Fastest journey12hr 6m
It is very easy to travel by train from Brighton to Barcelona. The fastest daytime route is via Ashford International and Paris, but you have a wider choice of trains via London and Paris so that’s the journey we describe here. It starts with a run up to London from the Sussex coast. You may opt for a slowish Thameslink train directly from Brighton to St Pancras, but many travellers prefer to take the fast train into Victoria from where it is just a short hop on the Victoria Line tube to St Pancras.
From St Pancras, you’ll take a Eurostar train to Paris, where you’ll need to change stations. At the Gare de Lyon you’ll board a TGV for Barcelona. It’s a ride that sweeps south through France, skirts the Mediterranean coast and then dives under the Pyrenees to reach Catalonia. The journey from Brighton to Barcelona can be done in 12 hrs 30 mins.
Booking for the entire journey opens about 12 weeks in advance of travel, and that’s when you’ll find the cheapest tickets. You may consider booking the journey from London (or Ashford International) to Barcelona even earlier, as that’s available for sale four months in advance. You can then always add the connecting domestic UK leg when tickets are released for sale a little later.
Brighton to London
The fastest trains from Brighton to London Victoria are branded Gatwick Express and most of these make just one stop along the way – no surprise that the stop is at Gatwick Airport. Other trains to London Victoria from Brighton are run by Southern. Even with four stops along the way, these Southern services still reach London within an hour. The route runs due north from Brighton, tunnelling under the South Downs and then cruising through lovely Sussex countryside. The last third of the journey weaves through London’s suburbs, culminating in wonderful views of the Thames just before arriving at Victoria station.
London interchange: London Victoria to London St. Pancras International
Alight the train at London Victoria and walk along the platform towards the station concourse. Make to leave the station via the main exit, at the front of the station, following signs for the London Underground. There are two entrances to the Underground, both of which enter the same ticket hall. Board a northbound Victoria (blue) line train. Kings Cross St. Pancras is the fifth stop.
London to Paris
Board a Eurostar service from London to Paris. There are upwards of 15 trains to Paris from London each day with departures at least hourly from the beautifully restored station at St Pancras in London. The fastest trains speed to Paris in just 2 hrs 16 mins, with slower services taking up to 20 mins longer to reach the Gare du Nord in Paris. The first part of the journey from London sweeps through Thameside landscapes and rural Kent to reach the Channel Tunnel. Little more than an hour after leaving London you'll already be in northern France, tracking south through Flanders fields towards Paris.
Remember to factor in at least half an hour for Eurostar's airline-style baggage check prior to boarding your train. There is a luggage and body scan and you'll be asked to show your passport. There are no restrictions on taking liquids on board Eurostar trains.
Paris interchange: Paris Nord to Paris Lyon
When you alight from the train at Gare du Nord look for signs to the Metro and RER. Once you've bought a ticket follow the signs to 'RER D', direction 'Melun' or 'Malesherbes'. So long as you're heading in the right direction, all the trains on this line stop at Gare de Lyon. The actual train journey takes around 10 mins with just one stop on the way at Châtelet-les-Halles. Upon alighting from the RER train at Gare de Lyon, follow the signs to the mainline station. The signs read 'Accès aux trains Grandes Lignes'. The whole journey from the concourse at Gare du Nord to the mainline departure platforms at Gare de Lyon will normally take about 40 mins but we recommend leaving at least 50 mins.
If you are arriving at Gare du Nord from London, bear in mind that you can buy Paris Métro tickets at the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras and on board the Eurostar train. Similarly, passengers arriving at the Gare du Nord on Thalys trains from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands can buy Metro tickets on the train (at the Thalys Bar). Although universally referred to as Métro tickets, they are in fact valid on RER trains too.
Paris to Barcelona
Direct TGV trains to Barcelona leave Paris two to four times per day. The frequency is higher in summer than winter. The TGVs to Barcelona leave from the Gare de Lyon in Paris. In Barcelona they terminate at Sants station. This journey is focused on speed, so there are not a lot of stops along the way - from six to ten depending on which train you take. All trains stop at the historic cities of Montpellier, Perpignan and Girona. The part of the journey south from Perpignan has good views of the Pyrenees.