Departing on a high-speed train
These trains depart from two separate areas on the Ground & First Floors. Which one depends on where your train is going to, the lower floor is principally trains to Alicante, Valencia etc whilst the services to Andalucia – locations like Malaga, Seville etc are from the First Floor Departures Hall. To make matters worse, there are two rows of platforms with the same numbering system on each floor. So Platform 9 maybe for Malaga upstairs and for Alicante downstairs.
The electonic screens for departures do show which floor the trains leave from, so pay attention to ALTA (upstairs) and BAJA (downstairs). If you’re departing on a Cercanias service, it’s a lot simpler, train departures are announced on the board, swipe your ticket (or smartphone) on the gates and take the escalator down to your platform. We have a separate piece on departing on a Cercanias train from Madrid Atocha.
Once you know your departures floor, follow the instructions below.
Ground Floor departures
The entrance to Ground Floor departures is not obvious. First, find Café de la Estación which is in a prime spot on a corner close to the escalators for Cercanias.
With your back to Cercanias, find Cafe de la Estación and take a left. If you have found the Cafe, with your back to the Café turn right.
There is a ramp and a line of stores on each side. To your left is the entrance to Ground Floor departures.
Access to departures is only for passengers and you’ll find a Renfe employee scanning tickets before you’re even allowed to go through Security.
First Floor departures
For departures on the First floor go up the escalators from Cercanias and head left, you’ll see the security area straight ahead of you. In the photo above, you see it lies directly above Ground Floor Departures (behind the citypaq.es signs in the image above). The level above is the taxi stand / street level.
Before you can get to security, you have to have your ticket scanned by a Renfe railway employee.
All baggage, including hand baggage, has to be put through the security scanners. At the time of writing, this did not extend to passengers having to walk through metal detectors etc but they did seem terribly keen for everyone to remove coats and jackets.
Inside the secure area
My train was to Alicante and I departed through the Ground Floor Departures area. Inside the secure area were two places to eat/drink. Of these the biggest was Cafe Expresso.
At the other end of this area, you’ll find the Renfe information desk and a lounge called “Area Renfe” which is only for full-fare Preferente-class ticket holders.
Close to the Renfe information desk, there was a smaller kiosk selling snacks to grab & go, called Picnic.
Oh and a very clever vending machine selling everything from high-end headphones to phone chargers! Like a mini department store.
There is some seating in this area but since boarding normally starts some 20 minutes before departure, this is probably not a major issue for you.
Once boarding was announced there was a bit of a scrum to get through the gate where all passengers had to show their ticket again.
Which end of the train?
As a general rule, first class carriages (called Preferente) are located in the coaches closest to the boarding area in Madrid. On my service today however, it was the opposite end! All the carriages display electronic screens to indicate what is what. You’ll also find a Cafeteria car located between First Class and Economy (Turista). The cafeteria food is limited (but tasty) but does include hot rolls as well as coffee, soft drinks, beers, wines & spirits.