Plan your trip to Montserrat

Montserrat, Spain is many things; it’s a mountain, a monastery, and a great idea for a day trip from Barcelona… but I didn’t care about any of those things. All I wanted out of my day in Montserrat was to get a picture on top of the Stairway to Heaven. Unfortunately, figuring out how to get to those stairs took quite a bit of time, quite a bit of research, and a lot of different websites. So I’ve decided to make the journey a bit easier for anybody else trying to get to Montserrat in the future, whether you’re going for the hike, the monastery, or if you’re like me and want to do some illegal climbing. 

First things first… Getting there from Barcelona.

To get to the train that takes you to Montserrat, you have to take the metro (green or red lines) to the Plaza Espanya metro/train station. Once at Espanya, look for signs directing you to the R5 line. Since Montserrat is a popular place to visit from Barcelona, the signs will also say Montserrat, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding them. You get 3 options from the train, because the train doesn’t take you all the way up to the monastery. From the train, you can either take the Aeri Montserrat Cable Car, the Monistrol Montserrat Funicular, or you can hike up. This is where people get confused trying to decide which option to pick. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter, but you need to decide ahead of time because the cable car is a different stop off the train than the funicular and the hike.

The main differences between the three options is the pricing, and the time it takes to get from the train stop to the monastery. The cable car takes about 5 minutes, funicular is about 15 minutes, and the hike is about 2 hours. As for pricing… If you choose to take the cable car, it will be 7€ one way, or 10€ return. If you take the funicular, it will be 6.50€ one way, or 10.30€ return. And if you hike, good news… it’s free. But you will arrive at the monastery sweaty, tired, and thirsty. Luckily, there’s a grocery store with ice cold water that will make you happier than you’ve ever been.

Here you can look at the (current) train times from Barcelona to Montserrat, and back. If you’re planning on taking the cable car, make sure to get off at the first stop, and for the funicular or the hike, the second stop. It’s easy to get off on the wrong stop, and then you’re stuck waiting an hour for the next train to take you to the right place. I have a friend who’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 😉

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My friends and I decided to do the hike up to the top. As grueling as it was in our hungover and exhausted states, it was still totally worth it and I highly recommend taking that option. (We did take the cable car back down at the end of our day though, we didn’t have enough energy to hike 2 more hours). If I’m being completely honest, finding our way to the start of the hike was a bit confusing as there weren’t many signs. Luckily for us, there were a number of nice people along the way who helped us figure out where to go. Unluckily for you, I wasn’t thinking ahead and didn’t snap any photos of our journey to the start of the hiking trail. But I DID snap some photos during the hike as did one of my friends, so maybe these pictures can convince you to tough it out through the confusion (and the exercise) and do the hike!
Credit to Nathan Shibler for letting me steal some of his awesome Go Pro footage from the hike. 

Once you get to the top, you can start finding your way to the monastery. Here’s a lil map that I thought might be helpful…

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The blue circle shows the funicular and where that drops you off, the red circle shows where the cable car goes, and the green circle is where the Stairway to Heaven is (for those of you interested). If you ARE interested in breaking some rules on those steps, I’d suggest strolling around the monastery first. That way, if security guards go chasing after you, at least you’ve already seen the main attraction. 😉

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Besides checking out the monastery, you should also hike an extra 20 minutes to the Cross of Saint Miguel (under the funicular blue circle on the map^^^). There will be signs pointing you where to go, and the view from up there really is spectacular.

See, such a great view and totally worth that short hike. Seeing this monastery built into the mountain like this was so cool. Just another one of those moments you get while traveling where you realize that your ‘real world’ you’re in every day at home is so minuscule compared to all the amazing sights and places around the world.

And now, the whole reason I decided to make the trip out to Montserrat… The Stairway to Heaven! I’d seen a photo of these steps on social media before, and added ‘going to the top’ to my bucket list. I didn’t care that it was illegal, that there was a fence surrounding it, or that there was a sign that said “Do not climb these steps.” I just wanted my bucket list photo. Luckily, one of my friends was in the same boat as me, and we were both equally determined to #doitfortheinsta. To get past the fence, go around the left side to the back, there’s a little hole and then you can push yourself up and over the fence. My instructions probably don’t make sense right now, but they will once you’re there.

Fair warning: there is a security camera pointing STRAIGHT at the steps, so be quick. We were lucky and were finished and headed back down the hill towards the monastery when we saw a security guard on his segway speeding up towards the stairway with his baton in hand. Since we were out of the vicinity, he didn’t catch on to the fact that we were the culprits.
Another warning: BE CAREFUL. It’s windy up there. Each step is really tall. If you fall, chances are, you’re dead. So be adventurous but don’t be stupid.

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Despite the height and the danger, I wasn’t scared. Being up so high, looking around was absolutely surreal. I got stuck up there just staring in awe until my friends reminded me to hurry up and get back down. It gave me such a rush of exhilaration, I was definitely on an adrenaline high afterwards.

So there you have it… How to plan your trip to Montserrat. Any questions, feel free to comment below!

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Train timetables and Montserrat map courtesy of Tourist Guide Montserrat.

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