Guide to Visiting & Hiking Montserrat, Barcelona

If you’re visiting Barcelona, you’ll likely catch wind of the Montserrat Mountains and Monastery, one of the best day trips from the city.

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For many, a journey to Montserrat is purely religious in nature; thousands of pilgrims make their way here each year to pray and repent. For the vast majority of visitors, however, Montserrat and the surrounding mountains are simply a beautiful tourist destination for a day trip from Barcelona.

We visited Montserrat, Spain in May to see the famous cathedral, take in the views of Catalonia, and of course, do some hiking around the area. We found it difficult to get around the area without a guide as signage and information at Montserrat are somewhat limited, so we put together the below guide to help others navigate this unique destination. 

If you’re going to explore Montserrat on your own, here’s what you should know.

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona
Monserrat Mountain, Barcelona
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Where is Montserrat?

Montserrat, Barcelona, is located right in the heart of Catalonia, the Spanish state of which Barcelona is the capital. Monserrat Monastery is perched on a mountain range of the same name and surrounded by stunning valleys.

Montserrat is located about one hour to the northwest of Barcelona by car. If you take the train, it’ll take you closer to 1.5-2 hours.

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona
Monserrat Monastery, Barcelona

How to Get to Montserrat, Barcelona

Drive a Car

You have two main options for getting to Montserrat, Barcelona on your own: a car or public transportation.

If you rent a car, driving is fairly straightforward. Simply navigate from the city to the town of Monistrol de Montserrat and then prepare for some hairpin turns as you drive up the mountain. By car, you can navigate all the way to the main “town” of Montserrat where the Montserrat Monastery is located. 

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona

Train and Cable Car or Funicular (Rack Railway)

For most people, however, the best way to visit is by taking the train from Montserrat to Barcelona and then either the cable car or funicular up to the actual mountain where the Montserrat Monastery is located. This way, you’re able to plan your own trip without the hassle of driving or paying for parking.

Trains run from Barcelona to Montserrat every hour, and the Montserrat Express ticket is the most economical option. For the Montserrat Express option, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for the R5 line from Plaça d’Espanya. There are signs that clearly mark where you need to go to get tickets. 

The destination of your train should either be Aeri de Montserrat Station if you plan on a cable car ride, or Monistrol de Montserrat if you want to take the Cremallera de Montserrat, which is also known as the rack railway train, or funicular.

Cable Car Montserrat
Cable Car in Montserrat

tram rail montserrat

Trans Montserrat Ticket

You can buy combined tickets or separate ones for the train and the cable car or funicular ahead of time at the train station in Barcelona or online. The Trans Montserrat ticket option includes a round-trip for the train, cable car, funiculars, and admission to the Montserrat Monastery. 

Like with the Montserrat Express, you’ll leave on the R5 train from Plaça d’Espanya. The train from Montserrat back to Barcelona runs frequently, but make sure you check the train timetables ahead of time so you don’t miss the last train back to the city from Montserrat.

Europe Itinerary: Barcelona Skyline at Sunset
Barcelona Skyline at Sunset

Take a Group Tour

For those who would rather go with a group and have the logistics sorted out for them, there are plenty of group tour options. We highly recommend choosing a full-day tour that includes hiking to get a complete overview of the hiking paths in the area as well as of the history of the religious site.

These group tours include all transportation, a guided hike, and a private tour of the basilica and shrine to the Black Madonna. Depending on which tour you choose, the package may include admission to the Montserrat Museum and drinks or snacks. 

Plus, traveling in a big group is a lot more sustainable than renting a car and visiting Montserrat on your own, so opt for a Group Tour to minimize your carbon footprint.

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona
Overlooking the valley from one of the lookouts on a hiking trail in Monserrat

Organize a Bus Transfer

If you want the freedom of visiting Montserrat on your own but don’t want the hassle of catching the train or renting a car, then book this easy and affordable tour bus transfer from Barcelona to the Monastery.

You’ll leave early in the morning, avoiding a lot of the crowds and the heat of the afternoon during your hike. This option allows you to get the advantages of traveling there and back in an organised bus but gives you the freedom to explore the area at your own pace. 

tour bus barcelona
Tour bus in Barcelona

Looking for a tour that’s a little bit different? 

Consider the following options that will allow you to visit Monserrat in a unique way!

  • Tapas and Wine Tasting TourThis tour includes a delicious tapas lunch, complete with a wine tasting. Since the options for food aren’t great at Montserrat, this is an excellent way to eat well on your day trip to Montserrat. You’ll also get a small group walking tour of the monastery plus free time to visit the museum or take the funicular to the top of the mountain.
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride TourFor something really special, take a tour of Montserrat Monastery, complete with a ride in a hot air balloon over Catalonia. This package includes round-trip transportation from Barcelona and a guided tour of the monastery on certain days of the week. This experience is a completely unique and intimate way to soak up some spectacular views.

montserrat hot air balloon tour

What to do at Montserrat, Barcelona

Visit the Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery 

For those of strong faith, the Monastery is first and foremost a religious pilgrimage site. However, visiting the abbey and basilica is a big highlight for all visitors, as it is one of Catalonia’s most beautiful churches.

Built on a holy site dating back to the 9th century, the Montserrat Monastery, or Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, has seen several revisions and is still a functioning monastery with around 80 monks, plus an onsite choir school for boys. While you’re free to roam the courtyard, basilica, and museum, the monks’ and students’ quarters are closed to the public.

The entrance is massive, with a big courtyard area. Once inside, you’ll get the chance to see the amazing architecture of the basilica, and one of the most important artifacts in Catalan history, the statue of the Black Virgin. It is believed that this statue of the Virgin Mary was originally carved in Jerusalem and, according to legend, was discovered in a cave on Montserrat Mountain. The monastery sprang up around it.

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona

montserrat monastery

monsterrat

Explore the Basilica

Architecture and history buffs will enjoy a walk through the Basilica. Some great examples of dramatic Gothic and Renaissance architecture can be seen here, and the included audio guide gives a detailed history of the Basilica.

Tickets for entry to the basilica are €6 for adults, and can be purchased online. Keep in mind that there are additional charges to access other parts of the monastery.

Montserrat basilica

Visit the Black Virgin

If you want to visit the Black Virgin, make sure to pack your patience, as you’ll likely have to wait in line. You’ll head to the back of the basilica, where you’ll have the chance to touch the wooden ball in the Virgin’s hand, which is a special religious tradition.

It is a couple of euros extra to visit the Black Madonna, and you can purchase tickets that include access to the basilica, the Throne of the Virgin, and an audio guide.

black madonna

Tour the Montserrat Museum

If you’re interested in the rich history of Montserrat, Barcelona, then head to the museum just around the corner from the monastery. Here, you’ll learn more about the Black Virgin, especially all the legends and mysteries that surround her. However, the Montserrat Monastery Museum is primarily an art museum, featuring works by the likes of Dalí, Picasso, and more.

The museum is open daily from 10:00am – 5:45pm, and admission is €8 for adults. Tickets are available online for purchase in advance.

Listen to the World Famous Boy’s Choir

One of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, the Escolania de Montserrat dates back to the 14th century. The world-famous choir is still active today, performing at daily masses in the basilica. 

Typically, there are two recitals per day, but check the website for times and to purchase tickets in advance, as it often gets sold out. Since the Escolania de Montserrat is primarily a liturgical choir, most of the music they perform is religious, and they occasionally collaborate with Catalan musicians to play folk music.

Go Hiking

If museums aren’t your thing or you’d rather be outside than inside, you’re in luck. Montserrat Monastery has some beautiful hiking areas that surround it on the mountain. There are hiking trails suited for nearly all levels, as well as a wide variety of shorter and longer paths.

Montserrat Hike

Time: 2-3 hours (one-way)
Difficulty: Strenuous

One of the longest hikes you can do is the route from the valley floor up to Monserrat Monastery instead of taking the cable car or funicular. This is quite a strenuous journey because the route is very vertical, but it will be rewarding. The elevation gain is about 1,236m (4,055 feet).

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona

Santa Cova

Time: 1 hour (one way)
Difficulty: Medium

For those who want a bit less of a workout at Montserrat, try one of the shorter hikes up on the mountain. One of the most popular is the walk to Santa Cova, the small church with a big boulder on top of it. This is said to be a place where many religious visions have come to people throughout history. This map shows the Santa Cova route, among others.

This is the hike we choose to do during our time in Montserrat. It was just challenging enough to feel like a workout but easy enough that we were able to do it in just a few hours. The views along the hike were fantastic and the trail wasn’t too busy.

Spain Catalonia Monserrat OM 09125

Cross of Saint Miguel

Time: 45 minutes (one way)
Difficulty: Easy

Another hike you can go on is to the Cross of Saint Miguel. This hike is not as vertical as the one to Santa Cova and allows you some of the most spectacular views over the valleys of Catalonia.

Starting from the Montserrat Monastery itself, you’ll walk along the ridge to the cross, following a slight incline along the way. This map shows the route.

Montserrat cross of saint miguel

Sant Jeroni

Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

If you don’t mind a challenging hike, the trail to Sant Jeroni has the biggest payoff in terms of scenery. The highest peak on Montserrat, Sant Jeroni sits at 1,200 metres above sea level, offering a viewpoint of much of Catalonia.

The full hike is around 7 km with a 602m (1,978 ft) elevation gain and can take 3-4 hours, so be sure to bring water and snacks. To get to the trailhead, take the Sant Joan funicular to Plà de les Taràntules. The trailhead is to the right of the funicular station and passes under the bridge. 

For more details about the route and a map, see this itinerary of the hike from the monastery to Sant Jeroni.

There are a number of other trails in the area as well, and no matter what one you pick, you can’t go wrong with hiking Montserrat.

sant jeroni
Sant Jeroni

Best day trip Montserrat, Barcelona

Other activities to do in Montserrat 

 

 

Where to Eat in Montserrat

There are a limited number of places to eat on Montserrat Mountain, and most of them are unfortunately not very good. Although it may be a quick option, we recommend that you skip the self-service restaurants like Buffet de Montserrat and La Cafeteria. They’re simply not worth the price since the quality is so low. 

One of the restaurants that is decent is called Àpat, although it is a rather fancy place. If you’re looking for a full sit-down meal, this is your best choice.

In our experience, it was a lot nicer to grab something to eat at one of the local food shops next to the gift stores. There are also sometimes little market stalls in the area where you can buy things to eat. The region surrounding Montserrat is known for artisan cheeses and high-quality produce, both of which are definitely worth tasting while you’re there.

Our visit to Montserrat, Barcelona was a great way to spend a day away from the excitement and sometimes overwhelm of the big city. The area is peaceful and beautiful with lots of interesting history, religious significance, and gorgeous nature. We really enjoyed our visit there, and we hope you do as well!

montserrat barcelona spain

READ NEXT: Best Day Trips From Barcelona, Spain

Have You Been To Montserrat Before? Which Trail Did You Hike During Your Visit? 

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