where you sleep on the train. But because Spain isn't Russia, you can't actually travel night after night by train, so the train stops in a station for you to sleep, which is a little odd.
Long Distance Routes Without a Night Train
Expected there to be a night train that's not on the list? There are fewer night trains than you might hope for in Spain. Here are some of the most popular long-distance routes that don't actually exist.
Madrid to Paris
The Elipsos Trenhotel ended in 2013 and no replacement service has been started. You’ll have to go to Barcelona for that.
Barcelona to Paris
Though there is now a great high-speed train from Barcelona to Paris.
Barcelona to San Sebastian or Bilbao
There used to be a service but it seems to have been suspended.
Madrid to San Sebastian or Bilbao
The journey is shorter than you’d think.
Barcelona to Seville
You can take the AVE all the way, but you always have to change in Madrid.
Madrid to Malaga
There is now the high-speed AVE, which will you get you there in just over two hours.