Montserrat day trip: how to visit Montserrat Mountain from Barcelona

Montserrat day trip: how to visit Montserrat Mountain from Barcelona
Photo by Corentin Largeron / Unsplash

If you are thinking of escaping Barcelona for a day, the Montserrat day trip is your answer. The multi-peaked mountain range with the famous Monastery perched at the top is one of the places you don't want to miss on your visit to glorious Catalonia.

For such a small place, there's plenty to do. If you're feeling adventurous, you can spend the whole day hiking. 

Or, if you're in the mood for something more laid-back, you can just chill and take in the sights like Santa Maria de Montserrat and the Holly Grotto.

To help you experience the place to the fullest, we'll give you some travel tips on how to get to Montserrat, which train tickets to buy and the many sites you can explore.

If you, however, prefer a guided tour, check out these Montserrat tour options available via our trusted partner, GetYourGuide.

Bookings: some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a booking, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank You!

What is Montserrat?

If you're up for something different near Barcelona, you should definitely check out the multi-peak Montserrat Mountain range. 

Towering as high as 1,236 metres, the site has been a pilgrimage destination for a long time, but it's also a breathtakingly beautiful spot. Both hikers and day-trippers flock here to enjoy the stunning views and explore the hiking trails. 

Legend has it that angels created the jagged Montserrat Mountain range by using a golden saw to make a throne for the Virgin Mary. That's why the Monastery was built there in the first place. 

Unfortunately, Napoleon's army destroyed most of it in the early 19th century, but you can still see a few original walls here.

Can you visit Montserrat without a tour?

Definitely! You can hop on a train from Barcelona and then catch a cable car or rack railway to get to Montserrat Mountain. Or you can get a combined ticket (more details below).

Once you're at Montserrat, you can explore it on your own time; no need to worry about booking a day tour if you prefer doing things independently.

How much time do you need to visit Montserrat? 

If you plan to explore Montserrat, I recommend leaving Barcelona as early as possible so you can make the most of your day.

Although it might not seem like there's a lot to do, the place gets pretty busy, so you'll have to queue for everything. If you're up for exploring some hiking trails, set aside a whole day.

Can I go to Montserrat on my own?

Definitely! If you're thinking of heading off on a Montserrat day trip by yourself, make sure you grab the right ticket.

The combined ticket is the way to go as it saves time and money. Montserrat is pretty easy to navigate, but take extra care if you plan a longer hike solo. 

What time of year is best to visit Montserrat? 

You can visit Montserrat all year round, but January – February is the best time for hiking.

We visited amid summer, and it was pretty hot exploring Montserrat in the harsh Mediterranean sunshine. We still had a great time, though. Just remember to bring a hat and water, apply plenty of sunscreen, and you'll be fine.  

Both the rack railway and cable car run throughout the year, but look out for maintenance closures if planning to take the cable car.

How long does it take to get to Montserrat?

The overall Barcelona Montserrat journey can take from 1.5 up to 2 hours, including waiting time at the cable car station. 

Driving without detours should take around 30 minutes, depending on the traffic. 

As with many things travel, timing is everything. But it's even more crucial when you embark on a Barcelona day trip to Montserrat. If you leave it too late, you might miss out on things because of lengthy queues.

I suggest taking the earliest possible train from Plaça d'España station in the city centre. Trains run every hour with the first train leaving at 8.36 am.

Travel tip: don't forget to check the forecast before you go out. If it's going to be a hot day, do the trails in the morning and then hit the museums and Abbey when the day starts heating up.

Montserrat day trip from Barcelona: how 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.

Below we've summarised the best options for you to get to Montserrat from Barcelona. Here goes:

Montserrat day trips by car 

Driving is the quickest way to access the Monastery; the road to Montserrat is straightforward. Plus, it's easy to rent a car in Barcelona.

You can park your car free of charge at the Monistrol Vila parking lot, and off you go exploring. Here, you can also buy your rack railway ticket for Montserrat.

Barcelona Montserrat bus

If the car journey is not an option, you can always get yourself to the peaks of Montserrat by bus.

Regular buses run from Street Viriato right next to Sants Estacio train station in Barcelona.

From Barcelona: Montserrat transfer 

None of the options to visit the Montserrat Monastery from Barcelona sound appealing? How about hopping on a comfy and air-conditioned bus that takes you there before the crowds?

We waited for over an hour to see the Black Madonna and waiting is exactly what you don't want to be doing in Montserrat. Especially if you only have a half-day here.

With this morning round-trip transfer, you don't need to worry about transportation. And you can choose between two options: to create your own Montserrat day trip itinerary – you'll have free time to explore the complex on your own. Or, have a guided tour when you arrive at the Monastery.

Follow the link to see if this Barcelona to Montserrat Transfer could be a good option for you.

Montserrat day trip by train 

Rack railway (Tren Cremallera de Montserrat) in Montserrat, Spain

Getting to Montserrat by FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat) railway is one of the most popular and hassle-free options.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but it's all about saving time when planning your day trip from Barcelona to Montserrat.

If you're at the Plaça Espanya station right now, my top suggestion is to skip the ticket office (queues here can be very long) and get them at one of the ticket machines at the station. 

Top tip: select FGC single ticket 2 in 1 (zone 4) – this will give you a return ticket (2 journeys). 

Trains for Montserrat leave every hour from Plaça Espanya (Plaça d'España or Pl. Espanya) rail station. 

Once you've purchased your tickets for Montserrat, look for Line R5 and jump on the train going towards Manresa.

Barcelona to Montserrat train tickets

Now let's look at the train ticket options to get to Montserrat and then back from Montserrat to Barcelona.

Train + Cable Car (Aeri de Montserrat)

Montserrat day trip via cable car (Aeri de Montserrat)

This two-part trip starts at Plaça Espanya in Barcelona. Be sure to follow Line R5 (green) going to Manresa. 

The train from Barcelona will drop you off at the bottom of the mountain at Montserrat AERI station. You'll find the cable car station just around the corner, a two-minute walk at the most.

The Aeri de Montserrat is a little dated and small, but the journey is spectacular. It only takes five minutes to get to the top of the mountain, but the queues for catching the cable car can be lengthy, especially during holidays.

It can quickly take up to 40 minutes before boarding the cable car.

Travel tip: to save time, you can pre-book Aeri de Montserrat tickets. 
Check out the official Aeri de Montserrat website for more information on timings and prices.
Top tip: sit at the rear of the train, so you are closer to the exit when you reach the station for the cable car. This will put you towards the front of the queue as long as you head straight to the cable car station from the train.

Train + rack railway (Cremallera de Montserrat)

If you 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 to Montserrat. In this instance, the overall journey from Barcelona to Montserrat will take around 90 minutes.

Here's the official Montserrat Rack Railway website for checking current prices and timings.
Top tip: if you're scared of heights, taking the funicular railway (rack railway) to get to Montserrat instead of the cable car is better. Also, if you're running late, it's better to take the railway because the cable car has only two cars running, so it can take a lot of time.

Combined Montserrat train tickets  

If you plan to explore Montserrat's top sights, buy a combined ticket. There are two options. 

Trans Montserrat ticket 

During our Montserrat day trip, we purchased the Trans Montserrat ticket. It's a great option for getting to and around the complex.

The great thing about the Trans Montserrat ticket is unlimited 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.

This Montserrat ticket package covers everything you need for a great day trip, including:

- Round-trip train ride from Barcelona to Montserrat and back.

- Round-trip cable car or rack railway ride.

- Unlimited funicular rides within Montserrat.

- Access to the audiovisual exhibit 'Montserrat behind closed doors'.

- Entrance to the Montserrat Sanctuary and the Throne of the Virgin.

TOT Montserrat ticket 

This option is very similar to the Trans Montserrat ticket. But it takes away the hassle of arranging your lunch, which is convenient. Although, it's more expensive – around €20 per person – than a Trans Montserrat ticket. 

With the TOT Montserrat ticket, you'll have all of the following included:

- A round-trip train ride from Barcelona to Montserrat and back.

- A round-trip cable car or rack railway ride.

- Unlimited fun trips on the Montserrat funicular.

- Access to the Audiovisual Area and Montserrat Museum.

- Entrance to Montserrat Sanctuary and the Throne of the Virgin.

- A delicious buffet lunch in Montserrat.

Top things to do in Montserrat 

Montserrat Monastery with the jagged Montserrat mountains as a backdrop
Montserrat day trip (Photo by Colin + Meg on Unsplash)

Visit Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

Montserrat in Spain is well-known for its magnificent Benedictine Abbey. Even if you're not religious, checking out the sanctuary will be one of the highlights of your Montserrat day trip. It's one of the most important sights of 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.

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 circa 50 AD. The entire Montserrat complex is said to have been built around it.

Once you've explored Santa Maria de Montserrat, exit via the Cami de l'Ave Maria – the Ave Maria Way – for a stunning candle-lit walk through the barrel vault tunnel.

It's a magical passageway filled with flickering votives, and rosary litanies pressed into iron. Each flame in this tunnel is a special prayer to Saint Mary.

Top tip: arrive as early as possible to avoid queues; otherwise, prepare to wait for up to an hour or even longer before you can kiss La Morenetta's hand.

Get early access to the Basilica of the Montserrat Monastery

Another top tip is to put yourself in front of the queue by buying tickets in advance. You can get your tickets online at no additional cost to you and get access to the Basilica of the Montserrat Monastery, the museum and the audiovisual room. Plus, the ticket includes a timed entry slot to visit La Moreneta (the Black Madonna)

The Basilica opening times: 7.30 am – 8 pm
Throne of Our Lady visiting hours: 8 am – 10.30 am and from 12 pm – 6.15 pm. During the summertime (mid-Jul – end Sept) the Abbey is open from 7.30 pm – 8 pm.

Marvel at Caravaggio in Montserrat Museum

Montserrat day trip: visit the Montserrat Museum

The Montserrat Museum is like a hidden gem in Santa Maria Square. You can find six permanent collections and many temporary displays with over 1,300 relics. 

Metal structures hold up the rooms, each with a different theme and many objects to match. You can check out sculptures, modern art, 13th-century paintings, and a goldsmith section. 

The work of Caravaggio, an Italian painter, is another highlight. His work is displayed worldwide, and I was lucky to see one of his paintings signed with blood at the Co-Cathedral of St. John in Valletta, Malta.

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The museum is open from 10 am – 5.45 pm on weekdays and 10 am – 6.45 pm on weekends.

Discover 11th-century romanesque church

If you are interested in architectural heritage, in the shadow of the magnificent Montserrat peaks sits Santa Cecília 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.

Recently rebuilt, Santa Cecilia de Montserrat is believed to be one of the region's most outstanding examples of Romanesque architecture.

Santa Cecilia de Montserrat's opening times are 10 am – 2 pm and 3 pm – 6 pm. The church is only open on weekends in July, but you can visit it every day except Mondays throughout August.

Visit the beautiful 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, founded in the 19th century, has many other studies like philosophy and theology and works devoted to local history and the Spanish Civil War. Plus, a collection of 500 ancient maps!

Montserrat Library opening times: 9.15 am – 2 pm and 3.30 pm – 5 pm. You will need to arrange access before your arrival.

Explore one of the most fascinating areas in Montserrat

Santa Cova funicular railway 

There's more to Montserrat (Spain) than just religious and cultural explorations. 

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 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 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, be respectful when exploring the site.

The cave is always open and can be easily reached by walking from the Monastery or catching one of the funicular railways. However, it's worth noting that the train only goes some of the way 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 can take a paved walking path. Be prepared for a one-hour walk.

Hike the Montserrat Natural Park

Hikes in Montserrat, Spain (Photo by ian kelsall on Unsplash)

At 1,236 metres high, the panoramic views across Catalonia from the stunning rock formations are breathtaking.

Stroll to Sant Joan Chapel

Start exploring by taking a trail leading to Sant Joan Chapel. There is a slight climb up a 100-metre-high hill, but it's effortless and will set the pace nicely for the rest of the walks.

As you pass the chapel and ascend the slope, look back to check out the incredible rock formation behind you.

To reach the trail, take the Sant Joan funicular railway and follow the signs pointing towards the path.

Follow the Breathtaking Sant Jeroni trail

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.

Hold on tight – the railway is super steep! Once you reach the top, take the path on the right side of the station.

It's a 2.5-hour trek if you use the funicular railway. Otherwise, depending on your fitness level, get ready for approximately 3.5 hours if you are hiking up.

Our friends at The Whole World or Nothing have a great hiking in Montserrat guide. 

Otherwise, if you are not keen on organising your own hiking day trip in Montserrat, check out these hiking tours and leave the crowds behind:

Guided Montserrat day trips from Barcelona

Going on a guided day trip to Montserrat could be a great option if you prefer small group tours. And if you're looking for the best Montserrat tour from Barcelona, this one comes highly recommended.

Half day trips to Montserrat from Barcelona

If you're not up for a full-day exploring, a half day trip to Montserrat from Barcelona could be a great idea. Here are some top-rated options:

What to wear when visiting Montserrat

Go ahead and wear whatever you feel comfortable in. But remember that it can get really hot during summer, so protect your skin from the sun. 

Although some of the trails are easy to walk on, it's still better to wear comfy shoes to enjoy the walks and climb to the highest peak of Montserrat without any issues.

Ladies, be sure to pack a scarf; you'll need it to cover your shoulders when entering the Abbey.

How to save on food in Montserrat

Montserrat in Spain - How to Save on Food in Montserrat?
Spanish food

If you're trying to save money while exploring the Montserat complex, my advice is to bring your own snacks. Simply pop into a local shop or bakery near where you're staying and grab some stuff for a yummy sandwich or wrap. 

Or, you can check out La Boqueria – one of Europe's best food markets! You'll find all sorts of Spanish food here and more. Visiting the market was one of my highlights of visiting Barcelona.

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Otherwise, there's a buffet-style restaurant in Montserrat. Just be warned – it's a bit pricey.

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