Flying into Madrid Airport and want to reach the city centre by public transport? In this guide, we walk you through the journey from Madrid Airport to Atocha Station. The station is a big travel hub for the city so it’s likely that wherever you want to go in Madrid, you’ll be able to do so easily from here.
Travel from Madrid Airport to Atocha
First of all, head down to the basement level of the airport. Follow the signs for Metro if you don’t see anything else.
From arrivals it’s simple. Come through the thronging masses waiting in arrivals and head right and down the moving walkway into the basement. There are elevators too, if you’d prefer.
Metro or Cercanias?
The airport has connections to Madrid’s Metro network and Cercanias network. The main advantage of the Cercanias trains is that they run directly to Madrid Atocha and Madrid Chamartin, the two principal train stations in Madrid. To get to either station on the metro will involve changing lines which is not very convenient with baggage. For instance, the travel from Madrid Airport to Atocha on the metro requires two changes of line and around a kilometre of connecting corridors and stairs!
Catching a train from Atocha and already have your ticket?
If you do, or if you’ve purchased a flight+train combo ticket, you may not know that your ticket includes free travel on the Cercanias trains too! However, you need to get a free ticket from the machines that is valid for the Cercanias network first. We explain this in more detail in our article on free Cercanias connections. When collecting your ticket, you’ll need to choose whether you’re travelling to Atocha or Chamartin. Make sure you choose the right station as you need to scan your ticket on the way from the Cercanias.
Here’s an example of a long-haul train ticket. As you can see (near the top), the booking reference includes ‘CERCANIAS/TRAM’ and a five-digit code. This shows your ticket includes a free Cercanias connection.
And if you don’t have a ticket, these machines will also sell you one.
Renfe ticket office
At the far end of the lower floor, on the right hand side, there is a Renfe ticket office where you can also buy your tickets. If there is not a big queue and you’re travelling on a long haul train like the AVE, my recommendation would be that you pop in to buy your ticket. That way you’ll be able to select your seat, which will make for a more comfortable journey.
Alternatively, there are ticket machines on your left.
Very conveniently, there are two information screens right at the end of the hall, immediately prior to the boarding area for the Cercanias trains. These carry the departure information for Madrid Atocha & Madrid Chamartin side by side. It’s a very nice touch and you can see if services are leaving on time or are subject to delays.
Not so helpful is the big green sign with train departure times from the Airport. The information is correct of course, but I think most travellers would struggle to understand that all the trains do in fact stop at Madrid Chamartin & Madrid Atocha stations. As they do stop at both stations, you can take the first train out.
It’s worth noting that there can be a bigger gap between trains. For example, in the departures board above, there are trains leaving at 13:25 and then 13:48. In the winter, the platforms are freezing cold and in the Summer, well, you can imagine. So don’t head downstairs to the platform much before ten minutes ahead of departure. Upstairs, at arrivals levels there are two very nice bars/cafeterias.
Note that Madrid Airport is the end of the Cercanias line. Trains depart from platforms 1 or 2 and the big green screen will show you the first train out.
You’ll need to pop the ticket in the slot for the gates to open, they won’t open until you collect your ticket from the top of the machine!
Down to the platform
Take the escalators down, there are lifts/elevators available too.
Move along the platform
Unless you train is about to immediately depart, head along the platform where there will be more seating (and where all the latecomers won’t pile in at the last minute!). Around the middle of the platform is where you’ll be getting off at for Madrid Atocha station.
Onboard: types of Cercanias trains
There are several types of train on the Cercanias network. The oldest are the double-decker commuter trains, which can be quite a pain with baggage. But if you only have hand baggage, you can enjoy a quieter journey upstairs.
Most Cercanias trains are now the newer Siemens trains which are very comfortable and ideal for travelling with bags.
Neither type of train is truly step-free. However, the Siemens ones do have a wheelchair accessible door about half-way down the train.
First stop, Nuevos Ministerios.
One of the first stops on the way to Madrid Chamartin & Atocha stations is Nuevos Minsiterios. This graphic shows the relationship between them. Nuevos Ministerios is connected really well to the rest of the Metro system.
Arriving at Atocha
When your train pulls into Atocha, it won’t be on Platform 1 (where trains to the airport depart). Follow the signs for the exit. If you originally connected to the airport from an AVE train at Atocha on your journey out, you may remember a direct connection from the AVE platforms to Cercanias. It doesn’t work the other way round. All passengers need to exit into the station. See our Guide to Connecting from AVE to Madrid Airport to see the arrangements when you are connecting from an AVE train and heading to Madrid Airport.
To the exit
You’ll need to go up the escalators (there are lifts) to a central bridge. From here, you can connect to any other Cercanias train or, if you’re heading for the AVE platforms, follow the signs to exit.
You’ll go up some escalators onto the bridge that links all the Cercanias platforms. The exits into the station proper are clearly signposted.
You need that ticket
Put your ticket into the barrier to exit into the station proper. If the magnetic stripe has evaporated (mine did) go the glass sales desk in the centre of the gates and they will let you out.
Welcome to Atocha!
You will arrive into the bottom floor of Atocha Station. This where most of the stores are and where you’ll find the boarding gates for half the long-haul/AVE services to places like Alicante and Valencia. Services to Barcelona, Malaga, Cordoba and Seville all depart from the first floor area.
See the Connections section of our website, but briefly