If you are thinking of the best day trips from Barcelona, Montserrat in Spain is your answer. The multi-peaked mountain with the famous monastery perched at the top is one of the places you’ll regret missing on your visit to glorious Catalonia.
From the Abbey of Montserrat to museums and exciting hiking trails, there’s something for everyone. You can have a day of extreme hiking or a laid-back sightseeing afternoon.
Or even better, combine the two into one spectacular day you’ll never forget.
Start Planning Your Visit to Montserrat in Spain Now
To help you have the best experience possible, we’ll cover topics such as the best way to get to Montserrat from Barcelona and the many sites you can explore.
We’ve also broken down the most confusing part of the trip – buying Montserrat tickets – into easy-to-understand chunks.
Don’t hesitate, take advantage of the tips and recommendations in this guide and have a fantastic day out.
Timing Timing Timing
As with many things travel, timing is everything.
But it’s even more crucial when you embark on a one-day journey to a bustling place like Spanish Montserrat mountain.
If you leave it too late, you’ll have to miss out on things because of lengthy queues.
Depending on the season, the overall journey from Barcelona to Montserrat can take from 1.5 up to 2 hours, including waiting time at the cable car station. We suggest you take the earliest possible train from Plaça d’España station in the city centre. Trains run every hour with the first train leaving at 8.36am.
Driving should take you around 30 minutes depending on the traffic.
But before you even leave your room, preferably the night before, look through the below sights and see what interests you the most. Is it the landscapes or the architectural monuments or both?
If all the above sounds like a plan, let’s have a quick look at what’s waiting for you atop the iconic peaks of Montserrat.
Visit the Monumental Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
Montserrat in Spain is renowned for its dazzling Benedictine Abbey. And regardless of your religious beliefs, visiting the sanctuary will be one of the many memorable experiences of your day trip. It is one of the most prominent sites to visit in Montserrat.
For centuries pilgrims have been making their way to worship the sacred Black Virgin of Montserrat. And till this day, every movement at this spiritual Montserrat mountain revolves around the patroness of Catalonia, otherwise known as the Black Virgin.
If your visit is focused on pilgrimage, head straight to the Benedictine Abbey to catch a glimpse at the Black Virgin of Montserrat. Also referred to as the Black Madonna, the Romanesque statue has a monumental significance in Montserrat.
It’s believed that this world-renowned wooden icon was carved in Jerusalem around 50 AD. It is also said that the entire Montserrat complex is built up around it.
Once you’ve explored Santa Maria de Montserrat, exit via the Cami de l’Ave Maria – the Ave Maria Way – for a candle-lit walk through the barrel vault tunnel. It’s a magical passageway filled with flickering votives, and the rosary litanies pressed into iron. Each flame in this tunnel is a special prayer to Saint Mary.
And if you too would like to join the crowd and say a prayer for your family and friends, you can do so by buying a candle.
The Basilica opening times: 7.30am – 8pm
Throne of Our Lady visiting hours: 8am – 10.30am and from 12pm – 6.15pm. During the summer time (mid-Jul – end Sept) the Abbey is open from 7.30pm – 8pm.
Discover the Delightful 11th-Century Romanesque Church
If you are interested in architectural heritage, in the shadow of the magnificent Montserrat peaks, sits Santa Cecilia de Montserrat. A church dedicated to Santa Cecília, the patron of music.
The nave of this 11th Century church overlooking the Marganell River Valley, houses art pieces, stained glass, and beautiful frescos. A perfect space to escape the hustle.
Recently rebuilt, Santa Cecilia de Montserrat is one of the most outstanding examples of Romanesque architecture in the region.
Santa Cecilia de Montserrat opening times: 10am – 2pm and 3pm – 6pm.
Note that the church is open during weekends only in July and daily (except Mondays) in August.
Marvel at Caravaggio in Montserrat Museum
If you are a history buff, head to the delightful Montserrat Museum in Santa Maria square. It houses six permanent collections of more than 1,300 relics together with temporary displays.
Every room, supported by impressive iron structures, has a series of objects representing the theme of the room. Here you’ll find a goldsmithing section, sculptures, modern art and even 13th-century-old paintings.
To indulge in artwork by some of the most influential painters, start with the work by Caravaggio, an Italian painter whose paintings are displayed all over the world.
By the way, one of the paintings personally signed by Caravaggio dominates the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta, capital of the Mediterranean island of Malta.
The museum is open from 10am – 5.45pm on weekdays and 10am – 6.45pm on weekends.
Arrange a Visit to the Beautiful Montserrat Library
If historical libraries spark a sense of wonder in you, then you shouldn’t miss the exquisite Montserrat Library. Before 1811, the library held a diverse collection of thousands of manuscripts which, sadly, were destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars.
However, today’s library, which was founded in the 19th-century, amassed an astonishing assortment of volumes. Mostly philosophy, theology, Bible studies, music and art history, medieval and European history, as well as works devoted to local history and the Spanish Civil War. Plus, a collection of 500 ancient maps!
Montserrat Library opening times: 9.15am – 2pm and 3.30pm – 5pm. You will need to arrange access before your arrival.
But there’s more to Montserrat in Spain than just religious and cultural explorations. If you start your day early and arrive at Montserrat from Barcelona in the morning, you’ll get to see beautiful panoramic views of Catalonia.
Hiking in Montserrat: Trails and Outdoor Sights
At 1,236 meters high, the panoramic views across Catalonia from the stunning rock formations are breath-taking. We promise you will not be disappointed with hiking in Montserrat.
Hike All the Way to Sant Joan Chapel
Start exploring by taking a trail leading to Sant Joan Chapel. There is a slight climb up a 100-meter-high hill, but the climb is effortless and will set pace nicely for the rest of the walks.
As you pass the chapel and keep ascending the slope, look back to check out the incredible rock formation sticking out behind you.
To reach the trail, take the Sant Joan funicular railway and follow the signs pointing towards the path.
Enjoy Breath-Taking Panoramic Views Atop 1,236 m High Peak
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. But hold on tight, the railway is insanely vertical! Once at the top, take the marked path on the right-hand side of the station.
It’s a 2.5-hour trek if you use the funicular railway. Otherwise, get ready for approximately 3.5 hours if you are hiking all the way up, depending on your fitness level.
Explore One of the Most Fascinating Areas in Montserrat
Outdoors lovers and Gaudi fans, you are in for a treat. The Santa Cova funicular railway will take you down to feast your eyes on stunning modern Catalan sculptures by Antonio Gaudi among other famous artists.
Apart from the significant monuments, the journey down to the Rosary Monumental itself is a sight to behold! This scenic winding ride will take your breath away presenting you with even more panoramic views, which, as we learned, you are never short of in Montserrat!
The zone holds not only cultural but also a religious value to this place of pilgrimage. The statue of the Black Virgin is believed to have been rediscovered in 880 AD, in the nearby Santa Cova Holy Grotto.
To the right of the altar, you will find a copy of the original image that is now safely guarded inside the Montserrat Basilica.
Pilgrims have been making their way down to the Chapel of the Holy Grotto Since 1929. Therefore, staying respectful is crucial when exploring the site.
The cave is open all the time and can be easily reached by either walking from the Monastery or by catching one of the funicular railways. However, it’s worth noting that the train doesn’t go all the down to Santa Cova.
The Funicular de Santa Cova will get you down the mountain and drop you off at a spot from where you will be able to take a paved walking path. Be prepared for approx. 1-hour walk.
What to Wear When Visiting Montserrat
In all honesty, anything that makes you feel comfortable. Remember that during the summer, it can get pretty hot so make sure your skin is well protected from the sun.
Even though the trails are easily walkable, and you will most likely get a funicular railway to get to the start of the trails, we recommend wearing comfortable footwear for travel. It will allow you to enjoy the walks and the climb to the highest peak of Montserrat without issues.
The footpaths are well maintained, and you could walk them in flip-flops, but while you are exploring such a fabulous rocky place, you might as well be a little more adventurous and descend through the rocks rather than the footpath. Make sure you stay safe though as it can be slippery in places. Always use caution!
Ladies, if you love wearing dresses, please do so, it will keep you cool in the heat. However, you should cover your shoulders when entering the Abbey.
How to Save on Food in Montserrat
If you are on a budget, our best advice is to pack some snacks to take with you. For example, pop into a local shop or bakery nearby your apartment and get ingredients for a tasty sandwich or a wrap. You could also grab some fresh or dried fruit to keep you happy during the day.
It’s a hidden pot of wonderful smells and tastes and caters for everyone’s taste. Plus, popping into the market will be one of the many great attractions while visiting Barcelona.
If you are not keen on packed lunches, then be prepared for high prices at Montserrat itself.
What is the Best Way to Get to Montserrat from Barcelona
The glorious peaks of Montserrat are located around 30 miles (48 km) northwest of Barcelona and have good transport links. This makes it an easy day out when visiting the region of Catalonia.
We’ve done the hard work for you and summarised how you could get to Montserrat from Barcelona.
By car. The quickest way to access the monastery is by driving. It’s easy to rent a car in Barcelona, and the road to Montserrat is straightforward.
You can park your car free of charge at the Monistrol Vila parking lot, and off you go exploring. Conveniently, here you will also be able to buy your rack railway ticket for Montserrat.
By train. Getting to Montserrat by railway is one of the most popular hassle-free options if you don’t fancy driving. Trains leave every hour from Plaça d’España rail station. Once you’ve purchased your tickets for access to Montserrat, look for Line R5 and jump on the train going towards Manresa.
Which Montserrat Ticket is the Best for You?
We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it’ all about time-saving when planning your trip to Montserrat. Therefore, don’t waste it by queuing at the ticket office. They sell tour tickets only.
Get your tickets at the ticket machines. They do look a little scary with all the options available but don’t let them intimidate you. Step away from those yellow apparatus for a moment and think.
What’s the best way for you to get to the top of the mountain, by cable or rack railway? Both the cable car (Aeri de Montserrat) and rack railway (Cremallera de Montserrat) will take you on a spectacular journey across the valley. Only you can decide which option is the best for you, but we have a quick tip.
OK, time to face the ticket machine. Stay cool.
You have three ticket options which all look a little confusing, but don’t panic; we are here to help.
To take the hassle out of your day, we recommend purchasing the Trans Montserrat ticket at €35.30 per adult (as of 1st January 2019). This combined ticket includes:
- Round trip train journey: Barcelona – Montserrat – Barcelona.
- Round trip cable car/rack railway journey: Barcelona – Montserrat – Barcelona.
- Unlimited funicular journeys in Montserrat.
- Entrance to the audiovisual exhibit “Montserrat behind closed doors”.
While this option might not save you money while purchasing it at the station, it will save you time. And like we said already, time is precious on this trip.
But if you want to save a few pennies and time on your day trip to Montserrat, you can purchase your ticket online at no additional cost to you.
CLICK HERE to pre-book your Trans Montserrat ticket hassle-free. The ticket price includes the following:
- Barcelona metro ticket
- Return train to Monistrol de Montserrat from Plaça de Espanya
- The track railway or the cable car of Montserrat
- Unlimited use of the Santa Cova Funicular
- Admission to the Audiovisual Gallery
The great thing about the Trans Montserrat ticket is that you get access to the two main funiculars atop the Montserrat mountain – Funicular de Sant Joan and Funicular de Santa Cova. Otherwise, you’ll have to purchase tickets for both separately which only means one thing – additional queuing.
Where is the Cable Car/Rack Railway in Montserrat?
The train from Barcelona will drop you off at the bottom of the mountain at Montserrat AERI station. And just around the corner, a two-minute walk at the most, you’ll find the cable car station.
The Aeri de Montserrat is a little dated and quite small, but the journey is spectacular. It only takes approx. 5 minutes to get to the top of the mountain, but the queues for catching the cable car can be very lengthy, especially during holidays. It can quickly take up to 40 minutes before you can board the car.
If you decide to take the Cremallera de Montserrat, get off at Monistrol de Montserrat, one stop after Montserrat AERI. From here, get on the Cremallera de Montserrat which will take you all the way to Montserrat, easy. In this instance, the overall journey from Barcelona to Montserrat will take 90 minutes.
Quick Checklist for Your Epic Montserrat Day Trip
- Look at this guide again and decide what sights you are going to see first.
- Decide beforehand if you are taking a cable car or the rack railway. Your choice will determine your final stop before getting up the mountain.
- Pack light, you are going on a day trip.
- It might sound obvious, but have your bag packed and waiting for you the night before.
- Pack some snacks with you, plenty of water, sunscreen and other essentials such as a hat.
- Charge your camera and be sure to have enough space on your memory card. If possible, transfer yesterday’s photos to the hard drive or laptop. There’s nothing more heart-breaking than realising that you don’t have enough space after you’ve composed that perfect shot.
- Charge your phone and other gadgets.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Get up early to have enough time for a hearty breakfast. Arriving early to Montserrat is the only way to beat the crowds.
- Check the weather forecast and follow our tips for choosing the order of the sights.
- Pre-book your Montserrat ticket here to save time and money.
- Check out the many great tour options below and have tons of fun!