Paris to Barcelona by train - and what to see in both cities

Park Guell, (photo by Corrie Wingate)
Park Guell

With the launch of the new high-speed TGV service from Paris to Barcelona, the journey time between two of Europe’s most amazing cities is now shorter than ever. In just 6 hours and 25 minutes you can be transported from France’s elegant capital to the heart of Catalonia on a sleek double-decker TGV. There are currently two trains a day from Paris’s Gare du Lyon (set to increase to three per day from April, 2014), to Barcelona’s Estació de Sants, stopping off at Figueres and Girona en route. If you’re starting your trip from London St Pancras, this means you can have breakfast in London, stop off at a Parisian bistro for lunch, then dine on delicious Catalan food in the evening! 


Planning a trip to two cities means twice the planning so, to save you the bother, we’ve come up with a list of the top cultural, architectural and gastronomic highlights of both places.


For art-lovers

Paris for art-lovers: the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou (otherwise known as the big three) are all unmissable, but don’t overlook more intimate museums like the Musée Rodin and the Musée Jacquemart-André, which houses a collection of art and furniture established in the 19th century.


Barcelona for art-lovers: artistic highlights include the Museu Picasso, Montjuïc’s Fundacío Miró and the Palau Nacional, which is home to the world’s best collection of Romanesque art.



For foodies

Paris for foodies: the 7th arrondissement is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, while Ladurée on the Champs-élysées is a must for its world-famous macaroons, as is the vibrant market on rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter.


Barcelona for foodies: The tapas bars on and around Passeig de Gràcia serve exquisite dishes, while the Boqueria market is a great place to eat at any time of the day. For an early evening treat, head to one of the city’s granjes (milk bars) and enjoy a xocolate desfeta, hot chocolate thick enough to stand a spoon up in.



For architecture buffs

Paris for architecture buffs: Paris is a textbook of architectural history, from Gothic Notre-Dame de Paris and the Classical beauty of Les Invalides and Place des Vosges, to the dazzling modernity of the Opéra Bastille and the Bibilothèque Nationale de France.


Barcelona for architecture buffs: The area around the Plaça del Rei is awash with gothic structures, but the city’s Modernisme buildings are its defining feature – not to be missed are the Palau de la Música Catalana designed by Domènech i Montaner, Gaudí’s monumental Sagrada Família and La Pedrera, his 1920 apartment block.



For great views

Best views of Paris: the view from the top of the Eiffel tower at dusk is worth the queues, but equally unmissable is the view across the city from the steps of the Sacré Coeur. Some prefer the Tour Montparnasse's rooftop viewing gallery where all these iconic sights can be taken in from afar.


Best views of Barcelona: the Transbordador Aeri cable car from Montjuïc offers a unique perspective on the port below, while the lookout platform on the 10th floor of the Torre de Collserola gives you a 360-degree view of Catalonia.



Quintessential experiences

Quintessential Paris: coffee and a croissant in a literary café and a browse through the boutiques of St-Germain-des-Près, followed by an evening picnic with wine on the Pont des Arts.


Quintessential Barcelona: a stroll through the narrow streets and palm-filled courtyards of the Gothic Quarter, a refreshing glass of orxata (a thick beverage made with milk and tiger nuts) and a tapas crawl.


Images by Ming Tang-Evans & Kevin Cummins (Paris), Corrie Wingate (Barcelona) image icons by Kenneth Appiah & David Padrosa

Explore more of Barcelona's most atmospheric neighbourhoods 

Discover the El Raval, Barri Gòtic, Eixample and Gràcia districts with our brand new Explore Barcelona guidebook.

Explore Barcelona

Whether you are new to the Spanish city or a repeat visitor, Explore Barcelona will help you discover the very best of the Catalan delight - however long your stay. This brand-new, full-colour guide contains 19 easy-to-follow routes that take in the city's best sights. Wander through the winding streets of the city's atmospheric Gothic quarter with our route around the Barri Gòtic and people-watch with our walk along La Rambla. Discover Barcelona's love affair with the Modernista architects with our walk around the Eixample and admire views over the city with our tour of Montjuïc. 

Learn about the history and culture of the city as you go and stop off at our recommended cafes along the way. All routes are plotted on a useful pull-out map and beautiful photography throughout the guide shows off the vibrancy of Barcelona. 

Buy Explore Barcelona as a book or ebook here.


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