A unique in depth, independent guide to travelling to and from Madrid by train and using the primary stations in Madrid.
Why go to Madrid
The Wikipedia guide to Madrid
The mainline stations in Madrid - Atocha and Chamartin
The two primary rail stations in Madrid are:
Atocha - which is to the south of the city centre and
Chamartin - which is to the north of the city centre.
Both main line stations are some distance from the city centre, but both are served by the Madrid metro.
Chamartin is towards the top of the map, while 'Atocha RENFE' station is on line 1 between Pacifico and Sol.
Atocha station is notable for its stunning architecture and both Chamartin and Atocha stations are safe locations to wait for trains, the indoor garden at Atocha station being particularly incredible.
Though Chamartin station has the ambience of a drab airport terminal
Despite their size Atocha and Chamartin stations are relatively easy to navigate, but be prepared to walk longer distances than usual at Atocha station, particularly if you enter/exit Atocha station from its main entrance to the street.
A new tunnel now also allows certain long distance express trains to cross Madrid serving both Atocha and Chamartin stations these trains use the lower level platforms (Cercanias) platforms at Atocha - that are some distance from the main departure lounge.
Multiple escalators, and lifts are located in each station.
Travelling between Atocha and Chamartin stations and getting to the city centre
Atocha and Chamartin are linked by frequent local Cercanias trains that depart from the lower level platforms at Atocha, while at Chamartin the platforms are beside those that serve the long distance trains.
At Atocha the Cercanias station is separate from the main arrivals/depature areas used by the long distance trains, while at Chamartin access to the Cercanias platforms is from the same concourse that gives access to the longer distance trains.
The Cercanias trains are by far the simplest means of travelling between the two stations, don't take the Metro!
Cercanias lines C1,C2,C3,C4,C7,C8 and C10 operate between Atocha and Chamartin, but trains on lines C3 and C4 take a different route through Sol station, the other lines travel via Recoletto station.
At Atocha station trains on lines C3/C4 to Chamartin leave from a different platform to those on lines C1, C2, C7, C8 and C10.
Both of these platforms at Atocha have Chamartin listed as destinations, but avoid taking lines C3/C4, the trains from the other platform leave much more frequently.
The quickest route to the city centre from both Atocha and Chamartin stations is usually to take a local (Cercanias) train.
Lines C3/C4 link both Atocha and Chamartin stations to ‘Sol’, which is the nearest station to the Prado Museum and is at the the heart of the city centre.
Lines C1,C2,C3,C4,C7,C8 and C10 link both Atocha and Chamartin with the city's biggest public transport interchange at Nuevos Ministerios
However, if you're heading to Nuevos Ministerios from Atocha head to the platforms used by trains on lines C1,C2, C7,C8 and C10, it's likely to be be quicker than taking lines C3 and C4.
At Chamartin station the indicators on the main concourse will tell you which Cercanias trains will be next to depart(though you need to be light on your feet).
Atocha and Chamartin are both on Metro line 1 , which also runs to Sol, while Chamartin is alos served by Line 10.
All train departures from Atocha station on the D-Bahn timetable.
Click here for the therebytrain.com guide to using the D-Bahn timetable.
Using Atocha Station
Atocha station is to south of the city centre and it is vast (and also rather fantastic).
The station is in five distinct sections:
(1) arrivals hall;
(2) a concourse for the Cercanias (commuter trains, but some longer distance trains also depart from here);
(3) the departure lounge;
(4) the huge indoor garden that leads to the old street entrance; and
(5) the 'Atocha Renfe’ station on the Madrid Metro
if you're taking the Metro from the city centre to Atocha station, don't leave the train at 'Atocha', the station you need is 'Atocha RENFE'.
When you arrive by an express/long distance train moving walkways take you up to the arrivals hall from where escalators lead up to the taxi rank and down into the Cercanias station concourse.
The Cercanias station concourse is much nearer to the arrivals hall than the departure lounge, so allow extra time if you'll be taking a 'Cercanias' train TO Atocha in order to transfer to a long distance train.
If you will be taking a high speed train from Atocha you will also need to pass through security.
Therefore rushing against the clock at Atocha, from arriving at the Cercanias station, or Metro, to the platform from which your high speed train departs is not recommended!
Train service summary
The following trains depart/arrive at the Puerta De Atocha (the main part of the station) platforms which are on the same level as the main concourse;
- AVE trains on the high speed route to Zaragoza, Tarragona and Barcelona
- AVE trains on the high speed route to Cordoba, Malaga and Seville
- AVE trains on the new high speed line to Valencia
- AVE trains on the new high speed line to Alicante
- AV Trains to Toledo
- ALT trains to Algeciras, Cadiz, Granada, Jerez
- ALS trains to Pamplona
In addition to the suburban/local trains to the Chamartin station, the city centre and Barajas airport, the following trains now predominantly call at the below ground ‘Cercanias’ platforms
- ALT trains to Murcia and Ronda
- Trains to Jaen and Segovia (faster trains operate to Segovia from Chamartin station)
All train departures from Chamartin station on the D-Bahn timetable.
Using Chamartin station
Chamartin station to the north of the city centre has a large (slighty drab), but clean departure hall which gives access to the main line platforms, used by the majority of the long distance rail services to/from the station.
These platforms are used by the following rail services;
- AVE trains from/to Segovia and Valladolid
- ALV trains from/to Bilbao, Burgos, Gijon, Hendaye, Irun, Leon, San Sebastian, Santander, Valladolid and Vigo certain trains to Gijon and Santander leave from the lower level platforms
- TLG trains from/to A Coruna and Burgos
- The Lusitania overnight train from/to Lisbon
- Other trains from/to Leon
Beside the main line platforms and also linked to the main departure hall are the ‘Cercanias’ platforms, which are used by local trains to the city centre, Atocha station and Barajas airport, as well as the following long distance services:
- Two daily ALV trains to Alicante these trains call at Atocha station from where all other trains to Alicante depart
- Certain ALV trains to Gijon and Santander certain services only, the majority of trains depart from the main concourse
- ALT trains to Murcia and Ronda
- Trains to Jaen
- The TLG train to Vigo
The escalators down to the Cercanias lead to/from the main concourse.
There are (at least) eight platforms used by the Cercanias trains, and the trains that will depart from them are shown on the electronic indicators on the main station concourse - at the end of the concourse from which the Cercanias trains depart.
However, a quirk of taking the Cercanias train from Chamartin is that the platform the train will be departing from, often only appears on the indicator a minute or two before the train is due to arrive.
As a result it's best to hover by the indicator and keep a close eye on it and then be prepared to dash down to the platform from where your train will be departing from!
Chamartin also has its own station 'Chamartin RENFE' station on the Madrid metro.
'Cercanias' (local)trains on line C1 operate to to Barajas airport from both Atocha and Chamartin stations.
At Atocha they depart from the separate Cercanias station - that is beside the arrival and departure areas used by the high speed and other long distance trains.
These trains on line C1 also also call at the city centre station, 'Nuevos Ministerios'.
These line C1 trains call at a station that’s directly linked to Terminal 4 (the main terminal) of Barajas Airport
If you're heading to Barajas from Atocha or Chamartin stations, by far the simplest and quickest option is to take one of these trains on line C1, no matter what terminal your flight is departing from.
During the day the trains on line C1 operate every 15mins.
You should still take the line C1 train to Barajas even if your flight is departing from Terminals 1 or 2, your journey will be a little more awkward (and confusing), but trust me it's still the simplest way of getting to Terminals 1 and 2 from Chamartin and Atcoha stations (but not if you'll be travelling to these terminals from the city centre - see below)
On arrival by C1 train at Barajas you will see multiple signs pointing the way to Terminal (T4), but none for Terminals T1/T2 at all.
You will pass the entrance to the Metro station at Terminal 4, which is served by line 8
At this point you have a choice (1) take the Metro to its station that serves Terminals T1/T2 - but you will need to buy a separate ticket: OR (2) take the free shuttle bus to terminals T1/T2.
There aren't any signs pointing you in the direction of this shuttle bus.
Head for the bus station and at the top of the escalator you'll see a sign that points to the shuttle bus stop nearby - the first sign you will see that gives any indication that Barajas airport has any other terminals apart from Terminal 4!
(I took the bus and wished I'd taken the Metro).
If your flight is departing from Termials T1/T2 and you'll be heading to Barajas from the city centre then definitely take Metro line 8.
You'll have a direct journey from Nuevos Ministerios station.
As referenced above metro line 8 also serves Terminal 4, so if you're heading to T4 at Barajas from Nuevos Ministerios, you have a choice between the faster, but less frequent Cercanias trains on line C1, OR the slower, but more frequent (and probably cheaper) Metro service on line M8.