If you are visiting Barcelona for the first time, there will likely be enough within the city limits to keep you occupied for several days. Whether you are interested in taking a food tour to sample some of Catalonia’s local delicacies, or perhaps explore some of Antoni Gaudi’s iconic structures around the city, there is an abundance of attractions to visit. But what about if you want to take a break away from city life and consider a day trip from Barcelona?
Don’t worry, there are plenty of options available and at the very top of this list is a day trip to Montserrat! Located about 50km from the heart of Barcelona, Montserrat is so much more than a haven of breathtaking scenery. After reading this post you will understand why there is a much deeper attraction to this location and I will let you decide whether it is worth a day trip from Barcelona.
How to Get to Montserrat
Ok, so you have decided that a day trip to Montserrat is on the cards but now you have to figure out how to get there. Fortunately there are a variety of ways to visit Montserrat, and it is really down to personal preference on how you want to travel. Here are a few ways to reach this beautiful destination:
By Car – This option was what we took! We rented a car at Barcelona-El Prat Airport and the drive to Montserrat is for the most part on highway and easily navigable even if you are not familiar with driving on Spanish roads. The majority of the route is along C-58 and as you approach Montserrat there are a number of signs that will point you in the right direction if you don’t have a GPS handy.
Parking is available either half way up the mountain at Monistrol de Vila Rack Railway station (FREE Parking) and you can then take the Rack Railway to the summit, or alternatively as we did you can drive to the top and pay 5 Euros which is still good value for money!
By Train (Option 1) – There are a couple of options available if you decide to take the train. Option 1 involves taking a local train and then the funicular/rack railway to Montserrat. Head to the Plaza España station in Barcelona and take a local R5 train to the Monistrol de Montserrat station.
Arriving here, you can hop on the green funicular railway known as the ‘Cremallera’ and this will take you to the summit. Prior to purchasing your ticket at the Plaza España station in Barcelona, be sure to get a combined ticket that includes the rack railway to save money.
By Train (Option 2) – An alternative option is to take the R5 train from the Plaza España station in Barcelona to the Montserrat-Aeri station and then take the cable car to the summit.
This option is slightly more expensive but again tickets can be purchased in Barcelona that will include both the train ride and cable car. If you opt for this route, you certainly won’t be disappointed by the views that you encounter on the way to Montserrat!
Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery
Hidden among the Montserrat multi-peak mountain range is the gorgeous Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery. There is much history behind this monastery but undoubtedly the most iconic of them all is the ‘Black Madonna’ which can be found inside this historic architecture.
This is probably the most famous religious sanctuary in the region of Catalonia, and after visiting Barcelona you will realize that there are a lot of pretty spectacular religious buildings in the area.
The Benedictine monastery dates back to the 10th Century, and in some cases even before this date when hermit monks are said to have constructed the initial design of this building. The monastery was destroyed by Napoleon’s army in the early 19th century but was reconstructed soon after.
Let’s take a moment to look at the history behind the sacred Black Madonna. Dating back to the 12th century, many miracles are said to be attributed to this statue. The statue is a representation of Mary and her location in Montserrat is applicable to the region given that she is the patron saint of Catalonia.
‘Our Lady of Montserrat’ or ‘La Moreneta’ (‘the little dark-skinned one’) as it it known among locals and tourists alike, is one of the most popular attractions and there are usually lines waiting outside the monastery trying to capture a glimpse of this effigy.
The Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery is more than just the home of the Black Madonna. The interior of this sacred venue is equally as impressive as the outside and just standing inside the grounds of this location is an awe-inspiring experience. As we climbed the mountain, the view overlooking the monastery is stunning and well worthy of the hike!
Sacred Mountain Range
The natural beauty of the Montserrat mountain range makes this a unique attraction by itself, regardless of the inherent cultural and sacred values associated with the monastery. Approaching Montserrat from the bottom of the mountain, the most noticeable feature are the unique rock formations that comprise the Montserrat mountain range.
The highest point in this mountain range is Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) which stands at just over 4,000 feet above sea level. Hiking trails are available to the summit though we decided to save this ambitious trail for another day! I can only imagine how spectacular the views are overlooking the valley and rest of the mountains from the very top of the range.
It’s the uniqueness of these rocks that make this such an intriguing place to visit. Can you imagine the reclusive monks residing in this mysterious abode? The best way to describe the appearance of these mountains is a very distinct similarity to an animal or prehistoric dinosaur.
Montserrat is known as ‘the sacred mountain’ primarily because of the religious affiliation with the Catholic church. This is still an incredibly popular spot for worshippers of Catholicism.
Hike to the Cross of San Miguel
After taking some time to explore the Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery and other attractions in the area, we embarked on a short hike to the Cross of San Miguel. You can see the cross from the monastery and it looks a pretty steep hike to reach it! But it’s not as bad as it looks and I can certainly attest that it is worth the effort.
The trail takes anywhere from 40-60 minutes depending on your pace and how many pictures you want to take en route to the summit. There are a few spots along the route that are a little treacherous, so be wary of your footing and you will be fine!
We were fortunate to hike this trail in perfect conditions, with a cool breeze at our back and the sun occasionally shining down on the Catalonia valley.
As you hike further towards the Cross of San Miguel, the views become more and more breathtaking! We spent probably 45 minutes at the top of the hike overlooking the monastery and appreciating the natural beauty that was right in front of us. If you are looking for a moment of relaxation and solitude, this may well be the perfect spot for you!
I will start by answering the question – is Montserrat worth a day trip from Barcelona? DEFINITELY!!! No question, this is an unbelievable experience and one that you will not regret. You could quite easily spend all of your time exploring Barcelona and probably have an amazing time, but there is nothing quite like the spectacular views and deep knowledge you will learn from walking around the sacred mountain of Montserrat.
There are a number of hiking trails available and even taking the cable car ride offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. As you peer down into the Catalan valley, the relaxing haven offered by the Montserrat mountain range is second to none in the region of Catalonia.
Have you visited Montserrat? If the answer is yes, you probably understand exactly why I am so passionate about this location. If the answer is no, you need to start planning a trip to Spain because Montserrat is waiting for you, and you will not be disappointed!
For more pictures of our experience at Montserrat, check out our photo gallery here: Montserrat