The first and most impressive train station built in Madrid, Atocha is a spectacular building that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. Seemingly expanding every decade with a captivating plaza hosting its own forested garden, the station services a whopping 110 million travelers, commuters and tourists every single year. Situated right in the middle of bustling Madrid, the station is your gateway to the golden metropolis with connections via rail and bus to the best the city has to offer.
As the busiest station in Madrid which sees connections to the airport and European rail networks, it can be a minefield to navigate, making preparation necessary. Luckily, preparation is easy with Virail. Simply type in your destination and travel dates for a quick breakdown of travel options, routes, and costs.
The Atocha station in Madrid was first opened in 1851, connecting Madrid with Aranjuez some 47km away. This isn’t the same station that stands today as the original building suffered from fire damage. The current station was built in 1892 in the very same spot and it was designed by Alberto de Palacio Elissagne and, perhaps more famously, Gustave Eiffel. Impressively constructed from steel and glass, much of the building is exactly as it would have been at the turn of the twentieth century.
As traffic and travelers increased over the last century, the station has been updated to accommodate the new variety of passengers. The station was expanded in 1985 with additional tracks to connect with Spain’s expanding rail system. In 1992, the interior plaza was converted into a tropical garden with additional cafés and bars. During this time, the tracks were moved to a new terminal to offer more passenger space. Today, Madrid Atocha railway station houses 24 separate tracks divided across 3 boarding areas servicing local, national and international routes.
Madrid’s Atocha station caters for some 108 million yearly travelers with the following operators and services.
AVE, Spain’s high-speed rail service by Renfe, offers 9 train services with Madrid as the terminus. Services continue on to popular cities and towns throughout Spain, including Seville, Alicante, Figueres, Malaga, Valencia and Barcelona (among others), as well as to France with direct trains to Marseille. These are just several of many destinations reached by high-speed rail.
Alvia, another high-speed train service by Renfe, also offers routes from Madrid, including direct train travel to Cádiz, Valencia, Logroño, Pamplona, and Vinaròs. Alvia are generally more flexible than AVE services, where AVE generally offers a better level of on-board comfort. AVE are also faster services that stop at fewer local destinations. An additional high-speed service from Altaria offers connections from Madrid to Algeciras.
When it comes to local and regional trains, there are also a host of intercity trains that depart from Madrid’s Atocha station, including local trains through Badajoz, Valencia, and Ávila. Suburban commuter trains are also found here, connecting Madrid with the villages, towns, and cities in the wider area.
If you prefer to travel by road, local, national and international buses and coaches will get you where you want to go. Madrid’s main bus terminus, Estación del Sur, is some 2km south of the train station and is best accessed either by bus or taxi.
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Atocha station can be a chaotic maze at times, but it’s fairly easy to get to from all corners of Madrid. With the main entrance on Plaza del Demperador Carlos V and many side entrances to the east and west, the station is open weeklong from 5:00 am until 1:00 am. What’s more, Madrid has an excellent public transport network, with a convenient metro, bus and local train network taking you to and from the station. The station’s main car park and drop-off points are off Avenue de la Ciudad de Barcelona beside the east entrance (Cercanias). This is the best place to take a taxi cab or order online ride-hailing services. The public bus system run by EMT operates some 200 lines and 2,000 vehicles, with many lines and stops surrounding the station. In particular, bus line 203 — Exprés Aeropuerto — takes travelers between Madrid’s main train station and the airport within an hour.
Madrid Atocha Station offers a plenitude of services for its many commuters and tourists who use the station every day.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the station and in some of the cafes and restaurants, as are waiting areas on every level before boarding.
Down on the platform levels themselves, of which there are three (ground floor for high-speed, upper floor for high speed and ground floor for long-distance), you’ll find a more limited selection of services, including bins, benches, toilets and snack machines.
A club lounge is available for all first-class ticket holders. Here, you can enjoy a comfortable pre-boarding environment with fast internet, newspapers and complimentary drinks.
Ticketing services are found within the station’s main plaza, including automated ticket machines and information services with a booking center and Renfe ticket office. Here, you can book everything from onward bus and train to metro services.
There are plentiful facilities for travelers in Atocha station. Pretty much every corner of this sprawling station has quick-access to food options. In the main plaza, you’ll find everything from fast food to multi-course table service dining. The most notable spot is Samarkanda, a vibrant sit-down restaurant on the upper levels with views over the tropical garden. Additional eateries, snack bars, cafes and groceries can be found throughout the station – particularly in ticketing zones to the south.
When it comes to accessibility, Atocha has full access for mobility-impaired travelers. Elevators are found throughout the station for access to all levels and platforms, although they can be quite an effort to get to – so plan your time accordingly.
Shoppers are also very well served here as well, with everything from high street fashion brands (like Calzedonia) to travel magazines and book shops found within the station’s grounds. Well-known brands like The Body Shop and Accessorize and children’s shops like Toy Station and Imaginarium are all found within the main station area. This can be a great place to get some last-minute souvenirs or gifts, including postcards, chocolates, and Spanish-themed ephemera.
There are ATMs and currency exchanges if you are in need of cash. What’s more, toilets and baby changing facilities can be found throughout the station. The largest and most well-kept toilet facilities are found in the south-west area.
Madrid’s Atocha station is truly mammoth in size. Conveniently located beside the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (with its excellent collection of modern art including Picasso and Dali) and close to the sprawling parkland of El Retiro, it’s little wonder the station attracts thousands of foreign travelers every day. Add to this the many commuters who depend on the station and you’ll be amazed at the details that go into ensuring this station runs smoothly.
International connections continue every day from the station both to the airport and via rail to France and beyond, creating a constant influx of travelers who utilize the station’s many services and facilities. You can expect this station to grow even more over the coming decades with a new connection to the Madrid Metro planned to be completed in the 2020s. Given the enormous scale of Atocha station, you can rid yourself of pre-travel worry by booking your tickets through Virail and our partners. This will ensure you have the best traveling experience with less hassle, less stress, and much more fun.