Day Trip: Montserrat, Barcelona
While I wouldn't recommend this place to anyone with only a few days in Barcelona, I'd say this is a must-do for anyone spending at least a week in the region. It's not that far away, and you can do it in half a day too. Basically, Montserrat is a monastery that is built into the side of a mountain. The best part, the mountain basically juts out of the earth in the middle of a flatland, so you see for miles and miles on a clear day. Also, if you get lucky you'll be able to literally walk through a cloud...it's damn fun!
Montserrat is a national park widely visited by pilgrims and tourists. Besides the Monastery (and the Black Madonna), the mountains also hosts a huge diversity of ecological life. The more adventurous ones can scale the great peaks. I went hiking on one of the routes on the mountains. Montserrat is very accessible from Barcelona, around a hour's train ride away. It is definitely worth a visit, you can take a look at the pictures on my Montserrat page.
The facade of the basilica at Montserrat was built in 1900 and 1901. It features sculptures of the apostles by Agapit Vallmitjana, whose brother designed the reliefs in the tympanums. I thought this was one of the most beautiful church exteriors that I have ever seen!
There are two funiculars that connect the basilica and outlying buildings at Montserrat to the mountains high above. The funiculars are trains that run on steep tracks (about 65 degrees) along the side of the mountains. At Montserrat, the trains have glass roofs so you will get an amazing view! Don't worry if you are afraid of heights, it is a gentle trip and you will feel very secure. We took the funicular Saint Joan, which takes you up the mountain to beautiful walking trails and abandoned hermitages.
The exterior of the basilica at Montserrat is absolutely beautiful. It truly is a mix of the old and new, with Gothic cloisters from the 1300s mixing with towers constructed as recently as the 1930s. You will surely be struck by the beautiful atrium floor, which bears an inscription reading
"Only those baptised and born in the water like fish can understand the meaning of the fish of Eucharist."
I have no idea what that means!
Outside the basilica you will also see the 14th century tombs of Joan of Aragon (not Joan of Ark!) and Bernat de Vilamari.
There are plenty of things to do at Montserrat, and this tip will focus on the area at the top of the aerial / tram (you don't need to pay for the funicular to get here).
This area is home to most of the tourist attractions at Montserrat. For starters, there is a large gift shop connected to a cafe and restaurant. There is also a hotel and two restaurants. I would highly recommend staying overnight at Montserrat, especially if you really like hiking.
Other attractions include the basilica (see my other tips), short hiking trails and the museum. The museum at Montserrat is home to artists such as Dali and el Greco. I believe there is also a guided audio tour that covers the history of Montserrat for those interested.
Options exist for people wanting to buy the entire package, including transportation to and from Montserrat, lunch and admission to the major attractions. Check with tourist information in Barcelona, or with the ticket machines at Plaza Espanya train station.
I would highly recommend taking the cable car (aerial) to Montserrat rather than the train. It is about a ten minute ride and the views are just spectacular. You really can see forever, especially on a clear day! It is also a VERY steep climb up the mountain, which can be quite exciting.
The cable car takes you to nearly to the top of the mountain, to a height of approximately 720 meters above sea level. You will still need to take the funicular to reach the top.
To get to Monserrat from Barcelona, head to the Plaza Espanya train (metro) station. There, you can usually speak to a Monserrat Tourism employee, or just use the self-service machines to book your tickets. You save the most money by buying a combined ticket - Ferrocarils de Catalunya train to the base of the mountain, and then your choice of either the cable car or the tram up the mountain. We paid €12 each for combined return tickets for adults. Trains currently leave Plaza Espanya every hour from 9:36 am, but beware that the last train home leaves the bottom of Monserrat around 5:30 pm (at least in the fall and winter).
Once you are at Monserrat, there is an additional charge to take the funicular from the basilica / cafe / museum up to the top of the mountain (to see the old monastary, hermitages and excellent hiking trails). It is approximately € 6 return. You can pay half of that to take the funicular up and walk / hike down to the basilica (approxmiately 75 minutes).
Catalonia's most important religious retreat is Montserrat. Here athletes pledge barefoot pilgrimages if prayers are answered and vital competitions won. Groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. "La Moreneta" (the black virgin), Catalonia's favorite saint, resides in the famous sanctuary of the Mare de Deu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery nestled among the towers and crags of the mountain.
Montserrat, whose name means serrated mountain, is 48 kilometers (roughly 30 miles) west of Barcelona, and can be reached easily and spectacularly by train and cable car. Just take the FGC train from Plaça d'Espanya station (R5) and go to either the cable car stop or the funicular stop. I suggest the first stop, the cable car for it's remarkable view! Make sure you buy the combination ticket before leaving (saves you some money!)
Looming 1236 meters (4055 ft) over the valley floor, Montserrat, the highest point of the Catalan lowlands, stands central to the most populated part of Catalonia. The massive conglomerate stone monolith is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia.
The Basilica houses a museum that is packed with works of art by a long list of prominent painters and sculptors including works by El Greco, Dalí, Picasso and many more.
Lastly, Montserrat's highest point, Sant Jeroni, can be reached by funicular (price included in combination ticket) from the Romanesque monastery of Santa Cecilia. From Sant Jeroni, almost all of Catalonia can be seen. You can see more about this monastery soon on my Monistrol de Montserrat page.
At 50 kilometers from Barcelona to the northwest is the massif of Serra del Montserrat. This mountain is also called "La muntanya dels cent cims" (The 100 Peak Mountain).
Nestled between the peaks for centuries the famous "Monestir de Montserrat" (Monastery of Montserrat) is the center of the Catalan faith. It contains and protects the "La Moroneta", the Black Madonna and a great collection of famous paintings
If you have time for a day trip, I highly recommend Montserrat. It's a beautiful mountain in the countryside with a monestary and religious sights. But even if you're not Catholic, it's still worth seeing - the girl in the group who suggested we go to Montserrat is an atheist! We all enjoyed it, because of the beauty of the place in general, and even though we planned on only staying a few hours or so, we ended up spending the whole day there!
It's very easy to get to Montserrat. All you have to do is take the subway from Barcelona. Just buy your subway ticket at the right station (I can't remember exactly the name though...) and it doesn't take very long to get there by subway. The subway if probably the easiest way to get there.
Don't miss the Boy's Choir from Basilica on 1:00pm each day. You may also take a short walk among different route(from 20 mins to 2 hours) on your own interest.
Take R5 from Espanya MTR station and then transit by cable car or trek train to the top.
Daily throughout the yes (except on 25th December and 1st January) you can make a nice trip by coach to MONTSERRAT.
It will take you one morning!
The departure is at 9.30AM at JULIATOURS TERMINAL, Ronda Universidad 5 , ending at aproximately 2.30PM.
Driving across picturesque vollages you will reach the outstanding Montserrat Mountain situated at an altitude of 1.25 m..
It is the most important religious CHAIR of Catalunya.
The old Monastery built at the height of 721 mtrs. was once destroyed by invaders but rebuilt somewhat lower and in a more robust style.
The 12th century VIRGEN MORENETA (a black Madonna) if high up in the Basilica and you can visit her. I joined the long row and step by step we reached her and like everyone did I kissed her feet and had to go on because of the people waiting behind me. She has indeed a black face and during my travels I have seen many more so-called BLACK MADONNAS although I still don't know why they are black. All info differs, so what to believe??
The atmosphere is impressive and teh day I was there especially impressive and moving because a CATALAN COUPLE WALKED ALONG THE AISLE to get married there.
Imagine a dark Spanish beauty with long black hair in a whiter than snowwhite bridal gown, a magnificent wedding dress. What made me laugh and which I enjoyed was the fact that it was such a festive event, the little pages and little girls were laughing and dancing around......it was so sweet!
Another nice tip: opposite the church/monastery you can go up with a cable-way/lift TO ENJOY THE MOST FANTASTIC VIEW.......
AFTERWARDS THE COACH WILL DRIVE YOU BACK TO terminus WHERE YOU STARTED THE TRIP.
BTW the rocks around the Monastery are very specially eroded and all have names because they look like animals and people or a building....but I caa only put one photo here.....
There are some shops, restaurants, museum, church, etc. You can find the accommodation too. Besides, you can choose the Sant Joan Funicular or Santa Cova funicular to get to the hiking route. I took the Sant Joan Funicular and walked 2 easy walking path with a view of the whole mountain range.
How to get there:
Take the Monsterat-Manresa line from the FGC Pl. Espanya station and alight at the Montserrat-Aeri station, where you should then take the cable car that climbs up the mountain of Monsterrat.
Climb the Mountain MONTSERRAT , another symbol of Catalonia - it's a fantastic view! It is a unique natural environment and a religious centre. Montserrat is home to the SACTUARY OF OUR LADY and the BENEDICTINE monastery , which has, for almost 1000 years, served all the pilgrims and visitors who come to this unusual mountain. Come up to the image of Our Lady of Montserrat , popularly known as 'dark woman' due to the dark colour of her face. If you put your right hand on the apple she is holding - any wish will come true. For more information: 08199 Montserrat, Espagne; tel: 34 3 835 02 01, fax: 34 835 06 59