An Insider’s Guide to Barcelona Sants Train Station—from a Local Who’s Lived next to it for 15 Years

by  Loulou McClaine
LAST UPDATED ON  2023-06-08
PUBLISHED ON  2023-05-04
Barcelona Sants is not exactly one of Europe’s more gorgeous train stations, but it effectively connects Barcelona to places throughout Catalonia and in Spain and France

Your Train Guide

Loulou Mcclaine

British Wanderer

Barcelona Sants Station is unlovely but clean and well equipped with a range of services. It’s not huge, but can seem a bit bewildering to newbies.

So let me be your guide. I’ve lived next to the station for 15 years, I go in every day to catch the metro, and at weekends I regularly take the local trains to get around Catalonia, and sometimes far beyond. I know the station’s charms and annoyances, and I’d like to share a few tips and tricks for making it a more pleasant and efficient experience.

Barcelona Sants: Key Facts before You Go

This site’s minimalist editor waiting for a fast train on an underground platform in Barcelona Sants
  • The main station in Barcelona is officially called “Barcelona Sants”. Locals refer to it as “Estació de Sants”, “Sants Estació” or just “Sants”.
  • The station has medium and long distance trains (including fast trains) going to various points in Spain and France. These trains are run by Renfe (the national Spanish operator) as well as competing budget high speed brands: Ouigo, Iryo, and (Renfe’s own) Avlo.
  • There are also commuter trains run by Renfe known as Rodalies (Catalan) or Cercanias (Spanish).
  • The metro stop connected to Barcelona Sants is called “Sants Estació”.
  • When making your way to your train, the display boards and entrance gates are different for the local and longer distance trains. So pay attention to whether you are traveling on Rodalies or one of the longer distance options from Renfe and the always long distance budget trains Ouigo, Iryo, or Avlo.
  • The station is located at Plaça dels Països Catalans, 1, 7, 08014 Barcelona.
  • It is open Monday to Friday 04:15 – 00:30 and weekends and public holidays 05:00 – 00:30.

The Renfe website lists ten stations for Barcelona. Some of these are in far-flung neighbourhoods and you are unlikely to come across them as a traveller.

Barcelona Sants is the main hub for commuter, national and international trains. Barcelona Estació de França also has some national as well as commuter trains, and commuter trains you may use also leave from the smaller underground Barcelona train stations Plaça de Catalunya, Passeig de Gràcia, and Arc de Troimf. Note that “Barcelona Sants”, “Barcelona Sant Andreu” and “Barcelona Sant Andreu Arenal” are three separate stations. 

Buying Train Tickets for Trips to/from Barcelona Sants Station

Where and how to buy tickets depends greatly on whether you are traveling in the greater Barcelona area or further afield.

Tickets for Medium and Long Distance Travel

Whether you’re traveling from Barcelona to Zaragoza, Madrid, or elsewhere in Spain, remember that there are now a variety of competing operators; this means that prices can be quite good.

Some of the best deals can only be found online and cannot actually be purchased in Barcelona Sants itself.

The quick way to find the best deal for your particular route is by booking online on Trainline. It compares all of the operators that serve Barcelona Sants at once, so you quickly find out if Renfe, Iryo, or Ouigo is cheapest for your particular trip. And in our tests of the best ways to get Spanish train tickets, Trainline consistently came up with the smarter, cheaper routes on trips with changes than Renfe’s site.

Another good website that also offers all competing rail services but in addition includes flight options is Omio.

While we’ve ridden and written up a comparison all of the train operators serving Sants, we tend to just choose whichever Trainline shows as having the best price. But it is also possible to buy from each operator individually:

  • Spanish national operator Renfe has regional and medium distance (media distancia) trains called Avant, Regional, Regional Exprés, MD or Proximidad. These tickets are sold in Barcelona Sants at ticket windows 1 to 5 (hours: 06:00 – 22:00). They are also available via Trainline mentioned above and can be bought in advance via Renfe’s sometimes aggravating, dysfunctional website: Renfe.com (partially translated in English). There’s also a phone line for sales: +34 912 320 320.
  • Renfe’s long distance (larga distancia) trains are called Intercity, Alvia, Altaria or Euromed and their high speed trains are Ave, AV City or Avlo. We’ve previously written about the experiences riding Ave and the budget Avlo trains; they’re both quite pleasant. Tickets for these can also be purchased easily via Trainline or for the adventurous via Renfe’s site and phone mentioned in the previous point. In Barcelona Sants, the long distance and high speed trains are sold at ticket windows 8 to 21 (hours: 06:00 – 22:00). Although there are a lot of ticket windows, many will be unstaffed and there are often long waits. Staff can be unhelpful, may not tell you about ways to save money, and may not speak much English. They offer Renfe tickets only, and not the competing Iryo and Ouigo options.
  • The private operator Iryo offers a nice and just slightly upscale high-speed experience to get from Barcelona Sants to Zaragoza and Madrid, as well as further afield in Spain. Tickets can be bought in advance via Trainline or Iryo’s website as well as from the Iryo point in the station (see map).
  • French operator Ouigo runs goofy-looking pink-and-blue budget trains from Sants to Tarragona, Zaragoza, and Madrid; we’ve also enjoyed the Ouigo experience. Ouigo tickets are not available at Barcelona Sants or any physical sales point; they must be purchased online via Trainline or Ouigo’s Spanish site.

Tickets for these trains are often cheaper in advance and can be sold out on the day, so make sure to book as early as possible to get the best fares. 

Tickets for Commuter / Suburban Trains (Rodalies de Catalunya)

  • These tickets can only be bought in the station on the day of travel.
  • Tickets can be bought:
    • At the orange-coloured ticket machines. 
    • At windows 1-5 from 06:00 to 22:00. And as mentioned above, the staff can be rather unhelpful in our experiences (even if you speak flawless Spanish and Catalan) and not speak a lot of English.
  • Tickets are valid for two hours from the moment of purchase. 
  • Note that you can travel to any station within Zone 1 of this map  (including the airport TRAIN station) with a standard Zone 1 metro ticket
  • Trains for the local FGC (Ferrocarrils, the Catalonia commuter service) do not depart from Sants Station. See the map of FGC alongside other local services.
Local train ticket sales at windows 1-5 for Renfe Rodalies (a.k.a. Cercanias, or local trains) in Barcelona Sants; do not stand in these lines for long-distance trains! Instead, book those at the lines at windows 8-22 (or more conveniently, online in advance as explained above).

Key Vocabulary and Pronunciation in Sants

Finding Departure / Arrival Information—Check the Right Displays!

Making Your Way to Your Platform

Getting to and from Sants Station

Barcelona Airport Connections with Sants Station

Travellers with Disabilities or Reduced Mobility

Station Map and Facilities at Sants Station

Adif, which runs Barcelona Sants, does not publish an official up-to-date map of the Station on its sites. We found various maps of the station floating around on the internet but they were all out-of-date with info that is now incorrect. We have reached out to Adif and asked for a better map; we’ll update this if they ever offer one.

We did find a map for the main level posted in the train station that was correct and took a picture of it, below.

A 2023 map of the main level as posted in Barcelona Sants, complete with fingerprints on the display glass

The keys to note:

  • You enter the station from Plaça de Joan Peiró on the left or Plaça dels Països Catalans on the right, or else from the metro at the top.
  • Access (via down escalators and elevators) to tracks 1-6 for high speed trains is on the left side in dark grey and is labeled A, B, and C.
  • Access (via down escalators and elevators) to tracks 7-14 for the regional and local trains is on the bottom right.
  • Ticketing windows are in the bottom middle left.
  • This map is highly simplified. Not pictured: All of the stores, cafés, people, and chaos.

Information and Customer Service

Left Luggage (Storage)

Lost Property Office

Tourist Information

Police

Toilets

Foreign Currency Exchange

ATMs

Pharmacy

Tobacco and Stamps

WiFi

Food Recommendations in and around Sants Station

Meeting Point in Barcelona Sants

Premium Lounge (Sala Club)

Shopping

A Park and a Plaza just outside the Station

Hotels on top of and next to Sants

Sleeping in Barcelona Sants

Safety

  • Sants Station does not have the dangerous feeling that accompanies some major stations in Southern Europe. It is busy at all hours of the day and there is often an armed police presence outside.
  • Rough sleepers are often found outside the station at night, but they don’t tend to interact with travellers. 

You should still take the same precautions against pick-pockets and petty crime that you would in the rest of the city.

A Ouigo train in Barcelona Sants Estació

Bon Voyage and Send Updates!

We frequently update our articles based on input from readers, so let us know about your experiences, ask questions, and tell us what has been useful in the comment section below. We appreciate it!

On a recent trip while updating this article

2 thoughts on “An Insider’s Guide to Barcelona Sants Train Station—from a Local Who’s Lived next to it for 15 Years”

  1. As an American traveling to Spain for the 20th time. Your information was very valuable.
    Thank You.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We are traveling to Spain next spring. No car, so it’s trains for us, and at 62 with minimal Spanish, we are likely to get a bit confused if we don’t have plenty of information ahead of time. This is going to help so much!

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