Barcelona has it all. Incredible architecture, sunny beaches and plenty of things to do to fill your time. But once in a while you need to escape the big city in search of some fresh country air. And you won’t find much better than hiking around Montserrat. Sant Jeroni is the highest point at Montserrat and offers truly incredible views. But Montserrat offers hikes for all levels and all guarantee equally spectacular views.
Montserrat refers to both the mountain and the monastery which sits high up amongst some funny looking, but very pretty, rock formations. The name Montserrat actually means jagged mountain, a very fitting name. It’s located about 60km from Barcelona, meaning an hour by train or car. The monastery can be dated back to 1025 AD and has become one of the main tourist attractions and destination for pilgrimages in Catalonia.
Top Hiking Routes around Montserrat Mountain
Without a doubt the best way to explore Montserrat is on foot. The landscape and panoramic views are spectacular so make sure you pick a good day which luckily enough isn’t hard to do. Also make sure you wear decent footwear and definitely not flip flops, as witnessed on some tourists!
To reach most of the walking routes you need to take a funicular railway first. There are two funicular railways at Montserrat, Santa Cova and Sant Joan. Santa Cova takes you down to a small cave where it is believed that a vision of the Virgin Mary was seen. The other, Sant Joan, takes you higher up to the start of several different walking routes.
There is the option not to take the funicular and walk up, but unless you love to torture yourself and your companions by spending half the day constantly climbing uphill, I’d highly recommend taking the funicular!
Santa Cova (1 hour)
Take the Santa Cova funicular down to start this walk. The path takes you down to a small cave where a vision of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been seen. You also get a good glimpse of the cable car and the valley below.
Monastery to the Degotalls (50 mins)
This is probably the easiest route to take and if you haven’t got a lot of time to explore, then your best option. Take the path to the side of the monastery towards the coach parking area. On your right you’ll find the Mirador dels Apostols, a great lookout point. Head left and keep going until you reach the Degotalls. The path is easy and so shouldn’t take long.
Hermitage of Sant Joan (30-45 mins)
This is an easy walk with great views which won’t take up your whole day.
Take the Sant Joan funicular. From here take the path towards ‘La ermita de Sant Joan’. This path gives you views of the valley as you follow it round to the hermit’s cave Ermita de Sant Onofre. Here is a good picnic spot or simply a place to sit and admire the scenery. You can go up to the cave itself and then come back down either by going back the way you came (easier route) or going down some rather precarious steps (more fun route).
I’d recommend walking back down to the monastery, which only takes about 30-45 mins. All the paths are marked so it’s easy to find one which one to take. If you decide to take the funicular down you’ll miss out on more great views.
More challenging walks
Santa Magdalena (1 hour)
Follow the same route to the Hermitage of Sant Joan, after which you’ll see the steps going up and down. I know it looks daunting but head up. Trust me, it is worth it. Basically just keep going up until you reach Cova de Santa Magdalena.
Take the path marked Santa Magdalena. Again, more climbing but keep the faith. Remember, it’s worth it. Eventually you’ll reach the top where you are generously rewarded for your efforts with truly incredible 360 degree views.
This is the perfect spot for lunch. For the return journey simply take the same route back to the funicular. Or if you’re eager to explore more, when you get back to Cova de Santa Magdalena take the path marked ‘Sant Jeroni’.
Sant Jeroni (3-4 hours)
From the funicular, take the path to Sant Jeroni. This is a longer and more challenging walk, and I realise I sound like a broken record, but the views really are spectacular.
See? I told you! There is quite a lot of uphill on this route. After all, Sant Jeroni is the highest point at Montserrat. 1,236 metres high to be exact. So take plenty of breaks and drink plenty of water especially if it’s a hot day.
Before making the final ascent, I’d recommend taking a final break here:
Once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded generously for your efforts with those breath-taking views.
To head back down to the monastery you can take a route via Pla dels Ocells which goes through a more shaded, wooded area providing welcome shade on a sunny day! Or you can keep straight on the path back to the funicular Sant Joan.
What else is there to do other than hiking at Montserrat?
The main attraction at Montserrat is of course the monastery which hosts the black Madonna, named after its colour which has darkened over time. You can enter the monastery for free, but have to queue up to see the black Madonna. Many pilgrims come to see the black Madonna who is also known as Our Lady of Montserrat. You can catch a glimpse of her as you enter the monastery as she sits up high behind the altar.
The Montserrat boys’ choir known as the Escolania is one of the oldest and most prestigious choirs in Europe which you can see for yourself when they sing at Montserrat. You can check the times on the Montserrat website here.
How to get to Montserrat?
The train is the easiest way to get there. Set off from Plaza España station and you’ll need to decide when you’re buying tickets if you’re taking the rack railway or the cable car, as this is included in the ticket. You’re probably wondering what does that mean?!
Basically, after the train you either take a rack railway or a cable car up to the monastery. Each has a different station to get off at and a different ticket, which is why you need to decide at Plaza España station. The stop for the cable car is Aeri de Montserrat and for the rack railway it is one stop after, at Monistrol de Montserrat.
So which do you take? The rack railway is the comfier option but you won’t get as good a view and it’s not as quick. For the cable car you have to stand but you do get better views.
It takes about an hour by car from Barcelona. You can get free parking at the station Monistrol-Vila and then take the rack railway up to the monastery.