About an hour by train from Barcelona lies Montserrat, a massif of very curiously shaped mountains. If someone took a giant candle and let its wax drip onto the landscape, that would be Montserrat. The mountains are home to Catalunya’s most important abbey and to many great walking paths, making them a perfect place to visit on a day trip from Barcelona.
What you will find in this article:
- Why should you visit Montserrat
- How do you get there?
- What to see and what to do at Montserrat + visiting hours and prices
- Walks/hiking on Montserrat
- Background information (facts and history) on Montserrat
- Montserrat in photos
What is Montserrat and why should you visit it?
Montserrat is a stunning location to go hiking, but it attracts most of its visitors because of the abbey.
You can see the Black Madonna, attend a concert of the boys’ choir, and admire the art at the Museum of Montserrat.
There are various hiking routes from the abbey, going from easy to quite challenging. Lower down you’ll find a description of the most popular one.
How to get to Montserrat from Barcelona?
By train: There are two possibilities to reach Montserrat by train.
1. To get to the convent, take a train from Plaça d’Espanya towards Montserrat-Manresa (R5). Get off at the station Montserrat Aeri and take the teleférico up to the sanctuary. The ride on the cable car to Montserrat is about 5 minutes and the view is great.
2. You can also get off the train one station further, at Monistrol, from there you can get on the so called funicular cremallera (zipper or cog train). This will take about twenty minutes. Like this you will have the opportunity to visit several parts of the mountain, like the Santa Cova. Note: when you buy your train ticket you can choose both options. A return ticket costs about 25 euros.
- By car: If you go to Montserrat by car, take the A2 to Martorell. Take the NII until junction Montserrat. You can park your car for free at the Cremallera de Monistrol. The parking closes at the same time as the cog train, 7 pm.
- Unfortunately, there is no metro or general bus stop near Montserrat.
Tip: visit Montserrat with an organized tour
Tickets for Montserrat can easily be purchased via Ticketbar (€48 p.p.). Included with the price is an organized tour, a Barcelona-Montserrat return ticket in a comfortable tour car, the small train uphill and access to a rehearsal of the abbey’s boys choir. The tour will take you to the main highlights, including the monastery and the museum.
Visit Montserrat: the highlights
The convent and the Black Madonna
According to the legend, one night in the middle ages a group of shepherds spotted a bright light descending from heaven and landing somewhere on the mountain.
When they went to explore, they discovered a cave with an image of the Virgin Mary.
The bishop of the nearby city of Manresa was so impressed that he wanted to take the sculpture home with him, however he was unable to because it was extremely heavy.
Instead, he ordered a chapel be built around it to house the sculpture. Since then, the mountain has become a place of pilgrimage for Catholics.
In the 11th century a benedictine convent was built, the Monestir de Montserrat, and from that moment on the mountain became more and more important for the Catalan people.
The sculpture of La Moreneta (Black Madonna) is for many visitors the main reason the climb Montserrat.
The Black Madonna that is housed in the monastery today is a Romanesque sculpture from the 12th century.
The sculpture measures 95 centimeters, and is made of wood and gold. In 1881, on September 11th, the national holiday of Catalonia, pope Leo XIII officially declared the virgin patron of Catalonia.
It’s said that her black face was caused by the smoke of candles in the convent.
The boys’ choir
If you visit the convent, make sure you don’t miss the rehearsal of l’Escolanía. It’s one of the oldest children’s choirs in Europe.
Its existence has been documented as far back as the 14th century. The boys -fifty of them- live in the convent and also go to school there.
Inside the convent there is a library with no less than 300,000 works, about 6,700 newspaper articles, 1,500 manuscripts and hundreds of old folders and maps.
One of the manuscripts is the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (the Red Book of Montserrat), written between the fourteenth and fifteenth century.
The book is a selection of liturgy, informative and instructive documents about the Honors of Mary in Montserrat. It owes its name to the red velvet ribbon with which it is bound.
The museum of Montserrat
At the beginning of the 20th century, the ‘Biblical Museum of Montserrat’ was opened.
Nowadays it houses over 1,300 objects of archaeological, ethnographic, zoological and botanical interest, as well as pieces by some famous artists.
In 1963, the museum changed name to Museu de Montserrat and paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque from the convent were added to the collection.
Currently, the collection also includes works by the likes of El Greco, Picasso and Salvador Dalí. You can also see a mummy from Ancient Egypt.
The only highlight that you have to pay to visit is the museum, everything else is free.
A ticket costs €7. Students, seniors, and large groups (min.20 persons) pay €6. Children until the age of 16 pay €4. On April 27th, the day of the Virgin of Montserrat, the entrance is free.
Entrance to the abbey is free of charge, but for a small amount you can buy and light a candle.
The monastery is open every day from 7.30 am to 8 pm.
A concert of the boys choir can be attended from Monday to Friday at 1pm. Make sure you arrive on time, because it usually gets very busy.
From Monday to Thursday there is also a concert at 6.45pm. Note: the choir doesn’t perform on Saturday.
On Sundays and holidays you can listen to the choir twice a day: at 12am and 6.45pm. Entrance is free, but a voluntary contribution is appreciated.
Museum opening hours: 10 am to 6.45 pm (in winter until 5.45 pm).
Taking Photos Inside the Monastery
You are allowed to take photos inside the abbey, but you can’t use the flash.
Dress Code and Visitor Conduct
Visitors are expected to be respectful, so avoid talking too loudly and being noisy in general.
There is no strict dress code so you can wear shorts and skirts, but make sure to cover your shoulders.
Restaurants at Montserrat
A visit to Montserrat is often a full day affair, so you may want to have a meal during your visit.
You can bring your lunch with you and have a picnic on the mountain, but there is also a popular restaurant near the convent, Restaurant Abat Cisneros, found on the Plaça del Monestir. The set menu is €27, and features a mix of typical Spanish and Catalan gastronomy.
If you’re only looking for a snack or something to drink, there’s a small supermarket where you can buy certain essentials, local products, and souvenirs.
The weather on Montserrat is different from Barcelona. The temperature is usually a bit lower and much windier.
Make sure you have an extra sweater or jacket with you and even gloves and a scarf in the winter. And don’t forget sunglasses, it’s usually very sunny up there!
You can reach Montserrat with the cable car or zipper train. If you want to do both, go up with the cable car and down with the zipper train (you’ll have to buy two single tickets).
The price of the cable car is €7 for a one way, and €10.30 for a return ticket.
Hiking on Montserrat
If you are not especially interested in monasteries and museums, you can visit Montserrat for its nice hiking routes and to get some fresh air in your lungs.
A day trip to Montserrat is a favorite among Catalans.
There are routes for experienced hikers but also more accessible options for families with small children. The views are absolutely spectacular!
A classic and relatively easy walk is the Cim de Sant Jeroni. The starting point is the abbey of Montserrat and this is also where it ends.
The highest point of the route is the holy Hiëronymus, the very top of the mountain Montserrat.
Don’t forget to bring your camera because this is one of the most beautiful views of Catalunya. To the south, you’ll be able to see the Mediterranean and you can also spot the Pyrenees to the north.
From the convent you walk via the Cami Antic through the woods alongside the chapel of Sant Jeroni.
On the way back you can do the Cami Nou, where you will get a closer look at Montserrat’s peculiar rocks.
The walk will take you about three hours, but you can shorten it by taking a train at the end, the Funicular of Sant Joan.
Some interesting facts about Montserrat
- Montserrat literally means “serrated mountain”. The massif draws its name from its peculiar appearance; its many protruding stone peaks look like the teeth of saw. These are the result of the limestone rock eroding in the wind and the rain over the course of millennia.
- Napoleon’s troops destroyed part of the abbey in 1811, and a little over a century later, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the monks were driven out temporarily.
- In 1925, the monastery of Montserrat was renovated by the modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Puig i Cadafalch is also the architect of Casa Amatller, the house next to Gaudí’s Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona.
- Under the Franco dictatorship, the abbey served as a secret bastion for the Catalan resistance, strengthening the bond between the Catalan people and Montserrat.
- Montserrat, shortened to Montse, is a very popular name for girls in Catalonia.
- The Caribbean Island of Montserrat was discovered by Cristopher Columbus in 1493 under the Spanish Flag.
- The coordinates of Montserrat Massif are 41.5958° N, 1.8298° E