I Hiked: The Montserrat Monastary (Barcelona, Spain)

One of the most unique spots in Catalonia and an easy day trip from Barcelona, the Montserrat mountains is a welcome respite from the bustle of the city. This straightforward hike starts in the village of Monistrol de Montserrat, heads up to the gorgeous Montserrat Monastery, and continues on to the peak of St. Jordi. 

Difficulty: Easy-Intermediate
Type of Hike: Trail
Time: 90 minutes to the monastery one-way
Distance: 4.5 kilometers
Number of Wrong Turns: 2

Finding the Trailhead
The easiest way to the Montserrat Monastery hike is by the train, which has connections almost hourly from BarcelonaGet off the commuter rail line in the small village of Monistrol de Montserrat. From here, you can catch a wonderful single-track train up the mountain or to hike up the mountain, cross the river into town. You’re looking for the tiny Carrer de la Font street at the west end of town. You should end up crossing a slightly larger road and the trail head will be right there.

Travel Tip! You can also reach the monastery via the Aeri de Montserrat cable car. This is the train stop before Monistrol de Montserrat, so don’t panic when the train suddenly begins to empty out. You are waiting for the next stop.

On The Hike
Straight out of the village, the wide trail heads up the mountain. It starts off fairly easy, but about halfway up, you may find some ankle twisting rocks. Unfortunately for me, the day I picked was overcast with no views of the peaks above me. On the other hand, I was completely protected from that hot Spanish sun — there’s very little cover on this hike. The path does split at one point, but both routes can be used. The route to the left is longer with less straight up elevation climbs.

My major recommendations: Don’t come on the weekends and try to arrive as early as possible. Like most of the sights in Barcelona, this spot is overrun with tourists in the upper reaches of the mountain range. This lower part has less visitors, but is filled on the weekend with inconsiderate trail runners and dog owners letting their pets shit all over the place.

At the Monastery
The fog rolled in, so I don’t have many clear photos, but this is a gorgeous spot to take a break and enjoy the scenery. You can enter the abbey for free and take a quick look. There’s also a relatively well-priced cafeteria if you need to fuel up before heading towards the summit. Also from here, is a cable car and train line back down to the main railway.

Extending the Hike
Once you reach the monastery, there’s a number of additional routes with a variety of difficulties. Two funiculars go straight to the peaks, while most of the hikers opt for the single trail right out town. It’s spectacular hiking up here, and above the clouds so quite sunny. It is December, though, and with the shortened days, I don’t have much time other than a quick 90-minute hike up to the Pla de la Trinitat (The Holy Trinity).

Where To Stay
If you’re traveling lightly, I recommend spending a night either in Monistrol de Montserrat or directly on the mountain. That way you can be at the summit before the hordes of tourists arrive from Barcelona. If you do stay in Barcelona, make sure to catch the earliest train you can from Plaça d’Espanya. And whatever you end up choosing, don’t come here on the weekend!