Fastest journey11hr 7m
It is easy to take the train from London to Tarragona. But with a journey time of just over 12 hrs, it's a long day. Slightly better connections on the homebound journey from Tarragona back to London trim an hour off the overall travel time.
The journey from London starts with Eurostar to Paris, where you’ll need to change stations to connect with a high-speed TGV train to Barcelona. At Barcelona Sants you change again for the short final hop to either the out-of-town station Camp de Tarragona or to the city-centre station which is simply called Tarragona. At the end of a long travel day, the latter is probably the best bet if you are staying overnight in the middle of Tarragona.
Bookings for this journey generally open 90 days prior to travel, and that’s the moment to get a cheap ticket. Note that the Spanish rail operator often releases tickets in batches, so if you're having trouble finding trains for the Spain portion of your journey, contact us and we'll email you when booking opens.
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. There is some very fine scenery along the way too. Early on in the journey, you sweep through Burgundy vineyards, and later on there are engaging views of the coastal landscapes of Languedoc. After the stop at Perpignan, the train speeds south towards the Pyrenees, before diving under the mountains in the Perthus Tunnel.
If you worry that six and half hours if a long time to spend on one train, fear not! This rates as one of favourite high-speed routes. You can relax and gaze out of the window and, from to time, wander along to the bistro for a coffee or a snack. The direct services from Paris to Barcelona are all operated by French TGV trains. But it's a joint venture with Spanish rail operator Renfe, so you find a dash of Spanish style combining with French flair on this international route.
Barcelona to Tarragona
All trains on the Barcelona to Tarragona route depart from Barcelona Sants station. Euromed and Regional Express trains and the occasional Talgo train also serve Barcelona Estacio de França station, which is where they begin their journey to Tarragona. Arrival in Tarragona is either at Tarragona station or at the out-of-town Camp de Tarragona station – depending on the type of train you choose.
The fastest services only take 30-35 mins and are non-stop to Camp de Tarragona. Most Regional Express trains and some Euromed services stop one to four times en route to Tarragona. Trains on the old line take 55 to 75 minutes for the journey.