Spain's varied terrain makes it a prime location for interesting train journeys. On this page you'll find my selection of the best train journeys in Spain.
Spain's best train journeys can be divided into two types - the super-fast and the luxurious/scenic. Of course, that's not to say you aren't treated excellently on the fast trains.
Best Fast Trains in SpainSpain has the longest high-speed rail network in Europe, with its AVE rail network that connects Madrid to Barcelona, Seville, Malaga and Valladolid, with more destinations being added all the time (Valencia will be connected by the end of 2010).
More: AVE train.
Best Luxury Trains in SpainWhen it comes to the luxury/scenic services, you mainly have the narrow gauge network in the north to thank for that. The Trancantabrico is the most famous, while there's also the cheaper La Robla service too.
More: Transcantabrico and La Robla.
Top Ten Best Train Journeys in Spain
1. Madrid to Barcelona
Spain's premier cities are now connected by a train that takes just over two-and-a-half hours. And without the need to check in or travel to out-of-town airports, this train is a godsend. Imagine - you could take in Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia museum (across the road from the Madrid train station) in the morning and be looking at La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona the afternoon!
Book the Madrid to Barcelona train (book direct)
The Transcantabrico is Spain's premier luxury train route. Sleep aboard classic narrow-gauge trains and visit the best sights in northern Spain in style. Routes start or finish in Santiago de Compostela and take in the cities of Bilbao, Leon and Oviedo and the stunning mountain range of the Picos de Europa.
Read more about the Transcantrabrico train in Spain
3. Madrid to Seville
The original AVE high-speed train in Spain, this route has been shuttling tourists and businessmen between the capital and Andalusia's premier city since 1992. The journey takes just two-and-a-half hours, as opposed to more than six hours by bus.
Book the Madrid to Seville train (book direct)
The train from Madrid to Seville is also available as part of a guided tour, either as a day trip from Madrid to Seville or as a two- or three-day trip that also includes Cordoba and/or Caceres:
4. La Robla
If the Transcantrabrico is too expensive, the 'budget' version takes in less destinations and is a step down in quality, but (when you consider that all accommodation, food and guided tours are paid for) it's great value.
The train departs from Bilbao and reaches Leon, before turning back and dropping you off in Bilbao again.
Read more about La Robla
The Euskotren is the Basque Country's local rail service. It's the slow way to travel from Bilbao to San Sebastian and on to the French border, but it's worth it. I spent an enjoyable three hours taking in the sights out of the window. The mountains, green fields and commuter towns along this route add an excellent dimension to your Basque Country visit that you might not normally see. It's cheap, too.
Read more about the Basque Country.
6. Elipsos Trenhotel
The Elipsos 'train hotels' are Spain's train routes from Madrid and Barcelona to Paris, Zurich and Milan. Why suffer a long typical distance train journey when you can enjoy five-star quality service (minus the king-size bed)? Board the train, treat yourself from the a la carte menu, go to your cabin, and wake up to breakfast before arriving at your destination.
Read more about the Elipsos Train Hotel
7. Bilbao Funicular
Climb to the top of Mount Artxanda on the Bilbao Funicular to get a spectacular view of Bilbao. See the Guggenheim museum from a totally different perspective.
The Bilbao funicular departs from Calle Castaños, close to the Guggenheim.
See a video from the Bilbao Funicular
8. Tren Medieval
Visit the charming town of Siguenza from Madrid on this 'medieval train'. No, I didn't know there were trains in medieval times, but maybe it was this headstart that Spain had on the rest of the world that explains why their trains are so good!
One for the kids this, as actors dress in period costumes and entertain the passengers, before taking you and your family on a guided tour of Siguenza.
Unfortunately, the website is only in Spanish, as are the tours.
Read more Tren Medieval a Siguenza
9. Tren de la Fresa (Strawberry Train) to Aranjuez
Take a day trip the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aranjuez on a vintage train. The train journey begins from Madrid's rail museum, during which you'll be served strawberries by the waitresses and then transferred to the historic old town of Aranjuez, where you'll be offered a guided a tour of the royal palace.
Read more about the Tren de la Fresa (site is in Spanish, but the important information (like dates and times) should be self-explanatory).
Unfortunately, tours are only in Spanish.
10. Barcelona to Montserrat
The journey to the Montserrat mountain is a treat in itself.