Let us set the scene. You’re speeding through the south of France on the highspeed TGV, cutting through the Pyrenees towards Catalonia’s cosmopolitan capital, Barcelona, where Gaudí’s signature spires adorn the skyline and mind-boggling mosaics twinkle in the fading sun. This is Spain train travel and boy is it magical. Before you’ve even stepped foot into one of its marvellous cities, your appetite for San Sebastian pintxo, Sevillian architecture and the sound of lapping shores along Barcelona’s Mediterranean coastline will be practically voracious. Tuck into authentic tapas in Triana
– Seville’s resident down-to-earth and colourful barrio – before trying your hand (or feet) at flamenco down spindly side streets away from the tourist-trap shows. If your feet move better with one in front of the other, however, Spain has myriad national parks and trails up its sleeve. Stretch your legs up Montjuïc Mountain and its nearby fortress, which offers splendid panoramic views over Barcelona, or head into Donana National Park for cacophonies of tropical birds and once-in-a-lifetime sightings of the endangered Iberian lynx, which can only be found in Spain.
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I must tell you that you made a believer out of me. I travel a lot for business globally and everything you organised was top of the line. I was so enthusiastic about your team that I gave your coordinates to my flight neighbour. It says it all! Thank you for a wonderful vacation to Spain.
The beauty of Spain train travel is that it forces you to slow down, appreciate the landscape around you and be at one with it. However, there is nothing slow about Spain’s train routes, particularly if you’re going from Barcelona to Madrid. Popular among tourists and locals, it is the country’s busiest train line – and for good reason. Linking two extraordinary capitals, you can be chomping on Catalonian esmorzar de forquilla (fork breakfast – because hearty breakfasts like these deserve to be eaten with a fork) in the morning and wandering around Madrid’s mightily impressive Prado Museum in the afternoon. And with private art historians for guides, you’ll get a unique insight into the city’s cultural outposts such as the Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Spain train travel doesn’t have to start and end at a city’s train station either. If off-roading through the Basque Country sounds up your street, drive into neighbouring Rioja region with a private driver for a liquid lunch and history lesson on the cellars’ colourful pasts.
It’s a well-known fact that Spain is also famed for its cuisine. San Sebastian is famous for its pintxo, Seville is the country’s tapas capital, Valencia is the birthplace of paella and Barcelona runs on cava. Discovering these Spanish staples by train seems like the obvious way – especially if you want to bring some sweet souvenirs home and not worry about the extra luggage. Follow locals round their favourite pica-pica (Catalonian style tapas) spots in the lively and authentic Poble Sec barrio, which is still wonderfully under the radar, discover the age-old aging process of sherry in Andalusian country and find your new family favourite dish at private cookery classes in Valencia.