Most people try to rush the Monistrol de Montserrat area on a budget so they end up missing some of the highlights in a whirlwind. The key to seeing Monistrol de Montserrat properly is a game plan, you must know what you want to see before setting out. Before we visited Monistrol de Montserrat we saw on a city map that the rather small area of Monistrol de Montserrat is divided into three areas - the historical Basilica and it’s amazing courtyard, the more residential area in the old part of the area and the hiking trails starting at the area toward the Montserrat National Park. We visited the Monistrol de Montserrat area twice, and hiked our way through all three areas.
Our hikes were in and around the Basilica where w could walk for several time. Our second hike was in the mountain range toward the of the St. Jeroni viewpoint .The last hike was just around the tourist trap spot of the Basilica and its courtyard. Just walk away in the alleys around it and the historical buildings facing the Basilica. We sometimes were not able to go any further, but had a nice time just at the other side of the area centre. While most tour guides don't recommend getting lost in t part of the Monistrol de Montserrat area, this is the place to get hopelessly lost for a while. We wondered off through mysterious and steep alleyways leading us away from the crowds. We ended up at the Chapter House and the Refectory and mazes of hilly backstreets with deserted gardens. The real Montserrat?
Take time to meander - losing yourself in some of the alleys, small streets and lanes is one of Monistrol de Montserrat’s’ old town's principal pleasures. Some of the streets wind and wander with no discernible order or object. After our stroll we rewarded ourselves with a cool glass of beer or wine for our effort! We learned that you won't do justice to the entire area of Montserrat whenever you won't visit other parts than just the main sights. So ... do meander, because the cluster of sights around the Basilica and its huge courtyard are truly beautiful, but the more secret pleasures of the hushed backstreets are just entrancing.
There are truly more than enough vibrant cultural scenes to see, like the off the beaten path St. Jeroni hermitage with its amazing view at the Catalonian hinterland, and for example the beautiful buildings at the back of the courtyard facing a nice little playing ground for the kids. Via the pavement along the Basilica, with its beautiful facade, we ended up at this quite deserted point, which is probably the least visited spot of the Monistrol de Montserrat area. It lead to a great spot, right from here we could make out the mountain range of the St. Jeroni viewpoint. All this may seem very though as finding your way in the Montserrat area might be difficult, but in really distances are very short and the signs will help you in getting around. Enjoy!
The monastery of Montserrat is a place with a lot of history indeed. The monastery, which is surrounded by small chapels and hermit's caves, was founded in 880 AD and enlarged in the eleventh century. The compact place is easy to get around, and the ideal place to explore on foot. Montserrat monastery is Spain, and yet it is a culture unto itself. The Benedictine abbey is located on the mountain of Montserrat in Monistrol de Montserrat. It looks a bit like a very small city and is therefore fun to walk around in. Its legacy of monuments can be admired in the streets to this day. Historical buildings to stroll around include of course the Monastery, the Chapter House, we read that this particular building is the meeting place for the monastic community for important events. Besides that do visit the Refectory, the Cloister and the viewpoint on top of the Montserrat mountain. It’s clear that hiking in this beautiful spot reveals delights at every turn. Time to explore it!
We can honestly state that the best way to explore Montserrat monastery is by foot and the second best way is also by foot! Besides giving you the opportunity to roam the narrow streets and the cozy squares, it is the quickest way too. If you really want to, you can cross the entire place in approximately 15 minutes. Remember that sometimes it might be quicker (and nicer!) to take a few short-cuts into picturesque alleys instead of following the masses of tourists. Maybe this is easy for us to say as we stayed for a longer period of time and not like most of the tourists only for one day. But even when your stay is rather short, do try to get away from the crowds and just have a 'look around'. The entire Montserrat area is simply a perfect place to walk for a few hours and pretending to know where you are.
The way back was not as grueling, as we were going mainly either flat or at a smaller incline. We went back along a different path toward a funicular which took us back down to the monastery. The entire hike to St. Jeroni and back took us about 5 hours, which was longer than we had planned but definitely well worth the effort!
When we were back at the monastery we read that there are several good and well-marked hiking trails that will lead you through the Montserrat National Park. Several hiking trails of different lengths lead from the summit station of the funicular to the deserted hermitages. We know that it is well worth the effort, because we were rewarded with a few magnificent views of the Catalonian countryside. Though the trails are well-developed, you should wear sturdy boots and be a little trained in order to manage the hike. There are a few sign with warnings not to leave the marked hiking trails in order to protect the fragile and austere vegetation. So do take time to hike the Montserrat National Park once you’re at the monastery … you won’t be sorry for that at all!
Montserrat is really cool, because it is different from the other mountains of the region. It looks like giant monster teeth and fingers jutting out of the ground. It has also been described as a giants’ playground, with sandcastles of rock. It is a major destination for rock climbers because of its many large pillars!
From the monastery, it is another 300 m up to the peaks of the Montserrat, maybe our goals for the day? We were not sure where to start, so we started off at a randomly selected trail. We immediately noticed that the hiking trails were very well maintained. Great thing was that for those who like to hike and climb climb climb, the views became more and more amazing. We kept on hiking and learned that we were on our way to St. Jeroni hermitage, about 2 hours each way of intense uphill climbing. About halfway there we happened upon a humongous wild blackberry bush, which provided us with a delicious addition to the pic-nice lunch we had brought. At the hermitage, we went to a lookout which was about 1.75 kilometer up, the view was truly fantastic and we took several pictures to celebrate ascending the mountain! Enjoy the view indeed.
Just opening Wikipedia will tell that (and I quote) "the Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain. It separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay (Cap Higuer) to the Mediterranean Sea (Cap de Creus)." Back to my own English :) ... we can say that for the most part, the main crest forms a massive divider between France and Spain. This divider even ends up at the Montserrat Monastery. This part of the Pyrenees is called the Montserrat National Park.
To be exact the mountain Montserrat with the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat lies about 45 kilometers northwest of Barcelona. Already from afar, the about 1,200-meter-high mountain is a grand sight. We arrived by car on well-developed hairpin bends and curves and this clearly was a foretaste of what we could expect on the summit of Montserrat and its grand National Park. The complex is near the top of the spectacular saw-toothed mountain of the same name, which was designated as Spain's first national park, about a century ago.
Ever since 1996 the collections are housed together in one building, under one roof. We saw quite some different styles at the building and learned that the two main areas at the heart of the museum were remodeled in 1980 - 1982 under the direction of Father Pere Busquets. Of course, like many many other museums we ended the tour right at the shop located in the museum. It sells souvenirs, books and postcards. It has the same opening hours as the museum (10am – 17pm). By that time it was time to leave the museum via the main entrance designed in 1929.
Afterwards we heard another nice tip, too late for us. Because if you are travelling to Montserrat on the rack railway there are some combination tickets (tickets that cover travel and other attractions at the Monastery) that include the price of entrance to the museum. So do inform yourselves good before setting out to the Montserrat Monastery indeed!
Just like us, a lot of visitors that come to the Montserrat Monastery are not aware of the treasures that lie within the museum. We took a stroll around and found the artifacts of Picasso, Dali and Caravaggio nestled in amongst less well-known artists. We learned that there were over 1300 pieces housed in the museum covering a broad historical period: the earliest exhibit was an Egyptian sarcophagus from 13th century BC and the most recent exhibit was a sculpture from 2001 by Josep M Subirachs. Talking to the security guard gave us some nice insights, like the fact that most of the works of art that are housed in the Montserrat Museum have been donated to the monastery by private citizens. The Monks at the Monastery see it as their duty to display the artworks for those visiting Montserrat as a promotion of culture.
It is possible to hire an audio guide whilst you are walking around the museum. This will allow you to walk around the museum with a commentary explaining the most important works within the museum. For a mild fee we took one to guide us through the museum, a good choice indeed.
When we travelled to the Montserrat Monastery we didn’t know that there was a museum present. On our first day at Montserrat we were a bit disappointed about the size of the entire area and were able to see all there was to see within half a day. Therefore we were pleasantly surprised by finding the museum which gave us a good reason to stay for a while. This main museum at Montserrat is a rather large art museum, housing six different permanent collections and playing host to two temporary exhibitions.
It is important to remember that you are not allowed to use cameras or video cameras inside the museum. There was a security guard at the door of the museum who asked me to put my camera away, because I had it in my hands. “No pictures please!” was the loud and clear message he was sending out to me. He also said that we were also not allowed to take food into the museum. No discussion possible and something we needed to respect of course.
Aside from the monastary there are quite a few buildings in the complex, which include the museum and a hotel if (if you would like to stay there take a look at :
There are pools, stairs and even a rack and pinion train that takes you up further to another two churches or shrines built higher in the mountains.
And don't worry too much about those HUGE boulders perched above the monastary, they assured me that they have stood so for ages...
Even if the monastary was NOT THERE, it would be worth the trip for the views from the mountain. Fantastic views, just take a walk around the grounds and go past the souvenier shops and restaurant, even into the jumbled mountain trails...
The main entrance to the church here is very atypical, it has no arch covered with small statues, consisting of 3 doors with a flat plane above which has life size statues covering the entire panel from left to right. There is also a beautiful geometrical design etched into the entrance area, waited for about 15 minutes trying to get a view of it but just too many people walking all over it. You can see the differing styles of architecture from the church front and the side buildings that were added at a later date.
Inside the ceiling was a fairly simple but elegant design and there were TWO organs, which was unusual. At the time of our visit we observed people standing in a VERY LONG line at one side of the church...we later observed that the line went up and behind the alter where people could climb up to one of the religous icons located there.
I must say that we were surprised that Monserrat Monastary is not a World Heritage Site, both the placement and surroundings, not to mention the religious importance I would have thought would have brought it into that group.
Well no matter, YOU make up your own mind when you visit there and if you are in Barcelona it is worth taking a day trip out and back.
When we visited we were tired after a very long day the day before in Barcelona and did not have the energy to explore some of the nature trails that lead into the peaks surrounding the monastary, so save some energy if you can and explore them, they looked fascinating.
Have attached a few links that will give you more of the historical and religious background.
On the Montserrat mountain is the monastery, where in a church has wooden statue of the Madonna and Child known as La Moreneta.
She has many names:
The Black Madonna of Montserrat
The Virgin of Montserrat
Our Lady of Montserrat
Although this is one of the most famous black madonnas in the world, recent studies have demonstrated that originally the image was not black. It seems that the fumes of the candles transformed its white skin into black. For centuries our lady of Monsterrat has been called “La Moreneta” (=dark skin).
Believed by some to, it has been carved in Jerusalem by Holy Luke, and later it has been conceal by Holy Peter.
A legend says the image was found in a cave in 889, but the sculpture dates from the 12th century. In 1881, she was crowned and declared the patron Saint of Catalonia.
Since this time pilgrims (grassroots to kings) climb on mountains to bow down before the patron saint of Catalonia.
Every year more than one million pilgrims and tourist are visiting La Moreneta.
If you come to Montserrat you can lit a candle to honor La Moreneta.
Montserrat Monastery be located on the rock of Montserrat, 48 km far from Barcelona in north-west.
The Monastery church houses La Moreneta.
Another highlight of your visit to Montserrat monastery is to listen to the famous Basilica choir boy performances of Gregorian chants and other genres of religious choral music.
Monastery is open:
every day 8.50 - 19.30