If you’re spending more than a few days in Barcelona on your trip to Spain, there’s a good chance you’ll want to explore beyond the city. One of the best day trips we took on our last Barcelona vacation was to Montserrat Monastery.
A Montserrat day trip is one of the top day trips to take. While it’s a bit of a hike to get there, we feel it is well worth the effort to get there. Montserrat is one of the most important religious locations for the Catholic Church and is home to the famous Black Madonna.
While we are not Catholic (or religious at all for that matter) we do enjoy learning about the history and culture of the regions we’re visiting. And a Montserrat day trip is teeming with interesting history, religious tales, and unique activities to enjoy.
This blog shares the fascinating history of this place along with everything you need to know about visiting. From transportation, tour options, and things to do at the Monastery – we’ve got you covered.
Quick facts for a Montserrat day trip
- Location: Catalonia, Spain
- Travel time from Barcelona: 1 and a half hours by car, bus, or train
- How to get to Montserrat: Car, train + cable car or rail rack train, or guided tour (more details)
- Entrance Cost: Free (but certain activities will cost money)
- Built: ~880 AD
- Elevation: 2,362 feet or 720 meters above sea level
- Time spent there: 2 – 4+ hours on average (we recommend 4 – 6 hours)
- Best time to visit: Spring and fall
Why visit Montserrat?
Montserrat is one of the most important sites for the Catholic Church and is a practicing Abbey for Benedict Monks. Roughly 1,000 years ago a special statue, called La Moreneta, or the Black Madonna, was discovered in a cave by a shepherd.
The statue was believed to have special powers which drew in visitors from across the country in pilgrimage. A priest who ran a church below the mountain saw the large number of visitors trekking into the mountain to visit La Moreneta and grew frustrated that his church was being passed by.
He attempted to move La Moreneta down the mountain to his church, but as he descended the mountain with the statue the Black Madonna grew heavy. At one point he could no longer carry her and decided instead to build a Basilica around her to protect her.
La Moreneta is the Patron Saint for Catalonia, the region where Montserrat and Barcelona reside. The Church has been attacked and destroyed over its 1,000-year history leaving very little of the original church intact today.
The best time to visit Montserrat
Spring and fall are the best times to visit Montserrat. Not only will you find fewer crowds during these seasons, but you’ll be greeted with beautiful weather. Since Montserrat is 2,362 feet (720 meters) above sea level, it’s noticeably colder than Barcelona year-round.
🥶 Winter temperatures can drop to -6°C (20°F) and below at night. The colder weather isn’t a deterrent for some, but it can interrupt what activities are available during your visit.
🥵 Summer can be very hot with temperatures reaching 37°C (100°F) in July and August. These months are also the busiest for tourists making it a less than ideal time to visit.
How to get to Montserrat
Getting to Montserrat is fairly easy, it just takes a bit of time and planning to determine the route most interesting for you. The Abbey of Montserrat is located about an hour to an hour and a half outside of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain.
You can take a car, train, or guided tour to get there combined with a cable car or rack rail train. We wrote an entire blog post about the cost, options, and time for each transportation option from Barcelona to Montserrat that you can read here.
What to bring on a Montserrat Day Trip
🧥Check the weather to ensure you have a jacket on hand before visiting Montserrat. The weather can be cooler up there and rain can frequent the mountains even when the weather is hot and dry in Barcelona. A rainstorm surprised us during our visit and the weather got chilly quickly. I wish we had brought a jacket with us!
👟 I also recommend having comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking here (potentially) and you’ll want to have shoes that can handle standing and hiking. 🧢 If you’re going there during summer make sure to bring a sunhat with you. A lot of your time there will be spent outdoors and this can prevent you from burning.
💧We brought a small backpack with a refillable water bottle. There is a fountain area with water from the mountain available to refill your bottles with. There is a legend that the water has healing powers. We didn’t feel anything crazy after drinking it but enjoyed its fresh taste.
⛑️ We always recommend having travel insurance to cover the “what-ifs”, especially when doing things like hiking. While visiting Montserrat is safe, it’s nice to know you would be covered if there were any major medical emergencies or trip interruptions. Our go-to travel insurance is Safety Wing. You can get a free quote for coverage by clicking here.
💳 Almost all of the shops will accept credit cards and debit cards. We recommend this travel credit card which charges no international fees. 💶 You will want at least 20€ to 30€ on you for the farmers market area. Some of the vendors had a card machine, but most were cash only.
Get the gear here:
- 🧢 Sun hat
- 🧥 Layers like a windbreaker or jacket
- 🥾 Comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes
- 🧦 Breathable and comfortable merino wool socks
- 📸 Camera equipment
- 🚰 Reusable water bottle
- 💶 Travel credit card (w/ no international fees) + 20€ to 30€ euros cash.
How much time do you need to visit Montserrat?
We were shocked at how much there is to do at Montserrat beyond visiting the Monastery. You can easily spend an entire day (6+ hours) exploring Montserrat. If you prefer a leisure stroll and want a unique overnight experience you can stay overnight in their hotel.
As you can see in the map above, there is a lot to see and do on a Montserrat day trip. Montserrat has:
- Farmers market selling fresh cheese, honey, and other goods from local farmers in the mountains
- Museum with world-class art and fascinating history
- 3 restaurants (2 formal and one more cafeteria style)
- Grocery store with basic prepared foods, breads, cheeses, wines, etc.
- Several hiking trails to visit other Churches (Santa Cova Chapel), statues, and vista points
- ATM, public restrooms, and information center
Given there are so many things to do at Montserrat we’ve made a day trip itinerary to help you make the most of your trip.
Recommended Montserrat day trip itinerary
If I was planning a DIY day trip to Montserrat here’s how I would spend my day.
Get to Montserrat
8:35 am: Hop on the train from Barcelona and make the hour-and-a-half-long journey to either the cable car or rack rail train. That should put you at the Monastery around 10:00 am.
If 8:35 am feels too early for you (I get it, we’re not morning people either), you can take the 9:35 am train. Just know you’ll have more crowds at Montserrat when you arrive.
Visit the Monastery and touch the Black Madonna
10:15 am: Head into the Monastery to see La Moreneta, aka the Black Madonna first. There is a 6€ entrance fee to enter the Basilica, but it’s 100% worth it. This beautiful sanctuary is where La Moreneta, an icon for Catholics and the patron saint of Catalonia, is kept.
La Moreneta is a black statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus on her lap and a globe in the other hand.
The statue was discovered in the mountains in the 9th century and is believed to have healing, fertility, and abundance-giving powers. People take pilgrimages from all over Spain and beyond to touch her globe, make prayers, and receive her healing gifts.
Tickets are required to go up to the Throne and touch her. Tickets are 8€ and sell out most days during the busy season (summer). You can purchase tickets online and entry is every 15 minutes.
Pro Tip: If you plan to also listen to the boy’s choir sing, you can bundle your tickets for 12€ (which is 4€ savings).
Visit the museum
10:45 am: If you are into artwork I recommend stopping by the museum. The Monastery you see today was completely rebuilt after being burnt down by French Emperor, Napolean and later by Spanish dictator, Franco. These attacks mean very few artifacts from the Basilica exist so most of the artwork here is collections of the Church from around the world on display.
They have many famed artists hanging on the walls and is a great stop for art lovers. Tickets must be purchased online and cost 8€ at the time of this writing.
Alternative: Visit Santa Cova Chapel
If you aren’t into art or simply don’t want to pay the entrance fee to the museum, head to Santa Cova Chapel instead. This chapel is where La Moreneta was discovered in a cave making it a very sacred spot for those on pilgrimage.
The chapel that surrounds the cave was built around 300 years ago and is very romantic jutting out over the cliffside.
⏰ The walk should take about an hour round trip. Make sure you have enough time before the boy’s choir performance depending on the day you are visiting. If you’re short on time you can purchase tickets to go down to Santa Cova Chapel on the Santa Cova Funicular tram. The funicular should cost between 12€ – 14€ roundtrip.
Listen to the boy’s choir perform
Noon on Sunday or 1:00 pm Monday through Saturday: Listen to the boy’s choir perform. Montserrat is home to one of the most prestigious boy’s choirs in the Catholic Church. It is one of the oldest choirs in Europe that now has around 50 boys in it!
The boys sing once daily Monday through Friday at 1:00 pm. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, they sing at noon. You must purchase separate entrance tickets to listen to the boy’s choir and it’s recommended you arrive about 10 to 15 minutes early to get a spot.
Shop for cheeses, honey, and other fresh goods
1:30 pm: Head to the grocery store and buy a bottle of wine and some crackers or bread. Then stop by the farmers market and get some fresh cheese or anything else that looks irresistible. We saw several vendors with a gorgeous Crema Catalan (famous Catalan desert).
The plan is to make your picnic as a reward at the end of your hike. Not only will you have breathtaking views, but there’s a good chance you’ll be hungry!
Go for a hike and have a picnic
2:00 pm: One of the most popular hikes to do in the Montserrat area is the hike to Sant Miquel’s Cross. The trailhead is just beyond the Sant Joan Funicular entrance (click here for the exact location).
The hike takes about 45 minutes to one hour round trip, so plan accordingly. The cross is the perfect spot to enjoy your homemade picnic and pop a bottle of wine (the wine store can help you open the bottle or buy a twist off top).
Take a trolly ride to the top of the mountain
4:00 pm (optional): Take the Sant Joan funicular to the top of the mountain to visit the highest point on Montserrat. This funicular was built in 1926 and takes you up 248 meters. The tram doesn’t run every day, so you’ll need to check when you arrive the timetables during your visit.
🎫 Tickets for the Sant Joan Funicular is 14€ roundtrip. You can bundle this with the Santa Cova funicular for better savings.
Of course, you can skip the funicular and start the long journey back home. However, it is a fun way to get a different vantage point of the Monastery.
Hopefully, this Montserrat day trip itinerary will help you plan the perfect trip here. We loved getting to explore this place and wish we had more time to visit everything. We went on a guided tour, which we felt was a major pro because we got to learn so much about the history of Montserrat.
However, it left very little time (an hour and a half) to spend as we pleased. If you’re interested in seeing our exact tour, click here. Let us know in the comments if this guide was helpful for you or if you have any further questions about planning a Montserrat day trip.
Check out my other Barcelona travel guides
- The 15 Best Places to Eat in Barcelona Right Now – This foodie guide breaks down the best places to eat in Barcelona right now for first or second-time visitors.
- Barcelona to Montserrat: How to Get to Montserrat Monastery: This guide breaks down the 5 ways to get to Montserrat from Barcelona with cost and time.
- What to Eat in Spain: 20 Must-Try Spanish Dishes: This foodie guide helps you understand the best foods to eat on a trip to Barcelona (and beyond).