A complete guide to visiting Montserrat on a day trip from Barcelona. Nestled on a misty mountaintop, Montserrat is an enchanted monk's town surrounded by a nature lover's paradise. Learn how to beat the crowds and find the most breathtaking views of Catalonia! Just don't disturb the monks like I did.
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Day Trip from Barcelona to Montserrat: Reach New Heights in Catalonia

on
December 31, 2017

You would never guess of Montserrat’s august presence when passing by train.  Nestled on a misty mountaintop, it’s an enchanted monk’s town surrounded by a nature lover’s paradise.

Whoever discovered the shelf on which the monastery and surrounding buildings sit must have been a particularly adventurous soul.  Without a cable car or rack railway to assist in the climb, an ascent would be quite the tribulation.

Lucky for me, many years of improvements have made this is an easy day trip to make from Barcelona.  I’m going to give you a simple rundown of how to get there, what to do there, and gush about how much I enjoyed it.  Cool?

First, why do you want to go there?  A few reasons may apply:

  1.  You like the idea of taking an epic cable car ride into the mysterious mist.  Definitely DO look down, if you’re not afraid of heights.
  2. Seeing a piece of history in a beautifully preserved monastery appeals to you.  If you’re in Europe, surely you’ve got an old church fetish already.
  3. Appreciation of nature (and particularly mountains) is your jam.  Miles of mountaintop paths offer views of Catalonia in near entirety.

 

Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona

From Barcelona, take the metro.  I recommend buying a T-10 ticket for your in-town needs – 10 rides (including bus) for €10, transfers included.  I’ve included a map below of where you need to go to start your day trip – the Espanya station, circled in a thick red line.  Most notable metro lines will connect at this one, so it should be easy to find.

 

A map of the Barcelona metro, marked to indicate the appropriate metro station.

 

When you step off the train (or enter the station on foot) look for the R5 line to Manresa.  Some signs clearly indicate this will take you to Montserrat, and are adorned with this logo: 

Once you find the appropriate location in the Espanya station, you’ll find machines and an information desk where you can buy combination tickets to Montserrat.  I opted for round trip train + cable car ride for around €22.  You can also opt for rack railway if extreme heights aren’t your thing, but maybe you shouldn’t go to a giant mountain in the first place if that’s the case!

For cable car, your train stop is Montserrat Aeri.  Should you choose the rack railway, get off at Monistrol Montserrat.  From these stations follow the crowds to ascend the mountain and begin your day of wonderment!  While you wait for your ride, get a Sunny D from the vending machines if you want to pretend you are a child from the 90’s like me.  I couldn’t help myself.

 

A cable car seen ascending from the Montserrat Aeri station and up the mountain. The slopes are covered in green trees and mist is in the air.

Cable cars are perfect for torturing your lame friend who is afraid of heights.  

A view from a cliff above Montserrat - beige and salmon colored buildings surround a square where tiny people mill about.

Imagine your own human ant farm, full of impressionable subjects. Muahaha!

 

Touring the monastery

When I arrived up top, I was immediately awestruck by both the views of nature and of the town itself.  Early in the morning, this scenery comes in and out of focus through the drifing fog.  As the clouds dissipate, the crowd thickens –  best come early for a truly special experience.

I would recommend checking out the interior of the monastery first, going through the line to visit the famous “Black Madonna”, and spending the rest of your day admiring the campus and trails.  This way you’ll avoid standing in the longest lines at the church when the tour groups arrive.

The monastery interior is beautifully ornate.  I was particularly impressed with what amazing condition the sculptures were in.  While I’ve seen more impressive altar arrangements at Notre Dame and the like, the adornments along the sides and front are nonetheless nice to look at.

While I was aimlessly wandering, I went through an unmarked wooden door and up some stairs, where I accidentally disturbed a real life monk.  He seemed friendly enough while he played Catalan and/or Latin charades to shoo me the hell away and back to the tourist enclosure.

 

The altar of Montserrat's monastery. The gold altar is seen at the back while dark wooden pews and pillars stretch towards the front.

Dark tones killing your vibe? Not if you’re a vampire like me.

Hiking the mountain

Next, I went for a funicular ride.  Yes, a funicular.  It has FUN in the name.  Time to party.

There are two of these little green babies, and they’ll get you to the most scenic parts of the mountain.  A combination ticket for both will cost you around €15.  Unless you’re a serious backpacker I would recommend paying for this, as the climbs can be quite steep.

Funicular de Santa Cova descends a bit from the monastery where you can walk some beautiful cliffside trails – allot 30-40 minutes for this.  The story of Jesus is told in sculpture along the way, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Even if you’re not, some of the art is really wonderful to look at.  You’ll also have a nice view of the side of the mountain you ascended from earlier in the day.  Eventually, the end of the trail takes you to the very first dwelling built on the mountain – a small chapel which looks like it has a giant goiter coming out of it.  Tasty!

 

Spectacular green mountains with light brown ledges on the sides. Trees in foreground.

A possible mountain goat stronghold

A gray statue of Jesus kneeling, with a pink flower in hand, as an angel visits him.

I found the use of color really stunning in this one.

Sculpture of Jesus is affixed high up the cliffside, with a golden halo, next to the Catalan flag.

Jesus is either a really good basketball player or a Second Life avatar.

A salmon colored chapel, built to accommodate a giant boulder-shaped rock outcropping in its top right half.

What’s the insurance man going to think about this, Brother Thelonious?

Next, head to Funicular de Sant Joan.  It’s on the same pathway as the first one and takes you to the real main event if you’re a hiker.  Several paths diverge and vary in length from a 30 minute walk to a full 2.5-3 hours.  You’ll want to make it up here as early as possible if you want to make the trek and be back to Barca in time for some octopus.

I myself was running short on time and thus opted for an easier route, but it was nonetheless chock full of panoramas of many a Catalan town.  I deeply regret not allowing for more leisurely exploration up top.  Next time!

 

Pink wildflowers, set against a breathtaking backdrop of the mountainous Catalan countryside

Real men photograph pink flowers.

A cliffside juts out from the mountain at Montserrat. The countryside stretches endlessly beyond it.

Part of me wants to hang glide, but I’m also glad it’s not that touristy up here.

Byron poses on a cliffside, with views of Montserrat's town in the distance.

Bring sunscreen if you’re a no-good gingerbeard like me.

I don’t really know how to explain better than these pictures can.  But there you go!  Montserrat.  It’s lovely.

I will say that I expected to walk around for two or three hours, and ended up spending more like six.  This is the rare attraction that delivers much more than promised.

 

Pit stop on your return trip

On your way back down, you may miss the train to Barcelona – it runs once per hour.  If so, kill some time at the tiny bar that has signs posted in the station.  I believe it was called Bar El Rincon.  It’s just off the tracks and has great €2 sangria.  The food looked and smelled good, but I didn’t try any.  All the people were happy and a dog greets you with lustful barking.  What more could you want?

I’ll leave you with a panorama from the top of Montserrat, and another from Parc Güell in Barcelona because you’ll probably go there too.   Soak it in, make your plans, and tell me if this guide helped you!  Any further suggestions welcome in the comments section.

 

A panoramic view of Catalonia from atop the mountain. A tiny german man on a rock in the foreground provides a sense of the enormous scale.

Tiny German man for scale.

A panoramic view of Barcelona, with its salmon colored rooftops and green trees in the surrounding hillsides.

Barcelona, just a pleasant train ride away.

Byron stands triumphantly on a rock with his back to the camera, with the grandiose view of Catalonia stretching on in the distance.

Catch me if you can! But please, no touching.

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4 Comments
  1. Reply

    imonlyhappywhenitravel

    January 5, 2018

    Hey there vampire,
    I really enjoyed reading this post; fun and informative at the same time, along with picturesque photos. Our trip to Barcelona had included Zaragoza on the way. Now I know where else to explore next time as I love heights (and cable cars 😁). Human ant farm is hilarious, looks like a miniature, crazy view! Not to forget basketball player Jesus 😂 Keep posting non cliches.

    • Reply

      byronicone

      January 5, 2018

      I’ll have to look up Zaragoza! thanks for the suggestion and for your eyeballs.

      They should do another movie like Space Jam only instead of Michael Jordan it will be Jesus 😀

  2. Reply

    Brittany

    January 4, 2018

    This is so interesting! There’s a place called Monserrate in Bogotá that’s pretty similar (though admittedly less beautiful haha). You can take a cable car or funicular up and there’s a church and a bunch of stuff to do at the top. I was told that the Spanish just loved picking the tallest point wherever they settled and building some kind of monument or church on it.

    I’ll definitely check this place out when I head to Europe!

    • Reply

      byronicone

      January 4, 2018

      I’ll have to check out the one in Bogota! If you like churches and monasteries then you’d definitely find a lot to like in Europe. We definitely could help each other a lot with our next journeys!

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Byron Barnes
United States

Aspiring Travel Writer / Proud Introvert / Lapsed Nerd

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