Vacationing in Barcelona and want a day trip from the city? Perhaps you want to experience what it was like to take a pilgrimage up a mountain? A Montserrat tour might be exactly what you need.
The mountains are Catalonian gems and hide many delights in their natural and man-made structures. There are numerous ways to visit Montserrat from Barcelona, and this guide will give you all the information you need for your Montserrat day trip.
Why You Should Visit Montserrat In Spain
To some people, a visit to Montserrat is a religious pilgrimage, and to others, it is to experience the splendor of this unique mountain range. Whatever the reason, Montserrat is a beautiful place that everyone should visit.
What Are The Mountains in Montserrat?
Montserrat is a mountain range made of various peaks, including St Jerome, which is 4055 feet above sea level. The combination of jagged mountains and surrounding low-lying landscapes creates a visually striking image.
The name “Montserrat” comes from the Catalan word meaning serrated mountain, which refers to how the peaks resemble the teeth of a saw. These craggy peaks rise vertically from the surrounding lowlands, making them visible from a distance.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can attempt a trek up the mountain to the monastery. This, combined with the stunning native fauna and flora, easily make this one of the best spots when it comes to hiking in Spain.
What Is Montserrat Most Famous For?
Montserrat is home to the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, 2356 feet up the mountain. The abbey itself was founded in the 11th century, and it holds the statue of Madonna and Child, an important Roman Catholic relic.
The statue is believed to date from at least the 12th century and has made the Abbey an important pilgrimage site for many people. The monastery still functions to this day, with over 70 monks in residence.
Many famous people have made pilgrimages to Montserrat, such as Pope Benedict XIII, Columbus, Cervantes, and King Felipe II. Miracles are attributed to the Black Madonna statue, which attracts most of the visitors to the Abbey.
Most Montserrat Monastery tours offer a cable car ride, allowing you to admire the Mountains and its monastery in all its glory. Hike the same paths pilgrims have been using for hundreds of years and take in the natural beauty of the mountains.
Getting from Barcelona to Montserrat
When it comes to Montserrat, Spain, knowing how to get there is pretty simple. There are numerous ways to get to Montserrat, including public transportation and professional guided tours.
Traveling By Train
Traveling by train is the fastest and easiest way to get to Montserrat from Barcelona. This journey is about one hour, and you will ride two trains. First, you can take the train from Barcelona Plaça España station, then take the Cremallera Rack Railway from Monistrol de Montserrat station up to Montserrat Mountain.
You can then take the cable to the top of the mountain or, if you want to go full pilgrim, you can hike the 3 miles to the top. There are different hiking paths you can take.
If you take the train to Montserrat from Barcelona, you can take advantage of combined train tickets, including a return rack railway ticket or a return cable car ticket. You can buy additional combination tickets online in advance with more inclusions.
Take A Guided Tour
Another great option is to go on an organized tour. These are usually half-day guided tours that depart in the morning or afternoon. They include a return bus to Montserrat from Barcelona.
Most guided tours include the following:
- Round trip air-conditioned bus from Barcelona Plaça de Catalunya
- A professional tour guide
- Viewing of the Black Madonna
- A fully guided visit to the Montserrat Monastery
- Time to explore the Monastery on your own
Guided tours are a great way to visit Montserrat from Barcelona as admission costs and transportation are covered in the tour cost. Some Montserrat day tours from Barcelona also include lunch.
Taking The Bus
There is a bus service that departs from Barcelona to the top of Montserrat once a day. It runs from Barcelona’s autobus station, next to the Sants Train Station, and a 10-minute walk from Plaça España.
The bus usually departs once in the morning from Barcelona and once again on the way back. There is no way to book online, but you can purchase tickets at the station. They cost just over €5 ($5.21 USD) each way at the time of writing. The journey is around 90 minutes each way and is, by far, the most affordable option if your goal is the top of the mountain.
Driving By Car
Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona by car is not tricky. The ride is approximately 43 miles from the center of Barcelona. To get to Montserrat, you just need to go on the A2 motorway, Martorell exit, and then take the N II national to the Montserrat junction. Once you arrive at Montserrat, you can ride the cable car to the monastery.
The route is easy and has some of the most breathtaking views of the Montserrat Mountains. Riding up to the mountains and seeing them in all their glory is an unforgettable experience.
How To Get Around Montserrat
The rack railway, the cable car, and the car park are all on the same level as the monastery, the main restaurants, and shops, so it is pretty easy to get around on foot.
The entrance to the Basilica is a level above the monastery and you can either walk up the slope or take a staircase which is equivalent to four flights of stairs. This is where you will also find the funiculars (a type of railway that travels up and down slopes) that travel to different areas around the mountain.
The Sant Joan Funicular and the Santa Cova Funicular stations are located next to each other and are close to both the cable car and rack railway stations.
The Sant Joan Funicular travels from the monastery level up the mountain to above 3280 feet. From the top, you can follow various trails and hikes across the mountain.
The Santa Cova Funicular runs in the opposite direction down to the cave where the statue of the Black Madonna in the Basilica was first discovered. Here you will find a chapel that is popular amongst pilgrims along with various sculptures by Catalan artists.
Quick Tip: If you want to learn more about Santa Cova and funiculars in general, there is a small museum dedicated to this within the Santa Cova funicular station.
It is also possible to walk to both Sant Joan and Santa Cova. Of course, the funiculars are much more convenient, but if you want to spend more time connecting with nature, heading out on a walk is recommended.
When Is It Best To Visit Montserrat?
Although Montserrat can be visited at any time of the year, it is worth noting that the mountain is quite high compared to the surrounding landscapes. This means that the weather is not what you would expect from Spain’s common Mediterranean climate.
During the summer, the average temperature varies from 73 °F to84 °F. In winter it ranges from 48 °F to 59 °F. If you plan on hiking, then the spring (March to June) and autumn (September to December) months are your best option. This is when there is the ideal balance of good weather and comfortable temperatures.
If you wish to visit the monastery, note that weekends are usually the busiest, especially Sundays. To avoid these crowds, go during the week when it is quieter and you can admire the sights at your leisure.
Things To Do In Montserrat
There are enough things to do in Montserrat, almost as much to fill a day. From visiting the Abbey to enjoying lunch with a view, there’s an activity for everyone.
Visit The Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
Of course, the biggest highlight of any visit to Montserrat is exploring the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey. The building was originally founded in the 11th century, but the present monastery building was rebuilt during the 19th and 20th centuries.
As an active monastery, there are some parts that you cannot visit. The parts you can visit are the basilica and the museum.
The main draw of the basilica is the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat or Our Lady of Montserrat. As the legend goes, the statue of the Virgin Mary and child was found in 880 on the Montserrat mountain. It is now thought to be a Romanesque sculpture from the 12th century.
Regardless of its origin, the statue of the Virgin Mary is eye-catching and worth viewing. The statue is known as one of the Black Madonnas as both the statue of Mary and Jesus have darker skin tones with gold robes.
Mary is portrayed as sitting on a throne and holding an orb in her hand. The statue is encased in glass for protection except for the orb which is traditionally touched or kissed by visitors.
If you want to view the statue you need to enter the church on the right where a queue will likely form. We recommend visiting the statue early into your trip as the queue gets longer as the day goes on.
After you have visited the statue, you can go down the Ave Maria path where you can see candles lit by previous visitors. These are prayer offerings to the Virgin Mary. Once you exit the path, you can visit the Basilica proper and see the rest of it.
The basilica is open from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm daily and the statue is open from 8:00 am to 10:30 am and again from 12:00 pm to 6:15 pm.
Go To The Museum of Montserrat
Montserrat is also home to an amazing art museum located just before you cross the large plaza to the entrance of the Basilica.
Primarily an art museum, the Museum of Montserrat is home to seven permanent collections and includes works by Dali, Monet, Chagall, and Picasso. The collections are diverse and cover goldsmithing, modernist paintings, contemporary art, and sculptures.
The museum also has an exhibition that focuses on the iconography of Our Lady of Montserrat. Although the museum has an entry fee, some tours do include it in their tickets. It is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:45 pm.
Go To St. Michael’s Cross
If you want to take a hike, a walk to St. Michael’s cross is easy and scenic. This hike starts near the Santa Cova funicular station and has signs to keep you along the path.
The walk is about 20 minutes and is only slightly uphill on the way to the cross. This is a fantastic place to grab a photo or two of the abbey with the mountains surrounding it.
Go For a Hike
By far, the most popular thing to do on Montserrat is to go hiking. There are a variety of hiking trails in the mountains, ranging from short, easy trips to full-day hikes. There are signs posted up around the mountains showing the different route options.
You can visit the tourist information office once you arrive at Montserrat to pick up a map. This map lists all the possible hikes and includes the level of difficulty and length. These hikes start at different locations like the base of the mountain, the funicular stations or the area around the monastery.
The trek down from the Sant Joan funicular is a favorite among many visitors as it is quite easy and highlights the stunning views from the mountains. Many tours also include a hike in their itinerary, so you don’t need to plan your own.
Watch an Escolania de Montserrat (Boys’ Choir) Performance
The Escolania de Montserrat is one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe. They host daily performances in the Basilica.
Over 50 boys, aged 9-14 make up the choir. These boys come from across Catalonia and other Spanish regions to join the choir and live in Montserrat during their time as performers.
Being able to watch one of their performances is a highlight for many who visit Montserrat and, if you get the opportunity, it is recommended you see a performance during your visit.
With the exceptions of Christmas and the summer break, the choir performs daily year-round in the Basilica. Be sure to check the schedule for their performances before you plan your trip to avoid disappointment.
Final Thoughts on Barcelona Day Trip to Montserrat
If you are visiting Barcelona and have extra time, a day trip to Montserrat, Spain, is worth it. The monastery and fresh mountain air are a delightful break from the city’s busy streets.
Barcelona is a bustling city, and there are many affordable and free things to do in the city. So many in fact that you might want to extend your vacation a little longer. Both Barcelona and Montserrat have a lot to offer in terms of fun and excitement.
Well, what are you waiting for? Book a day trip to Montserrat and Barcelona today.