Madrid Atocha station can be a bewildering space to navigate if you are a first time user - hence this guide to what to look out for when arriving and departing from here by train.
Irrespective of an interest in modern architecture, it's undeniable that Madrid's primary rail station has the power to make an impact, particularly when arriving on a high speed train.
It is the scale of the Puerta de Atocha high speed station that has earned it a place on our list of Awe Inspiring Stations and yes the indoor garden/jungle also can't fail to impress.
It's a huge building, but the trick to understanding how Madrid Atocha functions, is to set aside assumptions of how you would normally use a railway station; hence the detailed, but useful info.
Six things worth knowing bout Atocha station:
(1) The signage within the station is comparatively easy to follow and is bi-lingual; so you can trust it to navigate your way through the vast complex.
(2) Madrid Atocha in effect three stations in one building:
(3) The experience of taking a high speed train to and from the Puerta de Atocha is similar to taking a flight.
The arriving and departing passengers are largely kept apart.
Salidas = departures
Llegadas = arrivals
So the experience of using the station is very different if you are departing by long distance train,
compared to arriving by train.
When departing by high speed train you pass through a luggage screening area and staffed ticket gates, as you would at an airport.
(4) What can make the geography of the Atocha station easier to comprehend is that the main terminal sits in a valley.
Meaning that level 0 isn't at street level; it's the exits on levels 1 and 2 which give access to the streets surrounding the station.
(5) You can move between the multiple levels by escalator and/or travellators (moving walkways); at Atocha the lifts are only available to those that require mobility assistance.
(6) Madrid Atocha is on four levels:
On this level you will find:
These seven things are worth keeping in mind if you will be taking a HIGH SPEED train from Madrid Atocha.
(1) The part of the station used by the high speed trains is known as 'Madrid Puerta de Atocha'.
(2) Aim to arrive at Atocha a minimum of 30 mins before your train is due to depart - even if you don’t need to purchase a ticket.
(3) However, be at the station a minimum of 45 mins before your train is due to depart if you DO also need to buy a ticket.
Adopt a similar mind set as you would when taking a domestic flight from an airport; give yourself time to go through the security procedures and to make your way to your train.
(4) If you happen to arrive at the station hours before your high speed train is departing, a good option is to have a meal/drink in one of the restaurants located by the indoor garden.
(5) Otherwise head to the departure halls, the 'Sala de embarque', as soon as you arrive at Atocha; you have to pass through these departure halls if you will be taking any high speed train.
What's relatively new is that this departure lounge, the 'Sala de embarque' is now on two levels; level 1 AND level 0.
The access to the via (platform/track) which your train will be departing from will be through gates on EITHER level, so depending on which via your train will be departing from, you will go through gates on level 1 OR level 0.
(6) On the departure screens at the station, in the 'Observaciones' column, over to the right, you will see either 'Planta Baja' or 'Planta Primera'.
Planta Baja is the departure hall on level 0 and Planta Primera is the departure hall on level 1.
You will need to head to which ever of these halls is shown for your departure, use the destination and train number to guide you, the train number will be on your ticket.
(7) You will need to pass through ticket/security checks at the entrances to these departure halls; and queues can inevitably build up at busy times.
There are now two departure halls at Atocha, from which the high speed train departures can be accessed:
It's LIKELY that you will to use the Primera hall on level 1, if you will be taking an:
In contrast, the vias (platforms/tracks) with the higher numbers can now be accessed through the 'Planta Baja' on level 0
Train services* which can USUALLY accessed from this lower level include the:
The specific number of the via (platform/track) that your train will be departing from will be confirmed around 10 - 20 minutes ahead of the departure time.
You will need to keep an eye on the departure screens in the departure lounge, as the fact that boarding has commenced will not normally be announced.
There are staffed gates, similar to those at airports, at the entrance to each via (platform/track) where you will need to show your ticket.
The queues of passengers waiting to pass through each gate snake through the departure halls.
The train will depart on time regardless of whether all passengers have passed through the checks.
To facilitate this, the 'gates' will close a few minutes before departure.
Hence it being a good idea to allow plenty of time to catch a high speed train from Atocha.
Both departure halls resemble a provincial airport terminal.
They have banks of seating in which you can wait for the details of your departure to be confirmed and food/drink outlets, but if you arrive particularly early for your train, making use of one of the cafes in the station complex is a better option.
You will need to use either of the two Sala de Embarque', departure halls, if you will be taking an AVE train, OR the other types of high speed train; the Alvia or Avant trains.
This 'Sala de Embarque' is now on two levels, 0 and 1, but in effect there are operated as two separate halls.
Each via (platform/track) which the train will be departing from can be accessed from level 0 OR level 1, so you need to enter the correct hall.
On the departure screens within the station, Planta Baja is the departure hall on level 0 and Planta Primera is the departure hall on level 1.
For the level 0 departures area follow the signs to the 'Salidas Plantas Baja' (Departures Ground Floor), it's on the other side of the security check area, which is within the mall area at the station, between the Cercanias part of the station and the indoor garden area.
At quiet times this entrance can be easy to miss, as its literally in a gap between some stores, you'll see the security guards sitting at desks and guiding passengers.
The departure area on Level 1 has two entrances, at both of which you will have to pass through security checks in order pass through into the departure hall.
One of these access points to the level 1 departure hall is at the mall end of the hall which houses the indoor garden
When you go through the doors from the mall area into the indoor garden hall, you will see travellator just ahead of you, this leads up to the departure hall entrance on level 1 (note that when walking from the ticket office, you will need to head towards the doors to the mall and then turn around, because the travellator will be behind you).
The other entrance to the level 1 of the departure lounge is the atrium above the Cercanias part of the station.
There are two taxi drop off areas at Atocha.
(1) If you arrive by taxi at the main drop off area on level/planta 2, you will be dropped at the upper level of the Cercanias (suburban train station).
Don’t worry about at having arrived at the 'wrong' part of the station.
The Cercanias station has a multi-level atrium that houses lifts and escalators and you can use these to descend to Level/Plantas 1 and 0.
If you train is departing from one of the vias (platforms/tracks) which can be accessed through the 'Planta Primera', 1, you can enter into it from level 1 within this atrium.
So if you have a ticket, this is actually a quick route to the high speed departures (salidas) which can be accessed through this departure hall.
However, some of the vias (platforms/tracks) can be accessed from a separate departure lounge area, which is on level 0; the 'planta baja'
So if take the escalators or elevators down to level 0 and then enter the mall area of the station, a passage way slopes down to it from the Cercanias concourse and then you'll see the security checks at the entrance to the hall on the left.
(2) Though taxis also drop off at the Level 0; the same level as the indoor garden and ticket office.
If you need to buy a ticket at Atocha, ask the driver to drop you at this entrance by the garden.
The main ticket hall for the AVE and the other larga-distancia trains is by the indoor garden.
From here you will either:
If you arrive by Cercanias train (there are direct Cercanias trains from the airport and Chamartin station); then you will initially need to ascend to the main Cercanias concourse on level 0 by escalator.
One of the departure halls, the plantas baja is on level 0, so if your train will be leaving from a via (platform/track) which can be accessed through this departure hall, remain on this level and enter the mall area of the station.
You will soon come to the security screening area to this Salidas Plantas Baja'' over on the left
If you need to use the 'Salidas Plantas 1' to access your train, you can remain in the atrium of this Cercanias station and ascend to Planta/Level 1 by escalator or elevator.
If you arrive at Atocha by Metro, you will be walking head from the Metro station area, which is on level 0
If you need to use the level 0 departure hall to access your onward train, follow the signs to the Salidas Plantas Baja' (Departures Ground Floor), the route is to keep going straight ahead into mall area, on the left you'll soon see the security screening area, which you'll need to pass through.
If you need to the Salidas Plantas 1, the level 1 departure hall, go passed this security check, following the signs which will lead you over to the right, you'll go through a set a doors into the hall at the station, which houses the indoor garden,
On the other side of the doors is a travellator, which leads up to the level departure hall.
If you don't want to use a RENFE ticket machine, you will need to buy last minute tickets from the main RENFE ticket office; the ‘Venta De Billetes’
It is located to one side of the indoor garden, so head towards it.
If you arrive at Atocha by Cercanias trains you will initially have to ascend from the via (track/platform, that the Cercanias train will have arrived.
Then once you are up on the concourse in this Cercanias part of the station, you'll then need over to the left and enter the mall area.
The exit from the Metro also leads into this mall area.
Over to the right you'll see some doors to the main hall, which houses the indoor garden, go through them to enter this hall and the ‘Venta De Billetes’ will be on the right hand side.
When you have made your purchase, exit the ticket office into the indoor garden and then turn left to retrace your steps towards the mall.
Before you come to the doors which lead to the mall, there will be an travellator behind you and to the right, it leads up to level 1 in the departure lounge.
Or you can enter the mall, go down the passage way to the left and then over to the right you'll come to a security check area, which is the entrance to level 0 in the departure lounge.
The main terminal, the 'Puerta De Atocha' is only used by the high speed trains.
OTHER longer distance trains usually depart from the via/platforms in the Cercanias station – which as its name suggests, is otherwise dominated by the ‘Cercanias’ commuter trains.
The long distance trains that usually also depart from the Cercanias station include:
If you are taking one of these trains, check the details on the main departure (Salidas) screens carefully - and don’t be surprised if the via/platform is actually in the Cercanias station.
Once you are in the Cercanias station you need to find the somewhat hard to spot ‘larga distancia/media distancia’ departure gate.
It's almost certain that if you will be arriving by one of the high speed train services to Madrid; the AVE, Altaria and Alvia trains, your train will arrive in the 'Puerta De Atocha' part of the station.
Though how you exit the station, from the Puerta De Atocha can vary between TWO routes.
This is the typical route if your train arrives at vias (platforms/tracks) 2 - 12.
The train will halt towards the far end of the via (platform/track), farthest from the station terminal.
From here it's likely that you will be directed to ascend to an upper level (Level 1), in order to exit from the via (track/platform) which you have just stepped on to.
There are moving walkways and elevators which lead up to level 1.
Don't assume that you will be taking a less convenient route, by having to ascend from where your train will have arrived.
The vias (platforms/tracks) in the high speed station are on level 0, but this is actually below street level.
The route you will be following, which now also features level travellators of the type used in airport termionals, will lead you into a light filled atrium, which is at the side of the main station.
The exits from here, on level 1, are at the same level as the streets which surround the station.
At this level, over to the left is an entrance to the 'Planta Primera' departure hall.
It is you will be connecting into another AVE train heading to Barcelona, Cadiz, Figueres, Malaga, Marseille or Sevilla, it's likely that it's access will be through this hall, though check the departure screens.
Escalators and elevators lead UP in this atrium lead up to the MAIN TAXI RANK on level 2.
Also in this atrium, down below you, on level 0, you will see the concourse which gives access to the Cercanias (local) trains.
So you will need to use the escalators or elevators to descend to this level, if you want to take a Cercanias train to the city centre, Chamartin station or Barajas Airport.
What you won't see, from this Level 1, in the atrium above the Cercanias station, is the other main hall at Atocha station; which houses the indoor garden, the larga-distancia ticket hall and most of the food/drink outlets at the station.
This main hall is on level 0, so you will also need to descend down into the Cercanias concourse to access this area of Atocha station.
The access to the metro station is also on level 0.
If you will be taking the Metro, once you're down on the Cercanias concourse, the route to the Metro station entrance is over to the right.
To the left on level 0 will be the access to the Planta Baja departure hall, it's likely that you will have to enter this departure hall if you will connecting to the AVE and Avant services heading to Alicante, Toldeo and Valenica; though confirm this on the departure indicators.
This is the typical route if your train arrives at vias (platforms/tracks) 13 - 15.
You may have a choice of two options for exiting the station
If you have a choice, use the level 0 exits, ahead of you, if you
However, heading up to level 1 can be the best option if you'll be TAKING A TAXI; the main rank at Atocha is up on level 2.
Also level 1 is the same level as the surrounding streets, so heading up to level 1 can be the best option if you'll be continuing your journey on foot.
If you will be travelling to Madrid-Atocha on a non high-speed trains train such as an IC or MD service then these trains will almost certainly arrive in the OTHER part of Atocha station, which is mainly used by the Cercanias (local) trains.
This part of the station has comparatively easy access to the exits and other connections at Atocha.
To exit from the via (platform/track) that your train will have arrived at, you will have to use the escalators or elevators to ascend up to the Cercanias concourse; on level 0.
From this concourse you can access the Cercanias trains which will be heading to the city centre, Chamartin station or Barajas Airport.
You can also remain on Level 0 to access the Metro.
You will see an atrium leading to the levels above, and this atrium houses escalators and elevators.
Ascend up to level 1 for the street level exits from the station; go up to level 2 to access the main taxi rank at Atocha.
Atocha station is located on the southern edge of Madrid city centre, some distance from the heart of the city.
So public transport or taxis are a good option for reaching your final destination.
Atocha is connected to the city centre by
These Cercanias trains are usually a faster and easier alternative to taking the Metro and they take two routes through the city centre
(1) Cercanias lines C1, C2, C7, C8 and C10 take a route via Recoletos station
(2) Lines C3 and C4 take a different route via Sol.
In the Cercanias station the trains on lines C3 and C4 via Sol, leave from a different via (platform/track), to that which the trains via Recoletos use.
Both routes call at Nuevos Ministerios station AND at the city's other main station, Madrid-Chamartin (see below).
The closest station to the heart of the city is Sol - and it is served by Cercanias trains on both lines C3 and C4 AND the metro.
However, there can be gaps of 15 mins between the trains on lines C3 and C4, so taking the Metro to Sol can be a good option; take the Madrd Metro line 1 (direction Pinar Chamartin).
Sol is only five Metro stops from Atocha Renfe (which is the name of the Metro station that is linked to Atocha station).
The entrance to the Metro at Atocha is off to the right of the Cercanias concourse on Level 0.
These six things are worth knowing about making the transfer from Atocha to Chamartin stations by train.
(1) The Cercanias local trains (not the metro) provide the easiest access to Chamartin station from Atocha.
Both Atocha and Chamartin are served by line 1 of the Madrid Metro, but they are 16 stops apart!
In contrast, the Cercanias trains take less than 10 mins to reach Madrid Chamartin from Atocha.
(2) The Cercanias trains use a separate part of Atocha station to the 'Puerta de Atocha' - the main part of the station, which is used by the high speed AVE trains.
When arriving by high speed train, you can exit from the main terminal into this Cercanias station.
IF, when arriving by high speed train in the 'Puerta De Atocha, you ascend up to level 1, in order to exit the from the via (platform/track0: you can descend back down to level 0, in order to access the Cercanias concourse.
(3) You can buy a ticket for the Cercanias trains from the red ticket machines.
The ticket machines have an English translation option - but the names of the tickets remain in Spanish.
If you are going to Chamartin you will need to purchase an ‘Adulta Ina’ ticket.
(4) Cercanias lines C1,C2,C3,C4,C7,C8 and C10 all operate between Atocha and Chamartin station.
Trains to Chamartin on lines C1, C2, C7, C8 and C10 depart from platforms/via 1 and 2 – so from either side of this platform.
But the trains on line C3 and C4 take a different route to Atocha through Sol station, so they depart from platform/via 6.
You haven’t got to be a maths genius to work out that there are theoretically more frequent trains to Chamartin from via 1-2 compared to via 6; but yes you can find yourself stuck for a while on via 1 and 2, while other trains to Chamartin are leaving from via 6.
As far as we could tell there is no 'next train to Chamartin' indicator at Atocha.
(5) It’s a good idea to be at Chamartin around 30 mins before your onward connection departs from there; so for a stress-free transfer aim to arrive at Atocha an hour before your train departs from Chamartin.
Though the train journey between Atocha and Chamartin only takes around 12 minutes.
(6) At Atocha, the escalators and lifts from the Cercanias concourse, will take you down to the part of the via (platform/track) used by the front coaches of the trains.
However, on arrival at Chamartin, the exit up to the departure concourse will be by the rear of the Cercanias train.
So if you have time, move along the via (platform/track) at Atocha prior to boarding.
Follow these steps when heading to Barajas Airport by train from Atocha station.
(1) 'Cercanias' (local) trains on line C1 and C10 operate between Barajas airport and Atocha, they depart every 15-30 minutes and 'Aeropuerto' is their final destination.
The journey time is around 20 - 25 minutes.
(2) At Atocha they depart from via/platforms 1 and 2 in the Cercanias station; which is beside the main terminal.
(3) The Cecanias station has a concourse where you can buy a ticket; there are manned ticket desks and multiple machines.
(Eurail and InterRail passes are valid on the Cercanias trains).
(4) Note that not all of the Cercanias trains, which depart from platforms/via 1 and 2, will be the line C-1 and C-10 trains heading to the Aeropuerto; so check the departure indicators and info on the trains.
(5) These line C1 and C10 trains call at a station that’s directly linked to Terminal 4 (the main terminal) of Barajas Airport
(6) However, if you take the C1 train to Barajas and your flight is departing from Terminals 1 or 2 - your journey will be a little more awkward (and confusing).
On arrival by C1 train at Barajas you will see multiple signs pointing the way to Terminal (T4), but none for Terminals T1/T2 at all.
You will pass the entrance to the Metro station at Terminal 4, which is served by line 8.
At this point you have a choice:
However, there aren't initially any signs pointing you in the direction of this shuttle bus.
Head for the bus station and at the top of the escalator you'll see a sign that points to the nearby shuttle bus stop; the first sign you will see that gives any indication that Barajas airport has any other terminals, apart from Terminal 4!
The bus transfer can take 15 mins and we wished we had opted for the Metro - despite the need to buy a metro ticket.
Madrid’s Puerta De Aocha station is located to the south of the city centre, so there are limited options for finding rooms within a 10min walk of the station.
The hotels below are a fully comprehensive list, so early booking is recommended.
There are no 3* or 5* hotels in the area surrounding Puerta De Atocha.
If budget is a priority then a good option is to make the straightforward transfer to Sol station by Cercanias (commuter train), there is a clutch of 'hostals' surrounding Sol station,
Note the distinction between 'hostal' and hostel, much of the accommodation in these ‘hostals’ is in private rooms and not dormitories.
Hotels within 10 mins walk of Madrid Atocha Station:
Radisson Passeo Del Arte Hotel
Urban Sea Atocha
Money saving options with direct public transport links to/from Puerta De Atocha station:
All of the below are within a 5min walk of Sol station, take the Cercanias train lines C3 or C4 from Atocha.
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.