Getting from Madrid to Bilbao Travel Guide
Bilbao, situated in northern Spain and capital of the Basque region is most notably known for the Guggenheim Museum. It’s a city that melds both old and new with stunning modern architectural delights, living alongside older more historic buildings.
Paired with Basque culture and history as well as several other interesting sights and sounds to see and explore, it’s no wonder that the city is a popular spot for many holiday makers.
Perhaps you plan on travelling to Spain and arriving into Madrid or even combining the two cities into your itinerary as separate stopovers. Either way, if you are wondering exactly how to get from Madrid to Bilbao, then this guide is for you.
Here I will provide you with all the necessary info to chose between travel by air, bus, train or car in order to get between these two Spanish destinations.
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Spain Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Ready to travel, check out our comprehensive packing list for your holiday to Spain, and make sure you’ve packed everything you need for your Spanish move or vacay!
Flights from Madrid to Bilbao
Journey Duration: 1 Hour flight time
When considering the best and quickest way to get from Madrid to Bilbao, flying would undoubtedly be first choice.
With a flight time of just 1 hour as well as frequent and daily flight departures connecting the two cities, it’s understandable that a Madrid to Bilbao flight will be most travellers’ top travel choice.
Currently, both Iberia Airlines as well as Air Europa operate daily flights offering several departures throughout the day.
When booked in advance you could bag yourself some really great fares. A one-way ticket usually starts from between €60 – €70. But, this price can easily double if left to the last minute.
Flights from Madrid to Bilbao start from as early as 06:30 am in the mornings and continue up until as late as 22:00 pm at night. (Weekend times may differ slightly).
Similarly, the Bilbao to Madrid flights operate from around 06:45 am until approximately 21:30 pm at night.
Of course, these flight schedules and prices may change and as such it is a good idea to plan well in advance for your exact travel dates.
Important: A word of warning. When booking your tickets, be mindful to check the actual baggage allowance that is included in your ticket price.
Many European carriers, including the likes of Air Europa and Iberia, now offer heavily discounted tickets that exclude any checked-luggage. Normally, you need to pay additional if you do require it.
Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport:
Madrid’s Airport is quite big and has several terminals. As is often the case with major airport hubs, it is located some way out of the main Madrid city centre.
But thankfully, the airport is connected to Madrid’s subway and you can very easily get into the city centre in around 40 minutes.
Line no 8 (pink line) will connect to the airport and has two stops. Stop 1 is for Terminals 1, 2 & 3 and then the last stop on the line ends at Terminal 4, a separate stop altogether.
Of course, you may also opt to make use of a transfer or taxi service, but this will naturally set you back quite a bit more in taxi fare versus the cost of the metro.
Check out Madrid airport’s official website here.
Bilbao Airport is situated just under 15 kilometres from its city centre (depending on your destination point). Unlike Madrid, in Bilbao the metro system does not connect with the airport but you can catch a bus.
The Bizkaia Bus A3247 takes around 20 minutes to get between the city and the airport and runs a daily service between 06:15 am to 24:00 with 15-minute departure intervals.
Again, you may also opt to take a taxi or pre-book a private transfer.
According to the Bilbao Airport website, an approximate rate for travel by taxi from the airport to Bilbao centre is around €24 – €29. Note that this is merely an estimate and may vary.
Bus, Madrid – Bilbao
Journey Duration: Fastest 4 Hours 05 minutes | Slowest 5 Hours 20 minutes
Your next option when it comes to travel by means of public transport, would be to make the journey from Madrid to Bilbao by bus.
Bus company, ALSA, has over 15 different departures out of Madrid on both a normal and a premium bus service.
The ALSA Premium bus service is the quickest route taking just over 4 Hours to get between these two cities and includes as part of the premium offering, wi-fi, individual screens, a hostess and special menus on offer.
This premium service is also a direct one, making no stops along the way.
There is also a selection of a standard service too. Often these do make a few stops on route and as such take a bit longer, with the slowest bus journey being around 5 Hours 20 minutes.
Madrid Bilbao bus route:
The Madrid to Bilbao bus service has over 15 daily departures. On weekdays it runs between 07:00 am in the morning up until the last bus at 20:45 pm at night. There is also a very early morning departure at around 02:00 am.
(Weekend schedules may vary so it’s best to consult the actual times online when planning your travel dates & journey).
Depending on the service & bus you book, you can expect to pay from €20.70 for the normal standard service, and for premium around €42.45 and upwards in price for a one-way ticket.
It is advisable to try book in advance. Especially during weekends and peak period, services may be sold out. Booking ahead will also help in securing the cheaper promo fares.
You can make bookings directly on the ALSA website and they generally allow pre-booking a couple of months in advance.
Bilbao to Madrid by Bus:
Upon the return, the Bilbao to Madrid service operates more or less the same number of departures starting from around 07:00 am all the way up till 20:30 pm (also with a 01:00 am and 02:00 am early morning buses).
From Madrid to Bilbao by bus, you can depart out of Madrid from 3 different locations.
Firstly, there is a handful of buses that depart from Madrid Airport’s Terminal 4, one that leaves from Madrid’s Estacion Sur whilst the rest all depart from the Avénida de America bus station.
Upon the return, the Bilbao to Madrid bus departs from the city’s main bus terminal, the Bilbao Intermodal which is linked to the metro (underground) stop San Mamés.
Madrid to Bilbao by Train
Journey Duration: Between 5 Hours 4 minutes up to 6 Hours 34 minutes
Last but not last, you have the option to take the train from Madrid to Bilbao, although this option not only has the longest journey time, but is also the least frequent service.
With only around 3 to 4 departures on weekdays & Saturdays and only 2 on Sundays, you really are limited when it comes to frequency on the train route.
Managed by the Spanish rail operator, Renfe, tickets for the high-speed service can be purchased online and starts from as little as €15.05 for a one-way ticket if booked in advance.
The quickest train journey takes just over 5 hours whereas the longest takes around 6 hours and 34 minutes.
The Madrid Bilbao train departs Madrid from either the Chamartin or the Puerta de Atocha station. Both of which are also linked to the Madrid metro system, meaning you can quite easily get to and from the train station.
Arriving into or departing from Bilbao, you will do so at the Bilbao Abando Indalecio Prieto railway station (or simply known as the Bilbao Abando station). The station is situated pretty much in the centre of the city.
Driving from Madrid to Bilbao by Car
Journey Duration: Between 4 to 5 Hours, depending on your route
If your intention is to road trip through and discover other parts of northern Spain, then travelling by car from Madrid to Bilbao would naturally be your best choice. Given that the distance from Madrid to Bilbao is just shy of 400 kilometres on the quickest route, you can expect a direct drive between the two cities to take just under 4 hours. This is travelling via the A1 highway.
It is worth taking note that you will encounter sections of the highway that are in fact tolled roads. In Spain, you will find both free and tolled roads. To help you plan out and prepare for this, I have linked a fantastic Spanish motorway map here that I happened to have found online. I love this map as it clearly indicates which roads are free and which are tolled. I think this is especially useful if you are planning an extended road trip across Spain and plan on making use of the motorways quite often.
Renting a car:
Do you still need to book your car rental? Check out RentalCars.com to compare rates and availability across a host of different car rental providers.
Where to stay in Bilbao
If you still need to book your accommodation for Bilbao or even Madrid, then have a look at the below Booking.com links in order to compare availability and rates in both. Check availability here for accommodation in Bilbao. Or compare and book your Madrid accommodation here.
Tours in and around Bilbao:
If you’re wondering what to do whilst visiting Bilbao, then I can highly recommend having a browse through a range of tours, activities and experiences that you can book. Click here for activities and tours in Bilbao.
When considering how to travel from Madrid to Bilbao, you certainly have several good options available to choose from.
Whether travelling by air, bus, train or car, getting between these two top Spanish cities shouldn’t be any hassle.
If you’ve recently completed this trip then I’d love to hear your thoughts and input into what you think the best way to travel is.
Feel free to share any additional insider info or tips or ask any questions you may have, in the comments section further down below.