Fastest journey5hr 4m
Direct Alvia trains from Madrid to Bilbao run north from Madrid using a new high-speed line that tunnels under the Sierra de Guadarrama. Trains stay on the high-speed line to Valladolid, capital of Spain's Castilla y León region. Beyond Valladolid, the pace becomes much slower as the train winds around hills and through valleys on the way to the coastal city of Bilbao (known as Bilbo in the Basque language).
Booking for this route opens 90 days in advance, which is when you'll find the cheapest tickets. Note, however, that the Spanish rail operator often releases tickets in batches, sometimes as early as 120 days or more. If you're having trouble finding trains, contact us and we'll email you when booking opens.
If the timings of the direct trains from Madrid to Bilbao do not suit your plans, there are additional options requiring one change of train at either Zaragoza or Miranda de Ebro.
Madrid to Bilbao
High-speed Alvia trains from Madrid to Bilbao leave twice daily from Chamartin station, which is in the northern suburbs of the Spanish capital. Chamartin is well served by Madrid's efficient cercanías (ie. local train) network. In Bilbao, you'll arrive at Abando station - which is a hub for local metro and suburban rail services. The Alvia trains make five stops on the 5 hr journey from Madrid to Bilbao. If you want a little extra comfort on the train, opt when you book for preferente rather than turista class.
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Image credits: Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao by Plotnikov