Montserrat is a easy and convenient day trip from Barcelona if you are looking for a beautiful mountain getaway from the city. Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery in the mountains overlooking Catalunya and is only about an hour train from Barcelona. In addition to touring the monastery to view the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat, there are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Montserrat means serrated mountain in Catalan which describes the unique jagged features of these mountains.
Once we saw pictures of the views of these jagged mountains above the monastery, we were immediately drawn to Montserrat and it became the main reason for making the journey from Barcelona. Upon our arrival via the cable car to Montserrat, we immediately took the Sant Joan funicular high above the monastery to hike in the spectacular surrounding mountains. There are a few different options for hiking in the area including hikes to the highest peak in Montserrat (Sant Jeroni), to the Santa Cova grotto and chapel, to Sant Miquel’s Cross and to abandoned hermitages in the cliffs where solitary hermits once lived.
Many others arrive in Montserrat as more of a religious pilgrimage to see the Black Madonna statue which is a wood carved image believed to have been carved in Jerusalem around 50 A.D. The original Black Madonna Statue (or La Moreneta) is kept in the Montserrat Basilica while a replica of the statue can be viewed in the Santa Cova chapel. The grotto at Santa Cova is where the image of the Black Madonna was reportedly found in 880 after a group of shepherd children witnessed miraculous visions in the surrounding mountains.
Things to Do in Montserrat:
Benedictine Monastery and Basilica – The original Black Madonna statue is housed in an ornate alter at the back of the Montserrat Basilica. It can be viewed after waiting in line with other pilgrims. The alter was constructed in the 1940s especially for the Black Madonna.
Listen to the famous boys choir – The Escolania (boy’s choir) dates from the 14th century, and is one of the oldest boys choir in Europe. They have performed concerts around the world and recorded a number of albums. The choir consists of about 50 boys who are also educated at Montserrat. They perform at the Basilica twice daily except on Saturdays and during their summer holidays.
Montserrat Museum – As many of the historical artifacts of the museum were destroyed in the 19th century, the art museum currently holds works by Picasso, Monet, Dali and Caravaggio. Many of the pieces were donated by private citizens. The museum also contains archeological remains from Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Holy Land.
Santa Cova grotto and chapel – The Santa Cova funicular descends from the monastery to Santa Cova grotto and chapel. This grotto is a famous pilgrimage site where the image of the Virgin Mary was believed to have been seen after a group of shepherd children witnessed miraculous visions in 880. The chapel dates back to the 17th century. Inside the chapel is a reproduction of the image of the Black Madonna which is currently in the Montserrat Basilica.
Sant Joan funicular – This funicular can be taken from the monastery to the top of the mountains where you can hike to Sant Jeroni, Sant Miquel’s Cross or the Hermitages. The journey takes about 7 minutes.
Hermitages – All around the mountains in Montserrat you can find remains of the hermitages used by the hermits seeking solitude away from civilization. Some were carved from caves in the mountains as early as the 6th century.
Hiking in Montserrat:
Hike to Santa Cova – this 2.7km hike begins near the Santa Cova funicular and follows The Path of the Rosary along which Modernist sculptures and monuments can be seen. The path leads to the chapel and grotto of Santa Cova. The grotto is where the image of the Virgin Mary was reportedly found by shepherds in 880. The Santa Cova funicular can be taken to avoid a steep portion of the path back up to the monastery.
Hike to Sant Jeroni – this 7.5km hike takes you to the highest peak in Montserrat, Sant Jeroni (1,235m). On the way, you will pass the Ermita de Sant Jeroni.
Hike to Sant Miquel’s Cross – this is the old path that pilgrims used to take to Montserrat. It offers beautiful views of the jagged mountains and the monastery from above.
From Monistrol de Montserrat train station to Montserrat monastery – it is possible to hike to the monastery from the train station via the Cami de les Aigues trail (GR5) or the Drecera dels Tres Quarts (GR96). You will need to walk through the town of Monistrol.
From Aeri de Montserrat to Montserrat monastery – it is also possible to hike from the cable car station to the monastery in about 1.5 hours.
How to Get to Montserrat:
- By train – The most convenient mode of transportation is by train from Barcelona’s Espana train station to Montserrat (1 hour on the R5 line). When you purchase your ticket at Espana train station, you need to specify whether you want to take the cable car or the funicular to Montserrat. The cable car (Aeri de Montserrat) is a 5 min ride with excellent views. The funicular (Cremallera Funicular) takes about 15 min and doesn’t have the views but is a more comfortable ride. To take the funicular it is necessary to get off at the Monistrol station which is one stop after the stop for the cable car.
- By bus – It is also possible to take the bus but this is not as popular as the train is more direct and faster.
- By tour – There are organized bus tours to Montserrat from Barcelona. Some of these tours also include a stop at a winery.
- By car – If you have a car available to you in Barcelona, you can reach Monserrat by car in 1 hour. You can park at the train station and take either the funicular or the cable car to Monserrat, or you can drive directly up to Montserrat and park in the parking lot at the top.