Montserrat is a mountain range in Catalonia, not too far outside of Barcelona, famous for hosting the Benedictine monastery of Santa María de Montserrat. The Montserrat mountains are also known for their incredible hiking trails. Monterarrat’s beautiful landscape, incredible history and close proximity to Barcelona make it the perfect day trip. Here is everything you need to know about the history of Montserrat, as well as what transport options are available and what to enjoy while you are there!
History and significance of the Monastery of Montserrat
Montserrat has an expansive history, dating back to the 9th century. It is unclear how the monastery began, but legend says some locals saw a glowing light in the mountains of Montserrat which revealed a wood statue of the Virgin Mary, also known as La Moreneta. The bishop wanted to move the statue, but as she was too heavy, so he saw that as a message to build the monastery around her. The statue then became a symbol of miracles, and she was named Catalonia’s patroness in 1881. Four chapels were also constructed on the mountain which housed monks who lived lives of solitary prayer. In 1025, Oliba, Abbot of Ripoll and Bishop of Vic founded another monastery that brought in many pilgrims who wanted to witness the miracles of the Virgin statue. In 1409, the monastery was converted to an independent abbey, and the Monastery of Montserrat kept growing as a culture center, known for its boys' choir. Although the monastery has faced some scary times, it still stands today after war and destruction. It has been renovated and modernized to still serve its purpose as a holy place for people to gather.
How to get to Montserrat
Montserrat is the perfect day trip from Barcelona because there are so many easy transportation options. From cable car to train to on foot, there are several different possibilities depending on what experience you are looking for.
FGC public transport
From Barcelona’s Plaça Espanya Metro station, you can purchase a transport card to take the R5 (Barcelona - Manresa) line to get directly to Montserrat from Barcelona. The train leaves every hour, starting at 8:26am, so make sure you plan your arrival time accordingly. When you purchase your FGC transport card, you can also add on other options of the rack railway or cable car to get to the top of the mountain, which I will explain below.
The Cremallera is a rack railway train that goes straight from the FGC station to the Montserrat monastery, ascending 600 meters up the mountain in 15 minutes. The train leaves Monistrol Vila every 20 minutes, so it is a very convenient transport option.
If you prefer a different option from the rack railway, you can take a cable car up the side of the mountain. The cable car is the quickest way to get up the mountain, taking only about five minutes. Passengers can enjoy the beautiful views of the mountain while enjoying their journey to the top. The cable car also picks up directly from where the R5 train arrives, and it leaves every 15 minutes.
Barcelona tour bus
For a more structured, guided tour of Montserrat, you can do an eight-and-a-half-hour tour from Barcelona by bus. These tours through the official website are available from May to September on select days, but there are other tours you can book through outside companies. These tours are a more expensive option, but they provide more comfortable transport and background information about Montserrat.
Hiking on foot
Hiking up the mountain on foot is always an option for those who love the outdoors. Most people will take public transport to the town of Monistrol, and then pick their hike of choice up the mountain to the monastery. If you would like to hike but do not want to go all the way up the mountain, you can take one of the transport options to the top, and then choose one of the hiking trails up by the monastery.
Of course, traveling to Montserrat by car is an option. There is a car park by the sanctuary, but there is a limited capacity of attended parking and a parking fee. It is best to drive to the town of Monistrol and then use either the rack railway or cable car to reach the top of the mountain.
What to do in Montserrat
One of the main historical elements that draw many people to Montserrat is the wooden statue of the Virgin of Montserrat or La Moreneta. People still come to visit the Virgin statue and even touch her. Although she is seated behind glass, one of her hands that holds a sphere is open to the public. The sphere is supposed to represent the universe, and it is tradition for visitors to kiss or touch her hand while holding open their other hand to the Jesus statue on her lap. Aside from visiting the Virgin statue and the beautiful monastery, there are many hiking routes through the mountains that lead to stunning views. There are so many different trails and paths to explore. You can also visit the Museum of Montserrat which contains a valuable assortment of art featuring pieces from Dali and Picasso. The museum also has a collection of ancient archeological remains. On the grounds right outside of the Monserrat Monastery, there are sometimes market stands full of fresh cheese delicacies and other local goods to try. There are so many exciting experiences to enjoy on a day trip to Montserrat!