Santa Maria de Montserrat (or more simply referred to as Montserrat or Montserrat Monastery) is about an hour’s drive from Barcelona on the mountain Montserrat. The monastery dates back to the 11th century and still operates today. It is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city and offers a breathtaking view.
Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona
The easiest way to get to Montserrat is by train (if you don’t have a rental car). The train to Montserrat departs from Plaça d’Espanya every hour throughout the day starting at 8:36am. Of course, be sure to check the timetable just in case this changes!
There are signs at the rail station that point you towards the R5 train to Montserrat. You can book your ticket at the kiosk and, at least while we were there, there were people at the kiosks that could help you with booking, if needed.
The R5 train will take you almost all the way to Montserrat. To get to the very top, you will take either the cable car or the rack railway. These choices will be available when booking.
Note: The price is only slightly different, but here is what we know: The cable car fits 30 people max at a time and there are two of them. We were the first train in the morning and did not have to wait, but I could see it backing up. The rack railway runs about every 20 minutes, but since we didn’t take it, I’m not sure how many people it fits at a time.
If you select the cable car, you will get off the R5 train one stop earlier than everyone who selected the rack railway. Your stop will be Montserrat-Aeri station. Check this website for updates and connection times. If you select the rack railway, you’ll get off at the Monistrol de Montserrat station.
What to See & Do at Montserrat
The Basilica & Entryway
The entrance to the Basilica give you a great view of the mountain and is very serene first thing in the morning. This is also a great time to be here because there aren’t a ton of people.
From here, head toward the basilica and get your first glimpse at the ornate architecture of the church.
The Black Madonna
The Black Madonna, also called The Virgin of Montserrat, is one of the main reasons that visitors come to the monastery. If you’d like to see her, you’ll probably want to start your visit here. We arrived on the first cable car of the day and only had to wait a short time. During high season and in the middle of the day, the line could extend outside of the church.
Photographs are not allowed inside the room where the Black Madonna is located and we followed this rule. However, we saw A LOT of people who did not. The Black Madonna statute is located behind glass but her right hand (which holds a sphere) is not behind the glass. You can touch or kiss the sphere while you have your turn paying respect at the statue.
Once you exit the basilica from seeing the Black Madonna, you’ll come to a stone walkway with flickering candles. This is your opportunity to light a candle and say a prayer to the Virgin Mary.
If you’d like to light a candle, you can make a donation to purchase one. There are different sizes and colors available.
As we visited first thing in the morning, the racks were still fairly empty. I imagine they fill up quite fast as the day goes on.
The funiculars are a great way to get to the hiking trails and some other important sites once you’re already at Montserrat. Unfortunately, they were both under seasonal repairs while we were there so we didn’t get to use them!
The Funicular de Sant Joan looks like it would be a thrill in and of itself! The steep track takes you to the peak of the mountain. From here, you can hike to several hermitages (Sant Jeroni, Sant Joan, Sant Miquel) and viewpoints (check out the Llobregat River, and peaks such as the Elephant, the Mummy, and the Little Mummy). You can also visit the Nature Center to learn about the mountains and its characteristics.
If you’d like to visit the Holy Cave and chapel, you’ll want to take the Funicular de Santa Cova. According to legend, this is where the image of Our Lady of Montserrat was found. Once you exit the funicular, follow the path of the “Rosary.” Along the way, you’ll pass 15 sculptures that depict the lives of Jesus and Mary. The sculptures were designed by Catalan artists including Antoni Gaudí.
TIP: Grab a hiking map from the information center before heading to the funiculars.
As mentioned, the funiculars will lead you to a variety of hiking trails, but there’s also several you can reach by foot from the Basilica. Unfortunately, along with the funiculars being closed for maintenance, I was also fighting a knee injury during our visit. The good news is even if you only want to walk a short distance from the monastery, you can still find some tremendous views! (Can you spot WC?!)
If you head down the main road just outside of the monastery, you’ll see a cafeteria and restroom across the street. If you cross over to that side of the street, you’ll come to the gorgeous viewpoint pictured above and the lookout pictured below.
This is where you’ll also find the “stairway to heaven” monument that popular on Instagram. This monument is now surrounded by a fence to keep people from climbing to the top. Those photos looked very cool, but would be quite dangerous!
Once you’ve worked up an appetite from exploring, stop by the gift shop to try the four different liqueurs made by the monks of Montserrat. The tasting costs 3€. Our personal favorite was the Crema Catalana… yum!
The Boys Choir
Listening to the Escolonia (Boys Choir) should be one of the most anticipated parts of your visit to Montserrat.Check the schedule for exact times. Note that the choir does not perform on Saturdays. (We learned this the hard way!)
Sample Catalan Cheese & More
Ya’ll know we love to eat so, of course, we couldn’t help but visit the small market with local Catalan vendors. You’ll find the vendor booths lined up along the main road (the same road you’ll walk to get to the Stairway to Heaven spot). The vendors have Catalan cheese and honey, and other local items.
Visit the Museum
The museum at Montserrat is home to both classic and modern art including works from Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, and more. It also holds many historical archaeological pieces, of which we’ve read that a mummy is part of the collection. Admission is 7€.
Have You Visited Montserrat?
We’d love to hear about your experience at Montserrat. What was your favorite spot? Let us know in the comments!