Visiting Montserrat is one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona. It’s easy to get to and gives you an opportunity to see the Spanish countryside. The views from the monastery are breathtaking, well worth a day of your time while you are in Barcelona.
What is Montserrat?
Montserrat is a rocky mountain range in Catalonia, Spain. “Montserrat” translates to “saw mountain” in Catalan, owing to this mountain range’s jagged, sawtooth appearance.
Sitting atop the mountain range is Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery. Located inside of the monastery is a statue of the of the Virgin of Montserrat, one of the few black madonnas of Europe. This is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat, as many people make an overnight hike to watch the sunrise from the peak of Montserrat.
Why You Should take a Day Trip to Montserrat
For some people, a visit to Montserrat is a religious pilgrimage. For others, it’s a visit to a unique mountain range offering views over Catalonia. Be whisked to the top by a scenic cable car ride, take short hikes through the mountain peaks, and take a funicular higher up onto the mountain for even better views. Those who enjoy hiking can walk to Sant Jeroni, the highest peak of Montserrat.
Getting to Montserrat
Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona is quick and easy. Here are your options.
Train and Cable Car
This is the quickest and most scenic option. From Plaça Espanya in Barcelona, take the R5 line to Aeri de Montserrat. The journey by train takes approximately one and a half hours. From Aeri de Montserrat, take the cable car to the top. Combined tickets can be purchased at the Plaça Espanya station.
Train and Rack Railway
This option is slightly longer than taking the cable car but a little bit cheaper. From Plaça Espanya in Barcelona, take the R5 line one stop farther to Monistrol de Montserrat. Change to the Cremallera, a green railway that runs to the top of the mountain. Combined tickets can be purchased at Plaça Espanya.
For timetables and ticket prices, visit the Cremallara de Montserrat website.
Train and Hiking
This is the healthiest and most cost effective way to the monastery. From Plaça Espanya, take the R5 line to Monistrol de Montserrat. From the train station, walk through the town of Monistrol to trails winding their way up the mountain.
To read our post on how to hike to Montserrat, click here.
This is a less popular option, since most people make the journey by train. Buses leave the Estacio Sants train station for Montserrat. For more information, click here.
This is the most expensive option. Taxis and private drivers can be used to get to Montserrat.
Best Things to do
Enjoy the View
From the mountain top, the views are stunning!
The Benedictine Abbey and the Basilica
The Black Virgin of Montserrat is located inside of the basilica. A visit here is free and it is said that the statue of the Virgin Mary and her infant son have healing powers. The Benedictine Abbey dates back to the 9th century and legend has it that this was once was home to the Holy Grail.
Santa Cova Chapel
The Holy Cave of Montserrat once housed the Virgin of Montserrat. Three hundred years ago a chapel was built at this spot.
From the monastery, take the Santa Cova funicular down to the walking trail. Follow a winding, paved trail along the mountain cliffs to the chapel. The views from the chapel are stunning. Allow an hour for the entire walk.
If you look closely, you can see the trail to the Santa Cova Chapel snaking its way along the mountainside.
Santa Cova funicular
Sant Miquel’s Cross
This is another beautiful walk. This walk takes you to a higher point than the Santa Cova Chapel, for more stunning views of the valley and quite an awesome view back to the monastery.
Finding the trailhead can be a little tricky. Here are the GPS coordinates for the start of the trail: 41.592064, 1.835830.
A view of the cross
The view back to the Monastery
Funicular de Sant Joan
This funicular takes you to a very high observation point. From here, you can start the hike to Sant Jeroni.
Sant Jeroni is the highest peak on Montserrat. For the best views while at Montserrat, consider doing this 3 hour return hike. This hike gives you the best views over Catalonia.
We did not hike to Sant Jeroni, but I wish we did. Tim was racing Ironman Barcelona in just a few days so we didn’t want to hike too much. Here is a post that does a good job explaining the hike, if you are interested.
Stairway to Heaven
The Stairway to Heaven is a stack of nine large concrete blocks arranged in a helical pattern. At one time, this was a popular object to climb. People would travel to Montserrat just to take a photo on top of the Stairway to Heaven. Now a fence surrounds it, both for safety reasons and because it is a work of art. Its intention was never to be a jungle gym.
Numerous people visit Montserrat just to see the Stairway to Heaven. In our opinion, this is an overrated attraction. There are much better things to see while in Montserrat, such as the Monastery, the views from the various viewpoints, and the Santa Cova Chapel. During our visit, the Stairway of Heaven was protected behind a hastily erected construction fence. It was hardly worth the visit.
If you have plans to visit Montserrat for the sole reason of climbing the Stairway to Heaven, you should know that it is illegal to do so.
The Stairway to Heaven is located just east of the Mirador Restaurant. On Google Maps, the Stairway to Heaven is called Escala de l’enteniment (click here to see the location on Google Maps). Come take look if you are curious but don’t expect to climb it.
Where to Eat
Restaurant Hostal Abat Cisternos. This is the most expensive option. For lunch or dinner you can have a three course meal for €27.50.
Cafeteria. There is a cafeteria that offers a lunch buffet. There is a wide variety of food, all of it is mediocre and nothing special. Included in the price is unlimited wine from a tap…an interesting option for those who are interested.
Bring your own picnic. The best option may be to assemble a picnic lunch at Boqueria Mercado before making the journey out to Montserrat.
How Long do you need to visit Montserrat?
A visit to Montserrat takes a good part of a day. Travel time takes about 1.5 hours one way (roughly one hour for the train and 30 minutes for the cable car or rack railway). Once on Montserrat, you can visit the main sites and viewpoints in just a few hours. Expect to spend all day here if you want to hike the trails and sit down to lunch or dinner.
Planning to visit Montserrat? If you have any questions, comment below!
You May Also Like:
- Spain: Best Things to do in Barcelona, Spain
- Switzerland: How to Visit Lucerne and Mt. Pilatus in One Perfect Day
- Europe: 10 Days in London, Paris & Amsterdam
- Italy: 9 Must-Have Experiences in Venice, Italy
- Belgium: How to Visit Bruges and Ghent if You Only Have One Day
- France: 10 Day French Riviera & Provence Itinerary