AVE High Speed Train Spain

By high-speed train, the AVE, to Madrid

Travelling by AVE, the Spanish high-speed train is generally a great experience. The journey is quick and comfortable, and onboard the train, you can visit the cafeteria or go for a walkabout to stretch the old legs. If you don’t feel like snacking, watch the latest movies or sit back and enjoy the landscape.

However, the first time I planned to fly from Madrid to India, coming from Malaga by AVE, I was somewhat nervous. I had limited time to make my flight, arriving in the morning by train in Madrid and subsequently having to get to Barajas airport. Furthermore, I had never used the public transport system in Madrid and had little knowledge about the city itself.

Travel for free with the short-distance train to the airport

I knew that with a Renfe ticket for the AVE, one can travel to the airport for free with the Cercanias (short-distance train). But also that Atocha, the central railway station in Madrid, is colossal with different types of trains arriving from all over Spain. Furthermore, the metro and bus stations are on the same premises. Also, Madrid-Barajas Airport and Paris–Charles de Gaulle Airport are the largest airports in Europe by physical size.

All in all, this made me a bit uptight about the journey.

Taxi to Madrid airport

Yes, I could have gotten a cab to the airport, but traffic jams are a real issue, especially during the day, which might cause delays. It is also a lot more expensive, from 30 euros upwards. And I don’t know how your experience with taxi drivers is, especially abroad when you don’t speak the language (fluently), but let’s say that, again, in general, taxi drivers rank lower than second-hand salespeople in my trustworthiness list.

However, if you prefer a private transfer to the airport, click here to view rates and availability.

So when a couple of years later, I had to fly again from Madrid, I decided to document the journey to aid future travellers, which you will find below as a step-by-step guide to getting to Madrid airport by public transport.

Atocha Central Railway Station to Madrid Barajas Airport

According to google maps, the journey from Atocha to the airport takes approximately 40 minutes. However, this does not consider finding one’s way around the station, getting a train ticket and waiting for the train to arrive. Together with the transfer to other airport terminals, the journey will take approximately one and a half hours during the day.

AVE – Atocha Station – train to the airport (C1)

The end station of the AVE in Madrid is Atocha. Upon arrival at Atocha, when leaving the AVE platform, take note of the sign, see the picture on the right.

“Train to airport C1”

From AVE to Cercania Madrid

Get your ticket for the short-distance train to the airport

Before leaving the hall, there is a vending machine to get your (free) ticket.


  1. “Cercanias combinados” if you have your AVE ticket, otherwise choose “adulto ida.”
  2. “Aeropuerto C1.”
  3. Scan the bar code of your AVE ticket (as a form of payment) on the right side of the machine or pay.
  4. The machine will now print your ticket.

C1 short-distance train to the airport

The journey from Atocha to the airport (Terminal 4) will take 25 minutes. During weekdays the day, the train leaves every 15 minutes. Please note that early morning or late at night will only go once every half hour.

Once you have your ticket, follow the signs C1 Aeropuerto. You enter the Cercanias platforms through gates to scan your train ticket.

Make sure to keep your ticket because you will need it later to exit the train station at the airport.

train to Barajas airport Madrid

Board the C1 train

Make sure you board the C1 train because on the same platform, also C2 stops, which will only go as far as Chamartín.

Arrival at Barajas Airport Madrid T4

The airport is the end station of C1. You will arrive at Terminal 4, the newest and most modern of all the terminals. From here, you might have to transfer to another terminal.

Airport transfer bus

A free airport transfer bus goes approximately every ten minutes and will take 5 to 10 minutes to arrive at the other terminals. The bus leaves from the lower floor (floor 0), exiting the hall to the right.

Flight departures

You might arrive at the other Terminals at the Arrival hall, from where you need to go up to Departures. Once boarded, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.

Barajas airport Madrid

Also in Spain

Pin It on Pinterest