Perched half way up the mountain and protected by its peaks, Montserrat in Spain is a tranquil place surrounded by stunning valleys.
It`s clear why Montserrat draws the crowds – hundreds of thousands of people can`t be wrong. A jaw-droopingly stunning mountain range offering picture perfect views over Catalonia is a natural wonderland.
In this article, you will find everything about visiting Monserrat in Spain. Although it can get crowded during the day, Montserrat is one of the biggest travel surprises while in Barcelona. A visit to Montserrat needs to be on your list, even if you are non-believers.
WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A DAY TRIP TO MONTSERRAT SPAIN
Visiting Montserrat on a day trip from Barcelona allows you to experience the tranquil Catalonia countryside. Although there are many tourist attractions in Barcelona, it is shame that Montserrat is overlooked by many tourists.
The region with oddly shaped dramatic mountains, a hidden monastery and incredible flora and fauna is a getaway for many reasons. For many pilgrims, a journey to Montserrat is only a religious experience. However, for the vast majority of visitors hiking and climbing are the main appeals of the national park.
Whatever your reasons are, make sure you have plenty of space on your camera. There are aplenty of photo opportunities everywhere you go and you will be forgiven for thinking this was just another tourist trap.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Not to be confused with Montserrat Island in the Caribbean, Montserrat in Spain is the symbol of Catalan identity. A holy mountain is also is one of the most spectacular natural parks in Spain.
A visit to Montserrat is also a great way to spend a day away from overwhelming Barcelona.
TIME NEEDED FOR A VISIT OF MONTSERRAT SPAIN
A visit of the Monserrat Monastery and museums takes about 2-3 hours, although it does not include the time it takes getting there. If you are planning to do some hiking, one whole day is needed.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Try to arrive to Montserrat as early as possible – the monastery gets crowded and long queues for the black Madonna in the basilica are very common.
GETTING TO MONTSERRAT SPAIN
The most popular way of getting to Montserrat is travelling by train. Take the regional “FGC train” in the R5 line towards Manresa from the Plaça d’Espanya in Barcelona which leaves every hour. The journey to the bottom of the mountain takes about one hour and five minutes. The FGC train to Montserrat departs hourly from 08:36 am.
TIP: The trains to Montserrat are not marked clearly and you need to look for a “FGC” sign.
GOOD TO KNOW:
When buying a return ticket to Montserrat you will need to plan ahead and decide whether you would like to take the cable car or the funicular (the rack railway).
Combined and single tickets for the “FGC train” to Montserrat from Barcelona can be purchased in advance at the Plaça d’Espanya station or online.
Those who would like to take the cable car need to get off the train at the station “Aeri de Montserrat”. Alternatively, for the funicular you need to get off from the train at the next station “Monistrol de Montserrat”.
Don`t forget to check the train schedule ahead of time so you don`t miss the last train back to Barcelona.
A five minute cable car ride to Montserrat Monastery offers stunning views. The queues to the cable car during holidays can be longer though.
The 15-minute rack railway ride to Montserrat also offers beautiful views. The rack railway ride is also a great option for those with a fear of heights.
Driving to Montserrat from Barcelona is quick and convenient option. The journey to the hidden monastery is one of the most scenic roads in Spain, but has some hairpin turns though.
GOOD TO KNOW:
When driving to Montserrat you will need to decide whether you would like to park right next to Montserrat Monastery or at the bottom of the mountain.
After arriving to Montserrat, you can park right next to Montserrat Monastery. The paid parking at Monastery which requires the walk up the hill is open 24 hours.
As the capacity of parking spaces near the monastery is limited, it is worth remembering that another car park with a greater parking capacity is located at the Cremallera de Monistrol station. After you park your car, take the funicular (the rack railway) to the top.
If you decide to leave your car at a free car park (the Monistrol Vila Car Park), don`t forget to check a schedule for the last funicular. Otherwise, you will need to walk 8 km (5 miles) to your car.
TAKE A GROUP TOUR – BUS
Those who don`t want to rent a car or travel by train can take an organized group tour to Montserrat. Several companies offer organized trips to Montserrat from Barcelona with a possibility to explore the area at your own pace.
In addition, affordable bus tours are more sustainable option than renting a car and driving on your own. With the logistics sorted out, traveling in a big group tour also ensures that you will minimize your carbon footprint.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN MONTSERRAT SPAIN
Here is our list of activities you can do in Montserrat in Spain on a day trip from Barcelona.
The legend has it that the statue of St. Mary was discovered in a cave on Montserrat Mountain and the monastery sprang up around it. The holy place has been gaining in popularity ever since.
The Montserrat Monastery with thousands years of history attracts people to worship the image of St. Mary. A religious pilgrimage site is home to a community of seventy Benedictine monks devoted to prayer, who follow the Orders of St. Benedict (6th century).
GOOD TO KNOW:
The Monastery is not open to visitors, in order to respect the monk`s way of life.
ST. MARY`S SQUARE
The large area carved out of the mountain that forms la Plaça de Santa Maria consists of three squares. Stop here and truly appreciate the beauty of the Montserrat`s architecture.
THE BASILICA – SANTA MARIA DE MONTSERRAT
Santa Maria de Montserrat is one of the main attractions in Montserrat for many visitors. Constructed in Gothic tradition, the Basilica also uses Renaissance shapes and traditional Catalan architecture.
The ancient Basilica was completely rebuilt after being destroyed by the Napoleonic war. Santa Maria de Montserrat that we can see nowadays is the result of the 19th century renovation.
The legend has it that the Benedictine Abbey was once home to the Holy Grail; hence the Abbey was demolished by the Napoleonic troops.
The Basilica with marbled floors and gold interior is free to enter. Beyond its doors, the main draws of the Basilica are the Montserrat choir and the statue of the Virgin Mary and her infant son.
There are many burning candles that are lit daily in the basilica. Every candle symbolizes a prayer to St. Mary.
THE BLACK MADONNA
When in the Basilica, don`t forget to meet the Black Madonna. The miracle-working wooden statue of the Black Virgin, framed in an ornate setting, is located above the high church`s altar.
Known by many names, “La Moreneta” or the St. Mary of Montserrat is the Patroness of Catalonia and one of the most important things to see in Montserrat in Spain.
The statue of the Black Virgin with healing powers can be touched, although during busy times a long queue can be expected.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The stairs to the Cambril de la Mare de Déu (where La Moreneta can be found) are to the right on the Basilica`s main entrance.
CHOIR AT MONTSERRAT
Another typical symbol of Montserrat is Montserrat`s boys’ choir. Known as L’ Escolania, the internationally known choir composed of 14 years old kids is one of the oldest boys` choirs in Europe.
The prestigious choir recognized for a specific type of singing enjoys concert performances all over the world. To see the choir at Montserrat you need to plan your visit to the Basilica accordingly. The famous choir performs only twice per day.
MONTSERRAT MUSEUMS SPAIN
After visiting the basilica, don`t forget to visit museums at Montserrat. There are 2 museums: Montserrat Museum and the Espai Audio Visual.
- MONTSERRAT MUSEUM
If you have an hour of time, the Montserrat museum located just around of the corner from the monastery is a perfect option. Over the years, the museum has become one of the most interesting museums to visit in Catalonia. The museum with a large collection of artworks is featuring works by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Caravagio and many others. The museum also hosts treasures from Ancient Egypt.
- ESPAI AUDIO VISUAL
The Espai Audio Visual, located inside the Monastery`s book shop, is another museum. Inside the audio-visual room you will find an exposition providing information about the history of Montserrat. The Espai Audio Visiual illustrates the daily lives of the monks. It also informs about a legend of the statue of the Black Virgin and the geology of Montserrat. Those who miss the prestigious boys` choir can get here feel for its performance through the videos.
After a long day exploring Montserrat, don`t forget to stop at the market opposite of the Mirador dels Apostols. Buying traditional products such as olives, fresh cheese or honey is a great way how to support the locals.
HIKING AROUND THE MONTSERRAT NAURAL PARK
If museums aren`t your thing and you prefer to spend some time outdoors, Montserrat has some beautiful hiking areas. Enjoy nature at Montserrat Natural Park, one of Catalonia`s most beautiful areas, with a scenic views. There are many hiking trails throughout Montserrat – some of them are easily walkable, while others are more intense.
When deciding what hike you should go for, consider your fitness level and how much time you have for exploring the area.
Montserrat Natural Park with beautiful views attracts the nature lovers
If you are looking for more difficult hike, consider hiking from the valley up to the Montserrat Monastery. Adventurous hikers can expect a strenuous journey with stunning views. Montserrat hike is one of the longest hikes and is an alternative to taking the funicular or the cable car.
TIME NEEDED: 2-3 hours one way, depending on your fitness level
CROSS OF SAINT MIGUEL
The Cross of Saint Miquel is another popular hike when in Montserrat. A 45-minute hike from the Montserrat Monastery is not as vertical. Easy hike to the lookout point offers spectacular views over the valleys of Catalonia.
Take time to explore Santa Cova where according to the legend, an image of the Virgin Mary has been seen and the statue of the Black Madonna was found. The hike to Santa Cova`s chapel is one of the most popular ones, is easy.
TIME NEEDED: 1 hour (one way)
GOOD TO KNOW: Those who would like to visit Santa Cova but don`t want to hike here can also take the funicular to Santa Cova
SANT JOAN CHAPEL
Last but not least, if you are up for a long hike, Sant Joan chapel should be your choice. About 1 hour and 15 minutes long hike with an incredible views of Catalonia is a beautiful walk for those who would like to see the local countryside.
GOOD TO KNOW:
To get to Sant Joan`s you have three choices: you can take St Michael`s Path (Cami de Sant Miquel) or the Stairway of the poor (Escala dels pobrees).
The easiest way to get to San Joan is to take the funicular railway. The lower station of the funicular railway to St Joan is to the right of the St. Michael`s Path. The ride with the panoramic views of the monastery takes about 7 minutes.
Once at the top, you are at “Tarantula square, from where you take several different hikes.
If you continue further along the Sant Joan`s path, you will reach the cave where the shrines of St Joan and St. Onofrius were located.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN MONTSERRAT
If you`re after the “Stairway to Heaven” when visiting Montserrat, you should know it is illegal to climb it. A monument of nine large concrete blocks stacked together to look like a stairway has gained a lot of popularity on social media.
The famous Stairway to Heaven, known as Escala de l’enteniment, is located near the car park, just east of the Mirador Restaurant.
At one time, the sculpture was a popular object to climb. However, due to the lack of safety standards now a fence surrounds it. Unfortunately some people don`t respect fences and climb a work of art when the guards are not looking.
ROCK CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN
With no surprise, more adventurous souls come to Montserrat to climb the mountain. Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia is one of the most popular climbing spots in Spain. The steep peaks are a spectacular place to climb, although only for those with a lack of fear.
WHAT TO WEAR IN MONTSERRAT SPAIN
It is important to remember that Montserrat has a damp Mediterranean climate and it is always chillier and breezier here. When visiting, you will notice a significant temperature drop compared from that at the bottom of the mountain, hence dress up warmer.
Dress appropriately when visiting Montserrat Basilica – don`t forget to cover your shoulders. If you plan to hit the trails, comfortable shoes are a must.
WHERE TO EAT IN MONTSERRAT SPAIN
When visiting Montserrat in Spain, it is worth mentioning that there is limited number of places where to eat. Though restaurants are not very expensive, be ready not to have your taste buds blown away.
La Cafeteria and Self-service restaurant offers more affordable” a canteen style” options with a variety of fast food and drinks. Bar de la Plaça is another café where sandwiches or hamburgers can be purchased.
Those who are looking for formal restaurants, Restaurant Montserrat and Restaurant Abat Cisneros are your only options.
If you are short on time and you don`t want to spend your precious time, consider bringing your own snacks. Alternatively, buy your own snack in a small supermarket or in one of the local market stalls.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MONTSERRAT SPAIN
When visiting Montserrat in Spain try to avoid weekends (especially Sundays) when both tourists and locals visit the mountain. However, Montserrat Monastery is manageable in the summer months if you start exploring before the tour buses arrive.
Those who are not planning to go hiking should visit Montserrat in the afternoon in order to benefit from smaller crowds. Keep in mind the hours of sunshine and timetables as they vary according to the season.
It is also worth noting that The Boys’ Choir sing at 1 pm, although the Choir is not always present at Montserrat. The Boys’ Choir cannot be seen during the summer months, in the Christmas and Easter holidays, and on Saturdays all year around.
Visiting Montserrat from Barcelona is a popular getaway for all kind of travellers. We absolutely loved every second of this unique place, and we hope you do as well!
Have you been to Montserrat in Spain before? Which trail did you hike during your visit? If you like our post, please save it to Pinterest.
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