Monserrat Monastery with mountain views

Barcelona Cruise Port to Montserrat: DIY Day Trip Guide

Your cruise from Barcelona is about to be an incredible adventure, but why not make the most of your time in this vibrant region of Spain? If you’ve arrived early in Barcelona, a day trip to the magical Montserrat Monastery is a fantastic DIY excursion. I rate this highly as a DIY day trip out of Barcelona because there’s minimal planning required – just check the weather report, find your way to Plaça Espanya station, buy the combined train/entry ticket and off you go!

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What/Where is Montserrat?

Montserrat, meaning “serrated mountain” in Catalan, is a breathtaking mountain range located about an hour northwest of Barcelona. Its unique, jagged peaks rise dramatically from the landscape, creating a truly awe-inspiring natural wonder. But the mountain isn’t just about the views – Montserrat holds deep cultural and spiritual significance, too.

Nestled within these mountains is the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in the 11th century. Throughout history, it has evolved into a place of pilgrimage, famed for its revered “Black Madonna” statue (La Moreneta) and its world-renowned boys’ choir.

Why Visit Montserrat Before Your Cruise?

Montserrat Panorama Sunset, Catalonia

Escape the bustling energy of Barcelona for a day and immerse yourself in the tranquility and breathtaking beauty of Montserrat. Here’s why it’s worth making the trip:

  • Unique Experience: Montserrat offers a completely different atmosphere to Barcelona. You’ll find stunning natural beauty and a touch of history.
  • Stunning Views: Panoramas from Montserrat stretch for miles across Catalonia – a sight you won’t soon forget.
  • Spiritual Significance: Whether religious or not, the monastery holds a sense of history and cultural importance that’s fascinating to experience.
  • Easy Access: Montserrat is less than an hour from Barcelona, making it a perfectly doable day trip. You don’t have to hike up, as the rack railway or cable car will take you up the mountain. But of course if you like hikes, there are wonderful trails up and around Montserrat.

Staying in Barcelona Pre/Post Cruise?

Getting to Montserrat from Barcelona City Centre

The easiest DIY route is to catch the R5 train from Plaça Espanya station in Barcelona:

  • Metro to Espanya station: Espanya station is on the L1 or L3 metro lines. Once out of the metro gates, look for interchange to R5 suburban train – the platform is still underground and it’s well signposted.
  • Purchase your ticket from machines: Ticket machines for Montserrat are well signposted. You can switch language to English. Cards are accepted.
    • Ticket Options:
      • Trans Montserrat: Includes return train fare from Barcelona to Monistrol de Montserrat or Aeri de Montserrat cable car, round-trip ticket on the rack railway (“Cremallera”) or the Monserrat cable car, admission to the Basilica, an exhibition called “Montserrat behind closed doors” and two funiculars called Sant Joan and Santa Cova, once you’re at Montserrat. You have to choose either the cable car or the rack railway at the time of ticket purchase. Both are the same price at €44.70 with no discount for kids, unless they’re under 4 (free).
      • Tot Montserrat: Includes everything in Trans Montserrat plus buffet lunch and costs €68.25. (There are a few places for lunch at Montserrat, or you can bring your own picnic)
      • My Take: I prefer the Trans Montserrat ticket and this is the ticket I’ve used. This is slightly cheaper than buying the individual train and admission tickets separately. Not to mention saving time, as you don’t need to queue separately at the rack railway/cable car station again to buy tickets. And again at the Basilica at Monserrat for admission.
    • Rack Railway or Cable Car? I have done both and it’s a matter of personal preference. For those with fear of heights, you may prefer the rack railway as the cable car does sway a bit. Unfortunately, you can’t do one on the way there and return via the other. The tickets are for return trips on either the rack railway or cable car.
  • R5 Train Timetable & Frequency: Trains leave Plaça Espanya station at least every hour, sometimes twice an hour. So do check timetables here. (Type “Plaça Espanya” into search box.
  • Where to get off? For cable car to Montserrat, hop off at “Montserrat Aeri” station. For the rack railway, get off at “Monistrol de Montserrat”, the stop after. Stops are announced on the train but note these are not the last stops on the R5 train.
  • Journey Time: From Plaça Espanya, it takes about an hour to get to both the cable car station and the rack railway station. Transfers are quick with minimal walking required. The rack railway takes about 20 minutes. The cable car ride itself is only 5 mins but there may be queues. Budget for around 90 mins each way to get from Barcelona to Montserrat.
  • Monastery Map: Download the map on your phone

What to do at Montserrat

Montserrat Santuary Map

1. Visit the Basilica

Courtyard leading to Montserrat Basilica, Catalonia
Courtyard leading to Montserrat Basilica

Immerse yourself in the spiritual heart of Montserrat by exploring the magnificent basilica. Construction of the current basilica began in the 16th century, in the Gothic style with Renaissance influences. Unfortunately, the original basilica was destroyed during the Peninsular War in the early 19th century. After this destruction, a reconstruction project began in 1811 and continued throughout the 19th century.

The focal point of the basilica is the revered Black Madonna (La Moreneta). This statue, carved from wood in the 12th century, depicts the Virgin Mary with dark skin. Legend tells of its miraculous discovery in a nearby cave, Santa Cova. The Black Madonna is housed behind bulletproof glass within the basilica’s apse. Over the centuries, she has become a beloved symbol of Catalonia, and pilgrims continue to visit to pray and admire the statue.

The Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, which houses the basilica, is still a functioning Benedictine monastery today. A community of monks reside here, upholding their traditions of prayer, religious studies, and work.

2. Listen to the Escolania de Montserrat

Listen to the boys sung by Escolania de Montserrat, courtesy of Escolania de Montserrat official YouTube channel

Be enchanted by the angelic voices of Europe’s oldest boys’ choirs. Check the performance schedule to plan your visit. There are no performances on Saturdays. I would recommend booking online (additional €10 ticket), as you’ll see whether performances are on or stop at the information counter on arrival at Montserrat – see map above.

3. Explore the Museum

The Montserrat Museum houses a diverse and fascinating collection spanning centuries of art and history. Journey from ancient times with archaeological artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Biblical East.

Admire masterpieces of European painting, including works by El Greco, Caravaggio, Degas, and Monet. Discover modern art’s evolution through pieces by Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. The museum also explores the connection between Montserrat and the natural world, featuring sections on geology and biology.

Note: This is not the same as the “Montserrat behind closed doors” exhibition included in the Trans Montserrat ticket. Museum entry is a separate ticket – purchase at the museum ticket counter. €8 for adults, €6.50 for seniors and €4 for kids (8-16)

4. Savour the Scenery

Even if you’re not a keen walker, there are a few viewpoints worth visiting which are relatively accessible – click on the top right hand corner to see a larger map:

  • Enjoy panoramic views from Mirador dels Apòstols and Escala de l’enteniment (Stairway to Heaven)
    • How to get there: Walk along the covered walkway (at the top of the cable car station) towards the buffet restaurant. Both viewpoints are a few minutes’ walk from the restaurant.
  • Sant Joan lookout: Catch the Funicular de Sant Joan (included with your Trans Monserrat ticket) to the upper station. There’s a lovely viewpoint just outside the station. If you’re feeling adventurous, the walk to Chapel of Sant Juan has great views along the way and is about a 30-45 min round-trip. I remember it as being slightly uphill towards the chapel.
  • Santa Cova de Montserrat: Catch the Funicular de la Santa Cova to the lower station. There are wonderful views along the walk to Santa Cova de Montserrat. This is the most difficult of all the walks I’ve suggested and is a 60-min round-trip walk.
View of Montserrat Monastery outside the upper station of Funicular de Sant Joan
View from Funicular de Sant Joan (Upper Station), looking down at Monserrat Monastery

5. Browse the Farmer’s Market

Sample local produce and artisanal products at the farmer’s market near the monastery. On the day I visited, there was a wide-range from locally made jam, honey as well as ready-to-eat goodies.

Tips for Your Montserrat Day Trip

  • Start Early: Especially in peak season, Montserrat can get crowded, especially on weekends. Montserrat are very popular with hikers, too! The 8:36am train leaving Barcelona will get you to Montserrat by 10am.
  • Dress Modestly if you’re intending to see the inside of the Basilica
  • Check the Weather: Montserrat is in the mountains, and weather can change quickly. Dress in layers.
  • Bring Water and Snacks: While there is a buffet restaurant, a cafeteria, a bar (selling sandwiches and drinks) and a small grocery store (as quite a few people stay overnight in the Hostel at the Monastery), it’s still ideal to bring your own water bottle and some snacks, especially if you plan to do the walks / hikes. There are many water fountains to refill your water bottle.

Montserrat is a truly magical place that will make your Barcelona trip even more memorable. Have I convinced you to visit? If so, let me know in the comments below! And if this post helped you plan your day trip, please share it with fellow cruisers.

Featured Image Photo by Petra Nesti

2 thoughts on “Barcelona Cruise Port to Montserrat: DIY Day Trip Guide”

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share this valuable information. I did read the choir is on vacation until August 21st.
    This is translated from their website:
    L’Escolania will not sing to Montserrat from June 25 to August 21 for vacations.
    (both sides included)

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