The salidas/platforms at Barcelona Sants station

Barcelona Sants (Barcelona)

This guide to using Barcelona Sants train station points out what to look out for when arriving and departing by train.
It also explains how to make the transfer between Sants station and both Barcelona city centre and El Prat airport by train.

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At a Glance

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A view of the concourse at Sants station A view of the concourse at Sants station
As can be seen the front entrance is set back from the street As can be seen the front entrance is set back from the street
The taxi ranks are on the western side of the station The taxi ranks are on the western side of the station

There is no getting away from the fact Barcelona Sants is a long way from the top of any ‘Europe’s Most Beautiful Train Stations’ list.
From the exterior the station resembles a factory with a office block perched on top of it.
You can be less than a 5 min walk from Sants station and not realise it’s in front of you.
That’s because all the platforms/tracks/vias which the trains depart from, are below ground.

Once you’re on the main concourse at Barcelona Sants you need to see through the crowds and pay close attention to the signs.
On the whole they are excellent and help make sense of what can be an initially bewildering space.
The main concourse is permanently busy.

Buying tickets at the station:

There are THREE separate sets of ticket desks at Barcelona Sants station.

(1) Desks 1-7 are towards one end of the main concourse - at the opposite end of the building from the access to the Metro.
These ticket desks sell tickets for the NON-express trains from Barcelona Sants.
These counters are marked 'Media Distancia', but they also sell tickets for the local 'Rodalies' trains.

Tickets for the Rodalies (local) trains, which include the trains to the airport, can't be booked online, so the queues at these ticket counters can be lengthy; particularly in summer.
It isn't possible to buy advance tickets for the local and MD trains at Sants station, you can only buy tickets valid for that day.

(2) Desks 8-21 are for ADVANCE sales of tickets by express 'Larga Distancia' trains including the AVE and Euromed trains.
You cannot purchase last minute tickets for travel that day at these ticket counters.

Which is worth knowing, as to use these desks you need to take a numbered ticket from a machine and then wait for your number to be called.
At busy times you can expect to wait for more than 30 minutes.

If you have a rail pass, when you first arrive in Sants station, you can use these counters to book reservations on other trains you will be taking in Spain
However, these ticket desks are only open on Mon-Friday from 10:00-20:00 - except for public holidays, when they're closed.

(3) Desks 27-33 aren't adjacent to the other ticket desks; they're over to the right below the main departure board for the Larga Distancia (long distance) trains.
They have a sign above them which reads 'Larga Distancia'.
These desks are solely for last minute tickets for travel that day by the express 'Larga Distancia (long distance) trains; the AVE, Euromed and IC trains etc

At weekends, when the advance ticket desks are closed, you cannot make advance bookings from these desks.

Rail pass users can use these desks to purchase reservations for trains departing that day.
However, when using these ticket counters to buy rail pass reservations, be aware that your first choice of train may be sold out.

Using Ticket Machines:

As the queues for the ticket counters can be lengthy it can be worth trying the ticket machines.
They are plentiful at Sants station, but there are two types of machine:
(1) the orange machines solely sell tickets for the Rodalies 'local' trains - so use these machines if you are heading to the airport
(2) all other tickets are sold by the 'Renfe' purple and grey machines.

These machines, which have excellent English translation, don't sell rail pass reservations.

Departing By Train From Barcelona Sants

Departing by train from Barcelona Sants can be an unexpected experience and not just because the vias (platforms/tracks) which the trains use, are out of sight below the concourse.

Barcelona Sants is a train station where you need to set aside of expectations of how you will access the trains and let yourself be guided by the departure screens and the signs.

In particular, what is unlikely to be initially obvious when taking a train from Sants, is that the station concourse is divided into four zones.
They're not marked by signs saying 'Zone 1' etc, but each of these 'zones' provides specific access to the different groups of train services which use the station

They have a similar function to the gates at an airport and give access to:

Vias (platforms/tracks) 1 -6

  • For the high speed  (alta-velocidad) AVE, Alvia and TGV trains, through the 'Sala de embarque'.
  • The Euromed services to Alicante and Valence now ALSO depart from here.

Vias (platforms/tracks) 7-10:

  • The Rodalies trains on routes R3, R4 and R7 heading east and north via Catalunya station AND the Regional Express trains towards Vic and La Tour De Carol depart from vias 7 and 8.
  • The Rodalies trains heading south including trains on line R2 (Nord) to El Prat Airport and trains heading towards Sitges AND the Regional Express trains towards Tortosa, Salou, Reus and Tarragona depart from vias 9 and 10.

Vias (platforms/tracks) 11-12
This is where the non high-speed express trains, including the IC services depart from.

Vias (platforms/tracks) 13 -14
These are used by the lcocal Rodalies trains heading to Passieg de Gracia and Franca stations in the city centre - and the MD and Regional Express trains heading to Giorona, Figueres, Port Bou and Cerbere.

Taking a Taxi to Sants Station in Barcelona:

If you will be taking a taxi to Sants station allow additional time to make the journey.
The taxis often get jammed in a queue trying to access the taxi drop-off area.
Be prepared to get out of the taxi and walk up to the station entrance if need be.

Using the train departure info:

The train departure info is listed on these 'Salidas de trenes' posters The train departure info is listed on these 'Salidas de trenes' posters

There are two main departure boards on the main concourse;
(1) the one which shows the long distance 'Larga Distancia' trains is over to the right above the 'Larga Distancia' ticket desks.
(2) the other, which is located above the 'Media Distancia' ticket counters, lists those MD services PLUS the local Rodalies trains,

This can be particularly disconcerting if you’re taking a long distance train from vias (platforms/tracks) 11 – 12.
The 'Media Distancia' departure board is the only one visible from this part of the station - but the train you are taking won’t be listed on it.

There are also smaller TV screen style departure monitors scattered around the station – some of which show the long distance trains and others show the local/regional trains.
So don’t panic if you look a departure screen and can’t see the train you will be taking.

Take a look at other screens or departure boards and you will find your train - or use the paper departure 'Salidas' posters - don't confuse them with the 'Llegadas' posters, these are listing the arrivals.
These posters list all trains in consecutive departure (Salidas) order and are fairly easy to make sense of.

Accessing The Trains:

All of the vias (platforms/tracks) at Barcelona Sants are below ground, they're located beneath the main concourse.
How you make your way to the train you taking differs according to which via it will be leaving from.

Taking a high-speed train:

When taking an (alta-velocidad) AVE, Alvia, Euromed or TGV train from Barcelona Sants, you need to use the departure hall (Sala de embarque) which gives access to vias (platforms/tracks) 1-6.

This 'Sala de embargue' has direct access from the street - if you will taking a taxi to the station tell the driver that you will be departing on an AVE or Euromed train and you can be dropped outside the entrance.
Though if you have a 1st class ticket and want to use the 'Sala Club', the 1st class lounge, it is outside this 'Sala de embarque' - it's behind the ticket counters.

The specific via (platform/track) that the train will be departing from will be confirmed no more than 20 mins before departure.
So when you use the escalators or lifts to descend down to the train, it will usually already be waiting, though there will be no need to rush.

Find the coach number, in which your reserved seat is located on your ticket and then make your way along the train until you find it.
There will be staff on the via (platform/track) to point you in the right direction.

Aim to be at Barcelona Sants, so that you're there when the departure details of your train are confirmed.
You will need to pass through ticket AND security checks before accessing a high speed train and lengthy queues can inevitably build up.
Access to the trains can be closed off around 3 -5 minutes before the departure time, the train won't usually be held back because not everyone has passed through the checks.

Taking other express trains:

Check your ticket before you arrive at Barcelona Sants - if you WON'T be taking a high speed AVE, Alvia or TGV train, you will be using a different part of the station.
The non-high speed express trains from Barcelona Sants including the IC trains USUALLY depart from vias (platforms/tracks) 11 – 12.

As with the high speed AVE trains, you have to pass through ticket and security checks before boarding these trains.
The departure gates will open around 10 - 15 mins before departure - though aim to be at Barcelona Sants when the gates open.

It is your responsibility to allow yourself enough time to pass through these checks
There are escalators and lifts down to the vias (platforms//tracks).

Taking a local (Rodalies) trains:

From vias (platforms/tracks) 7 - 10:

The middle of the main concourse at Barcelona Sants rail station is dominated by the ticket gates that give access to vias (platforms/tracks) 7 - 10.
However, as will be seen above, if you'll be departing from Sants on an express train you won't be using this part of the station.

The local* trains in Barcelona are known as 'Rodalies' services and MOST of them use this part of the station - including all those heading south AND those heading north via Catalunya station.
*Some services can travel fairly long distances from the city.

The Rodalies trains to El Prat airport on lines R2 Nord depart from vias (tracks) 9 or 10 (either side of the same platform) – there are large signs pointing the way to the airport trains.
Though be aware that the trains to the airport share vias (tracks) 9 and 10 with other trains.

Trains heading to Sitges on line R2 (Sud) also depart from vias (tracks) 9 and 10.

If you have luggage etc, you have to use the staffed ticket gate to access vias 7 – 10, and on a recent trip the staff here were particularly helpful.
There are escalators and lifts down to each via (platform/track).

Wait on vias (tracks/platforms) 7 – 10 where you can see the displays indicating which train will be departing next – your train may not be the first to arrive.

From vias (platforms/tracks) 13 - 14:

However, the Rodallies trains heading to Passeig de Gracia AND Franca stations DON'T depart from vias 7 -10- instead they depart from vias (tracks) 13 and 14.
If you’re heading to the beach area of Barcelona from Sants, taking one of these trains to Franca is a better option than taking the Metro.

Note that the Rodalies trains from vias 13 and 14 heading for Franca and other destinations, also call at Passeig de Gràcia station, which is much closer to the heart of Barcelona than Sants station.

Taking a Regional Express Or Media-Distancia train:

The Regional Express trains to destinations to the south including Port Aventura, Salou, Reus and Tarragona depart from vias (tracks) 9 and 10.
Trains heading towards Vic and La Tour De Carol depart from vias (tracks) 7 and 8.
The MD and Regional Express trains heading towards Girona, Figueres, Port Bou and Cerbere usually depart from vias (tracks) 13 and 14.

Note that these Regional Express and MD trains share these vias (platforms/tracks) with more frequent Rodalies trains, so wait where you can see the departure screens.
The destinations are also usualyy displayed on the fronts and sides of the trains.

Arriving By Long Distance Train at Barcelona Sants station

All of the vias (platforms/tracks) at Barcelona Sants train station are below ground, so it can feel as though you have arrived at a giant metro station.
The only usual means of exiting the platform is an escalator that leads up to the main concourse.

If you will be changing trains at Barcelona Sants, you can only access the other vias (platforms/tracks) which the trains depart from, through the concourse.
There are no alternative routes/short cuts to the other vias (platforms/tracks).

Arriving at vias (platforms/tracks) 1 - 6:

When arriving on a train from France, there will be staff on the platform holding signs that have the departure details of connecting long distance trains.

The escalator up to the concourse inevitably gets congested, so have patience.
Try to keep luggage out of the path of those that don't have any.
There are also lifts available for those who require mobility assistance.

The escalators which lead up to the main concourse exit into what is always a busy area, so take your time and follow the signs.
The access to the Metro station will be over to the left and the main exits (salidas) from the station will be in front of you - but don't head towards them if you want a taxi.
The main taxi pick-up area will be over to the right.

The signs on the concourse are fairly easy to follow - there is a particularly large sign pointing the way to the left luggage office.

Using The Left Luggage Office:

The left luggage lockers are coin operated, but there is a change machine.
All your bags, including those that you aren't depositing, will be screened.
If you have bags on you when you come to collect your luggage, these have to be screened before you can access your locker(s).

Onward Connections:

Barcelona Sants station is located to the west of the city centre, some distance from the tourist hot spots in the city.

Therefore it’s unlikely that your final destination, or the starting point of your journey, will be within easy walking distance of Sants station.

to the city centre by local trains:

The Barcelona Metro map can resemble a bowl of spaghetti, but what can be less than obvious is that the grey lines, with fewer stations, are the routes taken by the Rodalies main line trains.
As will be seen the local trains to and from Barcelona-Sants also stop at multiple other locations in the city centre.

The Placa De Catalunya, the northern tip of Las Ramblas, is the heart of Barcelona, but to reach it by Metro from Sants requires a roundabout route on Metro Line L7 - and the L7 platforms/tracks are a long way from the concourse at Sants station.

To Catalunya Station from Sants station:

Hence it can be a much quicker journey to take a Rodalies train, the one-stop hop to Catalunya station - as this station lives up to its name, meaning that it's located to the northern entrance to Las Ramblas.
Take trains on routes R3, R4 and R7 from vias (tracks/platforms) 7 and 8.

To Passeig de Gracia station from Sants station:

Passeig de Gràcia is also a station worth targeting, particularly if you'll be staying in one of the hotels nearby
It is around a 5 -10 min north from the Placa de Catalunya.
You need to take trains on lines R1, R2 Nord or R2 Sud heading to Franca, Granollers Centre or Macanet-Massanes.
These trains usually depart from vias (platforms/tracks) 13 - 14.

To Franca station from Barcelona Sants station:

Barcelona Franca station is the nearest station to the fashionable marina and beach areas of the city.
This area of the city has awkward access by metro from Sants station - you'd need to transfer between Lines L5 and L4 at Verdaguer station.

However local ' Rodalies' trains directly connect with Sants with Franca, the journey takes around 10 minutes and the trains run every 15 mins until late evening.
Take the line R2 (Sud) trains, which will be terminating at Franca.
They depart from vias (tracks/platforms) 13 - 14, though be aware that other trains not heading to Franca also depart from there.

Though some long distance (non AVE) trains to/from Barcelona also commence or finish their journeys at Barcelona Franca.

by the Metro:

On the metro map Sants station is ‘Sants Estacio’.
For the central part of Las Ramblas and the La Boqueria market take Metro Line L3 - direction Trinitat Nova, six stops to Liceu station.
Though it is a long walk, along multiple passage ways, from the Sants station concourse to the Line L3 platforms,

For the Sagrada Familia take Metro Line L5 - direction Vall d’Hebron to the station which shares its name.

For Parc Guell, the nearest Metro station is Lesseps - take Metro Line L3 (direction Trinitat Nova).
Though the nearest park entrance is a 15-20 min walk uphill from Lesseps Metro station, on streets so steep that two of them have escalators.

So another Parc Guell access option from Sants is:

  1. Take Metro Line L5 (direction Vall d’Hebron) to Verdaguer
  2. Transfer there to Metro line L4 (direction Trinitat Nova) and take line L4 one stop to Joanic.
  3. Two mins walk from Joanic station is a bus stop on Carrer de L’Elsconal; the ‘La Salut/Gracia’ bus stop.
  4. From this stop bus line 116 operates every 10 mins to the main entrance of Parc Guell.

Convenient Hotels/Hostels

The combination of being to the west of the city centre and the distance to the tourist spots in Barcelona, results in there being only a handful of highly rated hotels within easy walking distance of Sants station.

You have to pay a price for the easy access, as all the hotels with high guest ratings in the vicinity have 4 stars.

Hence a better option can be seeking out accommodation closer to the heart of the city, that also has easy direct public transport access from/to Barcelona Sants

Passeig de Gràcia station has frequent local (Rodalies) trains to/from Barcelona Sants, while other suggestions below are on one of the two Metro lines that call at Sants.

Hotels within an 8 min walk of Sants station:

Barcelona Sants (the hotel that is directly above the station)
https://www.barcelo.com/en-gb/hotels/spain/barcelona/hotel-barcelo-sants/

Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya
http://torrecatalunya.expohotels.com/en/

H10 Itaca Barcelona
https://www.h10hotels.com/en/barcelona-hotels/h10-itaca

Just Style Serviced Apartments
http://cosmopolitagroup.com/en/sants

Hostel within an 5 min walk of Sants station:

Meeting Point hostel
http://meetingpointhostels.com/
(as featured in this guide to Europe's best hostels with easy access to stations).

Hotels/Hostels that have direct public transport connections to/from Barcelona Sants station:

Luxury:
Majestic Hotel and Spa (5*s) (close to Passeig de Gràcia station)
https://www.hotelmajestic.es/en

Sixty Two Hotel (close to Passeig de Gràcia station)
http://www.sixtytwohotel.com/en/

Sixty Four Apartments (close to Passeig de Gràcia station)

Mid-Range:
Room Mate Emma (close to Provenca station on Metro Line L5)
https://room-matehotels.com/en/emma/

Hotel Praktik Rambla (close to Passeig de Gràcia station)
http://www.hotelpraktikrambla.com/

Hotel Praktik Bakery (close to Diagonal station on Metro Line L5)
http://www.hotelpraktikbakery.com/

Hotel Actual (close to Diagonal station on Metro Line L5)
http://www.hotelactual.com/

Hotel Hesperia Ramblas (close to Liceu station on Metro Line L3)
[https://www.hesperia.com/en/hoteles/spain/barcelona/hotel-hesperia-barcelona-ramblas)

Budget:

St Christopers's Inn Hostel** (close to Catalunya station)
https://www.st-christophers.co.uk/hostels/europe/barcelona

Art City Hostel (close to Passeig de Gràcia station)
http://www.artcityhostel.com/

Hello BCN Hostel (close to Paral-lel station on Metro Line L3)
https://hellobcnhostel.com/en/

Hotel Curious Barcelona (close to Liceu station on Metro Line L3)
http://www.hotelcurious.com/eng/hotel-barcelona/

Between El-Prat Airport and Barcelona By Train

The local/regional network of mainline trains in Barcelona is the ‘Rodalies’ and Rodalies Line R2 (Nord) provides a direct link between a station located at Terminal 2 (T2) at El-Prat airport and Barcelona city centre.

Note that El Prat is located to the south of Barcelona city centre, but it is served by Line R2 (Nord) and NOT by Line R2 (Sud).

Trains on line R2 (Nord) call at Barcelona Sants and Passeig de Gràcia stations; the latter is closer to the city centre.
Trains on line R2 (Nord) run every 30 mins and the journey between Sants station and the airport is around 19 mins.
The journey time between the airport and Passeig de Gràcia is around 26 mins.

From Barcelona Sants To El-Prat (terminal 2)

At Sants the trains to El-Prat on line Line R2 (Nord) depart from vias (platforms/tracks) 9 or 10.
'Aeroport' will be the destination on the front and sides of the trains.
The station at the airport is located beneath Terminal 2.

Note that there are also line R2 (Sud) trains from vias (platforms/tracks) 9 or 10 and those R2 (Sud) trains DON'T serve the airport.
So when travelling to El-Prat by train from Barcelona city centrenavoid trains heading to Saint Vincenc de Calders, Vilanova i la Geltrú or Castelldefels.

When looking up journeys to El Prat Airport on the local journey planner 'Aeroport' is the name of the station El Prat airport.

Accessing Terminal One/T1:

The Rodalies Line R2 (Nord) trains do NOT provide a direct connection with Terminal 1 (T1) at El Prat airport.
Instead Terminal One (T1) at El Prat airport is served by line L9 of the Barcelona Metro

However Metro L9 doesn’t get as close to the city centre as Sants or Passeig de Gràcia stations, which the Rodalies trains call at.

Therefore one option for travelling between Barcelona city centre and Terminal 1 at El Prat Airport by train is to take these two steps;
(1) take the Rodalies trains to the T2 station
(2) transfer there to/from the Metro for a one station hop to/from T1 - or exit from the T2 station and take a free shuttle bus

However, the quickest train travel option between the city centre and Terminal 1 is usually to make the transfer between the Rodalies and Metro trains, at El Prat de Llobregat station - instead of at the T2 station.
There are more frequent Rodalies trains between Sants Station/the city centre and El Prat de Llobregat; compared to the trains between the city centre and Terminal 2.

Metro Line L9 links El Prat de Llobregat station with T1 at Barcelona-El Prat airport, though be vigilant re: luggage and valuables when changing trains at El Prat de Llobregat.

So in summary, when travelling FROM the city to Terminal 1. an option is:

Step One: Take any train on Rodalies lines R2 (North) OR R2 (South); directions Saint Vincenc de Calders, Vilanova i la Geltrú , Castelldefels or Terminal 2, to El Prat de Llobregat station.
Step Two: Transfer to the Metro to T1 at El Prat de Llobregat station.

Between Barcelona and Sitges By Train

Sitges is served by trains on Rodalies line R2 (Sud).
The trains operate in either direction between the station in the popular beach resort and Barcelona city centre every 15 mins (every 10 mins at rush hours).

To Stiges from Barcelona:

Take care to take a line R2 (Sud) train heading to Saint Vincenc de Calders or Vilanova i la Geltrú.
Avoid trains on line R2 (Nord) – they will be heading to the airport.

The trains in line R2 (Sud) also depart from Passeig de Gràcia station, which is closer to the city centre than Sants station.
On summer mornings try to avoid joining the train at Sants station, as the trains can be very crowded.

To Barcelona from Sitges:

Leave the trains at Sants if you will be connecting to long distance trains from Barcelona.
However, if you are heading to the city centre, remain on the train until it arrives at Passeig de Gràcia station.

Between Sitges and El Prat Airport:

There are no direct trains between Barclona's El Prat Aiport and Sitges, but you don't have to travel via Sants Station.
The Rodalies trains on Line R2 (Sud) to/from Sitges call at El Prat de Llobregat station.
Trains on L9 of the Barcelona Metro link El Prat de Llobregat station with both of the terminals at the airport.

From Stiges to the south:

Every 30 mins the R2 (Sud) trains link Sitges with Saint Vincenc de Calders station.
There are direct trains between Saint Vincenc De Calders and both Reus and Tarragona and 1 x train per day between Saint Vincenc De Calders and Valencia.

Our Pick of Guides to Barcelona

Your efforts in reaching Barcelona by train will be rewarded by being able to dedicate some time to a fabulous city.

These travel guides will help you see and expererience the best of Barcelona - btw nobody has paid to be on this list, ShowMeTheJourney has simply taken the time to curate a list of relevant and current articles.

Miniguide, a great website by locals dedicated to Barcelona

How to Make the Most of Barcelona (Nomadic Matt)

48 Hours in Barcelona (Paulina on the Road)

A fabulously detailed guide from The Blonde Abroad

20 Activities And Things To Do (Time Out)

More than 50 Suggestions (Lonely Planet)

An Insider's Guide (Telegraph Travel)

Tips From Locals (Like A Local)

Unusual Things To Do (Miss Tourist)

Journeys

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