One of the coolest things to do in Barcelona is the day trip to Montserrat. Only one hour outside of Barcelona, there is an incredible serrated mountain with a Benedictine Monastery built into it. People travel from all over to tour the Monastery and see the famous Black Virgin Statue. Others, enjoy hiking Montserrat and spending a day away from the city in this beautiful location. We put together this post to share the best hikes in Montserrat and give you a travel guide for a perfect day trip to Monserrat.
How to Get to Montserrat From Barcelona
It’s relatively easy to use public transportation from Barcelona for your Monserrat Day Trip. We were worried about it because the directions we read online were confusing but it turned out to be so easy. Travel tip: Leave for Monserrat as early as you are comfortable to avoid crowds and arrive at the train station with plenty of time to buy your ticket and find the train.
Train & Cable Car
The first step is getting to Plaça d’Espanya. The Espanya Rail Station is on the red and green metro line so you can easily get there from another metro stop. Take the R5 train to Aeri de Montserrat. The schedule is here. The trains mostly run every hour to the Montserrat train station so it’s good to verify the train time and arrive early to buy your ticket and find the R5 track. You will not be a happy camper if you miss the train and have to wait an hour for the next one.
The trip takes about an hour. When you arrive, you will walk over to the Montserrat cable car (departs every 15 minutes or less) and ride it to the top. I highly recommend the cable car for the Montserrat mountain and valley views below. The train and cable car tickets cost €23 for the round trip ticket. It’s best to buy the tickets round trip to save money on the one way prices. Purchase them at the Plaça d’Espanya train station.
Train & Rack Railway
If you don’t like the idea of taking the cable car, you can take the rack railway which will take a little longer but may be preferable for people who are afraid of heights. Ride the R5 train to Monistrol de Montserrat (one station further than Aeri de Montserrat). Then transfer to the green railway that takes you up the mountain. The rack railway schedule is here.
Drive & Park
If you have a car, you can save some time getting to Montserrat by driving. It’s approximately 60 km including the drive up the mountain. Parking onsite for €6,50. From Barcelona get on B-10 Via Laietana. Then take A-2 to Carretera Manresa. Get off at Exit 582A toward Olesa de Montserrat/Montserrat/Manresa. Then you will follow C-55 to BP-1121 which leads up to Montserrat.
Take a Montserrat Tour
If you feel like it will be too hard to coordinate your own transportation, you can always take a Montserrat tour so your day is planned out for you and transportation is handled.
Call me biased, but any time I get out and explore nature, I’m always happiest. When we planned the trip to Montserrat, we really didn’t know about the hiking that was available and kind of found it by accident. Thankfully we were wearing sneakers. You may wonder about how someone could just find the hiking. Sounds kind of ridiculous, right!
Beyond the big Montserrat complex with the Monastery, Basilica and all the larger buildings, there are walking paths to go explore some of the hermitages, shrines, and other historic sites on the mountain. You can also take the Sant Joan Funicular up to the top and walk down. And voila, that’s how we found out there was actual hiking in Montserrat.
Montserrat Hiking Trails
You have quite a few options for hiking at Montserrat. I wanted to list the hikes that are available on the mountain so you are prepared to choose the trails you want ahead of time instead of accidentally happening upon them like we did. The more adventurous people can actually hike up the mountain instead of driving or taking the cable car. There are trails up the mountain from both the Aeri de Montserrat and Monistrol de Montserrat station. The hike takes approximately 1.5 hours.
- Sant Jeroni Summit Loop – a 5.8 mile hike with almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The trail start at the Montserrat Monastery taking you through the first to the rocky peak. If you want a 2-3 hour hard workout, this is it. You also have the option of taking the Sant Joan funicular like we did which will make the shorter version of this hike much easier.
- Hermites Way – From the top of the Sant Joan Funicular, take the path directly in front. It’s a 4.2 mile easy trail that will take you past the San Miguel Cross viewpoint and multiple chapels.
- Monserrat Monastery to the Degotalls – This 2 mile trail will take you 45 minutes to an hour and it’s relatively flat. It’s more of a peaceful walk especially for those that want time to commune with nature. It’s also good for those that are short on time and want to add a walk to their Montserrat day trip. Take the path to the left of the Mirador dels Apostles building.
What to Wear & Bring for Hiking Montserrat
The weather is similar to Barcelona so you have some idea of what to expect. If it is a hot day, it will be hot for hiking and you will be in direct sun for most of the hike. A hat and loose, lightweight clothing will help on the hot days. If you are opting for one of the easier trails, sneakers will be fine but having sturdy shoes for the steeper hikes will be very helpful.
Bring a day pack to carry sunscreen, water and a camera. You can buy water and food at the restaurant but you may find it easier to just bring some food with you. As for a camera, you will definitely want to take pictures of almost everything you see.
Planning Your Montserrat Day Trip From Barcelona
While hiking in Monserrat was our favorite activity, I wanted to include all the other things to do because you will definitely want to explore the grounds. One of the best tips I can give you is to plan your trip around the Boy’s Choir performance at 1:00 and 6:45pm daily. So do your hiking before or after one of their performances.
One of the things you will notice immediately when you arrive is that Montserrat is like a small city with multiple buildings. Much of what you see has been rebuilt because of a devastating fire in 1808. The Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat was rebuilt in the 19th century. You can see the remains of the old Gothic Cloister in the Square of Santa Maria. Thankfully the Basilica of Montserrat survived the fire.
If you look straight in the middle of this photo above the altar, there is a lit up spot (actually a window) surrounded in gold. That is where the Black Madonna is kept and you are able to see people walking by and touching the glass orb that is built around her. Many people travel long distances and then wait in a long queue to pray for a miracle.
L’Esconia is the 50 member boy’s choir at Montserrat that dates back to 1223. To gain a spot on the choir, the boys must apply in primary school and then they live at Monserrat during the week as they are trained and do their schooling. You can see their schedule and learn more about their program on the L’Esconia website.
My favorite part of visiting Montserrat was the hike but a close second was seeing the Boy’s Choir perform during a mass in the Basilica. It made the visit to the church come to life. Lots of people know about it so get there at least 15 minutes ahead to grab a seat or you will be like us, squished in the back like sardines.
Chapel of Santa Cova
This is a small chapel built in the 19th century that is tucked away from the rest of Montserrat. It is the place where the image of the Virgin first appeared. It’s a little more than a half mile walk to get there but well worth visiting.
In addition to housing works from many famous artists including Monet, Picasso and Degas, the Montserrat Museum houses artifacts from Montserrat.
Tips for Making the Most of a Montserrat Day Trip
- Between hiking Montserrat and visiting the Montserrat Monestary, it’s a full day trip from Barcelona. There are advertised Montserrat tours for a half day trip but you won’t have time for any of the hikes at Montserrat if you are short on time.
- Get there early. Montserrat is a very popular day trip from Barcelona and you will avoid some of the crowds earlier in the day. You also need time for hiking Montserrat. Some of the best view hikes will take you a few hours. If you do more than one, you need time.
- Visit on a weekday if possible. Again, it’s a chance to see Montserrat with less crowds.
- Some people say it’s better to take the rack railway than the cable car because the trip home on the train may be standing room only. Since the rack railway is one station before the cable car station, those people fill up most of the seats before the cable car riders get on.
- Don’t forget sunscreen, water and a camera.
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