Montserrat is a famous mountain about an hour northwest of Barcelona, Spain that gives visitors the chance to escape the city. A popular day trip from Barcelona, Montserrat has over a dozen hiking trails ranging from easy 2-mile hikes to hard 10-mile hikes.
I solo hiked the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop, a well-rated moderate loop with a panoramic view, and in this post I share practical tips on how to get to Montserrat from Barcelona, what a day hike there looks like and what to pack.
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Montserrat at a Glance
Here is some general information on Montserrat:
📍Location: Montserrat is a mountain that’s ~40 miles northwest (approximately a 1 hour drive) from Barcelona and should not to be confused with Montserrat the Caribbean island.
🕜 Hours of operation: Montserrat has several attractions that have different hours of operation. The famous basilica that hosts the Black Madonna, is open from 7am to 8pm. If you’re hoping to grab a bite before heading back to Barcelona, the cafeteria closes at 5:45pm on weekdays and 6:45pm on weekends.
Montserrat’s hiking trails don’t have set hours of operation, but make sure to check the train and cable car time tables so you don’t get stranded on the mountain (see below on how to get Montserrat).
⏳ How long to visit: Most people visit Montserrat as a day trip and spend a full day there since transportation takes 1 to 2 hours depending on how you get there. If you want to spend a night at Montserrat to do a longer hike and visit all the attractions, there are a few accommodations available.
🗓️ Best time to visit: The most popular time to visit Montserrat is during the spring, from March to May when the weather is dry and mild (60s°F). Montserrat follows Barcelona’s season, so it’s hot in the summer from June to September (80s°F) and mildly cold in the winter from November to February (50s°F).
💰 Cost: Montserrat doesn’t have an entrance fee, but some of the attractions, like the museums, have one and there are parking fees. There’s no entrance fee to access the Montserrat hiking trails, so you’ll only have to account for transportation or tour costs, if you decide to do one.
Hiking Montserrat is a great inexpensive activity to do in Barcelona. This Barcelona cost breakdown outlines all my travel expenses.
Sant Jeroni Summit Loop at a Glance
Montserrat has 18 hiking trails ranging from easy to hard. The Sant Jeroni Summit Loop is one of the most well-rated moderate hiking trails on Montserrat. The loop is the perfect length to hike if you’re doing a day trip from Barcelona and traveling by public transportation.
🥾 Hiking length: 5.8 miles
⛰️ Elevation gain: 1,978 feet
⏳ Average time to complete: 3.5 hours
🤩 Highlights: The Sant Jeroni Summit Loop has the highest point you can reach on Montserrat, which means you get a panoramic view of the country at the top. You also get an incredible view of the basilica and valley at St. Miquel’s Cross, which is within 30 minutes of hiking. I hiked it in May 2022 and thought the hike was beautiful and serene. I crossed paths with only a handful of people during my hike.
How To Get to Montserrat
There are several ways to get to Montserrat from Barcelona. Note that:
- You first have to travel to the bottom of Montserrat mountain. You can do this by train (R5 line), car, tour or bus from Barcelona.
- Once you arrive at the bottom of the mountain, you have to get to the top of the Montserrat mountain, which is where the basilica and most trailheads are located. When people say “Montserrat” or “Montserrat Monastery”, they mean the top of Montserrat. You can get to the top of Montserrat by car, cable car, rack railway, tour or hiking.
By Train and Cable Car
I took the train and cable car to Montserrat and found it convenient, but a bit tricky to figure out. I paid ~$35 round-trip during peak season and it takes about 1.5 hours one-way. Here’s how to get to Montserrat by train and cable car:
- Get to the metro station. Take the Barcelona Metro to Plaça Espanya station.
- Buy the train ticket. At the station, buy a R5 line train ticket to Aeri de Montserrat (here’s the R5 line timetable; you first need to input the origin and destination stations). You can’t buy this ticket online, so you have to buy it at the station.
At a Pl. Espanya station kiosk, you have the option buy: 1) just the train ticket or 2) a combined train and cable car ticket to save money (see prices here). Credit cards are accepted.
- Take the R5 train. From Plaça Espanya, take the R5 line to Aeri de Montserrat towards Manresa. The R5 line (look for teal-blue color) is run by FGC and the train ride is roughly 1 hour long. If you get lost in the train station, look for a lime-green square symbol:
Google Maps will tell you to take the R5 line to Monistrol de Montserrat. If you want to take the cable car, do NOT get off there and make sure to get off at Aeri de Montserrat.
- Ride the cable car. Once you get to Aeri de Montserrat, you’ll see signs to take the yellow cable car to Montserrat.
- Purchasing the cable car ticket: If you didn’t buy the combined train and cable car ticket earlier, you can purchase a cable car ticket at the station (here are the ticket prices).
- Cable car duration: The cable car ride itself is 5-10 minutes, but depending on how many others are waiting in line, the trip can take 30 minutes including the wait time.
- Cable car timing: The cable car comes approximately every 15 minutes, but during the high season, it will leave whenever there are enough passengers in the car. When leaving Montserrat, make sure to know the time of the last cable car so you don’t get stranded.
- Arrive at Montserrat. At the end of the cable car ride (location here), you’ll arrive at Montserrat and can start the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop.
By Train and Rack Railway
An alternative to riding the cable car is riding the rack railway (a.k.a. “funicular” or “cremallera”) to Montserrat if you’re uncomfortable with heights. The price is the same as the cable car and it takes 5-10 minutes longer, so the overall trip is bit over 1.5 hours. Here’s how to get to Montserrat by train and rack railway:
- Get to the metro station and buy the train ticket. Take the Barcelona Metro to Plaça Espanya station and buy a R5 line train ticket to Monistrol de Montserrat.
At a Pl. Esapnya station kiosk, you have the option buy: 1) just the train ticket or 2) a combined train and rack railway ticket to save money (see prices here). Credit cards are accepted. The rack railway and cable car tickets are not interchangeable, so make sure you buy the right ticket.
- Take the R5 train. From Plaça Espanya, take the R5 line to Monistrol de Montserrat towards Manresa.
- Ride the rack railway. At the Monistrol de Montserrat, you can follow the instructions to take the rack railway, which is a 15-minute ride. There’s a ticket kiosk at the station to buy a ticket if you didn’t buy the combined train and rack railway ticket earlier.
- Arrive at Montserrat. At the end of the rack railway ride, you’ll arrive at Montserrat and can start hiking once you find the start of the trail.
If you decide to rent a car and drive to Montserrat from Barcelona, you will have two parking options once you arrive:
- Monistrol-Vila Parking. You can park at the bottom of the Montserrat mountain at Monistrol-Vila. The parking lot is sizable (~1000 car spaces). Parking there is free, but you will have to pay for and take the rack railway or do a 1.5 hour hike up to the top of Montserrat. This also means you have to know the rack railway’s timetable to make sure you can catch the last ride back down.
- Montserrat Monastery Parking. You can also drive up the mountain and park near the monastery here. The parking lot has space for ~400 cars. Be aware that parking here can be expensive and is calculated by time and the kind of car you have, but it is open 24 hours.
If you find getting to Montserrat overwhelming or inconvenient, you can also book a tour that will take care of transportation for you. There are various types of Montserrat tours from Barcelona, including:
- Montserrat wine and tapas tour, which my friend did and recommends for a more relaxing day trip.
- Montserrat general day tour, if you’re more interested in exploring the basilica and the Monserrat area.
- Montserrat hiking-focused tour, which I considered doing initially, but ended up deciding that I was up for the challenge of hiking it on my own.
There’s a bus operated by Autocares Julia that runs from Barcelona to Montserrat (see timetables here). The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes and costs about $5.50. Most people choose to get to Montserrat by train because it’s more comfortable.
6 Tips When Hiking Sant Jeroni Summit Loop
Once you get to Montserrat, you can hike the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop, a well-rated moderate 3.5 hour hike with a panoramic view. Here are six tips when hiking the loop:
- Tip #1: Parts of the hike don’t have any cell signal, so download the Alltrails map in advance. There are many trails and if you’re hiking it by yourself like me, you can easily make a wrong turn, so it’s good to check the GPS once in a while.
- Tip #2: Pack enough water and some snacks. There are no water stations on the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop, so make sure you have enough water for a ~6 mile hike that has elevation. I packed cold water in my 24 oz water bottle and bought a standard sports drink, which was sufficient for me. I also packed a small sandwich snack to enjoy at the summit, which I reached around lunch time.
- Tip #3: Stop by the tourist office to double check the trailhead’s location. The Sant Jeroni Summit Loop’s trailhead is not clearly marked and can be tricky to find, so it’s not a bad idea to double check the start with the tourist office. The trailhead starts and ends around here; you should be walking up a slight incline and pass St. Miquel’s Cross within 20-30 minutes.
- Tip #4: The terrain can vary, but running shoes are sufficient. During the hike, you’ll walk on well-maintained paths, take some stone stairs, go on dirt roads and squeeze through some rocks, all of which are doable in running shoes. I wore my Asics running shoes and thought everything was very manageable.
- Tip #5: Make time for the panoramic view. At the summit, you will have to climb a few flights of stairs to be on the platform with the panoramic view, which I thought was well worth it. I stayed near the summit for about 30 minutes, enjoying the breathtaking views.
- Tip #6: If you’re in a rush, you can take the Sant Joan funicular to cut an hour from the hike. If you only have time to do a 2.5 hour hike, the San Joan funicular will take you to the top Sant Joan funicular station here, which will cut an hour from your hike. (You won’t pass by St. Miquel’s Cross if you do this.) The funicular ride takes about 7 minutes and runs approximately every 20 minutes.
This Barcelona travel guide outlines a four-day itinerary that incorporates this hike.
Montserrat Day Trip With Hike Itinerary
Below is how to spend a day trip in Montserrat while hiking the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop. I’ve included my actual timestamps to give you an idea of how long you might need for each activity and how to efficiently sequence them.
|9am||Start leaving Barcelona; get to Plaça Espanya station|
|9am-10am||Take the R5 train and arrive at Aeri de Montserrat|
|10am-10:30am||Take the Montserrat cable car and look around the monastery; visit the tourist office to get a map|
|10:30-11am||Start the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop and enjoy the St. Miquel’s Cross view|
|11am-12:30pm||Reach the Sant Jeroni summit and enjoy your lunch/snack|
|12:30-2pm||Finish the loop|
– Visit the basilica and see the Black Madonna
– Visit the museum
|Head out between 4-6pm||Catch the cable car and take the train back to Barcelona|
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
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