A Misty Monastery at Monserrat… (and how to get there!)

There is a Montserrat and a Monserrat. The one with a “t” is the volcanic Island in the Pacific. This one is on Eastern Spain, about an hour from Barcelona. We decided to see this as a day-trip, since there is a Monastery and some striking rock formations.

Unfortunately we timed it wrong with the weather – although it was nice in Barcelona, the further inland we got the worse the weather was. By the time we got up the mountain it was terrible, veering between torrential rain and rolling cloud. Visibility was a few metres, so any potential views were obliterated.

The above photo is taken on one of the walks. There should have been panoramic views to the left, but instead it was a rather miserable hike for an hour, soaked to the skin. My boyfriend was delighted by this outdoor adventure. I was less so.

We were very lucky however that the cloud parted for literally 2 minutes, so we glimpsed the monastery and the rock formations behind it. It was really special, but I would recommend going on a clear day!

I did a bit of research to find out how to get to Monserrat. Other people have written comprehensive accounts online, but I think it would be useful to go over it again, as it is confusing.

Directions to Monserrat

  1. Get to Placa D’Espanya. You can take a Metro (it is on the red line), or just a taxi.
  2. The first difficult part is finding the correct part of the station. Basically, the station is underneath the ground and there are entrances all around the roundabout. You want the entrance marked on the photo below with a massive pink arrow (arrow not there in real life 😉 ). In order to get there you should follow signs for line R5 for Manresa.

3. Buy a ticket. This includes three stages:-

a) Decide whether you want “Trans Monserrat” or “Tot Monserrat”. The Trans ticket includes all transport; the Tot ticket includes all transport plus museum and lunch.

b) Decide whether you want to get up to Monserrat on the Cable Car or Cremallera Funicular (sometimes called the rack railway). The Cable Car is a gondola, and goes high so may not be suitable for people with vertigo. The Cremallera Funicular is basically a tram that goes uphill.

Therefore this gives 4 options in total:

  1. Trans Monserrat by Cable Car,
  2. Trans Monserrat by Cremallera Funicular,
  3. Tot Monserrat by Cable Car,
  4. Tot Monserrat by Cremallera Funicular.

Choose wisely, for after you have bought your ticket you cannot change your mind.

c) They have obviously decided that English people are not capable of buying these tickets themselves, as if you use the ticket machine in English, once you have selected the ticket it says “please see a member of staff at the information desk”. Therefore you need to go to the information desk (a man at a portable stand with photos of Monserrat on it). He will ask you what type of ticket you want, write it down on a piece of paper, and send you over to the ticket machine to speak to another member of staff who will work the ticket machine for you to buy the ticket. A bit longwinded and patronising, as having researched it we were perfectly capable of buying the correct ticket, but I guess they have done this because many tourists must have got it wrong!

4. Then you get on the train – the journey is around an hour, and there are about 20 stops en route. The train is used by locals also and therefore it is fairly busy. Get there early if you want a seat. We found that the locals got off the train at nearby stations one by one, so we got a seat after a few stops.

Depending on what ticket you have bought, you need to get out at a different stop. If you selected the Cable Car option you need to get out at Aeri de Monserrat, which comes first. If you selected the Cremallera Funicular option you need to get out at the following stop, called Monistrol.

So essentially there is a train from Barcelona to the bottom of the mountain. Then a Cable Car OR Cremallera Funicular to take you up the mountain.

5. Then, at the top of the mountain there are two further Funiculars. These are called Funicalar Santa Cova and Funicular de Sant Joan.

The Funicalar Santa Cova takes you down the mountain a little bit to a path which leads to a church with a cave in. There are religious artifacts along the way and it is around an hour’s round trip to hike to the church and back. The Funicular de Sant Joan takes you even higher up to the top of the mountain, and provides views of Monserrat, which we would have seen if not for the cloud!

It is worth mentioning that you can buy tickets for the funicular separately, but it is included in the Trans Monserrat and Tot Monserrat tickets. In fact you can buy all the parts of the ticket separately – ie: Train + Cable Car + Funicular + Funicular , but the Trans Monserrat ticket works out cheaper.

At each stage I would also advise checking what time the last train / cable car / funicular is. You don’t wanna be stranded up there, especially in the clouds! In the winter the last train was 5.45pm, not 6.40pm as some timetables show, so I would check that.

I hope this is helpful if you are planning a trip to Monserrat. It sounds complicated with all the different funiculars and ticket types etc, but once you get your head around it, it’s fine. I was glad we looked into it beforehand, as it all went smoothly, but I can imagine if we hadn’t, we would have probably got lost!

We used this website while we were planning our journey, and we found it helpful: http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/tour/barcelona-montserrat.html

While I’m on the topic of confusing Metro routes, I think it’s also worth mentioning the difficulty we had getting to the airport on the Metro. We are all familiar with the international symbol of a plane meaning “airport”, so this should not be complicated! However we found it so. We had read that you could get to the airport from “Passeig de Gracia”, or “Sants” stations. We tried to get there from Passeig de Gracia but could not find our way using the signs in the station. We pressed the “Help” intercom for directions but after this we were none the wiser. Luckily we had come the day before our flight to test the waters, so on the day of our flight we avoided this station and headed straight to Sants, where we found our way no problem!

On reflection, I think there are two stations at Passeig de Gracia – both overground and underground, like the Wombles. We were underground in the Metro station and maybe we should have been overground in the Train station… I don’t know! I have just found the below website which might help… and if you manage it, you’re a better man than I (although I’m not a man, but you know, it’s a figure of speech)

http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/stations/passeig-de-gracia/metro-passeig-de-gracia-train-station.html

http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/stations/passeig-de-gracia/facilities-passeig-de-gracia-train-station.html

However I would definitely not recommend cutting it fine before your flight is due to leave, as you could spend the rest of your days wandering lost around Passeig de Gracia 😉

Next blog: Geneva, Switzerland

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