Situated at only 80km from Salou, a visit to Monserrat is one of the most popular day trips you can make from the Costa Dorada.
It's a magical mountain range with peaks of extraordinary shapes and it rises almost vertically from the plains surrounding them, making it recognisable from a long way off. The name Montserrat means "serrated mountain" in Catalan, a reference to how the peaks look like the jagged teeth of a saw. The reddish color makes it all even more impressive, especially at sunrise and sunset.
For both scenic and historic purposes it is arguably the most important mountain in Catalonia: Montserrat is actually Spain’s first National Park. The views from Montserrat are incredible and you can even see the Balearic Islands on a clear day.
We are happy to share some essential information for your visit as well as some practical tips and tricks.
1. Visit the Monastery and the "Moreneta" Virgin
In addition to the impressive landscape, Montserrat is best known for it's 11th century Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat and the statue of the Black Madonna, also known as La Moreneta. Inside the church, get a closer look at her by entering the chapel, touch the sphere she carries in one of her hands and make a wish.
The current community is made up of some eighty monks. As in all Benedictine monasteries, the Montserrat monks dedicate their lives to prayer, shelter and work, following the motto of Saint Benedict.
UHC Tip: unless you absolutely want to see the Black Madonna from close by and touch the sphere, don't queue at the right entrance of the church. (you might waste half a day) Instead, you can visit the church and altar from a distance. For most people this will be enough and it will take you only a few minutes.
There is no fee to visit the abbey and the actual Monastery is not open to the public.
2. Listen to the world-famous Montserrat boys choir - Escolania de Montserrat
The basilica is also home to the legendary Montserrat Boys Choir (La Escolania), one of the oldest choirs in Europe. Visiting without seeing and hearing one of these powerful Gregorian Chant performances is a sin. The famous boys choir sings in the church of Montserrat twice a day (except school holidays). All of the choirboys receive top level musical training, together with human and intellectual education. Their prestige is renowned internationally and they currently perform concert tours around the world.
UHC Tip: Make sure you arrive at the church at least half an hour in advance. If you want to sit, go 1 hour in advance. It gets really busy. Check the schedule of performances (FREE) a day ahead. On Sundays there is also a short performance at noon.
3. Hike to the best viewpoints in Montserrat
Easy - From the Monastery to St. Michael's cross
Take your time to explore the area on foot and walk up to the Creu de Sant Miquel, one of the most rewarding viewpoints. It's an easy walk and relatively flat walk on a wide gravel path and will only take about 20 minutes to get there (one way). Start walking from the abbey (not from the bottom of the mountain) towards Funicular de Sant Joan. Once you get there, continue straight and follow the ridge of the mountain. This is a perfect hike for the whole family.
Medium - Santa Cova de Montserrat
Take the Santa Cova funicular down the mountain. This brings you to the starting point of the walk, the Santa Cova (the Holy Grotto of Montserrat) where holy visions of the Virgin Mary appeared to shepherds many times. The original statue of the Black Madonna was found in this cave. You can see a reproduction now. If you have time, walk down on foot. It's a winding mountain path with stunning views of the valley. You can take the funicular back up if you're tired. :-)) This is a moderate 2,7km hike that will take you 2 hours to complete.
Difficult - Sant Jeroni hike
Walking to Sant Jeroni is probably the most hiked trail of Montserrat. Starting the route in the monastery and finishing at the top of the massif is without any doubt a unique experience. The hike starts at the Monastery. From there, take the Sant Joan funicular up the mountain to the old hermitage of Santa Anna. After a flat path through the woods, the path starts going steep up until reaching the Ermita de Sant Jeroni. This is a difficult but rewarding hike with 360º lookout views. It will take you approximately 3 hours to complete.
UHC Tip: Your safety is our concern but always your responsibility. Hiking requires a minimum of preparation and wearing proper clothing as warm clothes, proper boots… It's about 10º cooler in the Montserrat mountains. Still, if you are visiting in summer, make sure you drink plenty of water and put on some sunscreen. It can get really hot in Montserrat, especially if you are hiking.
4. Taste some local food and liquors
Visit the little local market located down the road. They sell traditional local produce you won't find in Salou. Some sellers will offer you a free tasting of their products, especially if you try to speak some catalan. Make sure to try the Mató cheese with honey and the Montserrat liquor. Tasting some of the local foods will make your trip even more memorable!
Restaurants? There are several restaurants in Montserrat, however, they offer overpriced and mediocre food.
UHC Tip: Bring your own picnic or buy some local food on the market. Cheese, bread, honey...
5. Stairway to heaven and Arch Windows
The stairway to heaven is a simple and modern piece of art, located just past the local food market. The main reason for it's popularity is the fact that some daredevils posted pictures on Instagram on top of the staircase. So people started to come to Montserrat just to get the same picture... It is illegal now to climb the stairs, so now it's fenced. It's sad how Instagram tourism can have such a negative impact.
The Montserrat Arch Windows offer a nice lookout point. It's an interesting structure to take creative photos. Please be respectful and do not climb on anything.
How to get to Montserrat
By Car: you can drive up all the way to Montserrat, but roads are narrow and parking limited and very expensive. For extra fun, we recommend you leave the car at the car park at the bottom of the mountain in the Aeri de Montserrat and take the cable car to the top of the mountain.
By Train: From Tarragona, take the train direction Manresa and get off at the Aeri de Montserrat and take the cable car to the Monastery.
With so many choices and a huge variety of things to see and do, we think Montserrat is well worth a visit! Enjoy!