The trains in Spain go fast across the plain…. or so one could say today. It surprises many travellers to learn that Spain now has Europe’s most extensive high-speed rail network, with more than 1,500 miles in service and many more under construction. For instance, completion of the northwest AVE high speed line, from Madrid to A Coruña, is scheduled for 2015.
BARCELONA NOW TO PARIS.
The development of Spain’s AVE high-speed train network, with aerodynamic trains travelling at up to 300km per hour ( 180 mph ) on purpose-built tracks, is shrinking Spain in terms of travel time. The most recent addition is now the connection with Paris in 2013 Rather than traveling overnight from Barcelona the journey now takes 6.5 hours. There are 3 trains per day departing Barcelona at 9:20am, 1:20pm and 16:20pm generally. Prices are very comparable to an inexpensive flight, but without the airport lines and waiting times!
For instance, in 1h45m from Madrid you can be in Córdoba and visit the 16th-century Cathedral inserted into a Mosque dating back to the 8th century AD. Then walk through the former Jewish quarter, visit the tiny Synagogue in use from 1315 until 1492, and have lunch at a nearby restaurant enjoying regional fare before a stroll in the gardens of the Palace of the Christian Kings and the chance to cross a Roman bridge. Then take the comfortable train back to Madrid, where you arrive in plenty of time for dinner after a day of multi-cultural experiences difficult to replicate elsewhere.
… OR MADRID-VALENCIA …
In a similar time you can be whisked comfortably from Spain’s capital to Valencia, a Mediterranean port city with over 2,000 years of history and a vibrant present-day life. Visits can include the spacious Cathedral, with what some believe to be the Holy Grail in one of its side chapels, and the Lonja, an elegant Gothic civil building from the later Middle Ages. Opposite is one of the most attractive produce markets in Spain, where you can try a glass of horchata, a refreshing local drink made from the chufa tiger nut. Have a paella lunch beside the beach overlooking the Mediterranean, and then take in the ‘City of Arts and Sciences’ development by the Valencian architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava, before boarding the AVE to Madrid.
… OR TO MADRID AFTER A CRUISE
Many cruise liners call at Spanish Mediterranean ports such as Barcelona and Málaga, both served by AVE trains that can take you to Madrid in less than three hours, perhaps with a meal on board so that you can head straight for the Prado Museum immediately on arrival. Just across the street is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, and both offer world-class permanent collections and frequent temporary exhibitions of major artists. Take a walk through the lively Plaza Mayor (main square, dating from 1619) to the Royal Palace built by the Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty in the 18th century and still perfectly preserved for the enjoyment of visitors.
Some most popular destinations by AVE train from Madrid: Malaga, Antequera, Cordoba, Seville, Valencia, Cuenca, Segovia, Valladolid, Zaragoza, Lleida, Tarragona, Barcelona, Girona, Figueras.
From Barcelona: Madrid, Zaragoza, Lleida, Tarragona, Girona, Figueras.. and now Paris.
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