Uncovering Europe's best budget hotels since 2001.
AVE is Spain’s fastest, slickest and most modern train. Those who want to travel in style and comfort take Ave and pay, for the most part, a pretty penny to do so. With so many cheapo flights around Europe these days (Vueling, Ryanair, easyJet, etc.) normal train travel is often the second choice for those trying to save, as train tickets between cities in Spain can be more expensive than a flight and take three times as long.
Not so with AVE which will get you from Madrid to Barcelona in about three hours. I can see you doing the math and wanting to say, “But a flight between the two cities would still be faster!” I don’t think so when you factor in all the hassle involved with security and general “hurry-up-and-wait” time at the airport.
As for the costs, once you add in baggage fees, booking fees, boarding fees and transportation fees into the city, those “budget flights” can become much more expensive. (Read more about this in our post on choosing whether to fly or take the train.)
AVE train tickets and times
That AVE train ticket between Madrid and Barcelona will cost you around €115 one way and around €200 if you want to travel business class. Depending upon which flights are available this could be a bargain or not. Last-minute deals can sometimes be found for AVE, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the site for discounts.
To give you a comparison and demonstrate just how fast and fabulous AVE is, a slower train, Estrella, takes almost nine hours to get from Madrid to Barcelona. This trip, however, costs just €44 one way and would be great for travelers who welcome a slower travel experience.
Other routes on the AVE
You could also travel from Madrid to Seville on AVE in just 2 hours and 30 minutes at a slightly lower price of €80 one way.
Madrid to Valencia to see Las Fallas? You can do it in under 2 hours for €80.
Or how about Madrid to Malaga? Just 2 hours 30 minutes for about €90 one way.
AVE also connects Madrid with Albacete, Valladoloid and Huesca.
The ride from Barcelona to Madrid
I took AVE from Barcelona to Madrid recently and it was very comfortable. There was a bar where some riders spent most of their time plus roomy seats and tables for laptops or books.
Unfortunately I was traveling alone with tons of stuff and did not want to haul all my bags with me to the bar and was worried about having something taken. This is a consideration when you do your packing for an AVE trip. I’d recommend keeping valuables in one bag and putting the other bags on the luggage rack.
Overall it was a much more comfortable trip than on a cramped airline and I recommend it. The best part is definitely that you end up in the city center, not miles away, as is the case with airports.
There are many departures daily on AVE between Madrid and Barcelona. While you could try to buy tickets online on the RENFE site, it’s probably easier to just go to your nearest station a day or two before and buy your tickets there.
Also in our guide: If you’re planning a trip to either cities, be sure to stop by our hotel guides for Madrid and Barcelona. Our editors have visited and inspected affordable hotels in both cities’ centers and have written reviews (with photos) of their favorites.
Your experience on AVE?
Have you taken the AVE or Estrella train between Barcelona and Madrid? Have you flown between the cities? Tell us about your experience in our comments section.