Montserrat. Visit the most magical mountain in Catalonia

Montserrat. Visit the most magical mountain in Catalonia

For many visitors to Barcelona, it’s essential to pay a visit to Montserrat to discover the beautiful Benedictine monastery, see the Moreneta, or listen to its famous Escolanía.

The word “Montserrat” literally means “serrated mountain.” And this name is given to it because of its special morphology. A mountain with unique shapes and large masses of gray stone that houses the image of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia, at its summit.

On its peak stands the majestic Sanctuary where La Moreneta, also known as the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia, is venerated.

Montserrat is also a natural park, full of pine and oak trees, where you can explore various routes to discover its nooks while enjoying incredible views.

The History of Montserrat

The history of Montserrat begins in 880 when a small group of shepherd children saw a bright light descending from the sky in the mountains. At that moment, the children heard angels singing, and the music filled their hearts with radiant joy.

Overwhelmed by the experience, the children ran home to tell their parents. Throughout the following month, the parents also witnessed the same heavenly experiences and drew only one conclusion: the visions were a sign from God.

All these visions occurred in the same place, the cave where they found an image of the Virgin Mary.

From that moment on, the cave became a pilgrimage sanctuary. Today, you can visit the Holy Grotto and see firsthand where all these events took place.

monasterio de montserrat

What to See in Montserrat

If you decide to take a trip to Montserrat, you’ll surely not get bored; there are many things to do in Montserrat:

– Visit the basilica with the Virgin of Montserrat and enjoy the music of its Children’s Choir.

– Visit the Benedictine monastery and nearby museums.

– Explore different hiking trails and enjoy the views.

Visiting La Moreneta

The Virgin of Montserrat or Mare de Déu de Montserrat, popularly known as La Moreneta, is the patron saint of Catalonia.

According to legend, the first image of the Virgin of Montserrat was found by shepherd children in the year 880. The bishop of Manresa tried to move the image to this city, but the transfer was impossible because the statue was too heavy. The bishop interpreted it as the Virgin’s desire to remain in the place where she was found and ordered the construction of the hermitage of Santa María, the origin of the current monastery.

The image of La Moreneta is a Romanesque carving from the 12th century made of poplar wood. It represents the Virgin with the child Jesus sitting on her lap and measures about 95 centimeters in height. In her right hand, she holds a sphere symbolizing the universe; the Child has his right hand raised in a blessing gesture while holding a pinecone in his left hand.

The face and head of the Child Jesus were retouched at a later time and show a naturalistic style unrelated to Romanesque images. With the exception of the faces and hands of Mary and the Child, the image is gilded. The flesh tones are black, which has given her the popular nickname La Moreneta.

The dark color of the Virgin of Montserrat is due to the chromatic transformation of the varnish on her face and hands over time in an environment with smoke from votive candles, incense, and also the breath of pilgrims.

To see La Moreneta, foreign tourists must pay between 8 and 23 euros depending on the type of tour they want to take.

Masses continue to be free for all Spanish residents and tourists staying in Montserrat, and only need to be reserved for special weekend liturgies.

As with other religious monuments in Barcelona, such as the Sagrada Familia, don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing: covered shoulders, long pants or skirts, closed shoes.

As you head towards the basilica, you may encounter a long line of people on the right side. This line is not to enter the basilica but to see the Virgin. In high season, it can last between 20 and 45 minutes.

escolania de montserrat

The Escolanía de Montserrat

The children’s choir of the Escolanía de Montserrat is one of the oldest in Europe. It was founded in the 14th century and is currently made up of about fifty “escolanets” who sing every day in the basilica and in the sanctuary’s celebrations. All the boys in the choir attend a local school, where they study, among other things, music theory and singing, playing a musical instrument, or choral singing.

The most popular pieces of this children’s choir are the Salve and the Virolai. You can listen to the Salve and the Virolai at 1:00 p.m. and the Salve Montserratina, which alternates polyphony and Gregorian chant with the monks’ choir, every evening at 6:45 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

Both last about 10 minutes. And since they are sung prayers rather than concert songs, there is no applause at the end.

Escolanía Coral performance schedules:

  • Monday – Friday: 1:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m. (only Thursdays at 1:00 p.m.).
  • Saturday: There are no choral performances.
  • Sunday: Mass at 11:00 a.m., 6:45 p.m.

The performance is paid for tourists; you must buy the ticket in advance. The number of places is limited, and since tickets sell out quickly: the sooner you make your reservation, the better.

The complete choir program with dates and times can be found on their website.

The Monastery of Montserrat

The Benedictine monastery was founded by Abbot Oliba in 1025, and it houses more than 300,000 volumes in its library, a fact that highlights its importance in the preservation and dissemination of Catalan culture.

Currently, about 80 monks are dedicated to prayer and welcoming pilgrims. It can be visited every day except Saturdays.

The monastery complex consists of two blocks of buildings with different functions: on one side is the basilica with the monastic quarters, and on the other side are the buildings for pilgrims and visitors.

These latter include various restaurants, shops, and an accommodation area. Outside, there are various squares that serve to organize the set of buildings in the rugged topography of the mountain.

This outdoor space, to which various sculptural works have been added, forms an “open-air museum.”

The Plaza de Santa María is the main square and the one that gives access to the monastery and is the work of the modernist architect Puig i Cadafalch.

In the Plaza del Abad Oliva are the buildings that provide accommodation for pilgrims. The Plaza de la Santa Cruz is dedicated to San Miguel, and it takes its name from the cross that presides over it, the work of the sculptor Subirachs. Here is the rack railway station, as well as the Information Office of the monastery.

The 19th century was especially tragic for the Montserrat monastery: at the beginning of the century, it was burned twice by Napoleonic troops, in 1811 and 1812, and many of its treasures were lost. In the mid-19th century, in 1835, the abbey suffered expropriation due to the disentailment of Mendizábal.

Since the late 19th century, the monastery of Santa María de Montserrat has experienced uninterrupted growth until the 1950s when it reached 150 religious, although since then there has been a continuous decline in vocations.

la moreneta

The basilica of Montserrat began to be built in the 16th century and was completely rebuilt in the 19th century.

The church has a single nave, 68.32 meters long and 21.50 meters wide, with a height of 33.33 meters. It is supported by central columns, with carvings made of wood. Just above the main altar is the shrine of the Virgin, which is accessed after passing through an alabaster portal. Around the central nave are several chapels.

The organ of the Montserrat church dates from 1896 and was moved to the presbytery in 1957. This organ is very deteriorated. In 2010, a new organ was installed on the side of the nave, which places Montserrat at an international musical level.

 Routes through the Montserrat Natural Park

The Montserrat massif is a place to make wonderful hiking routes in an authentic open-air museum formed by sculptures, monuments, and nature itself.

Trails that lead to the Holy Cave, the San Juan viewpoint, or the Chapel of San Miguel. The Holy Cave is a troglodyte chapel embedded in the rock where the Virgin appeared.

Next to the cave, in the square, you will discover the set of modernist outdoor sculptures that make up the Monumental Rosary.

In this link, you can find 19 routes to enjoy Montserrat.

Where to Eat in Montserrat

During your visit to Montserrat, you have different options to enjoy high-mountain cuisine or simply take a break on the way and recharge your batteries.

The Montserrat restaurant opens in summer and is located on the ground floor of the Mirador dels Apòstols building with a fantastic panoramic view of the mountain, the Holy Cave, and the Llobregat valley.

If you prefer a more informal and faster option, you can go up to the second floor and eat at the Buffet, which offers Mediterranean and international dishes.

Both the Cafeteria and the Plaça Bar offer sandwiches and drinks for a snack. If you prefer, you can bring your own picnic and eat outdoors in the designated area while enjoying the incomparable views.


How to Get to Montserrat

 Going by train to Montserrat

You can go to Montserrat on the R5 train line. They leave every hour from 8:36 a.m. to 4:36 p.m. from the Plaça Espanya station. The journey takes one hour.

From the Montserrat station, you have two options to go up to the mountain and reach the monastery: the cable car or Cremallera Funicular.

Train prices to Montserrat:

  • – Adults – one way: €13.85
  • – Adults – round trip: €26.30
  • – Children – one way: €10.35
  • – Children – round trip: €19.30
  • – Pensioners – one way: €13.70
  • – Pensioners – round trip: €24.90

Complete “Trans Montserrat” and “Tot Montserrat” tickets allow you to choose the method of transportation to reach the Montserrat Abbey, Cremallera, or Aeri de Montserrat at the time of purchase. They are for sale at FGC offices in Pl. España (Barcelona), where the Aeri also has a customer service space, with an agent, in the morning.

Going to Montserrat by coach

Autocares Julia offers a regular service from La Estación de Sants in Barcelona (C/ Viriato, s/n). Departure at 9:15 a.m. and return at 5 p.m. (6 in summer) with a duration of one hour and 20 minutes. The price is €5.10 per trip. You can only buy the ticket from the driver when boarding (not online or at the ticket office).

Going to Montserrat by car

Going to Montserrat by car from Barcelona is a pleasant journey of about 60 kilometers with very good roads. And perfectly signposted.

If you want to go by car to Montserrat, you will have to decide whether you want to park right at the monastery or if you prefer to park at the foot of the mountain and take one of the means of transportation to the top. Many people choose to take the rack railway or the cable car. Both services offer free parking at their stations.

See to Maps

Whether you go by train or by car, for the more adventurous, you can go to Monistrol and hike up to the top along signposted tourist routes.

There are two, and both are about 4 km long, but they differ in difficulty. Depending on your level of physical fitness, you will need between 1.5 and 2.5 hours to reach the top. (A trained person with good physical condition can reach the top in 1 hour).

The trails are open all year round, and at any time of the year, you may come across quite a few pilgrims heading to the abbey.

Cable Car or Funicular to Montserrat

To go up to the monastery, you can take the funicular, also called Cremallera, or the cable car.

To reach the top of the mountain, that trip will cost you €16.50 (round trip) or €10.70 (one way).

Aeri de Montserrat

The cable car from the base of the Montserrat mountain to the Montserrat monastery started operating in 1930. It travels at a speed of 5 meters per second and climbs a slope of up to 45%.

More information about the cable car can be found on the official Aeri de Montserrat website.

Aeri de Montserrat prices:

  • – Normal ticket:
  •    – One way: €8.95
  •    – Round trip: €13.50
  • – Over 60s ticket:
  •    – One way: €7.80
  •    – Round trip: €11.20
  • – Children 4-13 years old:
  •    – One way: €4.70
  •    – Round trip: €6.75


Pay attention to the time since the cable car only operates until 5:00 p.m. (schedules change, so please check this on the day you go).

Funicular or Cremallera

The other option to go up to Montserrat is to take the Cremallera, which takes you from the base of the Montserrat mountain to the Montserrat Monastery.

Once you have arrived at the Montserrat Monastery, you have the option of taking two other funiculars: the Funicular de Santa Cova and the Funicular de Sant Joan.

The funicular to the Santa Cova cave from the monastery costs €6.30 round trip or €4.10 one way.

The funicular de Sant Joan offers you the opportunity to travel to the top of the Montserrat mountain, at 1,000 meters above sea level, to enjoy some peace and quiet away from the crowds of the Monastery, while contemplating the entire sanctuary from afar and some spectacular views. The round trip to Sant Joan funicular costs €14.

More info

You can use both funiculars for free if you travel to Montserrat and purchase any of the combined Trans Montserrat tickets.

Guided Tours to Enjoy Montserrat

If you are going to be in Barcelona for a few days and want to take a trip to Montserrat without worrying about buying tickets, entrance fees, itineraries,… at Barcelona Local Experiences, we offer you 2 guided tours to Montserrat in small groups, half-day or full day, with lunch in a typical farmhouse and a visit to a Catalan winery, to discover with an official guide all the secrets that this wonderful and magical mountain hides from all its visitors.

See Half day excursion in Montserrat from Barcelona

See One day excursion in Montserrat with lunch in a farmhouse and visit to a wine producer.

f you want to visit Barcelona and know all its secrets in the company of a specialized guide do not miss our day tours. Since 2015 we organize guided tours in Barcelona, in small groups and private tours to visit without queues or wasting time the most important places of Barcelona.

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2024-04-13T14:49:00+02:00April 13th, 2024|0 Comments

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