Montserrat, Spain: A Guide to Planning Your Visit

The iconic Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain, not to be confused with mountainous Caribbean island, is an exquisite site to visit. At 1236 meters high, this fairy tale like spiritual retreat is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands.

Surrounded by natural park and shaped by nature’s elements, the Montserrat rock formations are a ‘must see’ sight, if not for religious reasons then simply for the breathtaking panoramic views across Catalonia.

panoramic views montserrat spain

Here are some top insider tips for planning a trip to Montserrat in Spain. Spain is one of the cheapest countries to visit and it also made our list of the best countries in the world for food. The cost of living is decent as well, making it a great option for travellers and ex-pats alike.

Time Needed For a Visit

We suggest setting aside one whole day, it’s a truly spectacular place. Apart from the picturesque surroundings and gorgeous Santa Maria de Montserrat, the abbey itself, there are also two trails to take around the mountains with panoramic views across the valley.

panoramic views montserrat

You will want to arrive to Montserrat as early as possible. The place is relatively small and gets crowded with visitors, which means long queues all over Montserrat later in the day.

The overall journey, depending on the season, can take from 1.5 hours up to 2 hours from Barcelona, including waiting time at the cable car, so don’t leave too late before you set out.

Getting There

Montserrat is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) away from Barcelona which makes it perfect for a day out. It’s easy to access the foot of the mountain via road by bus (from the Plaça de la Universitat) or car.

One of the most popular ways of getting to Montserrat is by train from Plaza Espanya rail station. Trains leave the station every hour. Once you’ve bought your tickets, look for Line R5 and hop on the train going towards Manresa.

train to montserrat

Buying Your Rail Tickets

This part might seem a little confusing, but it really isn’t. You just need to purchase your tickets at the ticket machines rather than the ticket office.  The ticket office in the station sells just tour tickets. You will also need to decide whether you want to get to Montserrat via the cable car or the funicular railway.

montserrat cable car

To make it clearer, here are your 3 ticket options:

Train ticket combined with the cable car (Aeri de Montserrat) – €22 ($24.59 USD) per adult. The ticket includes:

  • return (round trip) train journey from Barcelona
  • return (round trip) cable car journey to Montserrat

Trans Montserrat ticket – €29.50 ($32.97 USD) per adult. The ticket includes:

  • return (round trip) train journey from Barcelona
  • return (round trip) cable car journey to Montserrat
  • unlimited funicular journeys in Montserrat

Train ticket combined with funicular railway (Cremallera de Montserrat) per adult – €20 ($22.35 USD) per adult. The ticket includes:

  • return (round trip) train journey from Barcelona
  • return (round trip) rack railway (Cremallera de Montserrat)

We purchased the second ticket option and while we can’t say we saved money by doing so, we did save time and hassle when using the two funiculars in Montserrat – Funicular de Sant Joan and Funicular de Santa Cova. Otherwise, tickets for these have to be purchased separately.

Cable Car (Aeri de Montserrat) vs. Rack Railway (Cremallera de Montserrat)

The train from Barcelona will drop you at the bottom of the mountain at Montserrat AERI station. The cable car station is just around the corner from the train station, a 2-minute walk at the most.

Aeri de Montserrat. While it’s fun to take the cable car, there are only 2 cars, one going up the mountain and the other one going down. The cable car is a little dated and there’s not much space inside.

The journey itself only takes around 5 minutes, but the queues can be lengthy, especially during holidays (we waited for around 40 minutes before boarding). Despite the wait and lack of space, the journey was smooth and the views of the valley below were breathtaking.

cable car montserrat spain

Cremallera de Montserrat.The train from Barcelona stops at Monistrol de Montserrat, one stop after Montserrat AERI. From here you will get on the Cremallera de Montserrat which will take you all the way to Montserrat. The views of the valley will also be stunning. The total journey from Barcelona takes around 90 minutes.

train cremallera de montserrat

If you are driving, you will want to park at the free Monistrol Vila parking lot. Here you will also be able to buy your rack railway ticket for Montserrat.

What To See and Do

First things first, inhale the beauty of Montserrat once you reach the centre of this stunning sanctuary. Look around, admire the architecture and surroundings and then choose your route. We recommend visiting the architectural monuments first and then head up to the walks in the mountains.

beautiful montserrat spain

Meet the Patroness of Catalonia –  Black Virgin of Montserrat

Also referred to as Black Madonna, this Romanesque, wood-carved statue has a monumental significance in Montserrat. It’s believed that this world-famous statue was carved in Jerusalem in the very early days of the church and the whole Montserrat complex is built up around it.

benedictine abbey montserrat spain

Even if you are not religious, the setting itself is worth a visit. However, make sure you leave enough time here as you might need to queue for up to an hour before you get to kiss Black Madonna’s hand.

Santa Maria de Montserrat

Once you had a glimpse of the Black Madonna, don’t rush out of the Benedictine abbey, it’s absolutely stunning. Enjoy the glistering details and tranquility.

abbey montserrat spain

When walking out of the abbey through the main door, turn right into a narrow passageway where you will see hundreds of burning candles.

candles benedictine abbey montserrat spain

For a small fee you can buy one yourself to light and place amongst other flickering colourful candles. It’s customary amongst Catholics to light a candle for their loved ones, wishing them well and for departed relatives, wishing them peace on the other side.

Montserrat Museum

If you love history and museums, have a nose around the Montserrat Museum which houses six permanent collections of more than 1,300 artifacts as well as temporary displays.

Sant Jeroni Summit 

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.

vertical funicular railway

It’s around a 2.5 hour trek if you use the funicular railway, otherwise reserve around 3.5 hours if you are hiking all the way up, depending on your fitness level.  We highly recommend the trek, the views are simply spectacular from up there.

Sant Joan Chapel

If you aren’t up for a long trek, you can take a shorter route which leads to a great viewpoint and the beautiful Sant Joan Chapel. It takes a bit of climbing up a 100m long hill, but it’s easily done and is quite a beautiful walk with the incredible rocks sticking behind you as you climb up.

sant joan chapel monsterrat spain

To reach the trail, again take the Sant Joan funicular railway and follow the signs.

Rosari Monumental and the Cave Chapel

Take the Santa Cova funicular railway to get down to the famous Rosari Monumental, home to some of the most important modern Catalan sculptures by Antonio Gaudi amongst other famous artists.

The journey is a scenic winding ride with more stunning panoramic views which, as we learned, you are never short of in Montserrat!

funicular railway montserrat spain

The legend has it, that an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on the rock in the area and a chapel was built to mark it. Since 1929 pilgrims have been making their way down on the funicular to visit this symbolic place.

If you are a train geek, like Charlie, you can also pop into the exhibition about the funicular railways around the world. The exhibition is based in the lower Santa Cova station.

What to Wear

Despite the rocky appearance of Montserrat, you don’t really have to wear anything hard-core, unless you are planning to do some serious hiking and climbing away from the main trails. However, you should cover your shoulders when entering the abbey out of respect.

Wear comfortable footwear for travel, it will allow you to enjoy the walks and the climb to the highest peak of Montserrat. The footpaths are well maintained and not too strenuous, but you might want to be more adventurous in places and descend through the rocks rather than the footpath.

Food and Drink

There’s good quality food and drink available in Montserrat, but it can be a little pricey. If you are on a budget, pack some snacks to take with you.

barcelona markets

Markets and bakeries in Barcelona are packed with amazing food so shop around the day before visiting and pull together a little picnic. Then you will only need to stop for a tea/coffee break.

Have you ever been to Montserrat before? What was your experience like? Share with us in the comments 🙂 

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Charlie and Kristina love to travel. They love travel so much that they started their travel blog Van Life Tribe to help others to work less and travel more with tips, advice and inspiration. During a 2 week trip to Cuba in 2015 they had an honest chat on the beach one night and decided to change their lifestyle to one of travel. They soon realised it wasn’t just the rum talking and made a plan to quit the 9 to 5 and are now location independent. They love to inspire others to get out there and explore our amazing planet.

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