Montserrat is perhaps the most iconic mountain of Catalunya, replete with history and myth, and very easily accessible from Barcelona so perfect for a day trip.
Montserrat is Catalan for “Serrated Mountain”, due to its myriad of distinctive “puntxes” (needles) that mark the skyline, easily visible from Barcelona on a clear day.
The rock is composite sedimentary, formed under the sea around 200-250 million years ago. From a distance you can clearly see the stratifications through the rock where the sediment built up under the water. Up close you can see the many small rocks, pebbles and shells that have been cemented together by the sand under great pressure.
The distinctive columns, holes and caves were formed by erosion, as the rock contains a high percentage of limestone, which slowly dissolves over millions of years in the presence of slightly acidic water.
In addition to its distinctive shape and stratification, Montserrat is a striking pink colour – most notable around sunrise and sunset – this mountain is a truly spectacular site and a must see if you’re visiting Barcelona.
There are many different routes and variations you can follow when visiting Montserrat, ranging from very easy to extremely challenging. This route is a good introduction to the mountain as it can be done easily as a day trip from Barcelona by train (FGC – Ferrocarrils), starts from the historical town of Monistrol de Montserrat, and includes a visit to the famous Monastery, and the “Moreneta” statue of the Virgin Mary.
If you’re up for more of a challenge, you can link this route with another circular route to the highest peak, Sant Geroni (1236m).
The Monastery of Montserrat from Monistrol de Montserrat FGC Station (Circular Route)
Start point: FGC Station Monistrol de Montserrat
The FGC station Monistrol de Montserrat is on the R5 line, which runs from Barcelona Pl. Espanya to Manresa.
At the time of writing a return ticket from Pl. Espanya cost €11.50.
Check FGC.cat for the latest timetables and prices. You can buy your ticket inside the station from the machines.
You can also use a 4 zone TMB multi-transport ticket (such as a T-Casual/T-Familiar) if you’re travelling to Pl. Espanya by bus or metro.
Be aware that there are two train stations called Monistrol de Montserrat – The correct FGC station above, and also a Renfe Station on the R4 line. Don’t end up going to the wrong one!
Stage 1: Monistrol de Montserrat
After exiting the train station, head to the centre of the village by crossing the bridge over the river. This is the river Llobregat which flows all the way to Barcelona, meeting the sea just by the airport.
The village has plenty of nice little cafes if you want to grab a bit of breakfast before starting the climb!
After crossing the bridge, there’s an underpass to safely cross the major road. Then head up the pedestrianised street opposite the bridge past the ruins and allotments until you reach the central square.
From the square turn to the right and start following the yellow and white PCR footpath markers.
The footpath itself starts from Carrer Sant Jaume, which comes off of the Camí de l’Ángel.
Stage 2: Monistrol de Montserrat to The Monastery of Sant Benet de Montserrat
This route can be walked in either direction, though we’d recommend following it anti-clockwise as this way the ascent is longer and not quite as steep.
This first stage is the most challenging part, and much of it is quite exposed so best to avoid the hottest parts of the day, especially if you’re doing the walk in summer.
There are some short steep scrambles, but they should be easy for most people, even those not accustomed to hiking, and there are metal foot and handle holds hammered into the rock on the trickiest sections.
You can catch your breath a the top of this first section by paying a visit to the monastery.
Stage 3: Saint Benet Monastery to the Camí dels Degotalls
The final ascent to the top, not too long, not too steep. There’s quite a fair stretch along the road unfortunately. Stay to the left behind the barrier and keep an eye out for where the footpath continues on the other side, looking out for both cars and cyclists hurtling down the mountain.
At the top of the track you’ll find “El Camí dels Degotalls” (The path of the drips!). It’s strange name is due to the many points where water constantly drips through the porous calciferous rock.
All along the path are mosaics representing all the different statues of the Virgin Mary across Catalunya, along with some unusual tributes to traditional Catalan dance competitions!
If you brought a picnic, this path is a great place to have it. It’s lined with benches, there are spectacular views, and there are plenty of water fountains to refill your bottles and wash up after your meal.
If you didn’t bring a picnic don’t worry, there are a multitude of bars, cafes and restaurants just around the corner.
Stage 4: El Camí dels Degotalls to the Monastery of Montserrat
At the end of this short flat section you’ll find the main Monastery of Montserrat – A Benedictine Abbey and Monastery that is still in active use to this day.
Ironically, the area of Monastery and Sanctuary will most certainly be the least tranquil parts of the hike, as you’ll suddenly come upon a multitude of “pilgrims” who’ve arrived directly by car or rack-train.
There’s plenty to do in this area should you be so inclined. Aside from the aforementioned eateries, you can visit the monastery, plus there are two museums, a library and a music school.
The major attraction for devout (albeit mostly too lazy to walk) pilgrims is “La Mare de Déu de Montserrat” (The Mother of God of Montserrat) affectionately nicknamed “La Moreneta” (The dark one) due to the dark colour of the statues skin. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed La Mare de Déu de Montserrat Patron Saint of Catalonia in 1881, making Montserrat perhaps the most important pilgrimage site in Catalunya. Expect queues for the bathroom…
Stage 5: Descent back to Monistrol by the Rack-Train Line
Now you’ve done the touristy pilgrim part, it’s time to head back down to the village.
The path starts at the corner of the rack-train station (Cremallera). It can be a bit steep and slippy in some places, but should be OK for most people with some hiking experience.
You can clearly see the FGC station from the path, so no excuses for getting lost!
Don’t forget to keep looking back for spectacular views of the mountain.
At the very bottom of the path when you arrive back in Monistrol de Montserrat you’ll find a very conveniently situated bar that has some great craft beers from the Montseny Brewery. There’s also a water fountain in the square if you’re feeling particularly parched.
Flora and Fauna
Don’t expect to see too much wildlife on this particular route.
There are plenty of wild mountain goats and boars in the Montserrat natural park, but as this particular route is at the more heavily populated/tourity end, it’s unlikely you’ll come across them. You’ll have to come back another day and visit the wilder side of the park to meet them!
You will find plenty of flora though – much of it edible.
We came across pomegranates, blackberries, arbustus fruits (madroños aka stawberry trees) and huge swathes of wild thyme and rosemary.
When to go?
There’s very little shade on this route so best to avoid the hottest summer months. Aside from this it’s a good option any time, though bear in mind the Sanctuary area (and the train) will be particularly busy on public holidays, especially religious ones.
End of summer can be a good option to find the aforementioned wild fruits in season (blackberry, pomegranate and arbustus).