If you’re looking for a complete change of pace from the city (or just want to see the more natural side of Catalonia), then visiting Montserrat is the perfect day trip from Barcelona. Within an hour, you’ll be outside the hustle and bustle of the city and into the beautiful village of Montserrat surrounded by spectacular mountains.
The hike to the top gets you away from the crowds, passing through a local village before winding up the steep mountainside, treating you to stunning views all the way, whilst also giving you a thorough workout. At less than 7km, it may not seem that long, but you’ll feel it in your legs!
The reward for hiking to the top is the huge monastery (Monestir de Sant Benet de Montserrat) and the beautiful small chapel - Capella de la Santa Cova. Both are unique and interesting places to take in, but as nature lovers the mountains themselves were the true highlights for us. If churches are not your thing you can simply have lunch and a cappucino whilst looking out at those dramatic views.
Hiking Monserrat is definitely a highlight of any trip to Barcelona.
What to do in Montserrat
Montserrat isn’t too big, so you won’t need much more than an hour or two at the top unless you want to continue the hike on to the summit (which we highly recommend). You’ll want to factor in about five hours minimum for the trip though if you plan on taking public transport from the city and then hiking.
Capella de la Santa Cova
The Capella de la Santa Cova was our favourite part of Montserrat and is often overlooked by people taking the cable car or funicular railway to the top as it requires a little walk downhill and isn’t immediately obvious from the top. On the hiking trail from the base it is well signposted and worth the 20 minute (each way) detour.
The views along this stretch of track were our favourite on the whole hike.
Built on the side of the mountain, this tiny chapel is beautiful and seamlessly merges with the mountain. Inside is a humble church, with a few pews, altar and candles. It is peaceful and a great place for reflection.
Entrance to the church is free.
Monastir de San Benet de Montserrat
This huge monastery isn’t the kind of thing you expect to find on the top of a mountain and it feels as grand as the majority of cathedrals you see in major cities in Europe. It starts with a picturesque courtyard but it’s the inside that will truly blow you away. It is the most ornate monastery we have ever seen complete with beautiful lanterns and framed by a huge arched roof.
If you have time, you can queue up to visit the gallery, which gives you a view from much higher up and takes you round to the back of the altar.
It is very different from both the Barcelona Cathedral and the Sagrada Familia and is well worth a visit.
Entrance to the monastery is free.
You can also visit the Montserrat Museum which costs seven euros, we didn’t enter the museum though so we can’t comment on how good it is.
Simply put, the views from the top of Montserrat are incredible. From here you’ll see the countryside with its small villages, rivers and surrounding mountains (which were snow capped when we visited).
It is a great place to have lunch or a coffee on a sunny day (although prices here are high so if you’re on a budget we’d suggest bringing a picnic from the city) and just take in how amazing rural Europe can be.
Read next: The top instagrammable places in Barcelona
How to hike to Montserrat Monastery
Type of walk: One way or return
Difficulty: Short, but strenuous
Distance: 6.88km (including the detour to Capella de la Santa Cova)
Time taken: 2 hours 20 (including the detour and time spent at the church)
The hike up to the top of Montserrat is steep with very few flat sections to get your breath back. It is reasonably well marked if you know what you’re looking for, but there are next to no formal signposts. Here are some instructions to get you on the right track.
Finding the start of the trail
Starting at Monistrol de Montserrat, exit the train station and turn immediately right, then left. This will take you to the bridge which crosses the river and heads towards the village. You can see the bridge on Google Maps below.
Once across the bridge, you’ll see the highway in front of you. Take the underpass which will take you to the other side of the highway. Keep an eye out for the path that goes left of the BBVA bank (you can see it on the map below).
Follow this path into the village and it will open up to a square. There’s a staircase that you will see with these markings on it. These are the markings you’ll be following along the whole hike.
At the top of the stairs, turn left. You’ll have a short walk along the road before having to cross to this path (also marked with the paint).
From here, it is a straightforward hiking path all the way to the top. Keep following all signs to “Monestir de Montserrat”. The path does become rough in a couple of patches and will require a little scramble, but on the whole it is in good condition.
It is not a path which has amazing views throughout as you will often be in bushy sections but there is definite satisfaction in making your way to the monastery under your own steam.
The track will eventually wind behind the mountain and give you the option of turning left to visit Capella de la Santa Cova - the small chapel on the side of the mountain. We highly recommend this as - although it adds on more distance and you’ll have to climb uphill again - it will take you past some sculptures and eventually to this beautiful little chapel.
Once you’ve visited the Capella de la Santa Cova, head back and upwards to the main buildings. Here you’ll find the terminal for the cable car, funicular railway and the monastery.
Continuing to the summit - Sant Jeroni
On our most recent visit we weren’t able to continue the hike past the monastery as a storm rolled in and it wouldn’t have been safe.. or fun! However on our previous visit we did and if you have the energy we’d highly recommend it. The views from the top are even more incredible than from the monastery. It is a steep climb so it’s a fair additional undertaking, though the path is a little better than from the base to the monastery.
You can find the path very close to the monastery, you can’t miss it. If you have even more time there are also a couple of other walks too.
You’ll want to allow an extra couple of hours to make the hike to the summit from the monastery and back.
How to get back down if you don’t fancy anymore hiking!
The good news is that you don’t have to hike down if you don’t want to. Sadly, both options will probably involve queuing as the cable car and funicular railway are most tourist’s choice of transport up and down Montserrat.
If you can avoid weekends you should find the queues much shorter.
The cable car from the top of Montserrat runs to Montserrat Aeri Train Station, 1 stop before Monistrol de Montserrat. The cable cars only run every 15 minutes, which can make a pretty long wait (there isn’t much room inside these cars).
However, the reward is the stunning valley views, we’ve taken the cable car in the past and it is definitely better than the funicular. Tickets cost €7.50 one-way, making it the costlier option.
Current cable car openings times can be found on this website.
The funicular railway is a lot less scenic, but also a little cheaper. If you just want a quick way back to the train, then this is the one to take.
The funicular runs between 2-3 trains per hour, but they carry quite a lot of people in one go. We managed to squeeze in with a lot of other people when it was raining. It’s not so picturesque and the windows were quite dark so it is not good for photos, but if you simply want to get back quickly it is your best bet. Tickets cost €6.60 one way.
Current opening hours for the funicular can be found on this website.
Getting from Barcelona to Montserrat
The simplest way to get from Barcelona to Montserrat is to take the train from Playa Espanya. The R5 train runs every hour and takes about an hour to get to Monistrol de Montserrat.
Ignore the google maps recommendations as sometimes it will say you will have to make 15 changes to get there! It’s much simpler to time your trip with the R5 trains that run direct.
Ticket prices and timetables can be found at this website.
Top tip: Don’t make the mistake we did and arrive with little time to spare for your train, the station is really big and we ended up missing ours by moments. Give yourself plenty of time to buy tickets and get to the platform.
Where to stay in Barcelona
We’ve stayed in a few different places over the years and can definitely say Barcelona has something for every budget.
Budget - Hostal Abrevadero
On our most recent trip we wanted somewhere cheap and cheerful where you can get a private room for a reasonable price, Hostal Abrevadero offered just that. We were a little further walk from the city than many hostels (around 20 minutes to many of the sites) but we were happy to walk more in order to pay the same for a private ensuite room that we would have had to pay for two dorm beds in a more central location.
The room was spotlessly clean and comfy and the staff here were so incredibly friendly.
Mid-range - Exe Plaza Catalunya
If you’re looking for a mid range option then Exe Plazaa Catalunya is a great choice. The rooms are fairly small but comfy with huge beds and the bathrooms are massive. Staff are friendly and the brekkie is good too.
You can’t beat it for location as it is very central and a few steps from La Ramblas.
Top End - The W
For a splurge we’d recommend the hotel that Joe’s brother stayed in, the W. It’s a little further from the city but you get fabulous water views and trendy rooms. They even serve champagne with breakfast!
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Are you planning a trip to Barcelona? Where is your favourite day trip from the city? Let us know in the comments below!