If you’re visiting Barcelona, you’ll likely catch wind of the Montserrat Mountain and Monastery, one of the best day trips from the city.
For many, a journey to Monserrat 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 to visit.
We visited Montserrat, Barcelona 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 Monserat are somewhat limited, so we put together the below guide to help others navigate this unique destination.
If you’re going to explore Monserrat on your own, here’s what you should know.
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.
How to Get to Monserat, 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 Monserrat where the Monserrat Monastery is located.
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 Monserat Monastery is located. You’ll need to catch the regional line 5 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 if you plan to take the cable car, or Monistrol de Montserrat if you want to take the funicular.
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 train from Montserrat 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.
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.
Plus, traveling in a big group is a lot more sustainable than renting a car and heading to Monserrat on your own, so opt for a Group Tour to minimize your carbon footprint.
Organize a Bus Transfer
If you want the freedom of visiting 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.
This option allows you to get the advantages of traveling there and back in an organize bus but gives you the freedom to explore the area at your own pace.
Looking for a tour that’s a little bit different?
Consider the following options that will allow you to experience Monserrat in a unique way!
- Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour: This 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.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride Tour: For something really special, take a tour of Monserrat Monastery, complete with a ride in a hot air balloon over Catalonia. This experience is a completely unique and intimate way to soak up some spectacular views.
What to do at Montserrat, Barcelona
Visit the 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.
The entrance is massive, with a big courtyard area. Once inside, you’ll get the chance to see one of the most important artifacts in Catalan history, the statue of the Black Virgin. It is believed that the statue was originally carved in Jerusalem and, according to legend, was discovered in a cave on Montserrat Mountain. The monastery sprang up around it.
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.
Tour the 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 museum is primarily an art museum, featuring works by the likes of Dalí, Picasso, and more.
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 hikes suited for nearly all levels, as well as a wide variety of shorter and longer paths.
Time: 2-3 hours (one-way)
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).
Time: 1 hour (one way)
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 Monserrat. 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.
Cross of Saint Miguel
Time: 45 minutes (one way)
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.
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.
Where to Eat in Monserrat
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 buffet 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!