Spanish operator Renfe's train route between Madrid and Granada.
Arriving in Granada from Madrid by rail was problematic for years as a result of long-term engineering works between Granada and Antequera, in northern Andalucía. Once upon a time, our Travel Geeks had to advise customers to travel to Granada via a Malaga-bound AVE from Madrid to Antequera Santa Ana station, changing there on a connecting bus to Granada. The bus from Antequera normally takes over 90 mins, meaning the total journey time was once around 7 hrs.
The direct route has one train leaving a day in each direction. The train to Granada departs from Madrid-Atocha Cercanías at 17:18 and takes 5 hrs 15 mins, saving around 2 hrs from the train and bus combination. Going the other way, the train leaves Granada and 07:35 and takes 5 hrs and 8 mins to arrive in Madrid. You'll be travelling on Renfe’s Talgo trains with a choice of Standard and First Class seating. With upgrades to First Class starting at just £5, we do highly recommend opting for this upgrade to enjoy extra space and comfier seats onboard.
Madrid is the hub of Spain’s impressive high-speed rail network. The city has direct connections to top cities including Seville and Barcelona as well as the famous overnight train to Lisbon and high-speed direct services to cities in France such as Montpellier. Spain’s capital has a very different feel to Barcelona, one of Spain’s other most popular cities to visit by train.
Madrid is regal and fiercely Spanish. In the city centre, the sight of Spanish flags hanging from windows and dotted along grand streets are as common a sight as Real Madrid or Atletico shirts.
To truly soak up the royal presence in the city, pass by the Royal Palace of Madrid, grandeur at its finest. Puerta del Sol is a striking central square with a fine collection of historic buildings, such as the 18th century Post Office which is now the President of Madrid’s offices. As well as many lively cafes, tapas bars and restaurants, it’s a stunning setting to wine and dine the night away for locals and tourists alike.
Of course, as with any capital, Madrid has its fair share of museums and city parks to explore. Museo Nacional Del Prado, the Spanish museum of national art, houses a world-class range of European art dating back to the 12th century. For more modern work, head to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía where the focus is on Dali, Picasso and other leading 20th-century painters. Parque del Buen Retiro once belonged to the monarchy but is now well and truly open to the public. One of the largest of the 40 plus city parks in Madrid, Parque del Buen Retiro is a great place to relax and escape the baking heat of summer. Have a picnic close to one of the water features or try some yoga under the trees.
Heading south from Madrid, the new route to Granada enjoys a fabulous run through Sierra Morena mountain range on the Despenaperros Railway so called as this route takes you through the Despenaperros Natural Park. The park is found within a 77km² gorge which has created a rocky wilderness where Griffon vultures hover and climbers conquer.
Once in Granada, you won’t be short of things to do and see. As well as having the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the city has Moorish heritage, the most famous site being The Alhambra. Designed initially as a fortress and palace in 889 AD, the site dominates the landscape of Granada and, therefore, promises the most spectacular views over the city.
The design features both Islamic and European influences, which combine to tell an unforgettable story of power, royalty, history and culture rolled into one magnificent setting. The Palacio de Generalife, one of the outlying buildings connected to The Alhambra, is a former royal summer house packed with elegant ornaments and a long central pool set alongside flowerbeds.
Granada’s cuisine is also influenced by both Islamic and Andalucían heritage. Habas con jamon, a local dish, combines Arabic spices and fava beans with traditional Spanish pork. You’ll also be able to find lots of Arabic teahouses where you can find cakes and crepes and of course a wide range of teas. Mercado San Agustin is the city’s premier food market which showcases a fine range of fresh local produce, from classic hams to Andalucían wines.
There’s a lot more to see when exploring Andalucía by train. An Andalucía train tour can easily connect with other amazing cities. For example, it’s only 2 hours from Granada to Málaga and under an hour from Málaga to Córdoba with the journey time from Córdoba to Seville also being under an hour. Thanks to Renfe’s direct service, getting to Andalucía by train has gotten a whole lot easier.
Photo credits top to bottom: Street in old Madrid, Spain iStock ©thehague, Street scene in Malasaña district in Madrid istock ©JJFarquitectos, The Alhambra ©WillSelarep
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