The perfect train trip through Europe: London to Madrid

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5 places in 3 countries

Train travel in Europe has an allure that goes beyond mere convenience. It offers a tangible connection to history, harking back to an era when train travel was the pinnacle of sophistication and luxury. More than that, it gives travelers the opportunity to appreciate the dramatic shifts in landscape and culture as they move from one region to another.

The journey from London to Madrid, in particular, is one that reveals the multifaceted nature of European life. Each city on the route - London, Paris, Lyon, Barcelona, and Madrid - boasts its own distinct character and heritage. London's stately charm, Paris' romantic allure, Lyon's rich history, Barcelona's creative spirit, and Madrid's vibrant culture are all there to be discovered.

However, it is not just the cities that make this journey worth taking. Between each stop are smaller towns and villages, each with its own stories to tell and delicacies to taste. Whether it's sipping on locally produced wine in a French village or sampling traditional Spanish tapas in a small town, the journey from London to Madrid is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

This guide is designed to introduce you to this extraordinary rail route. It will provide insights into each city's unique character and highlight the must-see attractions along the way. Here's to a memorable journey through some of Europe's most enchanting destinations.


City in🇬🇧 United Kingdomrated

London, often called the world's capital, has an enduring allure that draws visitors from all corners. London offers a visual feast, from the iconic clock tower housing Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the age-old majesty of Westminster Abbey to the modern skyline-defining structures like the Shard and Gherkin. The city's cultural offerings are extensive, with world-renowned institutions like the British Museum and Tate Modern and countless theatres and music venues.

A cosmopolitan hub, London's food scene is just as varied as its population. Fish and chips remain a classic, but for a more unique culinary experience, explore the many markets, such as Borough Market, with its locally sourced produce and global cuisine.

Great places near London

These are recommended places to visit when you are in London within a 2-hour train ride:

Explore London


City in🇫🇷 Francerated

From London, it is a mere two-hour train ride to get to Paris.

Parisians have a strong sense of cultural identity, be it the cafés where locals engage in passionate discourse or the hushed reverence in the city's art galleries. This is not a city that merely exists but one that truly lives and breathes its traditions and customs.

The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre are undisputed icons, yet lesser-known gems like the Sainte-Chapelle and its stained-glass windows or the Edith Piaf Museum add an extra layer to the city's rich tapestry.

As for culinary experiences, Paris is synonymous with pastries and cheese, but it's also the birthplace of steak frites and coq au vin. Try these dishes in any of the local bistros for a quintessential Parisian experience.

Great places near Paris

These are recommended places to visit when you are in Paris within a 2-hour train ride:

Explore Paris


City in🇫🇷 Francerated

From Paris, it takes about 2 hours to travel to Lyon by train.

Many a traveler has journeyed through Europe, but Lyon remains somewhat underappreciated, overshadowed by the fame of Paris and Rome. Its trademark, the ancient Roman amphitheater, is a testament to its enduring heritage.

In Lyon itself, do not miss the chance to visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Perched atop Fourvière Hill, it offers panoramic views of the city. As a lesser-known fact, Lyon is also home to a network of secret passageways known as 'traboules'. Used in the silk trade and resistance efforts during World War II, these hidden corridors offer a unique way to explore the city.

At its heart, Lyon is a city of food and culture. Known as the gastronomic capital of France, it's home to traditional 'bouchon' restaurants serving up hearty local fare. Yet, it's not all about indulgence. Be aware that the city's hilly terrain can be a challenge for some, and the old town, while picturesque, has narrow streets that can be confusing to navigate.

Great places near Lyon

These are recommended places to visit when you are in Lyon within a 2-hour train ride:

Explore Lyon


City in🇪🇸 Spainrated

From Lyon, it takes about 5 hour train ride to Barcelona.

Barcelona is home to the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudí. His mark on the city is undeniable, from the unfinished masterpiece of La Sagrada Familia to the mosaic designs in Park Güell. However, it's not all about Gaudí. The Gothic Quarter, with its labyrinthine streets and hidden squares, takes visitors back to the Roman times.

Street life is integral to the Barcelona experience. La Rambla, a tree-lined pedestrian street, is often the first taste of Barcelona for many visitors. While it's teeming with life and street performers, be wary of pickpockets who are known to frequent this area.

Culinary enthusiasts can look forward to Catalan cuisine. It's not Spanish food as you know it. The Mercat de la Boqueria, an expansive market off La Rambla, offers a smorgasbord of local produce and food stalls serving fresh meals.

Great places near Barcelona

These are recommended places to visit when you are in Barcelona within a 3-hour train ride:

Explore Barcelona


City in🇪🇸 Spainrated

It takes 2 hours 30 minutes by train to get to Madrid from Barcelona.

Madrid, the beating heart of Spain, is no mere capital city but a living illustration of the Spanish spirit. Madrid possesses a unique charm with its clean streets, stunning architecture, and the welcoming warmth of its inhabitants. It is a city of subtle surprises rather than overt drama, with its appeal found in the rhythm of daily life rather than a checklist of tourist sights.

Known for its art, Madrid is home to three world-class museums: the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza. However, it's worth noting that the city's high temperatures in summer can be intense, so be prepared with plenty of water and sunscreen.

When it comes to cuisine, Madrid takes pride in its traditional dishes like cocido madrileño (a hearty chickpea stew) and callos a la madrileña (tripe stew), which can be sampled in many local restaurants.

Great places near Madrid

These are recommended places to visit when you are in Madrid within a 5-hour train ride:

Explore Madrid

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