Interrailing in Spain: my experience, itinerary & tips

Interrailing in Spain: my experience, itinerary & tips

What is it like to go interrailing in Spain? I spent a month traveling by train in Spain and in this article I share my experience, itinerary and useful tips.

What is interrail?

Interrail is a rail pass that allows unlimited train travel through 33 European countries. An interrail pass offers flexibility and freedom to travel at your own pace and explore different destinations along the way. Interrail is available to residents of Europe; for others, this pass is called Eurail which is practically the same.

There are two different passes and each pass has several variations:

  • One country pass – this pass is valid in one country. A one country pass entitles you to travel for X number of days within a certain travel period, for example, 6 days of travel within a month. You cannot have unlimited travel with a one country pass, you are always stuck with a specific number of travel days.
  • Global pass – this pass is valid throughout Europe, you may travel across borders with it. You can buy a Global pass with unlimited travel (for example, for 15 days or 2 months). There are also Global passes with restrictions on the number of travel days, such as 7 days of travel within 1 month.

So for an interrail trip in Spain, you can apply for a One country pass, but then you have to arrange your own transportation to Spain. The Global pass allows you to travel from anywhere in Europe to Spain and back.

Please note that a Global pass does not allow unlimited travel in your home country. You may travel out of the country once and into the country once.

I used a Global pass, but in this article, I will only talk about interrailing in Spain as this is different from many other European countries.

At the train station in Cartagena

Interrail route Spain

In total, I spent over four weeks traveling through Spain by train. Since I was in Lagos, Portugal, for two weeks before traveling to Spain, I decided not to travel by train from the Netherlands to Spain but started my interrail trip in Spain. There is a direct bus from Lagos to Seville, so that was convenient.

Globally, I traveled from southern Spain to northern Spain during my Interrail trip. This was my interrail itinerary in Spain.

Day 1: Seville

Seville is a beautiful city. If you have not been here yet, I would stay here for at least three days, there is plenty to see and do in Seville. Having been to Seville myself before, I limited myself to 1 day this time before traveling on.

Seville is an enchanting city filled with beautiful Moorish architecture and lively tapas bars. The Real Alcázar, the cathedral with its Giralda Tower, and the colorful Plaza de España are absolute must-sees. Thereby, the atmosphere in the narrow streets of the old Santa Cruz district is great.

  • Hostel tip: room007 Salvador Hostel – very nice hostel with spacious dorms. In a nice central location, near Setas de Sevilla.
  • Hotel tip: Hotel Tayko Sevilla (4⭐) – nicely located between the Real Alcázar and Plaza de España. The rooms are very stylishly decorated.
  • Fun thing to do: Visit the cathedral and the Real Alcázar with a guided tour.
Plaza de Espana in Seville

Day 2 & 3: Cadiz

Travel time Seville – Cadiz: 1 hour and 42 minutes.

Cadiz was not originally on my list, but since there was no accommodation available in the place I wanted to visit, this seemed like a nice stop. And it was!

Cadiz is a very nice city on the coast in the south of Spain. It has a charming historic center, full of narrow streets, squares, and baroque churches. Sometimes you have those cities that feel very cozy and cozy, and I had that with Cadiz. It was a pleasant surprise!

  • Hostel tip: Planeta Cadiz Hostel – a cozy hostel in the historic center of Cadiz. I have slept here myself and I liked it very much. There is a communal kitchen and a rooftop terrace. They have beautiful private rooms in addition to dormitories.
  • Hotel tip: Boutique Hotel Casa Cánovas (4⭐) – beautifully decorated rooms and in a great location in the center of town.
  • Fun thing to do: Explore the city with this interesting medieval tour.
What to do in Cadiz Spain

Day 4: Jerez de la Frontera

Travel time Cadiz – Jerez de la Frontera: 34 minutes.

Before my interrail trip in Spain, I had never heard of Jerez de la Frontera, but I was so glad that I added this city to my trip last minute!

Jerez de la Frontera is known worldwide for its sherry production, and you can visit one of its famous bodegas for a tour and tasting. In addition, Jerez has an impressive cathedral and an imposing Alcazar. Unlike many other cities in Andalusia, there are hardly any tourists here.

  • Hostel tip: Vivian’s Guest House – A hostel with dormitories and private rooms located between the train station and downtown. This is the perfect place for solo and budget travelers. The owner is super friendly and gives good tips.
  • Hotel tip: Palacio del Virrey Laserna – Unique stay in a former palace. The rooms are completely decorated in style, you feel like a king(s)!
  • Fun thing to do: Check out a show to see the famous Andalusian horses dance.
Alcazar in Jerez

Day 5 & 6: Córdoba

Travel time Jerez de la Frontera – Córdoba: 2 hours and 50 minutes.

Córdoba is the place I was most looking forward to and it certainly did not disappoint! In fact, for me, this is the most beautiful city in Andalusia. Cordoba is famous for its impressive Mezquita, a former mosque that was later converted into a cathedral. In addition, the Alcázar is also a great place to visit.

Also, don’t forget to cross the Roman Bridge and explore the San Basilio district. Here you will find a maze of narrow streets with whitewashed houses and flowery patios.

  • Hostel tip: Hospederiá Los Angeles – This is a fine small guesthouse in a great location. You can walk to the Mezquita in just under 10 minutes. I slept here myself and paid only €35 a night for a room with a private bathroom.
  • Hotel tip: Balcón de Córdoba (4⭐) – One of the most beautiful hotels in the city. From the rooftop terrace, you have a fantastic view of the city.
  • Fun thing to do: Visit the world-famous Mezquita with a guided tour and skip the line.
Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

Day 7 & 8: Madrid

Travel time Córdoba – Madrid: 1 hour and 46 minutes (by high-speed train).

Of course, I can’t tour Spain without visiting its capital, Madrid. Madrid is one of the largest cities in Europe and although I have been here before, it was only now that I noticed how big this city actually is. It took me some time to get used to after all those cozy cities in Andalusia, but I still had a good time in Madrid.

Fun places to visit in Madrid include Plaza Mayor, the impressive Royal Palace of Madrid, the world-famous Prado Museum and the city park Parque del Buen Retiro. I also visited the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple that you can visit for free. Very interesting!

  • Hostel tip: The Central House Madrid Lavapiés – this is one of the most luxurious hostels I have slept in. Small dormitories with large beds and fully equipped. On the roof is a bar and a small pool. The hotel is in the cozy (hip) Lavapiés neighborhood and you can walk to Plaza Mayor in 10 minutes.
  • Hotel tip: Room Mate Alba (4⭐) – Room Mate is a Spanish hotel chain and these are always great hotels. No hotel is the same and Alba also has a really nice atmosphere. It is in a great location in the city center, you can reach many attractions on foot.
  • Fun thing to do: Check out the highlights of Madrid during this epic 3-hour bike tour.
Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Day 9, 10 & 11: Cuenca

Travel time Madrid – Cuenca: 54 minutes (by high-speed train).

Cuenca was the surprise of my trip for me. My mom mentioned it as a fun destination and I’m so glad I went here! Cuenca is a city that literally balances on high cliffs. The famous “Hanging Houses” is an iconic sight and they are built on the edge of the cliff.

In addition, you have many beautiful medieval streets here and it is a true walking paradise. There are several nice hiking trails to be found in and around Cuenca with many beautiful views.

  • Hostel tip: Green River Hostel : dormitories (6 beds) for budget travelers and nicely furnished family rooms. Very affordable and very friendly owners. The hostel is in a perfect location between the old and the new city.
  • Hotel Tip: Parador de Cuenca: one of the city’s most luxurious hotels in a former monastery. Beautiful views of the cliffs and the old city center. And thanks to the beautiful outdoor pool, you can also relax here after a long day of hiking and exploring.
  • Fun thing to do: Go on a day trip to the Enchanted City (Ciudad Encantada).
Cuenca Spain_ world heritage & hiking

Day 12 & 13: Valencia

Travel time Cuenca – Valencia: 56 minutes (by high-speed train).

I had heard so much about Valencia but had never visited this famous city. What a wonderful place! Valencia, on Spain’s east coast, combines modern architecture with historical treasures.

One place you absolutely should not miss is the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, a futuristic complex. In addition, the historic silk fair and the magnificent cathedral are also worth visiting. Did you know you can see the Holy Grail here? By the way, Valencia is also the city of paella and good food can be found everywhere here.

  • Hostel tip: Cantagua Hostel – as far as I am concerned, this is the best hostel in Spain. This is also one of the reasons why I returned to Valencia later this trip (spoiler). Located in the hip Russafa neighborhood, here you will find many nice coffee shops and restaurants.
  • Hotel tip: Helen Berger Boutique Hotel (4⭐) – Stylish modern rooms. The hotel is very conveniently located in the center of Valencia.
  • Fun thing to do: Join a guided old town tour and finish with wine and tapas in a historic landmark.
Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències in Valencia

Day 14 & 15: Alicante

Travel time Valencia – Alicante: 1 hour and 59 minutes.

After Valencia, I travel south along the coast. The first stop is the famous seaside town of Alicante. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from this place (mostly nightclubs and drunk Brits), but nothing was further from the truth: Alicante is fun!

Alicante is a sunny city with beautiful beaches. Climb up to the Castillo de Santa Bárbara for panoramic views of the city and the sea. Along the Explanada de España, you can stroll and enjoy the lively atmosphere. The Santa Creu neighborhood was the biggest surprise for me, full of white houses, stairs, and lots of flowers and plants.

Alicante sights_ 22 fun things to do

Day 16, 17 & 18: Cartagena

Travel time Alicante – Cartagena: 2 hours and 39 minutes (with a transfer in Murcia).

When I was at the Roman theater in Cadiz, there hung a map of all the other Roman theaters in Spain. One was in Cartagena. I had never heard of this Spanish city, but I became very curious about it. So that became my next stop after Alicante!

Cartagena is a historic port city with a rich maritime history. Cartagena’s Roman theater is a notable landmark, as is the castle of La Concepción. You can also take beautiful walks in the surroundings of Cartagena, from the surrounding mountain tops you will have a beautiful view of the city.

  • Hostel tip: LoopINN Hostel Cartagena – Perfect for budget travelers and families. This hostel is nicely located between the train station and downtown and has several rooms to choose from. There are dormitories, as well as private rooms where you can sleep with your whole family. There is also a communal kitchen and a nice rooftop terrace.
  • Hotel tip: La Casa de las Flores – A beautiful small hotel in the center of Cartagena. The facade is incredibly beautiful and filled with flowers (hence the name) and the rooms are stylish and modern. From the rooftop terrace, you overlook the Roman forum.
  • Fun thing to do: Visit the Roman theater during a guided tapas tour.
Museo Teatro Romano in Cartagena

Day 19 & 20: Murcia

Travel time Cartagena – Murcia: 58 minutes.

Murcia is a charming city near Cartagena and is also very nice to check out. It is not very big, but it has some interesting sights. For example, the Cathedral of Murcia, with its magnificent baroque facade, and the Real Casino de Murcia, an impressive feat of architecture.

There are many atmospheric streets and squares, such as Plaza de las Flores, where you can eat delicious tapas on the terrace. Murcia feels a bit like a vacation during your Interrail trip.

  • Hostel tip: The Cathedral Hostel is a good option if you are looking for a basic and affordable place to stay. It is located right in the city center housed in a historic building. There are dormitories as well as private rooms. I stayed in the latter and paid only €35 per night (shared bathroom) for a double room.
  • Hotel tip: Catalonia Conde de Floridablanca (4⭐) is the place to stay if you are looking for a luxury stay in Murcia. The rooms are modern and tastefully decorated and some have a terrace. There is a small rooftop pool, perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day.
20 fun Murcia sights - Spain

Since I wanted to take a break myself and all other destinations were very expensive at Easter, I returned to Cartagena for a few days after Murcia. I will leave these days out of this itinerary, as I mostly worked and relaxed.

Day 21, 22 & 23: Valencia

Travel time Murcia – Valencia: 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Two days in Valencia is not enough, so I put a second stop in this beautiful city on the way north. For a day at the beach and exploring the fun district of Rusafa. In Valencia, it’s impossible to get bored.

Day 24: Girona

Travel time Valencia – Girona: 5 hours and 56 minutes (with change in Barcelona).

It’s time for the last stop of this interrail route in Spain! I had the choice of spending the night in Barcelona or Girona and it was quickly made. While Barcelona is always fun, it is far too massive for one night. Moreover, Girona is one of the most beautiful places in the Costa Brava.

Girona is a picturesque city steeped in history and charm. The medieval old town, with its winding alleys and well-preserved city walls, is a delight to explore.

Girona’s impressive cathedral, with its Gothic and Baroque elements, dominates the skyline. A walk along the banks of the Onyar River offers great views of the colorful houses that line the river. By the way, Girona is also known as a location for the popular TV series “Game of Thrones.”

  • Hostel tip: Can Cocollona – cozy small hostel with a communal kitchen and garden. It is close to the train station.
  • Hotel tip: Hotel Històric (4⭐) – hotel in a beautiful historic building in Girona’s old town.
  • Fun thing to do: Join a Game of Thrones tour and explore the movie locations.
Girona Spain

From Girona, it’s easy to travel to other places in mainland Europe as it has a small airport and train connections with France.

My experience with this Spain interrail itinerary

A few comments about this interrail route in Spain:

  • Travel time – I made this trip in the spring of 2023, the last two weeks of March and the first two weeks of April. As far as I am concerned, this is the perfect time to do this. It is not yet as crowded as in high season, the weather was lovely (it only started to rain a little on the last day) and everything is in bloom. To see all the colorful flowers everywhere is a beautiful sight!
  • Speed – As you can see, I visited many places in a short period of time. Personally, I didn’t mind that much because the travel times were often very short. Between some destinations, there is only an hour of travel time. In that case, you often still have the morning at spot A and the afternoon at spot B.
  • When to travel? – I always tried to plan the train rides between checking out and checking in. This way, you won’t have to drag your luggage around as much.
  • Which Interrail pass should you choose? – Because of the many stops on this route, a Global pass that allows unlimited travel is most convenient.
Spain Interrail route

Interrailing in Spain: here’s how it works

So how does this interrailing in Spain work? I’m going to tell you more about that now.

Planning your interrail trip to Spain

To determine your route and plan your trip, you can use the Interrail app, which is very easy to use. In the app, you can enter your starting station and your ending station. Then a few options will automatically roll out in terms of trains and travel times. Nice and easy right?

Well, not quite. The Interrail app often updates only once a month, and the Renfe (Spain’s national railcompany) does not always provide Interrail with all train times. It is therefore wise to download Renfe’s app in addition to the Interrail app. Then you can also see right away if trains are sold out or not.

Have you determined your route? Then you can link your route to your (digital) interrail pass. In “My Trip” turn on the trip you want to take by clicking the slider, it will turn yellow. If you go to “My Pass” on the day of your trip, you can click on “show ticket.” Then a QR code appears that you can show to the conductor.

Interrail reservations in Spain

In Spain, you need a reservation for almost every train. That’s an extra card in addition to the QR code you have to show. A reservation costs between €4 and €13 (second class, it is more expensive for first class). You can book seat reservations in several ways:

  • Online – Through the Interrail website (i.e., not through the app). This option has existed since July 2023 and I have not used it myself, as I was traveling in March and April of 2023. Mainly try out if this works for you, but what I’ve heard is this doesn’t go smoothly and it’s hard to get something last minute. You do pay a little more through the Interrail website, additional handling fees.
  • At the station – Until recently, this was the best option (and it maybe still is) to get reservations. This is also the only option I have used myself. At stations in large(r) cities, there is a Renfe ticket office where you can make reservations (on this page is a link to the stations where it can be done). I always wrote down the trains I wanted on a piece of paper (including the date, time, and train number) and gave it to the clerk. Usually, I would get the reservations I wanted.
  • Reservations by phone – You can call Renfe (+34 91 232 03 20) to make a reservation. You must then pick up your ticket at a ticket office within 72 hours.
Waiting for my turn at the station in Seville
Waiting for my turn at the station in Seville.

A few comments and tips for booking Interrail tickets in Spain:

  • Only a limited number of reservations per train are available for interrailers; the earlier you book, the better your chances of getting on your desired train.
  • Because you have to make reservations for almost every train in Spain, trains seem to fill up quickly, but most of them are not full at all. For example, I had this with the train from Murcia to Valencia, which was full according to the system. However, I was able to reserve a seat on the same train from Murcia to Alicante and from Alicante to Valencia. I had to transfer to a different seat on the same train. So it may be smart to split your trip to see if tickets are available then.
  • Reservations at the station can take a very long time. Sometimes I was at the station for 1 or 2 hours. That’s why I didn’t plan one reservation each time, but 3 or 4. Then I could go on for another week.
  • It saves an enormous amount of time if you make your reservations at a smaller station. In Seville, I had to stand in line for almost 1.5 hours until it was my turn, at the stations in Cuenca and Cartagena there was barely a line. In Cartagena, I even had tea with the man who helped me.
  • They don’t speak English at every station. Don’t speak Spanish? Learn a few basic words and phrases (fun to do via Duolingo) and put the Google Translate app on your phone.

Check this handy website for a detailed description of booking interrail tickets in Spain.

How do they check Interrail tickets in Spain?

Ticket control varies by train and conductor. Sometimes there is no check at all, sometimes it is very strict. Sometimes it is before you board the train (often at the starting point of a route) and sometimes on the train itself. When you see someone checking tickets, make sure you have your:

  • An activated interrail pass. It’s activated when you see a QR code at “My Pass”.
  • A valid ID.
  • Your seat reservation.

Then you will be all right. They will tell you what they want to see, and that is at least the QR code of your Interrail pass.

Co interrailing in Spain

What else should you consider when planning an interrail trip in Spain?

And then a few last things:

  • Be flexible. Anything can happen, trains are sometimes delayed, or interrailers run out of tickets. It can be galling for a while, but it can also give you an extra day in a nice place.
  • The track from which your train departs is indicated on a sign in the station. Sometimes it is not announced until the very last minute. Keep your eye on the sign or ask someone.
  • There are different types of trains you can take in Spain. I traveled mostly on the MD, which is similar to most European intercity trains. To travel long distances, you can also take the AVE, a high-speed train. This one sometimes goes over 300 kilometers per hour! It is fun to alternate the different trains. By the way, seat reservations for an AVE are a lot more expensive than those of the slower trains.
  • Accommodation in major cities is incredibly expensive on weekends. I was initially supposed to arrive in Madrid on Saturday, but a bed in a dormitory in a hostel was a whopping €65 a night! I finally arrived on Wednesday and then I only had to pay €25 (for a more luxurious room). This was also the case in Valencia and Barcelona. So it can make a big difference if you visit those big cities during the week and the somewhat smaller places on weekends.
Renfe AVE - high-speed train

Is an Interrail pass in Spain worth it? The cost

Is it worth it to use an Interrail pass in Spain? That’s what I wanted to find out myself, as I read in many places that this was not the case. Afterwards, it is easy to do the math:

  • I paid €366 for a two-month Global Pass. This was 50% off the normal price (a big discount in 2022 due to their 50th anniversary). In addition, I had €98.79 in additional expenses (mainly reservations). In total, traveling by interrail cost me €464.79.
  • I spent a total of 37 days traveling and used 24 different trains.
  • If I had booked all train travel locally I would have lost €797.55. So in theory, I saved €332.76 with the interrail pass.

There’s a but. Although I spent most of the trip in Spain, I traveled back to the Netherlands through France, Switzerland, and Germany. Train tickets in those countries are much more expensive than those in Spain. So here’s a new calculation especially for travel in Spain (sorry for all the additional details, I’m a bit of a nerd):

  • Of the 37 days, I was in Spain for 29 days. If you divide the cost of the pass by 37, it would be €9.89 per day. So for the 29 days in Spain, I paid €286.86. For all the reservations in Spain, I spent €74.80, so the total travel cost in Spain with the interrail pass comes out to €361.66.
  • If I had booked all train travel locally, it would have cost me €327.65. That’s €34.01 less than with the interrail pass.

For me, the conclusion is clear: I did not find the interrail pass worth it in Spain, especially considering that I bought it at a 50% discount and spent hours making reservations.

All in all, I had a great trip and I more than recouped that cost later in Switzerland.

Learn more about Interrailing in Spain

These were my tips & experience for interrailing in Spain. If you have any specific questions, you may always leave a message below this article. In addition, there are a few places where you can also find a lot of information about an interrail trip in Spain:

At the station in Cadiz

Book a trip to Spain

Train travel within Spain is great and incredibly easy. You can book an interrail pass for this, but because of the hassle of reservations and the high cost, I would not recommend this. Traveling by public transportation in Spain is very fun, easy, and affordable, though. You can find good deals on these websites:

  • RailEurope: Train tickets all over Europe. You can also purchase an Interrail pass through this website.
  • Omio : Here you can book both trains and buses. The buses in Spain are also generally good and very inexpensive!
  • Busbud : Traveling by bus is sometimes more economical than by train. On this website, you can find many bus tours and buy a ticket right away.

Read more about Spain

Would you like to explore Spain and want to read more about this beautiful country? Get this amazing travel guide:

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For more tips on great train travel in Europe, this is a great book to have:

Lonely Planet’s Guide to Train Travel in Europe

Lonely Planet's Guide to Train Travel in Europe

Looking for a sustainable and stress-free way to explore Europe? Hop on board the continent's railway network with this ultimate guide to train travel. Whether you want to take it slow on the scenic route or make the most of the newest high-speed services to get straight to your destination, Lonely Planet's experts show you how to plan your journey.

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Spain is one of my favorite countries in Europe and I come there several times a year. Therefore, you can read a lot about a vacation in Spain on this website. Check out one of these articles:

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As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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