Montserrat is an impressive mountain range with an important mountaintop monastery around 30km as the crow flies from Barcelona in Spain. Visiting Montserrat from Barcelona is one of the most popular day trips from the city.

Of course, there are many ways you can get to and visit Montserrat. We visited it as part of a longer road trip around the Catalonia region, so we drove, but you can also visit on a tour or by public transport. However, one of the most common options for visiting Montserrat is as part of a day trip from Barcelona, so this post includes plenty of information on how to do that.

The mountain range is both a place of pilgrimage and a popular place for hiking (similar to the Vall de Nuria in fact), and there’s a lot to do here.

In this guide to visiting Montserrat, we’re going to give you all the information you need to plan your own trip to Montserrat.

St. Michael's Cross View Montserrat

We’re going to tell you the best ways to get here, what there is to do on the mountain, where to stay, and lots of other practical advice. We’re also going to recommend some companies that do day tours to Montserrat from Barcelona.

As always, this post is based on our own personal experiences, and we’re happy to answer your questions in the comments at the end. Now, let’s get started with our detailed guide to visiting Montserrat.

What is Montserrat?

Montserrat is a mountain range made up of a number of peaks, the highest of which (Saint Jerome) is 1,236 metres above sea level. The range rises strikingly from the surrounding landscape and is visually interesting for two reasons – the landscape around it is comparatively low lying and the mountains themselves are very jagged.

The name Montserrat translates in Catalan to serrated mountain, or saw mountain, a reference to how the peaks look like the jagged teeth of a saw. The peaks rise almost vertically from the plains surrounding them, and are visible from a long way off and very recognisable.

As well as being geologically interesting, Montserrat is also the home of a Benedictine Abbey. This was founded in the 11th century and is found 718m up the mountain.

This abbey has an important Roman Catholic relic, a statue of the Madonna and Child which is believed to date from at least the 12th century. This has made the Abbey and the Montserrat mountain as a whole, and important site of pilgrimage for centuries.

Exterior of Monserrat Abbey at sunset

 

Where is Montserrat?

Montserrat is 20 miles / 30 kilometres to the north west of Barcelona as the crow flies. The driving distance is around 40 miles / 65 kilometres, making it easy to reach from Barcelona as a day trip. Most transport options to Montserrat from Barcelona take between an hour and 90 minutes.

The closest town to Montserrat is Monistrol de Montserrat, which is found at the foot of the mountain on the east side. The closest city is Manresa, a little to the north.

Sant Joan Funicular view

 

How to get from Barcelona to Montserrat?

As visiting Montserrat from Barcelona is a popular day trip, we wanted to share some options for the various transport options you have for making this journey. Of course, you can visit Montserrat from anywhere else too, and much of the information in this section will be relevant to you wherever you are coming from in Spain.

There are a number of ways to get from Barcelona to Montserrat. You can drive yourself, you can take public transport, you can cycle, and you can take a tour.

It’s possible to drive most of the way up the mountain to near where the monastery is, after which you can reach it on foot. There’s also a cable car and a funicular railway up the mountain.

Here are instructions for each of those options.

Driving from Barcelona to Montserrat

If you have a car, it’s an easy drive from Barcelona to Montserrat, and from the city centre to the area of the mountain where you can park should take you just over an hour, depending on traffic.

To get to Monsterrat from Barcelona by car you just follow the C-31 road north-east out of Barcelona, and then the C-58 north-west to Montserrat.

When you get to the town of Monistrol de Montserrat you have two options for getting to the monastery.

First, you can just keep driving until you reach the parking area at the top of the mountain. The road is quite steep and winding, but is well paved and does not need a four wheel drive or anything like that.

The parking area at the top is around a 10 to 20 minute walk from the monastery, depending on how busy it is. Note that the parking area is on a bit of a slope, so the further from the monastery you are, the more slope you will need to walk up.

The parking area is free for the first 30 minutes, and then €6.50 per day. If you stay overnight at the campsite or at one of the accommodation options, the fee is €10.50 for up to three days, and €11.50 for up to seven days. You can see full price information here.

When you enter the car park you will go through a barrier and get a ticket, you will need to pay for your parking at a payment machine before you return to your car and leave the car park.

Parking machine at Montserrat car park

The other option is to park in Monistrol de Montserrat and then take either the Montserrat rack railway (Cremallera de Montserrat) to the top, or the Aeri de Montserrat cable car.

Both of these options have free parking, either at the Aeri de Montserrat station for the cable car, or at the Cremallera de Monistrol Vila rack railway station. Of course, whilst the parking is free, you do still have to pay for your ticket for these transport options!

The rack railway has a variety of prices depending on time of year and your age. At time of writing, for adults in high season, a single ticket is €7.20 and a return ticket is €12.

You can see all the pricing options and timetables here, but tickets are not available online. You can buy them at the rack railway station.

The Aeri de Montserrat cable car costs €7.50 one way for an adult, and €11.50 return at time of writing. You can see all the prices, and book your tickets online, at the official website here, or in person at the cable car station.

You might be wondering which of all these options we would recommend. The answer of course, is that it depends! At particularly busy times of year, the car park at the top of the mountain can get very busy, and as the car park fills up it can get to be a bit of a walk from the car park area to the monastery.

So if you have mobility issues, you might prefer to park at the bottom of the mountain and take the train or cable car up. The cable car ride is around five minutes, but there is no seating. The rack railway ride is around 15 minutes and does offer seating. The rack railway is also wheelchair accessible, whilst the cable car is not.

However, the car park at the top is by far the cheapest option if you are driving, as you only have to pay to park the car, and a car parking ticket is cheaper than any of the transport options up the mountain. And of course, as you have to buy transport tickets for each individual in your group, the cost can quickly add up.

That said, the journey up the rack railway or cable car is quite spectacular, so don’t discount this option even if you have a car. Both provide some awesome unique views.

Cremallera de Montserrat

 

Taking the train from Barcelona to Montserrat

If you are staying in Barcelona, a good option to get to Montserrat is by train. It takes around an hour to get to the town of Monistrol de Montserrat at the base of the mountain, from where you can take the rack railway or cable car to the top of the mountain.

You could also hike up, if you wanted some exercise – the hike is around 5km and should take no more than two hours.

Hiking options can be seen on this website and also here. The recommended path is the “Drecera dels Tres Quarts” (see English description here). You can see more hiking options here.

If you take the train from Barcelona to Montserrat, then you can take advantage of the combined train tickets, which can include either the return rack railway or return cable car ticket.

There are also some additional combination tickets you can buy online in advance which have more inclusions, and we’ll also go through these. First though, the basic tickets.

Note that if you have a Barcelona discount pass that includes transportation, such as a Barcelona Pass or Barcelona Card, the transportation will not get you all the way to Montserrat so you will need to purchase separate train tickets.

Basic Combination tickets from Barcelona to Montserrat

The basic return tickets that you can purchase at the station include your train journey to the foot of the mountain and then a return ticket for either the rack railway or the cable car.

At time of writing, these cost €12.45 for an adult and €22.5 return, and you need to buy these in person at Barcelona-Plaça Espanya Station.

Note that there are both automated ticket vending machines and also manned ticket booths. Reports online suggest that the automated vending machines are the best option for the basic return ticket as the vendors in the ticket booths primarily sell the higher priced combination tickets which have more inclusions. These higher priced tickets include various addons which can be worth it, more on these further on in the post.

You can see the prices online here for the basic combination tickets – you’ll be travelling across four zones from Barcelona to Monistrol, so it is the Zone 4 pricing that applies.

Trains run throughout the day from Barcelona-Plaça Espanya Station, with the first train normally departing at 8:36am, and then departing approximately every hour. You are looking for the R5 train to Manresa.

Tickets can be purchased from automated vending machines at the Barcelona-Plaça Espanya Station. Give yourself plenty of time to find the line and buy the ticket as the station is quite large, and there also can be lines at the ticket machines, especially on weekends.

Return trains start at 9:41am from Monistrol Montserrat, with the last train normally leaving at 18:41 (6:41pm). Don’t forget to account for the time it will take to get down the mountain when considering your train time, and be sure to check the schedule of either the rack railway or cable car to give yourself plenty of time.

Please check up to date train times on the FGC website here.

When you buy your ticket at the vending machine at Placa Espanya station you need to specify if you want to take the Aeri de Montserrat cable car or the Cremallera de Montserrat funicular rack railway.

You can of course just buy the train ticket by itself and then buy separate tickets for the funicular or cable car on arrival in Monistrol, but buying the combination ticket will be more cost effective.

The only exception is if you want to take one option up the mountain and one option down the mountain, in which case you will have to buy separate single tickets for the cable car and funicular.

It is important when buying any combination ticket that you decide in advance which transport method up the hill you want to take. Once you have bought the ticket, you can’t change your mind. The type of transport will also define which train station you get off at.

For the cable car, you want to get off the train at the Aeri de Montserrat stop. The cable car is easy, as there is just one stop on each end, and the ride up the mountain only takes five minutes.

For the funicular rack railway, you will get off the train at the Monistrol de Montserrat stop. The funicular has three stations, the one at Monistrol de Montserrat, one a little further up the mountain at Cremallera de Monistrol Vila and then the stop at Montserrat itself.

When coming back down the funicular rack railway to connect with the train, make sure not to get off at the middle stop as this is not close to the train station, and is primarily for those visiting by car or coach.

Finally, something to be aware of when deciding on tickets is that the train back to Barcelona can be quite full, and possibly standing room only. If this is a concern, you will be better off taking the funicular, as this is the first stop for the Montserrat stations that the train stops at. If you take the cable car, the train will likely be quite full by the time it gets to the cable car stop.

Additional Ticket Options from Barcelona to Montserrat

As well as the basic combination train+cable car and train+funicular tickets, there are a number of other tickets available. These tickets include your transportation plus some extra services and inclusions.

These can be purchased in advance of your trip, which will save you queuing at the train station, and hunting for the right ticket machine. You can buy these tickets in person at the train station, at the Plaça Catalunya Tourism Office, or online from the Barcelona Tourism office (as well as various other online locations).

If you buy the tickets online, you will need to exchange the voucher for the actual tickets. If you buy them via the official Barcelona Tourism website (our recommended option), then you can pick them up at a variety of locations, including:

  • Tourist information point in plaça Catalunya, daily from 8.30am to 8.30pm. (Except 1st January and 25th December).
  • Tourist information point in Barcelona Airport. Terminals T1, T2 and metro L9 lobby; daily from 8.30am to 8.30pm.
  • FGC (Catalan Rail) station in plaça Espanya, daily from 8am to 2pm

So what are the ticket choices, and what do they include?

1. Trans Montserrat

The basic ticket is the Trans Montserrat ticket, which is around €10 more expensive than the basic combination ticket. As well as the return train to Barcelona, and your choice of round-trip cable car or funicular transport up the mountain, you also get:

  • A round trip metro ticket within Barcelona to get you to Plaça Espanya train station (value €4.40)
  • Unlimited rides on the Sant Joan funicular (return ticket value €13.5, see price here)
  • Entrance to the Montserrat audio visual exhibit (€5.50 value)

We’d say that this is worth is just for the Sant Joan Funicular inclusion. You can buy the Trans Montserrat ticket in advance here.

 

2. Montserrat Exprés

The Monserrat Exprés is a special service from Plaça España which guarantees you a seat. There is one of these trains each way per day, so you are limited in that regard, but it will save you potentially standing for an hour each way if there are no seats available.

As well as the return train to Barcelona, and funicular transport up the mountain, you also get:

  • Audioguide in 8 languages with information about the train journey and monastery.
  • a guide to the shrine of Montserrat “Open-air museum”
  • a box of carquinyolis (hard almond biscuits) from Montserrat
  • a tasting of typical liqueurs
  • a pack of discounts for different services.

If you are interested in these addons, and the idea of guaranteed seat is appealing, then this is certainly an option to consider. You can buy the Montserrat Expres ticket in advance here.

 

3. Tot Montserrat

This is the most expensive ticket for Montserrat, at just over €50 per person. However, it does include quite a lot, and might work out to be very cost effective if you take advantage of all the features.

As well as the return train to Barcelona, and your choice of round-trip cable car or funicular transport up the mountain, you also get:

  • A round trip metro ticket within Barcelona to get you to Plaça Espanya train station (value €4.40)
  • Unlimited rides on the Sant Joan funicular (return ticket value €13.5, see price here)
  • Entrance to the Montserrat audio visual exhibit (€5.50 value)
  • Admission to the Museu de Montserrat (€8 value)
  • A meal in the self service restaurant at Montserrat (€10 – €15 approx value)

If you plan on spending the full day at Montserrat, we think this ticket offers great value. It includes pretty much all the activities you would want to do as well as lunch on the mountain, so you don’t have to worry about anything. You can buy the Tot Montserrat ticket in advance here.

 

Taking the Bus from Barcelona to Montserrat

There is a direct bus service that departs from Barcelona once a day to the area at the top of Montserrat. The bus is operated by Autocares Julia, and runs from the Estación de Autobuses de Barcelona/Sants, which is next to the Sants Train Station on Viriat Street, and is around a 10 minute walk from Plaça Espanya.

The bus departs once in the morning from Barcelona, and has one departure time on the way back. We couldn’t find any way to book online, but at just over €5 each way this is one of the most affordable options for getting to the top of the mountain. The journey takes around 90 minutes each way.

It is also possible to book a tour which features round trip bus transport only. These are a little bit more expensive, but at least you can book them in advance. This one for example also gets you to the mountain top early, well in advance of the majority of other tours.

 

Cycling from Barcelona to Montserrat

It is also possible to cycle from Barcelona to Montserrat. This is a fairly long route (around 145 kilometres round trip) with steep climbs, so we would not recommend this unless you are a fit capable cyclist with experience doing trips like this.

If you do want to do this, there are a number of companies who will help you with bike hire and route planning. Some also include a guide. We suggest checking out this company and this company to start with.

Exterior of Montserrat Spain

 

Taking a Tour from Barcelona To Montserrat

Of course, one of the most popular ways to visit Montserrat from Barcelona is to take a tour. This is likely going to be the easiest option, as all you have to do is book the tour, show up at the departure point (or wait in your hotel lobby if the tour offers hotel pickups), and then enjoy the scenery and sights.

Tours vary in price and inclusions, but should include return transport to/from Barcelona, time at Montserrat itself, and your transport up the mountain (this may be by bus or rack railway).

Buses at Montserrat

Some tours include additional sight-seeing in the area, food, a guided tour, wine tasting, museum entry, or other features. Tours usually last between half a day and a full day depending on what is included.

We’d recommend picking a tour based on your interests, the inclusions you are interested in, and of course your budget. We also recommend checking the latest reviews of any tours you book to see what other travellers have said.

We cover a range of tour options in the section on day tours later in the article, however here are a few to give you an idea of what is available.

  • This highly rated small group tour from Barcelona includes early entry into the monastery so as to avoid the queues, as well as nearby Cava tasting and lunch
  • This low cost tour from Barcelona departs early from Plaza Catalunya and lets you get to Montserrat ahead of the crowds. It only includes round trip transport to the top of the hill, but is a good budget option. Note that this is not a guided tour, it just includes a host and driver, you explore the monastery on your own.
  • This tour from Barcelona includes round-trip transport, a ride on the cable car up and down the mountain, a ride on Sant Joan’s funicular, an hour of guided hiking, a guided tour of the monastery, and the opportunity to hear the choir. An excellent all round option.

See more tour options in our section towards the end of the post on day tours to Montserrat.

 

How to Get Around Montserrat

The top of the cable car, rack railway, and car park at Montserrat are all at the same level as the monastery and the main restaurants and shops. Once you have reached this part of the mountain, it is easy to get around on foot.

 Montserrat

The Basilica entrance is a level above this, and you can either walk up a slope to get here, or take a staircase. It’s probably equivalent to around four flights of stairs.

This level is also where you will find the other two funiculars that service other parts of the mountain, the Sant Joan Funicular and the Santa Cova funicular. The stations for these funiculars are next to each other, and close to both the cable car and rack railway stations.

Sant Joan Funicular

The Sant Joan funicular takes you from the monastery level way up the mountain to above 1,000 metres in altitude. The views from the ride up are amazing (although it is possibly a bit nerve wracking if you are not good with heights), and from the top there are a range of hikes you can do across the mountain.

The Santa Cova funicular runs down the mountain to the cave where, the legend goes, the image of the Virgin Mary that now resides in the Basilica was first discovered by shepherds. There is a chapel here, which is a popular place of pilgrimage, as well as a number of sculptures by Catalan artists including Gaudi.

The lower Santa Cova funicular station also houses a small museum about Santa Cova as well as funiculars in general.

It is possible to just walk to both of these locations. The hike up to Sant Joan will take 45 minutes to an hour, each way and the hike down to Santa Cova is around 20 – 30 minutes each way. Obviously the funiculars will save you time (and energy!).

Note that as of August 2019 the Santa Cova funicular is closed for renovations, and forecast to re-open in early 2020. You can check the current status on the official website here.

 

When is the best time to visit Montserrat?

Montserrat can be visited at any time of year, however, it is worth bearing in mind that the mountain is relatively high compared to the surrounding landscape, and as such, the temperature and weather are not what you might expect from Spain’s Mediterranean climate.

Expect it to be cooler than the surrounding land, and due to the height, it can also be windier. Snow is rare, but a possibility in the winter months. Fog is a common occurrence.

The average temperature varies from a range of 23C/ 73F to 29C / 84F in the summer months, to 9C/48F- 15C/59F in the winter months. Of course, these are just averages, and hotter and colder temperatures are possible.

If you plan on hiking, then spring / autumn will likely be the best balance of good weather and comfortable temperatures. Weekends are always the busiest times to visit, especially Sundays, so if you can avoid these, you will have a quieter time.

 

Can you Take Photos at Montserrat?

Yes, you can take photos at Montserrat at most of the locations in this post, there are just a few exceptions and rules to follow.

Photography is permitted in the Basilica interior, except during a religious service. Flash photography and use of a tripod is also not allowed.

In Montserrat Museum you are not permitted to use flash photography or tripods, and some temporary exhibitions may restrict photography.

 

Is there a fee to visit the Basilica on Montserrat?

No, there is no fee to visit the Basilica at Montserrat, and you can freely visit the church and Black Madonna Statue with no charge.

However, there are many opportunities to leave a donation, and you can also buy a candle to light.

Note that there are fees for the museums and various transport options on the mountain.

 

Luggage Storage /  Prohibited Items

There is no formal luggage storage at Montserrat. If you are staying in the hotel, then you should be able to leave your luggage at reception before or after checkout, and then collect it when required.

We would advise against bringing large bags to the mountain, as some of the attractions like the museum do not allow visitors to enter with large bags.

In terms of restricted items, common sense should prevail. Items like food, drink, bags, firearms, umbrellas and knives are not permitted in the majority of the buildings. Other than those devices required for mobility purposes, devices like electric scooters and skateboards are also not permitted.

 

Can you bring pets to Montserrat?

Pets, such as dogs, are allowed on the hiking trails at Montserrat and in the outside areas, however they are not permitted inside the Basilica, museums or other indoor areas. They must be kept on a leash at all times.

Also, be aware that whilst dogs are allowed on the train from Barcelona, if you wish to bring your dog on the rack railway or cable car it needs to be muzzled and on a leash. Smaller animals must be in a basket or cage.

Read more in the FAQ section on the official Cremallera website.

 

Things to do on Montserrat

There is a lot to do on Montserrat, certainly plenty to easily fill a day or more. Here’s a quick overview of the various options you have for activities.

Visit the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey

A major highlight of any visit to Montserrat is a visit to the Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey. The abbey building itself was originally founded in the 11th century, however the present monastery building was rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The monastery is still active today, and is home to around 80 Benedictine monks. Obviously, as it is an active monastery, you cannot visit many parts of it; however there are some parts that you can visit, including the basilica and the museum (see below for details on the museum).

The basilica has a number of interesting features, but the main draw for visitors is the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat, or Our Lady of Montserrat.

Virgin of Montserrat statue

The legend goes that this statue of the Virgin Mary and child was found on the Montserrat mountain in 880 – although it is actually now thought that it is a Romanesque sculpture dating from the 12th century.

Still, the statue of Catalonia’s patron saint is certainly eye catching, regardless of its origin. She is one of the Black Madonnas, with both the statue of Mary and Jesus having dark skin and gold robes. She is sitting on a thrown and holds an orb in her right hand.

The tradition is for visitors to touch (or kiss) the orb that she holds. Other than the orb, the rest of the statue is encased in glass to protect it.

Virgin of Montserrat statue

To visit the statue, you need to enter the church on the right hand side where, depending on the time of day you visit, a queue will likely have formed. We’d recommend doing this as early on in your trip as possible as the queue will likely just get longer as the day progresses. Wait times can be anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.

Alternatively, if you stay overnight, you can visit first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon, when the majority of visitors will have left.

Once you have visited the statue you will come down the Ave Maria path, which is full of candles lit by previous visitors. These candles are lit as prayer offerings to the Virgin Mary, and you are welcome to light your own candle for a modest fee to contribute to this impressive collection.

Ave Maria path candles Montserrat

After you exit the Ave Maria path, you can enter the Basilica proper to see the rest of it.

As well as the statue, the Basilica has a number of other features that are worth enjoying on your visit. First, the facade of the church building, which you reach after the atrium, is very pretty, and dates from the mid-20th century.

Inside the church itself there are a number of sculptures and paintings, as well as an impressive 33 metre high nave, around which are a number of chapels. The cross on the altar dates from the 15th century.

Photography is not allowed inside the Basilica, only of the Black Madonna (as of our visit anyway).

The basilica is very much a working church, and there are number of masses held each day. The public is welcome to attend these services, although of course as these are religious events, respectful behaviour is required.

The church is also famous for its boys choir, called the L’Escolania. They generally perform twice daily in the Basilica, and you can see their performance times here. Note that they generally do not perform over the summer holiday from late June to early August. See more about the L’Escolania in the section of the post below.

Entrance to Basilica entrance with facade

Whilst the access to the main part of the Basilica is flat and accessible for those with mobility issues, access to the statue of the Virgin involves a number of steps and there are no wheelchair friendly ramps or lifts. It is also not appropriate for strollers so you’ll want to leave those in an appropriate area outside.

The best option if you are in a wheelchair or have difficulty with steps is to do the visit in reverse, by going up the Ave Maria path, from where you will be able to get within a few meters of the statue.

The basilica is open daily from 7.30am to 8pm, and the Statue of Our Lady can be visited from 8am – 10.30am and then from 12pm – 6.15pm. You can see opening hours for the basilica and the majority of other attractions at Montserrat here.

Exterior of Montserrat Abbey

 

Visit the Museum of Montserrat

Montserrat Abbey is also home to an excellent museum, which can be found just before you cross the large plaza to the entrance of the Basilica.

The Museum of Montserrat is primarily an art museum, and it houses seven permanent collections which include over 1300 pieces, including works by artists including Dali, Monet, Chagall, Picasso and Miro.

Museum of Montserrat Spain

These collections cover antique paintings, goldsmithing, modern paintings, avant-garde and contemporary art, sculptures and drawings.  There’s also an exhibition which focuses on the iconography of Our Lady of Montserrat.

Finally, there’s an extensive collection of archaeological exhibits from the ancient world and the Middle East, which was the first collection the museum housed. This includes objects that date as far back as the 13th century BC.

We highly recommend taking the time to visit the Montserrat Museum. There is an entry fee (it’s included in the Tot Montserrat ticket), but we think it is well worth the visit. There’s also a small gift shop here. The museum is open daily from 10am to 6.45pm.

 

Visit the Espai Audiovisual Museum

Montserrat is actually home to two museums. As well as the Museum of Montserrat, there’s also the Espai Audiovisual, found on the level below the Basilica entrance.

This museum makes use of an audioguide linked with video presentations and display panels to tell the story of the Montserrat region from a variety of perspectives. These focus on three main themes, and you’ll learn about the geology of the mountain, the history and present-day life of the monastery as well as about some of the cultural artefacts on display.

Espai Audiovisual Montserrat Spain_by_Laurence Norah (2)

The tour finishes with a video presentation which takes you through a day in the life of the monastery, which includes a performance by the Escolania. So if you don’t get to catch the choir in action, the Espai Audiovisual experience offers a good alternative.

We really enjoyed visiting the Espai Audiovisual museum, as it gave us a really good overview as to what we were seeing and experiencing at the monastery. We’d definitely recommend this one if you are visiting Montserrat.

Again, there’s a small entry fee. You can also purchase a ticket on-site which includes both museums. Both the Trans Montserrat and the Tot Montserrat tickets also include this museum.

The museum is open from 9am to 8pm.

 

Listen to the Escolania de Montserrat (Boys’ Choir) Perform

Dating from at least the 14th century, the Escolania de Montserrat is one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe. It is rightly world famous, and as well as the daily performances in the Basilica, the choir has released multiple albums, and has performed at locations around the world.

The choir is made up of over 50 boys, aged 9-14, who come from across Catalonia, as well as other regions of Spain. They live and study at Montserrat during their time in the choir.

Watching a performance of the choir is a highlight for many visitors to Montserrat, and if you have the opportunity, we can definitely recommend you try and see a performance during your visit.

Choir Montserrat

Performances of the choir take place daily throughout the year in the Basilica, with the exception of over Christmas and the summer break.

If this is something you really want to see, be sure to plan ahead by checking the scheduled dates and times here.

You learn more about the choir and watch a video in the above mentioned Espai Audiovisual museum if you aren’t able to catch a live performance – they were on holiday during our visit, so we unfortunately missed them.

 

Go Hiking

One of the most popular things to do at Montserrat is of course to go hiking. The mountains are home to a wide range of hiking trails which vary from short, relatively easy trips through to longer full day hikes.

The official website for the Montserrat Mountain park has some good hiking routes and options here, although it is in Catalan so you will need to translate it.

HIking trails at Montserrat Spain

When you arrive at Montserrat, you can also visit the Tourist information office. Here you can pick up a hiking map of the area with a number of hikes listed, including difficulty and length. There are also maps on boards at the trailheads showing the various hiking options.

The hikes start in different locations – either at the very base of the mountain, at the area around the monastery, or at the stations for the funiculars. One of our favourite hikes was the walk down from the Sant Joan funicular, which we describe a bit later in the article.

HIking trails Montserrat

If you’d like to take a tour that includes hiking, this day trip from Barcelona includes round trip transport, a hiking guide, and a visit to the main highlights.

 

Go Climbing

As you might imagine, Montserrat is a very popular destination for rock climbing. With over 1,000 climbing routes to explore, at a wide variety of levels, it’s not hard to see why!

If you are an experienced climber with your own equipment, then you can visit the Tourist Information Office on the mountain where they can give you advice as to the different areas for climbing and some of the routes.

Sant Joan Funicular top station Montserrat

There are not too many English language books covering routes on Montserrat. The most commonly referred to option is called Montserrat Free Climbs, published in 2015, which covers over 1,000 routes. We haven’t been able to find it on Amazon, but you can purchase it here or here.

If you would like a guided climbing experience, this company is based near Montserrat and can help you put a trip together. The official Montserrat visitors website also offers a half day climbing experience for beginners.

 

Ride the Rack Railway / Cable Car

Whilst the rack railway or cable car are means of transport for getting up the mountain, they are also a worthwhile experience in of themselves.

Montserrat cable car

If you visit by car and drive up the mountain, you might still consider taking one of these options down and up the mountain just to experience the views.

Alternatively, you could ride them up the mountain to the monastery, and then walk down.

 

Visit the Aula Natura Exhibit and Hike Down

At the top of the Sant Joan Funicular, in a room above the terminus building, you will find the Aula Natura exhibition.

This is a small exhibit that covers a lot of information about Montserrat Mountain, including the history, geology, flora and fauna. It also covers the lives of the hermits here, as well as information on the Virgin of Montserrat.

Aula Natura exhibition

This is free to visit, and if you go through the exhibit there’s also a balcony with excellent views of the monastery and mountains.

If you do ride the Funicular and are looking for a short walk with excellent views, then turn right as you leave the funicular station at the top, and you can hike down to the monastery area.

This is around a 45 minute – 1 hour hike downhill hike (there’s a short uphill section at the start which can be misleading, but just follow the signs!) which offers excellent views.

If are short on time and only do one hike at Montserrat, this is a great option. You can also add on a 5 minute detour and see St. Michael’s Cross on the way down.

HIking from Sant Joan Funicular
Hiking from Sant Joan Funicular

There are a number of other hiking trails from the top here, including a hike to the highest peak, Sant Jeroni, as well as various chapels and sites of pilgrimage. This website has a list of some good routes and hikes all across Montserrat which will give you plenty of ideas. See our section above on hiking at Montserrat for more ideas.

 

Visit St. Michael’s Cross

A really nice hike that you can do from the area around the abbey is the walk to St. Michael’s cross. This starts near the Santa Cova funicular station, and is well signposted.

St. Michael's Cross View Montserrat_by_Laurence Norah (4)

The walk takes around 20 minutes each way, and is slightly uphill on the way to the cross. The views are absolutely fantastic, and this is one of the best places to get a good view back across to the abbey with the huge mountains all around it.

You can also visit St. Michael’s Cross on the hike down from the St. Joan funicular, you just have to take a short detour from the main trail as you hike down to see the cross.

 

Explore and Check out what else is Open and Happening at Montserrat

Whilst this post has covered some of the more popular activities and sights at Montserrat, there is lots more to do, as well as activities and events throughout the year.

For example, as you drive up or down the mountain we can suggest stopping at the Monestir de Sant Benet de Montserrat. This active monastery has masses as well as workshops and activities, meditation courses, and they make and sell ceramics. It’s usually open throughout the year.

There were also a number of hermitages and smaller churches built on the mountain over the centuries and you can see the ruins of a few – one of the best preserved is Santa Cecília de Montserrat. This former monastery and church is now used for concerts and art exhibitions.

 

Where to Stay on Montserrat

You can stay on Montserrat, and if you have the time, we can highly recommend this option. There are three main accommodation options, a 3* hotel, serviced apartments, and a hostel.

Hotel Abat Cisneros Montserrat

If you stay on Montserrat, as we did, you can experience the mountain with less crowds. We really enjoyed staying overnight and wandering around as night fell.

One tip if you stay overnight and have a car – whilst you can’t park at the hotels, you can drive up to them to drop your bags off and then parking the main parking area. As it can be a bit of walk from the parking area to the hotel, we would recommend you do this.

Hostal Abat Cisneros Drop off parking

You just have to drive up to the security gate at the end of the car park, and let the security official know that you are dropping your bags off at your accommodation.

You will then sign in and be allowed through. If you do this, do drive carefully, as the area is pedestrianised and most people are not expecting vehicles.

The three accommodation options on Montserrat are as follows:

  • Hotel Abat Cisneros – this 3* hotel is found right beside the Basilica, and has been the traditional place of rest for pilgrims since 1563. Rooms are comfortable and the majority have fantastic views, en-suite facilities, TV and heating. There’s an on-site restaurant. We stayed here and it was a comfortable night’s sleep.
  • Abat Marcet Apartments – These apartments offer accommodation that includes a kitchen, with units available for 1 – 4 travellers. Perfect for those staying on the mountain for a little longer, or who just prefer an apartment type stay.
  • Abat Oliba Hostel – this hostel style accommodation offers great value budget accommodation. As well as dormitory accommodation, there are also private rooms for 1 to 6 people which would suit solo travellers, couples and families.

We had a very comfortable night stay on Montserrat, and can definitely recommend staying the night if you have the opportunity to do so.

 

Can you Camp on Montserrat?

You can camp on Montserrat. There is a small campsite located on the trail up to the Creu de Sant Miquel, around 10 minutes from the monastery. You can see it here on Google Maps. This is primarily for climbers, although it is open to anyone looking for a campsite. It is for tent camping only and is reached by foot.

According to reports from campers, at the time of writing the cost is low, around €4 per adult + €3.50 per person. The site can’t be booked in advance, and is only open for check-in between 5pm and 8pm. It’s also primarily open in main season, and is closed over winter, although there are no details online about the schedule.

You need to bring all your own camping equipment and gear; however, there are toilets, showers, wash basins, and a small kitchen area with a fridge (although no cooking equipment).

Note that Montserrat is a natural park, and wild camping is not permitted in natural parks in Spain. The next closest campsite to Montserrat with facilities is Camping Freixa, near Manresa.

 

Where to Eat on Montserrat

Montserrat has a number of dining options. There are two restaurants, an open plan cafeteria, and a bar which serves snack type food as well as hamburgers.

There is also a small supermarket on the mountain if you want to put a picnic together, as well as some market stalls where you can buy local produce from vendors during the day.

The two restaurant options available are Restaurant Hotel Abat Cisneros and Restaurant Montserrat.

Restaurant Hotel Abat Cisneros

These both offer formal sit down dining with table service and either a set menu or a la carte option.

We ate our evening meal at the Restaurant Hotel Abat Cisneros (we were staying in the hotel). We had the set meal, which cost around €27 per person when we ate there.

The food was traditional Catalan and was excellent, and the cosy surroundings with stone vaulted ceiling were a nice bonus touch.

Dinner at Montserrat

Restaurant Montserrat offers nice views, as well as good price fixed menu and a la carte dining options. The menu focuses on Mediterranean dishes, and you can book online here.

There are three other options for less formal dining at Montserrat. Bar de La Plaça is a cafe / bar which offers drinks and snacks, including sandwiches and hamburgers.

There’s also the Cafeteria, which offers a range of hot and cold dishes. Reviews are definitely mixed on this one. There are also reports that you can eat here with the Tot Montserrat ticket, however the description of the ticket says that it is in fact that the below self-service restaurant. That said, sometimes one or the other of these two restaurants is closed, so it is possible that the meal in this case transfers to the other.

Finally, there’s a self-service all you can eat buffet which has a range of options available for a fixed price of €16.50, as well as drink. This gets better reviews, and you can also eat here with the Tot Montserrat ticket.

 

Tips for Visiting Montserrat

When we visited Montserrat, we drove up to the car park at the top and we stayed overnight at one of the hotels at the top.

We did a number of activities on the mountain, and based on our experiences, we wanted to share some tips for your own visit.

Figure out how you plan to get there and book needed tickets and tours in advance

As already discussed in the post, there are a variety of options for coming to Montserrat. Many of these options can be booked in advance, and we would recommend doing this.

If you prefer not to book in advance, your main options from Barcelona are to drive to Montserrat, take the bus with Autocares Julia, or buy a basic train or train + mountain transport option at the train station on the day you depart.

Some of the advance booking options you have are:

 

Avoid the crowds by coming early or staying late

Being at the monastery near opening time or staying late will ensure the lines are not so long and the crowds are manageable. We suggest visiting the most popular places first. These are generally the Basilica and Statue of the Virgin, followed by the funicular to the very top of the mountain.

Once you have done the more popular things that you are interested in, then you can spend time in the museums, doing hikes, shopping, etc. 

If you are booking transport or a tour, consider booking one like this one or this one that gets you here at or near opening. 

Here are some photos comparing Montserrat when it’s busier versus the quieter morning and evening times to give you an idea of the difference.

Crowds at MontserratQueue for Virgin of MontserratExterior of Monserrat Abbey

 

Consider staying overnight

If you have time, we can definitely recommend staying overnight at Montserrat. Montserrat is a very popular place to visit, and during the day – especially on weekends – it gets very busy. Staying overnight will give you more time to explore, and let you enjoy a more peaceful environment on the mountain.

Those of you making a pilgrimage to Montserrat will definitely appreciate staying at least one night to enjoy the mountain with less crowds.

If you have the opportunity to stay overnight, you will experience a far more peaceful Montserrat. Most visitors leave by 5pm, and you will almost have the place to yourself. We visited the Virgin of Montserrat in the early evening, and we were the only ones there.

If you stay overnight, you will also be able to catch sunrise and sunset from the top of the mountain. Sunrise in particular is worth getting up for as the early light hits the monastery buildings.

 

Dress appropriately

This is a two pronged tip! First, as you are likely to be visiting the basilica, you will want to dress appropriately for a religious location. This means covering your shoulders, men removing hats, and covering your knees. If it is really hot and your not sure your clothes are appropriate, we recommend packing a scarf or travel wrap for the day and putting it on before you go inside the basilica.

The other side of the tip is to remember that it can be much cooler and windier on the mountain than the surrounding plains. So you will want to bring some warm layers. In the winter, you’ll likely need a coat or warm jacket.

Jess hiking at Montserrat Spain

This is especially the case if you plan on staying overnight and being outside in the early morning or late evening, as the temperature can drop even further during the night time.

If you are planning on hiking or climbing, you will also want to bring appropriate shoes and gear for these activities. These items might include good hiking shoes, a water bottle, clothing layers and so on.

 

Plan at least one hike

This might be obvious, but many folks just come up to Montserrat, visit the Basilica, wander around a little, and are on their way.

We think that even taking the time to do one of the shorter hikes, like that out to St. Michael’s Cross, is definitely worth doing. You have lots of options from easy to difficult.

Hiking at Montserrat

 

Visit the Museums

One thing we noticed when we visited Montserrat was how busy the Basilica was during the day, but how quiet the museums were at the same time.

Espai Audiovisual Montserrat Spain

We get that you have to pay an entrance fee to visit the museums, but we definitely think it’s worth it. We enjoyed both museums, and the audio visual one in particular is good for learning all about the local area.

If you want to save money, you can get a ticket that includes both museums for a small discount, or you can take advantage of one of the combination transport tickets which include one or both museums, such as the Trans Montserrat and the Tot Montserrat tickets.

 

Explore Monistrol de Montserrat

Last, but not least in our list of tips for your visit to Montserrat, is not to forget to take a bit of time to explore Monistrol de Montserrat, the town at the foot of the mountain where the cable car and funicular terminate.

Acqueduct Monistrol de Montserrat

Whilst most people just use Monistrol as a junction point for transferring between the train and the transport up the mountain, there is plenty to see here, including a 14th century bridge, crumbling defensive towers, and a 16th century aqueduct. It was through this town that pilgrims historically came to begin their hike up the path of pilgrimage to the Abbey of Montserrat.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time here to see the highlights but a stroll around the town centre is definitely a good way to spend an hour or so. We spent about 1 hour here wandering around and enjoyed it, there were only a handful of other visitors about.

Monistrol de Montserrat

 

Day Tours from Barcelona to Montserrat

As mentioned earlier in the post, one of the easiest and most popular ways to visit Montserrat is on a guided day tour from Barcelona. These tours will handle all your transport arrangements, sometimes with direct pick up from your hotel, and will let you focus on enjoying the mountain.

There’s a wide variety of tour options, depending on your interests and budget. We’ve gone through and picked what we think are some of the best options to help you find the right tour for you.

  • This small group tour from Barcelona includes early entry into the monastery so as to avoid the queues, as well as nearby Cava tasting and lunch. It’s run by Walks, one of our favourite small group tour companies.
  • This low cost tour from Barcelona departs early from Plaza Catalunya and lets you get to Montserrat ahead of the crowds. It only includes round trip transport to the top of the hill, but is a good budget option. This is a similar tour with the option to include a guided tour and / or liquor tasting.
  • This tour from Barcelona includes round-trip transport, a ride on the cable car up and down the mountain, a ride on Sant Joan’s funicular, an hour of guided hiking, a guided tour of the monastery, and an the opportunity to hear the choir (if performing during your visit). An excellent all round option. If you’d prefer a longer hike, check out this tour instead.
  • For a different perspective of Montserrat, this tour includes a hot air balloon flight followed by a visit to the mountain and monastery. Definitely a unique way to experience the mountain!
  • This full day tour from Barcelona includes a guided tour through the Basilica, free time to explore Montserrat, wine tasting and vineyard tour at the Oller des Mas vineyard, and a full lunch. This is a similar tour with the option for Tapas.
  • If you’d prefer a private tour, this is a full day private tour from Barcelona which includes breakfast, lunch, round trip transport and a guide.

As you can see, there are lots of options to choose from. For many more tour options, see the full listing of Montserrat tours on GetYourGuide here, and Viator here.

Laurence and Jessica Norah at Montserrat

 

Further Reading

Hopefully this guide to visiting Montserrat has answered all your questions and given you plenty of ideas for your own trip.

As well as Montserrat, we’ve also explored many other parts of Spain’s Catalonia region, and have put together a number of posts to help you plan your own trip. Here are some we think you will find useful in planning your own trip.

  • If you’re going to be spending time in Barcelona, check out our 3 day Barcelona itinerary, our guide to spending a day in Barcelona, our review of the Barcelona Pass, and our detailed guide to Gaudí sites in Barcelona to start you off.
  • There are lots of great day trips from Barcelona. See our guides to visiting Besalu and things to do in Girona as good starting points.
  • Lovers of surrealist artist Salvador Dali will want to visit some of the many sites associated with the artist in the region. See our guide to Dali attractions in Costa Brava that lists all the attractions to help you put together your trip.
  • A fantastic experience we can recommend to anyone visiting this region is to take a hot air balloon ride. We’ve done this twice, and you can see our guide to hot air ballooning in Costa Brava here.
  • We have a guide to things to do in Palamós, one of our favourite fishing towns in the Costa Brava
  • If you love mountains, you’re going to want to spend some time in the Spanish Pyrenees region of Catalonia. See our guide to the Spanish Pyrenees to start you off. If visiting in the winter, you might consider heading to one of the Girona region’s ski resorts, and you can take a look at our guide to skiing in the Spanish Pyrenees.
  • We also have detailed guides to all the specific regions of the Girona Pyrenees of Catalonia, including La Garrotxa, El Ripollès and La Cerdanya.
  • Another mountainous experience for lovers of nature is the Vall de Nuria, which also makes a good day trip or overnight experience from Barcelona. See our guide to visiting the Vall de Nuria for more information
  • The official website for the Abbey, which has information to help you plan your visit
  • If you’re looking for a guidebook, the most up to date books we could find are this Costa Brava pocket guide and this DK Eyewitness guide to Barcelona and Catalonia

And that’s it for our detailed guide to visiting Montserrat near Barcelona in Spain! As always, we’re happy to answer your questions – just pop them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

A detailed guide to visiting Montserrat Spain, including how to get to Montserrat from Barcelona, what to do, where to stay and eat, and tips for visiting

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Nicole Lee

Journalist in Mark Funhouser blog!