Transferring to Madrid Airport from Atocha
In a previous article, I walked you through the process of arriving into Madrid Atocha on the AVE or long-haul trains. Many passengers are unaware that the long-haul ticket prices includes the cost of your connecting train within Madrid.
Check your ticket
If you’re not sure if the ticket includes the cost of transferring onto the cercanias (local trains), ask the train manager or the staff on the platform as you disembark. Most tickets though, include this service. On the example above, note where it says “CERCANIAS/TRAM” right at the top.
Not just the airport!
When you go upstairs from the AVE platforms, you’ll see (very close to the exit signs) a very clearly sign-posted area for transfer to Madrid Airport. But in fact, you can transfer onto any Cercanias train following these signs. It’s absolutely brilliant, you don’t need to go back into the main station arrivals area, you simply go straight to the platform for your next service.
Next to the ticket machines are screens showing you the departure time of the next two trains to Madrid Airport (so helpful!) AND flight departures information for the airport too.
Only Terminal 4?
Madrid Terminal 4 serves basically Iberia, Vueling, American Airlines, Qatar Airways & British Airways. If your flight is from Terminals 1/2/3 you can still take the train, but my recommendation would be to take the train as far as Nuevos Ministerios where you can easily change onto the Metro network.
You will need to buy a Metro ticket at Nuevos Ministerios.
why not take the metro the whole way?
Madrid Atocha station is on the blue L1 metro line, so just taking the metro all the way to the airport means two changes of lines and lots of stairs. The journey time via metro is pretty similar too – around 30 minutes. Certainly if there was any kind of delay or disruption, this would be a good bet… but those stairs!
At Nuevos Ministerios, you can change directly onto Line 8 (step-free) and continue to Madrid Airport. It’s your best option. Believe me.
Line C1 – to the airport.
You need a new ticket
Your AVE tickets include a second booking reference for the local trains. But its easier than that. Go up to the ticket machines and you’ll see an option for change of ticket.
Then position your AVE ticket against the reader, so the machine can read your bar code and .. that’s it : your new ticket for the Cercanias service will pop out below. A word of caution, these tickets are required to exit the Cercanias network later and, at least in my case, BOTH my tickets lost their magnetic data during the journey. Keep them away from your mobile devices. I put mine in satchel with a lap top, two chargers, an iPad and two mobile phones … so my magnetic emissions were probably close to those of a red dwarf – but seriously, if you are on your way to the airport, you don’t want the added complication of a dead ticket at the other end.
Go through the gates
Remember to collect your ticket from the machine as you go. You will need it at the other end.
There are elevators down to the Cercanias platforms. When the lift opens, follow the signs by turning left.
I was really impressed at the clarity and the abundance of signage from here to the platforms. You’ll come out onto a bridge from where you can look down on all the platforms for the local train services.
Take a right onto the bridge
Like I said, this is so well signposted!
Since this piece is about connecting to Madrid Airport, you want Platform 1, which is the very last platform on the bridge and very clearly signposted. Before we get there, the other platforms in case that was what you’re were searching for.
Platforms 9 & 10
These are the platforms for the C5 Cercanias line linking Fuenlabrada & Humanes. We have a page covering the C5 line ready for you!
Platforms 7 & 8
Remember, the airport line is platform 1 so you can skip a couple of headers here if that’s where you’re heading.
Platforms 5 & 6
Platforms 3 & 4
Note that C1 uses this platform too, but only when it’s heading south from Atocha. Again, look at the clarity of that signage .. you’re left in no doubt to carry on for the next set of platforms.
To the end of the bridge
The very last escalator down takes you to platforms 1 & 2. The trains to Madrid Airport depart from Platform 1.
Go down the escalators.
Board the train
All the trains that depart from Atocha to Madrid Airport depart from Platform 1 – but be warned : not every train from Platform 1 goes to the airport. There are screens at platform level to tell you where each train is headed.
On my trip to Madrid Airport, the train that showed up was one of Madrid’s old double-decker commuter trains. These are slowly being phased out in favour of new swanky Siemens trains with only one level. For journies to the airport with lots of bags, most of the passengers stayed on the lower floor so I was able to bag a seat on the upper deck.
The train itself was clean, but a bit worn out. However, even these older trains have electronic displays indicating the next station and have voice announcements prior to arrival in English & Spanish.
Time goes by
The journey time to the airport is 30 minutes from when the train departs. I had to wait around 15 minutes for an airport train, so factor 45 minutes from arrival into Atocha.
The next stop is Madrid’s Chamartin railway station.
One of the most impressive things about public transport in Madrid is the “inter-modal” stations. Nuevos Ministerios has lots of Cercanias connections but is also on the Metro network.
Most importantly, you can change here for Madrid Terminals 1,2,3 using the metro network, you will need to buy a Metro ticket, but the connection is at least step-free and from Nuevos Ministerios, there is a direct metro service to the airport (including Madrid T4).
Arriving at the Airport
Madrid Barajas (Barajas is the name of the village where the airport was built!) is also now known as Madrid Adolfo Suarez Airport (Spain’s first democratically elected Prime Minister, after the rule of General Franco ended, in 1977). The platform is located on the very bottom floor of the airport and, like the airport, it is a stunning piece of architecture.
Take the escalator or lifts to the upper level and follow the signs for Terminal.
You need that ticket!
You’ll need that little magnetic ticket to get out. When I arrived at Barajas (1pm) there was a huge queue of people trying to get through those gates. The issue wasn’t so much the number of passengers but them all fumbling looking for tickets. Or in my case, “billete defectuoso”.
Take the elevator!
Departures is up on the top floor of the airport and you are in the basement, below arrivals. The pod-like elevators will whisk you directly to departures in seconds. Don’t even consider the moving walkways.
Meeting a flight?
Then you want the floor above. There are moving walkways to the exit doors to the arrivals hall. Upstairs on this level you’ll also find some decent bars & cafeterias to ease the pain of waiting.
If you’re going to the airport to pick up a car (prices are often much lower at the airport than in town), you’ll find the on-airport companies on the same level as the Cercanias & Metro stations .. the basement.
Back to Terminals 1,2,3?
If you were heading to Terminals 1/2/3 and didn’t get off at Nuevos Ministerios to change, you can head back on the Metro. You’ll need to buy tickets but at least the Metro station is alongside the train station in the same area. Indeed, from the train platforms you can see the Metro platforms, just not actually connect without buying a new ticket.
That’s all folks
I hope that’s been useful. We’ve done a separate piece on Connecting from Madrid Airport to train departures from Madrid Atocha (going back the other way) too!