Seeing Spain By Train: 5 Of The Best Spanish Train Trips

All aboard! Or perhaps we should say ‘’Todos a Bordo!’’, because today, we’re traversing the 16,026 km of train track that carves up Spain, delivering you from Malaga to Madrid, Bilbao to Barcelona and Seville to Santander, all at a good clip and in great comfort.

First built in 1848, the inaugural Spanish train journey was a humble one, linking Barcelona to Mataró and taking just twenty minutes. How the network has grown, and with it, the opportunity to enjoy not only the country but also its culture, cuisine and countryside, all without having to leave the carriage!

If you’re a keen ferroequinologist, a devoted trainspotter, or you simply prefer a more environmentally friendly way of seeing a country, then you’ve come to the right place; here are 5 of the best Spanish train trips for seeing Spain by train.

THE TRANSCANTÁBRICO GRAN LUJO 

Spain trains…it has something of a ring to it, don’t you think? For one of the world’s most iconic train journeys and a great way to appreciate the scenery of Spain in maximum comfort, then we had to board here, on the Transcantabrico.

The Transcantabrico is the oldest and most luxurious tourist train in the country, which takes in Spain’s North (known as Green Spain because of its rolling verdancy), the Bay of Biscay and beyond.

The quintessential leg of the Transcantabrico is known as Gran Lujo (‘Great Luxury). This is an 8 day journey that starts in the foodie mecca San Sebastien and finishes in Santiago de Compostela, famed for being the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. 

Whilst pilgrims do that particular journey on foot, you’ll be travelling in serious luxury; trains are preserved in the romantic style of the early 20th Century, but with all the mod cons you’d expect onboard, too. So, that’s WiFi, flatscreen TVs, and even a sauna!

THE CERVANTES TRAIN

The onboard entertainment on the Cervantes Train, on the other hand, is a whole other level of immersive. Starting at Madrid’s Atocha Station and taking around 40 minutes, its final stop is Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of the world famous Don Quixote writer Miguel de Cervantes. But what is even more interesting is that while on the train you are surrounded by actors in 17th century costumes. 

Once you arrive in Alcala de Henares, the actors will take you on a tour of the town, pointing out key sites that inspired Cervantes’ works. The train operates on Saturdays only, departing Madrid at roughly 10:30 am and returning from Alcala at around 6:30 pm.

©[evablancophotos] VIA CANVA.COM

THE HIGH SPEED AVE TRAIN FROM MADRID TO VALENCIA

If you’re in the capital and looking for a more exciting, expansive adventure, then you can take the train from Madrid to Valencia, which manages to cover more than 300 km in under two hours since the cities are linked by Spain’s brand new, high speed AVE train network.

Do so and you’ll appreciate a different side of Spain; modern, cutting edge and with its best foot forward as we enter a new era of train travel. The route itself, though taken at speed, is incredibly scenic, with some of Spain’s most fertile agricultural land zipping by as you travel in comfort and style. 

As you approach Valencia, you’ll pass close to L’Horta Valencia, one of just four Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (as decided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN). This outstanding example of sustainable irrigation which extends over 28 square kilometres and more than 12 municipalities primarily grows the famous citrus fruit so associated with Valencia, which you just have to try once you arrive in the city.

The train alights at the city’s Joaquin Sorolla station, which is just a short stroll from the city centre, making it the perfect launchpad from which to explore the city. While you’re in town, check out these foodie things to do in Valencia.

BARCELONA TO MONTSERRAT 

More than just an excuse to visit everyone’s beloved Barça, the train from Barcelona to Montserrat may be short, but it’s a journey rich in history and replete with vistas that just have to be seen to be believed.

Just an hour’s train ride (on the R5) from Barcelona’s Placa Espanya to Monistrol de Montserrat station, this one is just as much about the journey as it is the destination, with the final leg of the journey revealing expansive vistas of Montserrat mountain and its monastery.

You can then take the Montserrat Rack Railway from Monistrol de Montserrat or a dedicated cable car up from Aeri de Montserrat to see the Santa Maria Abbey, perched on the mountain and offering incredible views of the Catalan countryside. All of this before returning down the mountain and heading back to Barcelona just in time for tea! Or rather, in time for tapas.

Read: 5 IDEAL tapas bars in Barcelona

THE AL ANDALUS ROUND TRIP FROM SEVILLE

If the high speed of the Madrid to Valencia train or the bustling, participatory nature of the Cervantes train aren’t what you were looking for, then for a more relaxing ride, the Al Andalus train could be for you.

With its spacious sleeper carriages lovingly restored in the opulent 1929 Wagon-Lits style, and boasting four lounge cars used as restaurants, bars and concert venues, the Al Andalus is a plush experience if ever there was one.

And that’s before you even look out the window. Care to do so, and you’ll be met with views of Southern Spain’s Andalucia region, often referred to as Islamic Iberia. Your round-trip rail ride takes seven days, starting and ending in the capital of flamenco, Seville. 

On the journey you’ll stop off at Jerez, Cadiz, Ronda, Granada, Linares-Baeza, Ubeda and Cordoba, before finishing up back in Seville, along the way appreciating the majesty of Moorish architecture and the famous cuisine of the region. Expect arroz con mariscos, jamón serrano, salmorejo and plenty of gambas! 

That’s rice with seafood, air-cured Andalucian ham, a gorgeously smooth chilled tomato soup, and prawns, if you didn’t bring your Spanish to English dictionary.

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