Barcelona to Bilbao – A Gastronomic Rail Journey

Embark on this remarkable train journey as you discover the cuisine, culture and breathtaking scenery of Northern Spain. Travel in comfort on one of Renfe’s direct Alvia trains with Grand Luxe five-star cabins and fine dining.

Bilbao is the largest city and cultural capital of Spain’s Basque Country. It is known for its renowned gastronomy and Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum.

Getting There

The cities of Barcelona and Bilbao are separated by a 290-mile (490 km) gap, but there is no shortage of ways to get there. You can fly the hour-long direct flight, or you could take a road trip—which could be even longer if you stop in all the wine-making towns and vineyards along the way—or a train ride. The best option for getting from Barcelona to Bilbao is by train, with multiple direct routes available every day.

The train journey from Barcelona to Bilbao takes a bit over seven hours, but the modern and comfortable trains make the trip more enjoyable than you might expect. You can catch a train at the Sants railway station in central Barcelona, or at other stations throughout the city, including Plaza d’Espanya, Av. de Catalunya, and others. For the fastest possible journey, look for an express train. Depending on the time of year and your travel dates, some routes may not be offered every day or might only be available at certain times.

Renfe, the national train company, operates numerous services between Barcelona and Bilbao. Options include high-speed AVE trains and regional trains with fewer stops, as well as night trains that let you relax on the journey. Check the Renfe website for detailed information and to book your tickets.

Another popular option is to rent a car and drive from Barcelona to Bilbao. The 380-mile (590-km) drive should take you just over five and a half hours, with the majority of the route being on highways AP-2 and AP-68. These are toll roads, and American credit cards are not widely accepted at the toll booths, so be sure to have cash on hand for this part of the trip.

If you want to save money on your trip, consider taking a bus from Barcelona to Bilbao. Buses are generally cheaper than flights or trains, and they offer a variety of amenities such as Wi-Fi, onboard restrooms, and soft reclining seats. Some buses also feature power outlets and air conditioning. If you are traveling in the summer or on a holiday weekend, be aware that bus tickets tend to spike in price and sell out quickly.


Imagine yourself sipping on a glass of champagne and nibbling on an assortment of gourmet pintxo tapas as you relax in your wood-paneled suite aboard a luxury train. This is the kind of trip you can take on several tourist trains in Spain, including the Costa Verde Express, which runs between Bilbao and Santiago de Compostela. On this six-day, five-night adventure, you’ll discover the heart of Northern Spain as you travel between cities with a rich heritage.

While there are plenty of direct routes between Barcelona and Bilbao, the best way to find cheap tickets is by being flexible with your schedule. Choosing to travel during off-peak times—when prices are usually lower—and traveling on weekdays rather than weekends will significantly reduce the cost of your journey.

With Gopili, it’s easy to compare the prices of hundreds of different transport providers on one page. This means you can quickly see all of the available options and pick the cheapest route for your trip. Plus, Gopili’s smart technology digs up discounts and deals that you might not have found on your own—saving you even more money.

Whether you choose to travel by train, bus, rideshare, or plane, Gopili makes it simple to find the best deals on your next trip. Start by entering your destination and departure dates, then select the number of travelers—and the type of journey you prefer. Next, click “Find tickets,” and Gopili will display all of the available options for your trip. Once you’ve found the ideal itinerary, you can purchase your tickets with confidence.

When choosing your departure date, it’s important to consider the weather and public holidays in both destinations. These can impact traffic and road conditions, as well as opening hours for attractions and restaurants. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the price of train tickets can increase as you get closer to your departure date. That’s why it’s always a good idea to book your tickets in advance. If you do decide to wait until the last minute, don’t worry; many providers allow you to cancel your reservation for a fee.


The city of Bilbao is renowned for its food and the local delicacies are incredibly rich and diverse. You’ll find a wide variety of fresh fish and seafood as well as cured meats, sausages and cheeses. Local wine is also a key ingredient in the region’s cuisine. The gastronomic scene here has become world-famous for its innovation and the chefs in Bilbao are constantly looking for new ways to showcase their local produce.

Several bus companies operate on the Barcelona to Bilbao route and tickets can be booked online. You’ll have the choice of departing from Barcelona-Sants or Barcelona-Nord stations when you reserve your ticket. Once in Bilbao, buses will drop you off at the main bus station on the west side of town. From here, you can easily reach the city center and Historic Quarter by taking the tram or a taxi.

A one-way ticket on the bus will cost you between $38 and $61, depending on the day of the week and time of year you’re traveling. Generally, the earlier you book, the better. This will allow you to choose your seat and ensure that you get a ride with the carrier of your choice.

If you prefer a premium travel experience, there are also several coach classes that make the trip on this route. These buses typically include perks such as air conditioning, soft reclining seats and Wi-Fi access. In addition to being more comfortable, these classes are also faster as they typically drive on highways and make fewer stops en route.

The city of Bilbao is home to many cultural and architectural highlights. Take a guided tour to see the faded neo-baroque architecture in the Old Town or visit the gleaming titanium of the Guggenheim Museum. You’ll also want to check out the charming marina and the upscale shopping in the Zona Ribera district. If you have a car, consider driving out of the city to explore more of the Basque Country. San Sebastian is only an hour’s drive away and offers a stunning view that fans of “Games of Thrones” will recognize.


The 290 miles between Barcelona and Bilbao can be crossed in just over an hour by train. Travel from Barcelona to Bilbao is inexpensive and convenient, with daily trains serving the route. Prices tend to rise closer to departure, so it’s a good idea to book in advance to secure the best deals.

There are a number of companies that operate passenger trains between the two cities, including Renfe, ALSA and Iberia. All offer various types of trains, including high-speed AVE services and mid-distance Media Distancia and Avlo options. Renfe’s high-speed AVE, AV-City and Avant trains feature on-board luxury, while the seated Iryo service offers meals served at your seat.

Both the Barcelona Sants and Bilbao Abando train stations are located in the heart of each city, making it easy to access from both downtown areas. Train tickets start at just $28 for a one-way journey, though they will be more expensive as your travel date approaches.

For those traveling with children, car seats are available for purchase, so you can bring your whole family on this trip. There are also a number of amenities available to make your journey as comfortable and relaxing as possible, including power sockets at all seats and onboard entertainment systems. You can even choose to upgrade your ticket to first class for a little extra comfort.

The trains that run between Barcelona and Bilbao are designed with passenger comfort in mind, and many of the stations are beautiful attractions in their own right. For example, Barcelona’s art nouveau Bilbao Concordia station is a striking building, while the Toledo Mudejar-style station in Spain’s gastronomic heartland has an ornate ticket hall and cafe-bar.

Although flying may be the quickest option for getting from Barcelona to Bilbao, it’s not the most eco-friendly. Planes emit a large amount of pollution into the air, while train and bus trips produce far less. In addition, a flight can add up to five hours to your trip when you factor in ground transportation to the airport, check-in time and the inevitable waiting around for transfers.

Related Posts