Essential Guide To Montserrat Monastery Spain

montserrat monastery spain
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HOW TO GET THERE, THINGS TO SEE AND DO

In an epic mountain range located in the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain, the Montserrat Monastery is one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona and an iconic tourist attraction, visited by millions of people every year.

The little village retreat high up in the clouds is a sanctuary from city life with various attractions to see and things to do. It is not only rich in spirituality but also history, art and nature. It is a symbol of the Catalan identity.

Definitely worth the visit for everyone and a real highlight on any Barcelona itinerary.

Here is my guide to Montserrat Monastery with everything you need to know about visiting this extraordinary Spanish landmark, plus information on what to see and do there, advice for tourists and more.

About Montserrat Monastery

Montserrat means ‘serrated mountain’, and the distinctive rock formations, with multi-peaks are over 1200 metres high. The curious mountain range resembles old knobbly fingers and is a huge attraction. Also called the Mountain of 100 Peaks, and Mont Sagrat (sacred mountain) by Catalans. 

It’s a mountain retreat of spiritual importance for monks and visitors, with breathtaking views of the Spanish countryside.

The Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat here is almost a thousand years old and is home to 80 Monks. And before Christ, there was a Temple of Venus here built by the Romans.

Interesting fact: Every Catalan is expected to walk up to Montserrat once in their lives.

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How to get there

There are many different options for reaching Montserrat Monastery, some you may not be aware of.

1. My visit to Montserrat Monastery was part of a tour group by coach with a tour guide, of Barcelona and surrounds, which made the whole experience comfortable and stress free, particularly for our family of 4 with young children.

2. If you want to make your own way there, one of the easiest ways is to take a train from Barcelona, from the rail station at Plaça Espanya in Barcelonato, to the bottom of Montserrat Mountain. Then take the mountain train (Cremallera) or the cable car (Aeri) up to the Monastery. Or, you can walk up the mountain if you’re feeling adventurous.

3. Alternatively, go by car, either a hire car or taxi, to Montserrat from Barcelona, a distance of 60km, approx. one hour drive. Driving up the mountain is a bit daunting and not recommended for inexperienced mountain drivers. Car parking is available on the mountain for the cost of a few euros.

4. Another option is by public bus from Barcelona, leaving in the morning from Plaça de la Universitat, but there aren’t many buses going there and back.

5. A great option is to buy the Barcelona Go City Explorer Pass which includes a Montserrat visit by Bus. See below.

6. Another fabulous idea is to take a Hot Air Balloon Ride from Barcelona to Montserrat Monastery and enjoy the stunning aerial views of the city and countryside. See below.

Basilica of Montserrat

The Basilica here is called Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. It is part of the Monastery and is one of the most important buildings here where masses are held and the world renowned Boys Choir performs.

This Catholic church is Gothic in style and its architecture and beautiful interior is a must-see for everyone, which is always open and free to enter.

Snazzy Tip: Be sure to join the queue for general entry to the Abbey, or you may end up in the long line to visit the Black Madonna.

Basilica of Montserrat, Spain
Basilica of Montserrat, Spain

Visit the Black Madonna

Enshrined inside the Basilica is the famous and adored statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, also known as the Black Madonna or Black Virgin (La Moreneta)an ancient wooden sculpture of Virgin and Child, dating from the 12th century, which is also Patron Saint of Catalonia.

The 27th April is Feast Day of Our Lady of Montserrat when celebrations in her honour are held at Montserrat Monastery.

According to legend, the sculpture was found in one of the caves on the mountainside by shepherds in the 9th century, but originally came from Jerusalem.

There are various theories as to why the statue is black, from candle smoke damage of many years to simply the colour of the wood, to being African origin.

Pilgrims come to worship her from far and wide, all throughout the year, hoping for miraculous intervention in their lives. Even famous historic characters have been on pilgrimages here, such as Colombus and Louis XIV.

It is believed by many that the Madonna holds special healing powers. For example, if you wish to have a child, climb the stairs to the shrine, worship and kiss the statue’s hand holding the sphere, light a candle, and your wish will hopefully be granted.

However, long queues often form where the wait can be quite long during busy periods, as this is one of the most popular attractions here, and one of the main reasons people come. I recommend booking a time to visit the shrine in advance. 

Snazzy Tip: If you want to visit the Black Madonna, I suggest going in the afternoon when it’s less busy, after many of the tour buses have left.

Visit the Museum

The Museum of Montserrat houses artefacts and iconic artwork, the likes of Picasso, Monet, and Caravaggio.

There is quite a vast collection of works from 8 centuries to admire here, which makes it one of Spain’s most visited museums.

See the small Chapels called Hermitages

All around the mountain there are small cave chapels, or holy grottos, that monks once lived in as hermits, and were then abandoned. Some of these hermitages have existed since the 9th century, according to Catalan records.

Santa Cova Chapel and Sant Joan Chapel are accessible by the funiculars, which give you exceptional views over the landscape.

Chapel of Santa Cueva, Montserrat - wikimedia
Chapel of Santa Cueva, Montserrat - wikimedia

Ride a funicular up the mountain

There are 2 funiculars on the mountain called Funicular de Sant Joan and Funicular de Santa Cova, that you can take a ride on up and down the mountain to enjoy spectacular scenery, access the cave chapels, and a museum called Aula de la Natur, the Nature Centre.

Check times and when last ride is so you don’t get caught out.

Shop and Eat

There are several food and gift shops, as well as a few market stalls selling local produce, such as cheese, honey and cakes.

Enjoy one of the cafes and restaurants at Montserrat. I recommend you book restaurants in advance to avoid missing out, as they can get quite busy.

Montserrat is known for its Catalan gastronomy.

Hike

Explore the terrain a little by taking one of the various walking trails around the mountain to enjoy the flora and fauna, panoramic views and mountain air. They are generally of low to medium difficulty. Be sure to stay on the designated tracks.

You can hike to the tallest peak of the mountains, Sant Jeroni.

Picnic

Take a picnic on your walk and make the most of the experience on the mountain. You can buy supplies there so you don’t have to bring them with you.

There is also a designated picnic area at the Monastery terrace.

GENERAL INFO FOR VISITING MONTSERRAT

  • Once you arrive at the foothills of Montserrat Mountain, there are 3 ways to ride up and down the mountain – take a Cable car, a Funicular or the Cremallera Mountain Rack train.
  • Montserrat is open everyday, including public holidays.
  • Visiting Montserrat and the Basilica is free, including the Black Madonna. 
  • Bookings are now required to visit the Black Madonna, and for Mass.
  • You must buy tickets if you wish to see the Montserrat Museum, L’Escolania Boys Choir, cable car rides, funiculars, mountain train and the audio guide.
  • Tourist Information Offices and Kiosks are located around the mountain for your convenience.
  • The actual Monastery is not open to the public, only to the Monks.
  • Don’t take large bags with unnecessary items into the Basilica.
  • Dress conservatively inside the church.
  • The walking trails around the mountain are free.
  • Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
  • It is a few degrees cooler up the mountain, so come prepared. In Winter it may even snow.
  • Preferably allow a day for your visit from Barcelona to do everything on offer.
  • Avoid going to Montserrat on 11th of September, the National Day of Catalonia, as it can get super busy.

Photos of Montserrat Monastery and mountains

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Statues on the exterior
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Facade of the Basilica with the 12 Apostles
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Outdoor museum
Montserrat Monastery, Barcellona, Spain
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The Black Madonna
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Hiking path on Montserrat Mountain
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Mountain chapel on Montserrat
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Montserrat Sant Joan Funicular 06 Snazzy Trips travel blog
Funicular - A. Meskens, Wikimedia Commons
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Cable car to Monastery
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View of Monistrol Village below
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Inside the Abbey
Quick guide to Montserrat Monastery
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Mountain lookout

Guided tours and day trips

There are so many fabulous tours available, with transportation included from Barcelona, that aren’t too expensive and take all the hassles out of organising your own trip.

Some include lunch, a visit to a nearby winery, horse riding, cave visit, and much more.

Check out the awesome options below. 

Places to stay nearby

Booking.com
Booking.com

Pin Guide to Montserrat Monastery on pinterest

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Montserrat Spain - Epic things to do on a day trip from Barcelona
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15 thoughts on “Essential Guide To Montserrat Monastery Spain

  1. Michele says:

    What a beautiful place! I can only imagine what taking the hot air balloon from Barcelona might be like. So many wonderful options to visit. I’m adding this to my Spain itinerary for our next trip.

  2. Rhonda says:

    The monastery looks quite large and full of interesting buildings. I would take a funicular up the mountain to see the cave chapels (and the views).

  3. Himanshu says:

    OMG. Montserrat Monastery looks so darnly beautiful. What an awesme location for a monastery. Loved the façade with 12 Apostles.
    I have seen few such monastery in Himalayan, located amidst mountain range.

  4. Josy A says:

    Squeee this makes me so excited! We actually booked a night up in Monserrat Monastery a couple of years ago…but our flight was delayed for more than 14 hours… so in the end we couldn’t stay up there. We still went to the base (the following morning) to see the cool rock formations, but now I am even more keen to go back and see it all properly.

    Fab post!

  5. Polly says:

    I have heard about the Monsterrat Monastery but unfortunately have not been yet. I would love to hike there, but the cable car sounds pretty fun as well!

  6. Eric R. Gamble says:

    Dang it…you had to go and say Funicular. haha, I have no idea why but I LOVE funiculars. Darcee loves trains but if I find out that a place has a Funicular, the child inside me just has to ride it!

    So I loved Barcelona but really regret not taking any of the closer side trips while there. I really missed out on the easy train of bus ride over to Montserrat.

    There is no doubt that we would love to explore the Montserrat Monastery & see the Black Madonna in person. Of course there is tons of other things to do there but those two would be the highlight for us!

  7. Chantelle says:

    This looks so fun! I’d love to try the cable car. Your photos are so pretty. I’ll have to add this to our Spain trip!

  8. Linda (LD Holland) says:

    It was great to get this post while we are enjoying some time in Barcelona. It brought back great memories of our visit to Montserrat on a prior trip. We took the trip by train and then enjoyed the cable car trip up and down. It might be fun to see Montserrat on a day trip combined with a wine or cave visit.

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