Many of you have requested details on how we traveled on our own to Montserrat! The simple answer is we had Gary the Guide who had done extensive research. He was awesome! Gary has offered his notes for those of you who want to try it yourselves.
Keep in mind, this is one person's suggestion. Your experience may vary. Do the research before you go!
Montserrat Monastery (just outside Barcelona)
Do it on your own - Step by Step - by Gary the Guide
The following is my step by step guide to traveling to Montserrat Monastery on your own.
I will assume that you are staying at a hotel within walking distance of a Barcelona metro stop. If you are not, or are not comfortable with using a metro system you could take a cab to Placa Espanya. The trains run hourly to Montserrat at 36 minutes past the hour, first train is 8:36am.
1. You need to get to Placa Espanya, this is where the FGC suburban line R5 departs.
2. Barcelona metro is very easy, cheap, quick, clean. While we felt safe using it all day and into the early evening hours, use caution and be aware of pickpockets! All lines are numbered and signed in color code. For example, the 7 of us who did Montserrat on our own were all staying about 500 feet from line 4 (linea 4), yellow colored on the metro map, stop named El Maresme Forum.
3. All metro lines are signed for the direction of travel towards the ends of the line from where you are standing,
For example at el Maresme Forum - the line travels towards Trinitat Nova, or La Pau. To get towards the city we traveled in the direction of Trinitat Nova, signed as Direccio
Link to tmb official metro site -- www.tmb.net/en_US/home.jsp
4. After arriving at Placa Espanya, look for the FGC station. This is an underground station. It is linked by a passageway from the red line (linea 1) metro stop. There is also an above ground entrance signed with a blue on white background sign that looks like an intertwined f and c.
5. Go to the information booth and ask for a ticket to monistrol de Montserrat. I would strongly recommend the TOT MONTSERRAT type of ticket. While it is the most expensive, it includes roundtrip train, rack railway, 2 funiculars, lunch in the self serve cafeteria, museum, - which is just about all there is to see in Montserrat. There is a staff person outside the booth who can assist with the automatic ticket machine, although his English was limited on our trip day. I would recommend paying with cash (EUROs) as some of our party had difficulty with
credit/debit cards. It is about 34 Euro per adult, not cheap, but still cheaper than the Disney excursion price.
Link to fgc site
6. Take the R5 train towards Manresa. Trains are very clearly marked, and are signed with the train number. This is an end of the line station so the platforms are marked well.
7. Get off at Monistrol de Montserrat. It's about a 55 minute train ride; about half is outside the urban areas in countryside. You want the next stop after montserrat-aeri. You will see the cable car and the monastery on the left, facing direction of train travel for several minutes before this stop, it's the 12th stop from Barcelona if the train is making all the stops
8. The rack railway (cremallera de montserrat) meets the train, transfer across the platform, about 20 minute ride up to the monastery.
9. You are there! Reverse the train order to return to Barcelona. The rack trains leave the monastery about 6 minutes after the hour, and are timed to meet the Barcelona trains. I believe last train is 5:30pm so don't stay too late. Check fgc timetable for the last train back to Barcelona. Remember all trains are timetabled in military/24 hour clock style, IE: 0836, for the first train of the day
A brief word about the cable car. I made a mistake while leading our group and thought it was included in our tickets. So imagine my embarrassment when we got off at monistrol de arie, and found we had to pay another 5 euros each to take the cable car, or wait an hour for the next train to go 1 stop further. We elected to pay the euros and take the e ticket cable car. BE ADVISED, this is a European style cable car, which means it's pretty well up in the air for awhile, so anyone with a real height issues might want to skip this. I loved it because it gave me a real appreciation for the labor and commitment of the monks and craftsmen who built that far up the mountain.
Montserrat is a very spiritual place and occupies a special part of the heart of the people of Cataluña. Please respect this and do not be the ugly American tourist. Cover knees and shoulders in the basilica, and no flash photography inside either.
Monsterrat Photos from Deb's Blog Entry, Part 1
Monsterrat Photos from Deb's Blog Entry, Part 2
There are many other pictures and sites available about Montserrat via a google search of Montserrat monastery.
Gary the guide