A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO FUNICULARS AND CABLE CAR IN MONTSERRAT, SPAIN
Thinking of visiting Montserrat but not sure about the mountain transits in Montserrat, Spain? Well, I was confused too before my trip to Barcelona and I hope to alleviate some of the confusion about funicular Montserrat and cable cars in this article. You will find all the essential information you need with regard to Montserrat mountain transits.
In this post, I aim to bring you a simplified and an easy guide about transit information from Monistrol, a small town at the base of Montserrat, to Montserrat Monastery. I include transit information from Montserrat Monastery to Sant Jeroni as well as Santa Cova.
In sum this is a definitive guide to the funicular Montserrat and the cable car in Montserrat to support your independent travel, either for a day or longer to Montserrat. You don’t have to look elsewhere.
Montserrat is also great for half-a-day visits, and in this article, I share some of the highly rated tours specifically designed to ensure you have the best experience of one of Spain’s iconic destinations.
Take a look.
ABOUT MONTSERRAT BRIEFLY
Montserrat is one of the most extraordinary places in Catalonia, Spain. Located at 60 km outside of the spirited city, Barcelona, is a distinctive rock formation that has earned itself the name Mont Serrat, meaning “saw tooth” mountain. The name is so fitting for its jagged and unusual appearance which attracts millions of visitors each year.
Montserrat is also famous for its Benecdictine Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat which houses a wooden statue of Our Lady of Montserrat found in the Holy Grotto. As such, Montserrat is a popular tourist attraction and an essential destination for pilgrims.
MONTSERRAT FROM BARCELONA
Montserrat is an easy destination to get to by train if you are travelling independently and makes a perfect day trip from Barcelona. However, it can be a little confusing trying to figure out which of the funicular Montserrat or cable cars to take when you reach your destination.
I was certainly a little confused during my research for my recent trip to Barcelona in winter. I was unsure as to which is the most suited or best form of transit to take from the base of the mountain to Montserrat Monastery, and once there, if there were any other form of transit to take to get around the mountain attractions.
In addition, I read so many pieces of information and they appeared to mention funicular, cable cars and rack railways interchangeably — just a tad confusing for me. So, I decided to write this article to share what I learnt on my trip.
Read my complete guide to Montserrat for one day from Barcelona that tells you all about the highlights, the hiking trails along with where to stay and eat.
FUNICULAR MONTSERRAT AND CABLE CAR
There are a total of four Montserrat mountain transits:
- Aeri Cable Car;
- Cremallera rack railway;
- Funicular Santa Cova;
- Funicular Sant Joan.
Aeri cable car and the Cremallera rack railway depart from Monistrol railway station, a small town at the base of Montserrat. The Santa Cova funicular and Sant Joan funicular are located near the Monastery, in the mountains to facilitate exploring nearby areas.
Here is a brief description of what each form of transit is:
- A funicular is a cable railway that ascends and descends a mountain, counterbalanced by a passenger car on either end.
- Rack railways otherwise known as cog wheels are used on steep gradients and have a toothed rail in addition to the two usual rails. The trains are fitted with one or more cog wheels to interlock with the rails.
- Cable cars are a form of transit where the rail cars are dragged by the continuously moving cables, running at a constant speed.
Aeri Cable Car Montserrat
The Aeri Cable Car is a service that will whisk you away from the base of the Montserrat mountain to the Montserrat Monastery in just 5 minutes, at a gradient of 45%. This Montserrart mountain transit has been operating since 1930.
A journey aboard the Aeri Cable Car is quite an experience in itself: you travel at a speed of 5 metres a minute, 1350 metres up at a steep gradient of 45% in 5 minutes in a small hanging car of 20 people. This ride is not for the fainthearted! However, if you are not afraid of heights, this is definitely a ride to undertake for a timeless travel experience.
Ticket options: If you are travelling by train, you can buy a combined ticket for your train journey from Barcelona to Montserrat plus the Aeri Cable Car ride. You could also select if your Aeri cable car ride is a single or a roundtrip.
If you are driving, you can park at Montserrat Aeri Station for free and buy a ticket for the cable car only at the station. Aeri Cable Car schedules vary throughout the year and you can check for the latest information on their official website.
A single ticket for Adults start from €8.60 Alternatively, avoid waiting in queues and buy online before you go.
Cremallera Rack Railway
Another way to be transported from Monistrol to Montserrat Monastery is by Cremallera. Cremallera is more popularly known as the “rack railway”. It has also been referred to as Montserrat funicular, which can be rather confusing. To avoid confusion, I will refer to Cremallera as ‘rack railway’.
The Montserrat Rack Railway has been in operation since 1892 and is one of the most popular railways in Catalonia. Back in the day, the journey from Monistrol to Montserrat Monastery took 65 minutes! It is a lot quicker these days.
The rack railway departs Monistrol train station every 20 minutes. The journey up to the Monastery takes 15 minutes. The panoramic windows offer a scenic ride along the side of the mountain which you will absolutely enjoy.
When Travelling to Montserrat by Train and Car
When travelling by train from Barcelona, there is an option to purchase a ticket to get to the Monastery. You can choose either the rack railway or Aeri cable car. You need to decide which option at the time of purchase and stay with the selected option when you get to Monistrol. If you choose the rack railway, you cannot use it on the cable car. You must also decide if you need a round trip ticket on the rack railway or cable car. Your train journey from Barcelona to Montserrat is usually scheduled to coincide with a departure from Monistrol.
If you are driving, you can park your car at either Montserrat Monastery or Monistrol Vila. If you park at Monistrol Vila, then you will need to take the rack railway from this stop.
Tickets for the Rack Railway
Tickets for the Rack Railway cannot be purchased online. They are available at Plaça d’Espanya railway station in Barcelona or at the Rack Railway stations at Monistrol, Monistrol Vila and Montserrat.
Prices single journeys start from €8.10 for an adult (14-65 years), €4.05 for a child (4-13 years) and €6.30 for 65+
The Montserrat Rack Railway operates a seasonal timetable and times vary. The current timetable is here:
- High Season 2023: From 1 to 6 January and every weekend of January, February and March – 8.35 a.m. to 7.35 p.m.
- Medium Season: The rest of the days – from 8.35 a.m. to 6.35 p.m
Visit their official website for the latest information before your travel dates.
Stops on the Rack Railway
- Monistrol de Montserrat: This is the railway station at the base of Montserrat. You are most likely to begin your rack railway journey from here if you are taking the train.
- Monistrol Vila: You are most likely to board the rack railway here if you have parked at the nearby car park. Some guided tours also prefer to take their group here. This is also a great stop for some nice photos of the valley, from just below the Montserrat Monastery.
- Montserrat Monastery: This is the final stop on the rack railway journey. Upon exiting the station, you are within metres of the Monastery.
WANT TO SEE MONTSERRAT BUT YOU HAVEN’T GOT AN ENTIRE DAY?
If you do not have a day, join a half-day tour to Montserrat from Barcelona. The best thing about tours is that it includes return transfers from Barcelona. In this way, you can avoid the hassle of organising your own transport and enjoy a splendid journey in comfort. Take a look at this highly rated tour with hotel pick-up and choose either a morning or afternoon tour.
Sant Joan Funicular, Montserrat
Sant Joan Funicular is a service that runs from the Monastery to higher up the mountains. It takes you on a steep ride and gives an opportunity to hike to the highest point in Montserrat mountain, Sant Jeroni. The panoramic windows affords spectacular views of the Monastery and valleys. Once you reach the Sant Joan Funicualr station there are several viewpoints allowing for spectacular views of Catalunya and other activities.
This part of Montserrat is a hikers paradise. There are several walks in the nature park here which you can undertake including one that leads to the very tip of Sant Jeroni. Some parts of the hiking trail to Sant Jeroni are said to be challenging. Most visitors to Montserrat who aren’t confident hikers take an experienced guide along to navigate the treks. A round trip to Sant Jeroni will typically take a little over 2 hours with a guide but longer if you are attempting on your own.
Here are some guided hiking tours that you can join:
- A one-day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona with a guided hike: includes off-beat, nature park, rack railway and lunch.
- A 6-hour tour of Montserrat: includes hiking, transfer from Barcelona, a snack and insurance. Led by an experienced guide.
- One day in Montserrat and vineyard visit with an experienced guide: includes transfer from Barcelona, Monserrat Monastery tour, 2-3 hours of hiking and a visit to a vineyard.
Nature enthusiasts can visit the Nature Centre to learn all the facts about the flora and fauna in the mountains. There is a plethora of nature trails at the Montserrat Natural Park here which are clearly signposted which you can undertake.
Watch this IG reel taken at St Michael’s Cross, a viewing point at Montserrat. An easy hike for an absolutely stunning vista.
Taking this Montserrat mountain transit is a popular activity for visitors as it offers spectacular views over the Catalan area in this region.
Operating schedules for Sant Joan Funicular vary, depending on time of year. Generally, the service starts at 10:00, runs every 20 minutes, and ends at 16:30 (non-peak) or 18:20 (peak times).
Tickets to ride the Sant Joan Funicular can be purchased online or at both the lower and upper funicular stations. Single and round-trip journey tickets are available. There is a limit of 20 people at a time per cable car.
Santa Cova Funicular, Montserrat
The Santa Cova Funicular is a funicular that travels down from the Montserrat Monastery station to the start of a walk to the cave of Santa Cova. The cave is more popularly known as “The Holy Grotto” and is of religious significance. This is where it has been reported where Our Lady Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia, appeared to shepherds. A statue of Our Lady was hidden here during the wars and discovered in 880 AD. The discovery of the statue resulted in Montserrat becoming a pilgrimage destination. Subsequently Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was built where the original statue of Our Lady is kept.
Santa Cova is a popular destination for Catalonians, pilgrims and hikers. There are clearly defined trails that lead to the Holy Grotto from the Monastery if you wish to hike down. The Santa Cova Funicular offers an option to get to the Holy Grotto and back. Most people prefer to walk down and then take the funicular on their way back. One thing to bear in mind though, that the Santa Cova Funicular gets you to the nearest point to the cave and you still have about 20 minutes walk from Santa Cova station to the Holy Grotto.
Single tickets for Adults (14-65 years) cost €3.90, Child (4-13 years) €1.95, and for 65+ years is €3.50.
Funicular Sant Cova runs a seasonal service. The current schedule looks as follows:
From January 1 to March 31, 2023
From January 1 to 8 and every weekend from January 28 to March 26: from 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Closed on other days.
For dates beyond March, check their official website for Santa Cova schedule.
I did extensive research before our trip and am happy to share the following with you to save you some time. These are carefully selected tours with hundreds of positive reviews.
Tours to Montserrat from Barcelona
Montserrat can be visited all year round. You will find that there are many choices when it comes to guided tours to Monserrat from Barcelona throughout the year.
1 | Half-day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona: Morning or Afternoon with pick-up. Highly recommended for a speedy, hassle-free transfer and best experience of the Montserrat Monastery. This is the best tour for those who do not want to deal with the practicalities of public transportation. 5 hours.
2 | A half-day or full-day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona with optional lunch and wine tasting: This tour offers an opportunity to spend half a day at Montserrat Monastery with an option to enjoy a tapas lunch or a multi-course lunch at a local picturesque winery. This is an excellent Montserrat from Barcelona tour for those who have the entire day and love wine. 5 hours, 7 hours or 9 hours depending on the option selected.
3 | A day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona visiting the Montserrat Monastery and lunch at a farmhouse: This is an excellent small group tour to the Monastery followed by a 3-course meal at a farmhouse with stunning views. 7.5 hours.
4 | A Montserrat tour from Barcelona that includes wine and tapas trip: This tour includes a visit to the Monastery and a trip to a boutique winery where you taste a range of delicious Spanish tapas and wines. This is a very popular half-day tour with brilliant reviews. 7 hours.
Best Day Trips from Barcelona Other than Montserrat
Besides Montserrat, a vacation to Barcelona can take you to historic towns quaint villages and to neighbouring countries all in a day. Add a couple of days to your Barcelona itinerary and grab the opportunity to explore more of Catalonia and beyond.
While it is great fun to explore independently by train or self-drive, it is also great to have someone else do all the planning for you and alleviate the hassle with public transportation.
If you want to drive, hire your car from Discover Cars and if you want to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery, go on a guided day trip. Here are some highly rated day trips to take from Barcelona:
- Experience the medieval architecture of Girona and the breathtaking landscape of whitewashed villages of Costa Brava;
- Uncover the history of Girona, the wealth of Figueres, and the charm of Cadaqués on this day trip from Barcelona;
- Travel back in time to Besalú, Vic, Santa Pau and Castellfollit de la Roca, the most beautiful medieval heritage of Catalonia. Includes hotel pick-up.
- Travel to Sitges, the ancient charm of Hispania and to Tarragona, home to one of the best preserved Roman archaeological sites in Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- For a touch of adventure, kjayak through sea caves, snorkel in crystal-clear water, and explore Tossa de Mar.
I hope that the above has given you the answers you are looking for about Funicular Montserrat and cable cars. With this guide you can confidently undertake a trip to Montserrat knowing where to buy your tickets, which Montserrat mountain transit you want to experience and places to explore.
Have a great time exploring Montserrat.
TRAVEL INSPIRATION FOR SPAIN
The Ultimate Travel Guide to Seville, Spain;
The Mystical Secret Baths of Maria de Padilla, Seville, Spain;
Plaza Espana: An Absurdly Wondrous Square, Seville;
The Serene Patio de los Naranjos, Seville;
11 Best Quotes about Seville to Inspire a Visit;
10 Best River Boat Trips in Seville and Water Activities;
The Real Alcazar of Seville: Best 22 Unmissable Highlights;
Guided Tour of Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower;
Triana, Seville: A Comprehensive Guide to Where to Stay, Places to Eat & Best Things to do;
Best Tip for Priority Visit to Royal Alcazar, Seville;
The Noble Torre del Oro, Seville;
Best Tips for the Alcazar and Cathedral + Giralda, Seville;
Barrio Santa Cruz: Best Guide to Where to Stay, Places to Eat and Best Things to do;
A Fun Evening of Tapas in Seville;
The Captivating Courtyard of Maidens at Royal Alcazar, Seville;
The Hall of Ambassadors at Royal Alcazar, Seville;
The Giralda Tower: 5 Masterfestures across Civilisation to Look Out for on Your Visit;
Metropole Parasol: A Gigantic Cosy Oasis;
The Enchanting Mercury Pond at Royal Alcazar, Seville;
The Rich Gothis Palace at Royal Alcazar, Seville;
The Majestic Seville Cathedral: A visitor’s Guide to the Largest Gothic Cathedral;
The Remarkable Antiquarium Room in Old Seville;
4 Very Best Tapas Tours in Seville;
The Bohemian Seville: Top Places to Stay, Where to Eat and Best Places to Explore;
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