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Here’s a guide with everything you need to know for an incredible visit to Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain.
How to Visit Montserrat Mountain and Monastery From Barcelona
Planning a Montserrat day trip From Barcelona? You should. It was a highlight of my last trip to Spain, and is an unforgettable excursion.
There are several ways to visit Montserrat Mountain and Monastery. You can take a guided tour from Barcelona, do a private tour or go on your own by train or bus.
This article tells you how to do all three.
We’ll also look at the top things to do in Montserrat once you’re there – because Montserrat Mountain, one of the top attractions in Spain, is much more than a single thing.
It’s an experience.
What Is Montserrat?
Located high in the Serrated Mountains (so called because the top of the mountain range looks like a the jagged edge of a saw), Montserrat is a monastery, an area of astounding natural beauty and a tourist destination.
It has incredible views, hiking trails, museums, restaurants and even a couple of cable cars.
A Sacred Site in Spain
Montserrat Mountain is one of Spain’s most sacred sites and one of the most historical places in the world.
Chapels built by hermit monks have existed here since at least the 9th century.
Its past is bloody, mystical, and uplifting all at once – and the more you learn about it, the more engrossing it becomes.
Today, the Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine abbey improbably built into the mountainside attracts both tourists and the devout, while the hiking trails and otherworldly scenery are equally powerful lures.
What Makes Montserrat Mountain So Unique?
Montserrat Mountain rises up so unexpectedly from the plains of northern Spain it’s said to have been carved by angels.
The incredible 10-km long Sierra de Montserrat mountain ridge was formed, if not literally by angels, then by a delta that deposited a mountain’s worth of sediment, gravel sands, and pebbles in a long-vanished ancient lake.
Then, for the last 20 million years or so rain, wind and acidic soil have used Montserrat Mountain as a way to express their creativity. They have carved and eroded it into fanciful shapes and needle-like columns.
There are a number of ways to tour Montserrat from Barcelona, and this can make organizing your trip feel overwhelming. This Montserrat travel guide will make it easy to sort out.
Montserrat Day Trips From Barcelona
Can you visit Montserrat in one day? Absolutely. Most people do.
Travelling to Montserrat makes a great day trip from Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities in Spain.
This unique Spanish destination is only 50 km (30 miles) from Barcelona, but a world away when it comes to landscape, tranquility and atmosphere.
What Does Montserrat Mountain Look Like?
From some angles the mountain looks like a mass of (slightly squashed) organ pipes sculpted from clay.
At other times it looks cartoonish, the Flintstones version of a sacred mountain.
Some say the Montserrat Mountain range looks like the fingers of God reaching up.
One thing is certain. Montserrat Mountain is a tourist destination with a powerful presence and it’s one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona.
Best Montserrat Tours
One way to visit Montserrat from Barcelona is by signing up for a tour. You can do a group tour or opt for a private guide.
Below I’ll talk about the pros and cons of both.
Why Take a Private Tour?
There are a number of benefits in doing a private tour to Montserrat from Barcelona: namely ease, privacy and flexibility.
You also get the expertise of a private guide.
Many private tours (and some group tours) include hotel pickup. This makes a Barcelona Montserrat day trip easy to plan.
If it’s a private tour you won’t waste time driving around picking up and dropping off other passengers. You also don’t need to deal with public transportation.
The downside of a private tour, of course, is price. Then again, Montserrat is a special place and deserves special attention – if it’s in your budget.
Here are two options for private Montserrat tours:
Private Tour Option #1: Barcelona To Montserrat Guided Tour and Cable Car
This Barcelona Montserrat Private Guided Tour and Cable Car includes hotel pickup, a private guide, and, of course, the trip up the mountain for the region’s spectacular views.
The bonus is that this tour also offers an optional hike. Prices from $545 USD for two.
Check out prices and availability for this Private Montserrat Guided Tour.
Private Tour Option #2: From Barcelona to Montserrat by Train
If you want the personalized service of a private guide but prefer to go by train, one option is this Barcelona Private Day Trip to Montserrat with Lunch.
It clocks in at $203 per person.
Check out this Private Montserrat Tour by Train here.
Group Tours to Montserrat From Barcelona
A group tour is a good option if you want the expertise of a guide and don’t want to deal with figuring out train schedules or buses.
It can also be good value.
Another reason to do a day trip with a group is that it’s a fun way to bond with other travellers, especially when you’re sharing an experience as unique as Montserrat, a Spanish landmark that has an energy all of its own.
If you think a guided day tour of Montserrat is for you, here are 4 tours to choose from, each with a different focus.
Guided Tour Option #1: A Full-Day Montserrat & Wine Small Group Tour
This might be the most popular way to tour Montserrat – combining a wine tour with a visit to the ‘magic mountain.’
Walk through vineyards, explore Montserrat National Park, see the Black Madonna in the monastery and learn about Catalan culture.
Prices from $115. Check availability here.
Option #2: A Montserrat Monastery Guided Tour With Early Access
Departing at 8:00 a.m., this 5-hour tour of Montserrat Monastery includes transportation from a Barcelona meeting point and a visit to Montserrat Museum with skip-the-line access.
You’ll learn about the the lives of the monks, see the basilica, and discover the story behind the sanctuary and how it became a revered Catholic shrine. An optional liquor tasting is available.
Price from $65.
Check out the Guided Tour With Early Access here.
Option #3: A Montserrat Monastery & Natural Park Hike
Montserrat Mountain is renowned for its hiking trails and natural beauty, and adding some outdoor adventure to your day trip will show it at its best.
I went for a solo hike to St. Michael’s Cross in the early morning and it was the highlight of my trip.
This Montserrat Monastery & Natural Park Hike includes a visit to the monastery, and an easy guided walk in the breathtaking Montserrat National Park.
Price starts at $60.
Check times and availability for the Montserrat Mountain Hike and Monastery here.
Option #4: Montserrat Monastery with Horse Riding
For something active, tours to Montserrat Monastery with an added horse riding excursion in the foothills of Montserrat Mountain are available from $130.
Check out the Montserrat Monastery with Horse Riding Tour here.
Day Trips to Montserrat From Barcelona On Your Own
Can You Go To Montserrat Without a Tour?
You certainly can. The benefit of independent travel is that it gives you complete freedom.
Well, complete freedom except for being dependent on train schedules and lineups.
The bonus of arranging your own Barcelona to Montserrat day trip is that once you’re here, you can create your own itinerary and explore at your own pace.
This is important as there are many things to do in Montserrat, and if you want to hike you’ll appreciate the extra time to explore the trails.
Is Montserrat Free to Visit?
Yes. At least entrance to the monastery grounds, basilica and hiking trails are free.
However, there are transportation costs involved and an entrance fee for museums and exhibits. Food can be pricey as well.
The downside of arranging it yourself takes some organization, but it’s a very popular way to do do a Montserrat day trip.
Below you’ll find a guide for planning a day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona on your own, with tips on how to get there, the best things to see and where to eat.
Getting to Montserrat From Barcelona
There are a few options for getting to Montserrat from Barcelona. If you want to tour Montserrat on your own, you can go by train, bus or car.
Barcelona Montserrat Train
Train is one of the best options for a Montserrat day trip from Barcelona – but FYI: It only gets you to the bottom of the mountain. From there you have the choice of the cable car or the rack railway.
The good thing about taking the train to Montserrat is that trains leave hourly, which lets you be more spontaneous about when to go. The trip should take about an hour.
How to Take the Train to Montserrat
To get to Montserrat from Barcelona take the train from Espanya Rail Station. You want Line 5 towards Manresa.
Travel Tip: Buy a return ticket so you don’t need to wait in line to buy a ticket on the way back.
- If you want to take the Cable Car up to Montserrat get off at Aeri Montserrat Station. You can buy a skip-the-line cable car ticket here. The cable car is the fastest and most popular way up.
- If you choose the Rack Railway Cremallera Funicular get off at Monistrol Montserrat Station, which is one station farther.
- If you’re extremely ambitious, you can walk up from the foot of the mountain. This is not for the faint of heart. Most people hike the trails higher up, either from the monastery or by taking the Sant Joan funicular farther up.
Which Is Better, the Aeri Cable Car Or the Cremella Rack Railway?
The Aeri Cable Car is faster and more dramatic. You could take the Aeri Cable Car up and the Cremella down.
🇪🇸 Travel Tip: Because the Cremella Rack Railway is one stop farther away, you’re more likely to get a seat on the return Montserrat Barcelona train, which can get crowded.
🇪🇸 Travel Tip: Some return tickets require you to ride up and down Montserrat Mountain the same way, so make you sure you know what ticket you have.
Getting From Barcelona to Montserrat by Bus
Another easy way to do a day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat is by air conditioned bus.
The downside of a taking a tourist bus on your day trip to Montserrat is that you need to keep to the once-a-day departure and return schedule.
This round trip bus leaves in the morning from the Plaza de Catalonia in the morning and returns the same day. Price is from $40.
Check prices and availability for a round trip tourist bus from Barcelona to Montserrat.
Driving From Barcelona to Montserrat by Car
If you like to be master of your own schedule, driving to Montserrat is an option.
You can either park at the bottom of the mountain and take the cable car or rack railway up, or brave the mountain road and park at the monastery.
The trip should take about an hour.
🇪🇸 Travel Tip: At the monastery you can park for free for the first two hours.
Buying Tickets for a Self-Guided Tour of Montserrat
You can buy a Montserrat: Museum and Monastery Experience Ticket for $20 here.
This doesn’t include transportation, but has timed entry to see the Black Madonna in the basilica, an audioguide, entry to the Museum of Montserrat and the Interactive Audio Visual Exhibition.
🇪🇸 Reminder: Entrance to the basilica itself is free.
Buying All- Inclusive Tickets for Montserrat from Barcelona
ToT All-Inclusive Ticket
If the train is your preferred way of travel to Montserrat you can make it easy on yourself and buy an all-inclusive ticket from Barcelona Tourism. Price is from $70. You can find more info here.
- Your metro ticket in Barcelona to the train station in Plaça Espanya
- Your train ticket to Monistrol de Montserrat
- Tickets for either the Cremallera rack railway or Aeri cable car up to Montserrat
- Tickets for the Sant Joan funicular, which you can take from the monastery up higher into the mountains
- Entrance to the Montserrat Behind Closed Doors exhibit.
- Admission to the museum
- A meal in the self-service restaurant at Montserrat
You can pick up your ticket at the tourist office in Plaça Catalunya, 17 s.
Visit Montserrat + Train & Rack Railway Combo
Another option to buy a Visit Montserrat + Train & Rack Railway combo ticket through the monastery website itself. Price is 42 Euros.
Montserrat Monastery Restaurants
You have several options for Montserrat restaurants.
- The Restaurant Hotal Abat Cisneros has a huge stone arch, exposed stone and was actually the monastery stables in the 16th century.
- For panoramic views and Mediterranean cuisine you can dine at the Restaurant Montserrat on the ground floor of the Mirador dels Apòstols. You can book online.
- You can grab a quick meal on the second floor of the Mirador dels Apòstols at the Montserrat Buffet.
- There is a cafeteria on the monastery grounds as well.
- The Bar de la Placa is another option.
Top 10 Things to Do In Montserrat
Whether you’re doing a Barcelona Montserrat tour on your own or with a guide, it’s helpful to know the highlights of this unique monastery destination.
Here are the top things to do in Montserrat.
Visit the Basilica
The basilica is Montserrat’s main draw.
Over the years it has gone through a number of reconstructions. Built in the 1500s it had to be rebuilt after the Peninsular War and the facade was again redone after the Spanish Civil War.
It’s seen a lot of brutal battles in its day.
Listen to the Montserrat Boys’ Choir, Escolania
It’s a good idea to time your visit to the Basilica to hear the famous Boys’ Choir.
Escolania is one of the most prestigious – and oldest – boys choirs in Europe. Historical records show there was a choir in Montserrat as far back as the 13th century.
When can you hear the choir? The Montserrat Boys’ Choir sings daily in the basilica at 1:00 p.m. (Except during July or at Christmastime, but check the website to be sure as they go on tour.)
🇪🇸 Travel Tip: If you’re staying in Montserrat overnight, here’s a secret: The choir also sings in the evening at 18:45 – and there is no crowd. It’s truly otherworldly.
View the Black Madonna
The Black Madonna, ‘La Moreneta,’ is a revered icon in Spain. The 12th-century Romanesque statue of the Virgin with the baby Jesus on her lap is famous for its dark colour.
Also known as the Virgin of Montserrat, it’s the most venerated relic in Catalonia so be prepared to wait in line. It’s located in the basilica. There are many miracles attributed to it.
Hike in Montserrat
There are a number of hikes and walking paths on Montserrat Mountain. Some of the more popular walks are:
- The Way of the Cross is a scenic easy walk that takes about 40 minutes and leads to St. Michael’s Cross, a spot that offers stunning views over the countryside.
- The Cami dels Degotalls, a flat shaded walk on the Degotalls, which means “Magnificent Path’ with views of the Pyrenees and numerous artistic sculptures and monuments along the way. The walk takes about 50 minutes.
- The hike from the monastery to Santa Cova takes you to the pilgrim site of Santa Cova, where an image of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared. The walk takes between an hour and an hour and a half and the climb back up can be avoided by taking the Funicular de Santa Cova.
- More ambitious is the hike to Sant Jeroni. Most people access it from the Funicular de Sant Joan. (See below.)
Take the Funicular up Santa Magdelana
Way up. From the Monastery of Montserrat you can take the Funicular de Sant Joan – the steepest funicular in Spain – up to the top of Santa Magdelana. From here you can follow a footpath to the Hermitage of St. Jeroni.
Note: The peak of St Jeroni is the highest point of Montserrat Mountain – 1,236 metres.
Visit the Montserrat Museum
It seems unlikely that such a prize of a museum would be found way up a mountain, but the Montserrat Museum has a serious collection of art, especially strong in Catalan masters.
Highlights, in addition to the Caravaggio’s Saint Jerome in Meditation, include work by Picasso, Miró, Dalí and the famous Post War artist, Antoni Tàpies, whose Modernist abstract painting Montserrat segle XXI hangs on the museum walls.
Tap into the Heart Chakra
Some believe the planetary heart chakra energy spot stems from the mountain of Montserrat.
To be more precise, the energy spot is located in the centre of the atrium of the Montserrat Basilica.
If you see people spontaneously hugging each other or reaching up into the sky, you’ll know why.
🇪🇸 Travel Tip: The Catholic monks aren’t keen on the heart chakra idea, so if you do want to experience it, be respectful and do it discreetly.
Visit the Montserrat Interactive Museum – the Espai Audio Visual
For a better grounding in Montserrat history and surroundings, an interactive display Inside Montserrat focuses on different aspects of this mountain sanctuary.
Can You Stay in Montserrat Overnight?
Yes, it’s very atmospheric to linger longer and stay overnight.
If you stay overnight in Montserrat, it’s much easier to appreciate its special energy. It’s a good idea if you want to hike in the morning, or hear the Boys’ Choir at night.
Staying overnight means dodging the crowds and enjoying the monastery’s peaceful simplicity. That’s how I chose to visit Montserrat Mountain and Monastery and it was a memorable experience.
There are a couple of options for simple hotel accommodation at Montserrat Monastery.
Hotel Abat Cisneros
The 3-star Hotel Abat Cisneros is beside Montserrat Monastery, and offers basic amenities, but some rooms have incredible views.
Address: Monasterio de Montserrat, Plaza del Monasterio, s/n, 08199 Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain.
Staying in an Apartment at Montserrat Monastery
There are also apartments at the monastery, the Abat Marcet Apartments . Address: Monastir de Montserrat, s/n, 08199, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
Is a Montserrat Tour From Barcelona Worth It?
Absolutely. If you’re keen to see some of the Catalan countryside and attractions outside Barcelona, a day trip to Montserrat can be an incredible journey.
As you can see there are many different ways to visit Montserrat Monastery, inSpain.
You can opt for a private tour, join a group, or plan your own Montserrat day trip from Barcelona that puts you in charge of your time.
Whichever way you decide to visit Montserrat, the dramatic mountain location and the spiritual quality of this isolated locale in the Catalonia region of Spain is a one-of-a-kind experience and one of the best day trips from Barcelona.