“We gotta go to Montserrat!” That’s what we keep telling ourselves. We tried twice during our first few days in Barcelona, but something else kept coming up. But, we finally made it and here’s what you need to know.
In a nutshell, it’s one of the well-known day trips from Barcelona. It’s a place where you could climb up the mountain range, a place for those devoted in the Christian religion (or simply interested in seeing man-made architecture at such high elevation, or for those who simply want to getaway from the vibrant city, a place to hike, walk around, and just relax.
How to get on a day trip Montserrat
For tourists like us, we had to go to Plaça España, another main transportation hub. It was in Plaça España where we caught the R5 train to Montserrat. It is best to have already determined the options you will take once you get to Plaça España. We needed to decide which mode of transportation to take once we get to the foot of Montserrat:
a. Cable Car with an R5 train ride from Barcelona
b. Funicular with an R5 train ride from Barcelona
We went with the second option. We opted to take the R5 train from Barcelona. And once we arrived at Monistrol de Montserrat station, we switched to the funicular which was another train that climbed up to Montserrat. It was a scenic 15-minute train ride from Monistrol to Montserrat. This option was worth 35 Euros per person.
We bought our tickest at Plaça España. When you head down to Plaça España station, the ticket machines on the first level do not sell these tickets. We ended up buying our tickets from a manned booth. You’ll see signs about Montserrat, or just simply ask around.
Know the schedule
Nancy and I woke up early. We knew that we have a bit of a stroll to Plaça España station. It was about a 15-20 min walk from our hotel. If I am not mistaken, the very first train to leave for Montserrat out of Plaça España station left around 8:36am. We got lucky. We didn’t really know the schedule other than we wanted to get to Montserrat early in the day. We got on the very first train shortly before it took off for the first trip of the day. It was packed. I was under this impression that the train would be dedicated to Montserrat visitors. But, no. There were locals, too. If you get on the train and it’s packed. Not to worry. Give it two or three stops and you’ll find a seat.
Which train stop to use
If you decide to book the train ride and then the cable car option, you get off on Aeri Montserrat. If you book the one with funicular option, you get off of the next stop, Monistrol Montserrat.
Since this was the option we took, we got on the funicular (which was just another train), and there was one more stop, I believe the next station stop was for those who arrive by car or bus. Once you leave that next station, your next stop is Montserrat. This overall journey was no more than 15-20 minutes.
You’re in Montserrat, now what?
Once we got to Montserrat, we headed for the tourist information office, and picked up map. We had quite a few things planned, but first order of business was to get something to eat the cafeteria. It was located directly across the street from the station. There was a pretty good selection of pastries and drinks, and that’s how we got our day started.
Free things to do in Montserrat
First of all, I was pleasantly surprised that Montserrat offered free public Wi-Fi access. We used this quite a bit and the only place where the Wi-Fi was not accessible was near and inside the Cathedral.
To get to the Cathedral, we had to go up these steps near the gift shop and cafeteria. I’d say it was about 30-40 steps. We made a right which took us to the big, open air plaza. It truly gives you an appreciation that you were up high in the mountains. During this early part of the morning, everything below was still covered by fog.
We did the following once we arrived at Montserrat. We visited the Cathedral. It was smaller than I had expected. Maybe it was just a bit crowded during the visit. Depending on the time you get to the Cathedral, take heed that there are times when there’s a service or event going on inside, and the Cathedral at that point is not open for everyone. There was a big sign in different languages that will advise you what to do.
Visit the Black Madonna
We also lined up to have a look at the Black Madonna. The line was off to the right side of the Cathedral. There was a queue, and we lined up around 11:30am, and the door to see the Black Madonna opened up at 11:45am. I highly suggest lining up early. Why? Once you’re allowed in, there’s only one line to get to the Black Madonna. Some folks took their time (prayed before the image), therefore, it added more wait time in queue.
The line led us all the way on top of the altar, and we got to see the Black Madonna. Off to the left was a vista of the entire church congregation. And those in the congregation could see the tourists passing through the Black Madonna.
Once we got down, we headed back inside the church and listened to the boy’s choir. They sounded beautiful, just pure innocence with their voices. The church with all it’s visitors was definitely packed. This was at no extra cost. The Cathedral filled up by the time the choir started singing. We found two empty seats a half hour before they started to sing. Otherwise, we would’ve been standing, and that would not have been fun. I suggest, if interested in listening to the choir, find out what time they will be singing. I am not sure if they sing everyday. I’m sure the tourist office would know.
Edge of Montserrat
Shortly after the listening to the choir, we headed back down and walked towards the edge of Montserrat. There was a farmers market, selling lots of cheeses mostly. We had the opportunity to admire the views over 1,000m above sea level. People were taking pictures, having a picnic, and just enjoyed this beautiful sunny day.
Cafeteria and Buffet options
Before we headed back to Barcelona, Nancy and I grabbed a quick pasta lunch from the cafeteria. I was worried that it would be too pricey since there was really no other place to eat from this high altitude. But our pasta lunch with sausage, and drink was only 10 Euros. It was just enough to take care of our hunger after this very busy day. We made it back to Barcelona close to 5pm.
The other option was a buffet worth 16 Euros per person. It was located near the edge of Montserrat. I took a peek and there was a great selection of food but we opted to keep it simple and went with cafeteria food.
Back to Barcelona
We took the funicular back to Monistrol, and took the train back to Plaça España. It was all in a day’s work. We were back in Barcelona by 6pm, just in time for dinner. That’s how we spent our day in Montserrat.