Fastest journey10hr 10m
Travelling by train from London to Barcelona became so much easier with the launch of the new high-speed rail service from Paris to Barcelona. Most travellers opt to leave London just after 9am, reaching Barcelona in the evening with a journey time of just over 10 hrs. During the peak summer season in 2016, there will be a later departure via Paris, reaching Barcelona late evening. On certain days (year round) there is a good alternative route from London to Barcelona with one easy change of train in Lyon.
The most frequently booked route starts by taking a Eurostar from London to Paris, where you’ll need to change stations from the Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon. There you’ll board the 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.
This journey opens for booking about 120 days in advance, and that's when you'll find the cheapest tickets.
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.
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Image credits: Sagrada Familia by Andrew E. Larsen