Day trip to Montserrat hiking to Saint Joan Chapel

How to Plan a Day Trip to Montserrat Spain from Barcelona

Montserrat Spain is one of the best day trips from Barcelona. The Montserrat mountain peaks offer unparalleled views over Catalonia and an opportunity to go beyond the popular sights in Barcelona itself.

But, not knowing the area, how to get around on public transportation, and confusion about different Montserrat tickets can make planning a day trip to Montserrat feel a bit nerve-wracking.

So, in this in-depth Montserrat day trip guide, you’ll learn:

  • how to get to Montserrat from Barcelona,
  • which Montserrat ticket from Barcelona is right for you, and
  • what to do in Montserrat once you arrive!
How to Plan a Day Trip to Montserrat from Barcelona Pinterest Pin

How to a Plan Day Trip to Montserrat Spain from Barcelona

Of all the Barcelona day trips, Montserrat Mountain and Monastery is my favorite.

You’ll have the chance to get just outside the city and into the mountains for a pilgrimage all your own to see the famous Montserrat Monastery and the Black Madonna. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the countryside and a trip back to the past as you retrace the steps Pilgrims have taken for hundreds of years along the route of Catalonia’s most important religious journey.

And from a travel planning perspective, adding a day trip to a travel itinerary has a way of taking an ordinary city sightseeing visit and transforms it into a one-of-a-kind trip with an authentic experience.

Where is Montserrat Spain?

Montserrat Mountains

Montserrat is a jagged, mountain range in Catalonia Spain, the same region as Barcelona. You’ll travel about 1 1/2 hours northwest of Barcelona on the train to Montserrat. For reference, Barcelona is just 2 1/2 hours by high-speed train to the northeast from Madrid.

How to Take the Train from Barcelona to Montserrat

Monserrat Monastery

From Barcelona, take the metro to the Placa d’Espanya stop. The L1 and L3 (red and green on the map) metro trains stop at this station.

The metro station is a bit lacking in signs at the train platform level but once you’re upstairs, you’ll see Montserrat signs and typically plenty of people heading in the right direction. Pass through the underground metro exit and follow the signs for the R5 train to Montserrat. 

When planning how to get from Barcelona to Montserrat, I strongly recommend buying your tickets ahead of time to avoid any line which could potentially make you miss the train you want. Just know the right kind of ticket for your visit. (More on this below.)

Tickets can also be purchased from the ticket booth in the station or at automatic kiosks, also in the station. The type of ticket you buy will ultimately determine how you get up to the Monserrat Monastery and the hiking trails in the mountains. 

Check the R5 train schedule from Barcelona Placa d’Espanya to time everything right. (Allow more time if you need to buy your ticket at the station.) Trains leave every hour but the exact time during the hour varies depending on the day of the week you travel.

Take the R5 train from Barcelona to either the Aeri de Montserrat stop or one station further to the Monistrol de Montserrat stop. The Aeri de Montserrat stop is for anyone wishing to take the cable car up to Montserrat. If you’d rather go by rack railway, get off the R5 train at the next stop, Monistrol de Montserrat.

ProTip: Take an early train. If you plan to explore the Montserrat hiking trails, which I highly recommend doing, you’ll want the full day at Montserrat.

Montserrat Tickets – Which one is right for you?

Montserrat Spain Cable Car

There are a few different ticket options for Montserrat. I’m going to explain each one so you can choose what’s best for you.

Trans Montserrat Ticket

I purchased a Trans Montserrat ticket, which is the most popular ticket choice for visitors planning a Montserrat day trip from Barcelona. This ticket includes a:

  • round trip metro ticket from Placa d’Espanya,
  • round trip train ticket from Barcelona to the Monistrol de Montserrat stop,
  • round trip ticket on the rack railway (cremallera) or cable car (aeri),
  • use of the Saint Joan funicular to access the mountain hiking trails, and
  • entry to the Monserrat exhibition.

Riding the cable car option to Montserrat is by far the most scenic way to get there, as it takes you up and above the valley for sweeping landscape views which include the mountains all around. 

TOT Montserrat Ticket

The TOT Montserrat ticket is the most inclusive of the 3 different options. It includes:

  • round trip metro ticket from Placa d’Espanya,
  • round trip train ticket from Barcelona to the Monistrol de Montserrat stop,
  • round trip ticket on the rack railway (cremallera) or cable car (aeri),
  • use of the Saint Joan funicular to access the mountain hiking trails,
  • entry to the Monserrat exhibition,
  • entry to the Montserrat Museum, and
  • a meal in the self-service Montserrat restaurant.

A few things to consider, the Montserrat Museum isn’t the same as Santa Maria de Montserrat, the holy abbey and basilica where the Black Madonna of Montserrat sits. Rather, it’s a museum housing some of the works of famous artists like Miro, Picasso, and Dali. 

You can also save money by packing a lunch or snacks. The hiking paths in the mountains have plenty of scenic overlooks where you can stop for a rest and a picnic. 

Montserrat Expres

The Montserrat Expres ticket is for visitors NOT planning to do any hiking in the mountains. This ticket does not include the use of the funiculars once up at the Monserrat Monastery. These funiculars are what transport you to different trailhead areas above the monastery.

The Montserrat Expres ticket includes a:

  • round trip train ticket from Barcelona to the Monistrol de Montserrat stop,
  • round trip ticket on the rack railway (only…no cable car/aeri) up to the monastery,
  • welcome pack with a guide to the shrine and local goodies, and
  • an audio guide for the train journey and the monastery.

This ticket is right for visitors who just want to see the Montserrat basilica with the Black Madonna.

ProTip: Going up TO Montserrat, get off the train at Aeri de Montserrat, and take the Montserrat cable car for fantastic views. But, on the RETURN from Montserrat, take the rack railway down to catch the R5 train to Barcelona at the Monistrol de Montserrat stop. Why? You have a better chance to get a seat for the train ride back to Barcelona if you get on at Monistrol de Montserrat. Aeri de Montserrat is one stop after that, but oftentimes, the people boarding the train here have to stand for the journey to Barcelona.

Things to Do in Montserrat

Montserrat Monastery

Once you arrive at Montserrat, you’ll want to go inside the basilica and make your way to see the Black Madonna. She’s one of just a few in the world and it’s said she has healing powers.

On my visit to Montserrat in the spring, there was no line to see the Madonna. But in the busy summer season, take the opportunity to see her when you first arrive or whenever you see the line getting smaller.

The Montserrat Museum is in the same square as the basilica. However, it has works of art from famous artists like Picasso and Dali and isn’t about the history of Montserrat. Tickets are sold separately or are included with the TOT Montserrat ticket only.

Every day inside the basilica, the Montserrat Boys’ Choir sings at 1 pm, as well as again in the early evening. The tradition of the boys’ choir at the abbey of Montserrat dates back to the 1200s. The boys in the choir study music, as well as academics at Montserrat.

You can easily spend a good chunk of the day exploring the Montserrat hiking trails. In fact, after the Black Madonna, it’s the most popular reason why travelers visit Montserrat. 

Hiking Montserrat

Hiking Montserrat Trails

Aside from seeing this holy sight and relic that is the Montserrat Monastery and the Black Madonna, the mountains all around are part of Montserrat National Park and have hiking trails taking you to small chapels, crumbling shrines, crosses, and of course, gorgeous viewpoints overlooking the landscape.

The Saint Joan funicular takes you up into the mountains where you’ll find 3 separate trailheads.

Montserrat Mountain Trails

The popular Saint Jeroni hike is by far the longest and most difficult hike. However, it also comes with incredible panoramic views over the mountains and countryside below. By taking the Saint Joan funicular up to this point, you reduce the overall elevation gains on the Saint Jeroni hike.

It’s also possible to hike up to Saint Jeroni from the level as the Monastery, without taking the funicular up. While the trail may be a bit more direct, the elevation gain is double that of the trailhead beginning where the Saint Joan Funicular ends.

If you’re interested in completing a round trip hike to Saint Jeroni, set aside 3-4 hours and be sure to wear comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes.

Montserrat Sant Miqeul Cross

Also from the top of the Saint Joan funicular, 2 other Montserrat hiking trails lead you up to Santa Magdalena or to the Cross of Sant Miquel. You can also hike from the Monastery level, without taking the funicular, up past the Cross of Sant Miquel and continue on all the way up to Santa Magdalena.

I loved the journey up to Santa Magdalena, especially the view over the Chapel of Saint Joan with the mountains on either side.

Day trip to Montserrat hiking to Saint Joan Chapel

The trail level difficulty ratings seemed accurate, however, the estimated completion times seemed a bit generous, especially if you’re stopping to take a lot of photos like I was. If you’re planning out your day, add a bit more time to the suggested times on the signs.

At the monastery level, there’s another funicular called Santa Cova, which takes visitors partially back down the mountain. When I visited it was out of service for repairs and scheduled to reopen sometime in early 2020.

Montserrat Spain Santa Cova hike

However, you could still hike down to the cave chapel, called Santa Cova. Legend has it the image of the Virgin Mary was seen by shepherds in this spot. When the Santa Cova funicular is open, many visitors like to hike down to the chapel but avoid the steep climb back up to the monastery by riding the funicular.

Remember, both the Trans Montserrat and the TOT Montserrat tickets include the use of the Saint Joan and Santa Cova funiculars.

Montserrat Restaurant

Montserrat has a cafeteria where you can purchase food and drinks to sit for a lunch break or a snack. If you’ve purchased the TOT Monserrat ticket, a meal is included. Prices are inflated but not as horrific as they could be. The food is decent enough with hot and cold items from which to choose.

If you plan to hike into the mountains, consider putting together a lunch or some snacks while still in Barcelona and picking a spot to eat while enjoying the views on your hike.

What to Pack for your Montserrat Day Trip

In addition to any food you pack and the sturdy hiking shoes or sneakers you’re wearing, don’t forget

  • water,
  • sunscreen,
  • your camera, and,
  • an extra layer to protect against wind or cooler temperatures as you hike higher.

I always use this backpack for day trip hikes. It’s small, lightweight, and still holds everything I need.

Should You Choose a Montserrat Tour Instead?

day trip to Montserrat hiking

That all depends on your comfort level. After all, the last thing you want is for your Montserrat day trip to be stressful because you’re worried about traveling there independently from Barcelona.

With that being said, taking this day trip from Barcelona is straightforward whether you’re a seasoned traveler or not. The Montserrat train doesn’t involve any transfers once getting on and it’s up to you to decide between the cable car up or the Montserrat rack railway.

Also, keep in mind, Montserrat can take a whole day. Tours come with specific departure and return times, which could limit what you’re able to do, especially if you plan to hike.

If you’re still interested, I’ve spotlighted a few Montserrat tour options below.

Would you like to plan an easy one day trip from Barcelona? Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona couldn’t be easier! And once you arrive, you’ll have the day to see the Monastery and hike up into the mountains for an unforgettable way to explore and experience the mountains in Catalonia Spain.

Would you like to plan a day trip to Montserrat?

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10 thoughts on “How to Plan a Day Trip to Montserrat Spain from Barcelona”

  1. I’m looking for a clarification on the purchase of a Trans Montserrat ticket. When I select to buy the ticket, on the purchase options page, it wants me to select either cable car or rack railway. How do I split it so I can ride cable up and railway down? When I choose 1 for each option, it looks like I am purchasing two tickets since the price doubles.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Heather. You don’t need to purchase 2 tickets. The Trans Montserrat ticket lets you take the train all the way to the Monistrol de Montserrat stop. This is where you’d get the rack railway down. But on the way to Montserrat, get off 1 stop before at the Aeri de Montserrat stop to get the cable car. Later on, you can go back via the rack railway because your ticket lets you board the train back to Barcelona at the Monistrol de Montserrat stop. Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. Very useful article, thank you? let’s see how it goes, not a hiking person, but it would be pitty to miss the views.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Lina. Agreed on the views…they’re too pretty to miss. 🙂

  3. I am having the same issue as Heather. If the Trans Montserrat ticket requires you to choose between cable car of rack railway, how can you take one each way? thanks for your help

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Darlene, thanks so much for reading the blog. The Trans Montserrat ticket includes a roundtrip on the cable car or rack railway. The ticket also includes the train ride from Barcelona to Monistrol de Montserrat. The Monistrol de Montserrat stop is one stop past the stop for the cable car and is also the last stop on the train line and where you’d connect to the rack railway.

      So, you can take the train from Barcelona to the “Aeri” stop (one stop before Monistrol de Montserrat…essentially getting off 1 stop earlier than you paid for on your ticket) and ride the cable car up. But on the return, take the rack railway down to Monistrol de Montserrat (included with your Trans Montserrat ticket) and get the train back to Barcelona from there. Hope that helps! Enjoy Montserrat. 🙂

    2. thanks for the quick response. To be clear, I’ll need to be a cable car ticket when I arrive at the ‘Aeri’ station to ride the cable car, since only the rack rail return ticket is included? is it possible and would it be cheaper to buy a train ticket to Montserrat only with no rack rail/cable and then buy one what tickets separately at the Aeri/rack rail station?
      really appreciate your help!

    3. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hey Darlene!

      No worries. You don’t need to buy a separate ticket. It’s all included. The Trans Montserrat ticket includes a Round trip ticket on the Cremallera (rack railway) or Aeri to Montserrat. So if you use the Aeri one way and Rack Railway back, you’re fine. It’s all included.

      Hope this helps clarify. 🙂

  4. Loved this article, I’ll be in Spain next month and this is definitely something I want to do! Do you happen to remember how early in the morning you can first get a train out here vs. when (if applicable) the monastery opens? Or do you have links to easily find this? I clicked the R5 train schedule link above, but I wasn’t sure if those were ticket prices or times?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words, Alexa. Yes! You should definitely visit Montserrat. 😉 The R5 schedule shows times. The earliest train on both weekdays and weekends seem to be 5:16. The Monastery opens at 7 am. So you’d arrive early but there would be another at 6:16 according to the schedule so that could time it nicely with pretty soon after the Monastery opens. Weekends also have 2 trains per hour so there are other timed trains that could get you there early as well. Enjoy Spain and Montserrat!

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