Updated: Apr 1
Visiting Montserrat is one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona. It’s easy to get to and gives you an opportunity to see the Spanish countryside. The views from the monastery are breathtaking, well worth a day of your time while you are in Barcelona.
Montserrat is a rocky mountain range in Catalonia, Spain, which translates to “saw mountain” in Catalan, owing to this mountain range’s jagged, sawtooth appearance. Sitting atop the mountain range is Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery. Located inside of the monastery is a statue of the of the Virgin of Montserrat, one of the few black madonnas of Europe. This is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat, as many people make an overnight hike to watch the sunrise from the peak of Montserrat.
Time Needed to Visit
I would highly recommend setting aside a whole day to have time to adventure across all of Montserrat. Apart from the picturesque surroundings and gorgeous Santa Maria de Montserrat, the abbey itself, there are also two trails to take around the mountains with panoramic views across the valley. You will want to arrive to Montserrat as early as possible. The place is relatively small and gets crowded with visitors, which means long queues all over Montserrat later in the day.
The overall journey, depending on the season, can take from 1.5 hours up to 2 hours from Barcelona, including waiting time at the cable car or train, so don’t leave too late before you set out.
Getting to Montserrat
Montserrat is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) away from Barcelona which makes it perfect for a day out. It’s easy to access the foot of the mountain via road by bus (from the Plaça de la Universitat) or car. One of the most popular ways of getting to Montserrat is by train from Plaza Espanya rail station. Trains leave the station every hour. Once you’ve bought your tickets, look for Line R5 and hop on the train going towards Manresa.
To get to Montserrat, you need to purchase your tickets at the ticket machines rather than the ticket office. The ticket office in the metro station sells just tour tickets. You will also need to decide whether you want to get to Montserrat via the cable car or the funicular railway.
1. Train & Cable Car:
This is the quickest and most scenic option. From Plaça Espanya in Barcelona, take the R5 line to Aeri de Montserrat. The journey by train takes approximately 1.5 hours. From Aeri de Montserrat, take the cable car to the top. Combined tickets can be purchased at the Plaça Espanya station.
2. Train & Funicular Railway:
This option is slightly longer than taking the cable car but a little bit cheaper. From Plaça Espanya in Barcelona, take the R5 line one stop farther to Monistrol de Montserrat. Change to the Cremallera, a green railway that runs to the top of the mountain. Combined tickets can be purchased at Plaça Espanya. For timetables and ticket prices, visit the Cremallara de Montserrat website. (http://www.cremallerademontserrat.cat/en/rack-railway/timetable-prices/)
3. Train & Hiking:
This is the healthiest and most cost effective way to the monastery. From Plaça Espanya, take the R5 line to Monistrol de Montserrat. From the train station, walk through the town of Monistrol to trails winding their way up the mountain.
This is a less popular option, since most people make the journey by train. Buses leave the Estacio Sants train station for Montserrat. For more information, click here. (https://www.montserrat-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/barcelona-to- montserrat-bus.html)
What to See & Do
First things first, inhale the beauty of Montserrat once you reach the center of this stunning sanctuary. Look around, admire the architecture and surroundings, and then choose your route. I would absolutely recommend visiting the architectural monuments first and then head up to the walks in the mountains if you have time left.
1. Meet the Patroness of Catalonia – Black Virgin of Montserrat:
Also referred to as Black Madonna, this Romanesque, wood carved statue has a monumental significance in Montserrat. It’s believed that this world famous statue was carved in Jerusalem in the very early days of the church, and the whole Montserrat complex is built up around it. Even if you are not religious, the setting itself is worth a visit. However, make sure you leave enough time here as you might need to queue for up to an hour before you get to kiss Black Madonna’s hand.
2. Santa Maria de Montserrat:
Once you had a glimpse of the Black Madonna, don’t rush out of the Benedictine abbey, it’s absolutely stunning. Enjoy the glistering details and tranquility. When walking out of the abbey through the main door, turn right into a narrow passageway where you will see hundreds of burning candles.
For a small fee you can buy one yourself to light and place amongst other flickering colourful candles. It’s customary amongst catholics to light a candle for their loved ones, wishing them well and for departed relatives, wishing them peace on the other side.
3. Montserrat Museum:
If you love history and museums, have a nose around the Montserrat Museum which houses six permanent collections of more than 1,300 artefacts as well as temporary displays.
4. Sant Jeroni Summit:
At 1,236 m, Sant Jeroni is the highest point of Montserrat. The easiest way to reach the first base of the mountain is to take the vertical Sant Joan funicular railway up. It’s around a 2.5 hour trek if you use the funicular railway, otherwise reserve around 3.5 hours if you are hiking all the way up, depending on your fitness level. I would highly recommend the trek, the views are so breathtaking from up there.
5. Sant Joan Chapel:
If you aren’t up for a long trek, you can take a shorter route which leads to a great viewpoint and the beautiful Sant Joan Chapel. It takes a bit of climbing up a 100m long hill, but it’s easily done and is quite a beautiful walk with the incredible rocks sticking behind you as you climb up. To reach the trail, again take the Sant Joan funicular railway and follow the signs.
What to Wear
Despite the rocky appearance of Montserrat, you don’t really have to wear anything extra fitness(y), unless you are planning to do some serious hiking and climbing away from the main trails. However you should cover your shoulders when entering the abbey out of respect. Wear comfortable footwear for travel, it will allow you to enjoy the walks and the climb to the highest peak of Montserrat. The footpaths are well maintained and not too strenuous, but you might want to be more adventurous in places and descend through the rocks rather than the footpath.
Taking a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat was one of my favorite parts about my trip to Spain! I would highly recommend carving out the time to visit if interested – it's definitely an adventure-lover's dream.
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