Atocha is the main train station in Madrid. It has a metro line, it has all the cercanías (city trains) and it has national trains that go to all parts of Spain. There are even international trains that go to and from Atocha. Overall, it’s a train station that you are very likely to visit. For that reason – we are writing this guide to Atocha!
Facts about Atocha
Estación de Atocha is the largest railway station in Madrid. It’s also one of the largest in Spain as a whole, and it serves as a major centre of transportation in Spain.
The geographical location is quite central in Madrid. The Atocha station is conveniently placed in the Atocha neighborhood of the district Arganzuela.
The station was opened in 1851. It has been through a lot of significant events, good as well as bad. On the positive side, it is one of the major design works and arguably one of the best looking train stations in Europe.
On the negative side, it was destroyed by a fire in the end of the 19th century and had to be rebuilt. However, the worst thing of all was when Atocha was the victim of a large terrorist attack in 2004. Coordinated bombings took place in several trains as they reached Atocha, leaving 191 people dead and almost 2.000 wounded. There has since been made many memorials to the victims of this attack, which is the largest terrorist attack in the West since 9/11.
Despite all, Atocha is very well functioning to this day. It continues to grow and continues to be of importance to all kinds of travel. On a yearly basis, Atocha gets more than 100 million visitors each year, making it one of the most trafficated stations in Europe.
Trains to other Spanish cities
When you arrive at Atocha, you have many different travel options. Taking the trains is by far the most popular, and there are several places you can reach – in Spain as well as abroad.
Atocha is also headquarters of RENFE, the Spanish national train company. They have their super-fast AVE trains, as well as regular trains.
Where can you go?
With the high-speed AVE trains, you can visit the following cities (as well as many others on the way):
Cities such as Barcelona and Sevilla are approximately a three hour ride away, while you can get to Zaragoza and Valencia even faster.
There are also several trains that are not high-speed, yet still covering a lot of ground. You can go to Badajoz or Valencia de Alcántara, both near the Portuguese border. Some night trains even go all the way to Lisbon in Portugal.
You can also go south to Almería, or find a train up to the Basque Country in the north. There are a lot of options! Several trains also cover cities and towns closer to the Madrid region, where you will be able to get out before the trains drive even farther away.
Atocha also has departures to France. The Marseille-line is very popular, and you may even go to Paris.
How to buy train tickets
The easiest way to buy tickets is to visit the RENFE website. Here you will be able to buy whatever train ticket you need. They even have an English version of their website, so there shouldn’t be much confusion if you don’t speak Spanish.
You can also buy them at the station. There are machines where you can buy the tickets you need, but you can also go up to one of the desk and ask for a ticket. Here, it depends on the availability of course. But in most cases, you will be able to get a ticket to the train you wish to take.
Generally, the high-speed AVE trains are the most expensive to take. But there can be discounts now and then, and sometimes it’s still cheaper to take the train to Barcelona or Valencia, compared to flying. The normal trains are usually cheaper than the AVE trains, but they take a bit longer to reach their destination.
Atocha is also home of all the Renfe Cercanías. They are the city trains that cover Madrid and a lot of surrounding towns in the region.
If you have a pre-paid travel card, you can use it to ride the Cercanías with no added costs. If you don’t have the travel card, you can buy a single ticket for just a few euros, and reach a lot of destinations within the Madrid region.
The Renfe Cercanías are great to use, as they cover more distances than the metro, and they drive more regularly than the larger trains.
All the lines of the Renfe Cercanías pass through Atocha, so you will be able to take any city train of your choosing.
Atocha only has one metro line passing through. It is line 1, the line that also goes to Sol. It covers a lot of stops, from north to south, for example passing through Chamartín as a major stop in the north, and the Vallecas-district with several stops in the south.
The metro station is officially called “Atocha Renfe”. Often leading to some confusion, since there used to be another station called just “Atocha” for the Atocha neighborhood – but this stop has since changed its name to Estación del Arte.
So if you want to reach the actual Atocha train station by metro – then take line 1 and stop at “Atocha Renfe”.
The metro is a good way to reach the deep centre of Madrid, if you are just arriving to Atocha with a train from another city.
Bus departures from Atocha
Right outside the station, you will find several bus departures.
There are short distance buses that drive around the district of Arganzuela and other areas of Madrid. And there are long distance buses that go as far as Valencia.
Short distance bus tickets can be bought inside the bus, or on a machine inside the station. If you have the Madrid travel card, it won’t even be necessary, as you can just go straight inside the bus and check-in with the card.
For long distance buses, we highly recommend booking your ticket in advance and print it out. At times you can also buy long distance tickets directly from the driver inside the bus.
What to do inside the station
The Atocha station is huge so there is plenty you can do inside, if you are waiting for your train.
You can take a walk around the station and enjoy the architecture and the art. You can also grab a bite of food to eat, as there are several restaurants and cafés. In other words: It’s easy to find a sandwich, a coffee, or a snack, whatever you like.
If you have a long time to wait, take a walk outside in the Atocha neighborhood. Of course, be sure that you have enough time – but if you do, it’s absolutely worth it!
In conclusion, this was our guide to the Atocha train station. We hope you liked it, and if you did, feel free to share it with your friends or co-travelers!