AVE High Speed Train Spain

By high speed train, the AVE, to Madrid

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

However, first time I planned to fly from Madrid to India, coming from Malaga by AVE I was rather 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.

What I did know was that with a Renfe ticket for the AVE, one can travel for free with the Cercanias (short distance train) to the airport. 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 station are on the same premises. Also, Madrid-Barajas airport, along with Paris–Charles de Gaulle Airport it is the largest airport in Europe by physical size. Which, all in all made me a bit uptight about the journey.

Taxi to the airport

Yes, I could have gotten a taxi to the airport, but especially during the day, traffic jams are a real issue, 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 just say that, again in general, taxi drivers rank lower than second hand salesmen in my trustworthiness list.

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 take into account 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 hour during the day. 

AVE – Atocha Station – train to 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 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 where you can 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 form of payment) on the right side of the machine or pay.
  4. The machine will now print your ticket.

Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.

C1 short distance train to airport

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

Once you have your ticket, follow the signs C1 Aeropuerto. You enter the Cercanias platforms through gates where you have 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, which is the newest and most modern of all the terminals. From here you might have to transfer to another terminal. 

Airport transfer bus

There is a free airport transfer bus which during the day 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 hal, from where you need to go up to Departures. Once boarded, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight.

Barajas airport Madrid

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