TABLE 672: Barcelona – Valencia

(Part 4/4)

On this final section of our route we leave Valencia passing through its other station Joaquin Sorolla, named after the Spanish landscape painter. Our first stop is the handsome town of Xativa where you are immediately met with views of the magnificent medieval castle. The station is just 10 minutes from the historic centre which has a wealth of gothic buildings and churches, museums and several ancient fountains dotted around. There are two 20-minute tourist train tours a day through the old quarter that include an ascent to the castle which has impressive views over the city.

Next is the popular holiday city of Alicante. This lively, easy-going city attracts lots of tourists eager to walk its pretty marble tiled waterfront promenade. The city has plenty of attractions for visitors including its hilltop castle, interesting old quarter, and Mercado Central, the main market hall which is a feast for the senses. There is also the usual mix of sandy beaches, good restaurants and interesting shopping streets and plazas to explore. There are also daily boat trips to the nearby island of Tabarca which gives great views of the coastline

The railway line now veers slightly inland to Murcia where passengers can either continue west onto Lorca or head back towards the coast to the historical naval port of Cartagena. Catagena’s layers of Roman and Carthaginian history mixed with modernist architecture make it a fascinating city. Most places of interest are contained in an area enclosed by the city walls – long stretches of which are still intact. There have been several new attractions opened in the city in recent years, bringing in tourists to view its varied historical treats, such as the recently restored Roman theatre and Museum of Underwater Archaeology. There is also an elevator to the castle, the highest point in the city.

(Part 3)

Travelling south from Tarragona the first stop is the huge theme park and resort of Port Aventura. If rollercoasters are not your thing then it’s a short hop to the next station, Salou.  A popular resort with families and young Brits, Salou also has some fine, tree lined streets, lovely beaches and parks. The line continues through the popular seaside destination of Vinaròs which has a beautiful promenade, a working port and some much quieter beaches. The town is particularly well regarded for its prawns, so there are a great number of fine seafood restaurants here, they even hold a festival dedicated to their seafood in August.

The next stop is Benicassim, a lovely seaside town with some spectacular mountain scenery. The town is most famous as the venue for Spain’s top music festival which takes place annually in July when the population of the town can swell by up to 50,000. Along the town’s historical La Ruta de las Villas are 51 wonderful 19th century villas built for wealthy families by important architects of the time. Nearly all are now privately owned but they can be admired from the outside and tours can be arranged which explain their history.

Continuing, we arrive in the fine modernist masterpiece that is Valencia Nord station, the first of two main railway stations in the city. Valencia combines an amazing old quarter, with its spectacular medieval castles and towers, with the stunning modern part of the city with a string of striking futuristic buildings, combine this with great shopping, great food (it is the home of Paella) and clean beaches, and you have a destination where you could easily spend a few days exploring. One of the city’s more controversial claims to fame is that it has what is claimed to be the Holy Grail in its cathedral. It is also worth a climb to the top of the Miguelete bell tower to admire great views of the city.

(Part 2)

Barcelona has direct railway links with a number of important cities, including Paris and Madrid as well as southern and eastern Spain. The city has excellent rail, bus and metro links ensuring that visitors can get around all of the main tourist sites and further afield without any difficulty. Our route begins at Barcelona Sants, the city’s main transport hub with most high-speed services and airport trains terminating here. Sants has eclipsed the much older França Station in terms of visitor numbers, however, França is worth a visit in its own right as it is agreed to be the city’s most attractive station. Its buildings are a mix of classical and modern design with marble floors and Art Deco decoration.

As Spain’s second largest city, Barcelona is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations and with its irresistible combination of history, excellent food, nightlife and Mediterranean beaches there is something to suit all tastes. As you would expect it is packed with outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums, and churches and it is a fantastic city to walk around. The city will be extremely busy this weekend (11th – 13th May) as it plays host to a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Last year over 47,000 people used the regional train service over the three day period. The most famous landmark and must-see attraction in Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia, the incomplete church and world heritage site designed by Antoni Gaudi but there are plenty more amazing buildings and streets to discover away from the queues of tourists!

The next major stop south along this line is the port city of Tarragona. The biggest lure in this medieval city is its wealth of Roman ruins which include a mosaic-packed museum, Colosseum and a seaside amphitheatre. All of Tarragona’s sites are within walking distance of the railway station; a stroll through the old town near the cathedral is definitely worthwhile or take a panoramic tour through the streets in the city’s tourist train.

(Part 1)

For May we are going to be looking at Table 672 in Spain which connects the vibrant cities of Barcelona and Valencia along the Mediterranean coast and onwards to the popular holiday resort of Alicante.

This Table covers a total of 679km starting in Catalonia from Barcelona Franca through to terminus stations in either the major naval town of Cartagena or Lorca in the region of Mercia in south-eastern Spain with some wonderful coastal vistas to enjoy en-route. The stops along this route offer travellers a wealth of history to explore, with many fine examples of Roman architecture, ancient walled towns and stunning cathedrals. There are also opportunities to extend your journey with possible connections to some of Spain’s AVE high speed lines which can transfer you onto Madrid and Seville, or options for ferry crossings to the nearby Balearic islands from Barcelona and Valencia (shown in Table 2510).

Journey times and ticket prices can vary enormously on this route as there are several options for train types and carriers as can be seen from the size of table 672. Tickets can also be purchased in different classes, Turista which is second class, Turista Plus, a premium second class option which has a more spacious carriage layout or Preferente which gives access to the Sala Club lounges at the major stations and also offer reclining leather seats and a hot meal. All of the services are reliable and comfortable and frequent throughout the day (between 8-12 a day) but travellers will need to bear in mind that whether you choose the high speed operators or the regional trains, most will require advance seat reservations as carriages can sell out during peak times.

Route No. 9: “Historic Spain”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

This week we are looking at: Route No. 9: “Historic Spain” which begins in Barcelona, passing through Valencia and Seville and ending in Cadiz.

Spain’s high-speed rail network was inaugurated in 1992 with the opening of a fast link from Madrid to Seville. Since then, the network served by super-fast trains (known as Alta Velocidad Española or AVE services) has been progressively extended. With a little planning you can enjoy a Catalan breakfast in Barcelona, stop off for a leisurely lunch in Madrid and still be in Málaga in time for tapas. Route 10 in this book describes that fast route south from Catalonia to Andalucía.

Not everyone favours such speed, and Route 9 is a real slow travel experience. When the early Scottish traveller Henry David Inglis headed south from Madrid to Andalucía in 1830, he bemoaned the fact that the regular stage carriage took merely a week – too fast, he felt, to really do justice to the landscapes along the way. The old roads to Andalucía all converge on a single natural defile that strikes a huge gash through the mountains. The Sierra Morena may not tower to great heights, but the rugged demeanour of these mountains creates a formidable barrier to travellers bound for the south.