Fastest journey5hr 8m
The introduction in 2014 of a once-daily direct train from Lyon to Barcelona was a boost for travellers heading from France's Saône-Rhône region to Catalonia. The service is run by Spanish rail operator Renfe (in conjunction with SNCF) using Renfe's top-of-the-range AVE trains. The journey takes 5 hrs 10 mins. Skirting the Rhône Valley as it speeds south, the train then follows the Mediterranean coast. It cuts under the Pyrenees using a high-speed line linking France and Spain.
Bookings for this service normally open four months in advance of travel, and it is a route where you must book early to secure the cheapest tickets. If the timings of the direct service do not suit your travel plans, bear in mind that there are at least two additional connections per day from Lyon to Barcelona, each requiring just one change of train along the way (usually at Valence TGV or Nîmes).
Lyon to Barcelona
The direct AVE train from Lyon to Barcelona leaves from Lyon Part Dieu station and arrives at Barcelona Sants station. The once-daily direct train makes eight stops on the way to Barcelona. While the early part of the route bypasses the Rhône Valley towns, later in the journey you'll get close-up views of a number of famous cities – Nîmes, Montpellier, Perpignan and Girona among them. For the best views of the coast in the stretch beyond Montpellier, book a seat on the left side of the train. Upon arrival at Barcelona Sants, there is a good onward connecting service to Zaragoza and Madrid.
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Image credits: Sagrada Familia by Andrew E. Larsen