Montserrat is an escape to quite unusual Spanish mountains and monastery. Montserrat means “Teeth Mountains”, actually mountains look like teeth. The research showed that such form mountains were formed due to the sea water polishing in prehistoric times.
Monastery is known from medieval times, but got new look in 19th century and it stands in 800 meters high mountains. What is more, it is possible to walk or take funicular to 1236 meters high place. Place is famous for keeping statue of St. Mary.
Serra de Montserrat is about 60 kilometers from Barcelona.
For further information watch my Serra de Montserrat VirtualTourist page.
The Benedictine monastery of Montserrat is to the northwest of Barcelona in the 'saw-tooth mountains'. This is where the place got its name. The monestary is the religious centre of Catalonia and is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. The main reason to visit? - the monestary's Black Virgin.
A day trip to Montserrat is a must. Only an hour outside Barcelona, and a world away both spiritually and geologically, this cliffside monastery has been drawing in outsiders for centuries.
This monolithic mini mountain range has a reputation for startlingly still air - a peaceful, introspective and healing spot for those pledging themselves to God. Thus, the monastery. And, though the Monastery still operates, the entire bird's nest of a plateau is now a huge tourist draw. Arriving is beautiful, the views are gorgeous, the cathedral is marvelous, and rock climbing a short hike away. It's a strange mish-mash of spiritual site and tourist mecca, but it works, besides itself.
Naturally, there are many day tours to Montserrat, via bus. But, you can do it yourself on the wonderful commuter rail systems of greater Barcelona. FGC from Plaza Espanya will put you at two access points to the monastery(Aerial Tram or Railway) within 1.5 hours. It's a direct run, and there are always employees in the ticketing area, ready to help. IF you are a wiz at mass transit, you can cut off fifteen minutes by changing from RENFE at Martorell - contact me directly and I'll give you the lowdown.
Please note: The Aerial Tramway is not for those afraid of heights(see second pic)
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.
The Montserrat mountain from which the top is 1236 metres high is home of the monastery of Montserrat.The first time there is spoeken about this monastery is in the 9th century. Montserrat was destroyed in 1811 when the French invaded Catalunya. In 1844 the monastery was rebuilt.Everyday you can hear the Escalonia Choir sing the 'Virolai' at 13:00 and the 'Salve Regina' at 19:10.
The monastery is surrounded with a lot of peace and quietness. You will hardly hear anything while being on this mountain. The main attractions of Montserrat are the 'Black Madonna' and the 'Basilica' it is in. In the summertime there are a lot of people that want to visit Montserrat, so there are very long queues in front of the Madonna. I visited in wintertime and we were amongst the few visitors. There is also a museum with a lot of 19th and 20th century Catalan paintings.
You should really take a whole day to visit Montserrat. To start with the train only goes once an hour from Plaça d'Espanya to Aeri de Montserrat. Then you have to take the cable car up to the mountain. So travelling already takes upp quite some time. If you really want to see everything on the mountain you just need a whole day. But it's worth it.
I went to Montserrat knowing only very little of the place, a mountain outside of Barcelona with an abbey... So naive as I sometime am I expected something like "the Sound of Music" with nuns/monks all over the place, but truth is that what I saw most of was tourists ;)
Besides this little stupid misunderstanding of my own, I must say that I really enjoyed the visit to Montserrat - I went together with my bf and his two children (7&9years old) - and apart from me always being "yet another tourist" with my camara taking pics of everything and nothing, I enjoyed walking around the place sensing how life must have been there years ago, when there were less tourists and when you at this place actually dedicated your life to Christ (with this said I should probably mention that at the moment the abbey still runs and there are about 80 monks living there).
The Basilica is very beautiful, and is somewhere between the Gothic and Renaissance traditions, and contains a little room where you can bring a picture or some other thing, to offer to the virgin so that she will protect you / your family or whom every you may pray for. It is said that she can cure people - especially with prosthesis' of any kind - so my boyfriend told us, that earlier you could easily find a prosthesis in this room from people whom had visited the virgin and e.g. could leave without need of their prosthesis. Personally I didn't see any, but I did see a lot of wedding-dresses as well as pictures of people who had obviously asked the virgin to protect them or help them through a rough period in their lives.
There is a lot of history and culture to learn while there, and some increidible views to check out. On the webpage below several hiking trips are suggested to visitors, and all though I didn't do any of them - YET - I very much hope to be able to go back and enjoy a hike there, because the place is so beautiful.
While we were there, there was an exposition of veteran cars.
Trains depart from Espanya Rail Station, Barcelona on to Montserrat regularly (Platform R5) and take just over an hour to reach Montserrat. The attached web link will take you to a page with recommended departure times throughout the day. It also contains ticket prices.
The site makes readers aware of problems in locating the departure platform due to the size of the underground station. Give yourself extra time to cover this potential problem.
We did not use the train service as we were on a 16 day coach tour which stopped at Montserrat for a few hours on our way to Andorra.
Once you arrive there are many sights which are free.
The Black Madonna is the star attraction of this Basilica. We had to wait a few minutes for our turn to view, it is protected so it cannot be touched, however we had approximately a minutes to view, and were only inches from it.
2 Image of Our Lady
3 Pastoral Co-ordination Centre
4 Museum of Montserrat
5 Interactive Exhibition
6 Hotel 'Hostal Abat Cisneros'
7 Restaurant 'Hostal Abat Cisneros'
10 Rack Railway (Cremella)
11 Sant Joan Funicular
12 Santa Cova Funicular
13 Aerial Tramway (Aeri)
14 Holy Grotto
15 Monumental Rosary
16 Mirador dels Apostles Building & Restaurants
21 Bar de Placa
22 Stations of the Cross Walk
Take the train from Barcelona around 30 miles to the Monastery of Montserrat to see the 12th century 'Black Virgin'. From the train you'll take a cable car up the mountain, it is a very dramatic ride. Even if you're not religious, this is an experience to have. I highly recommend staying the night at the only hotel at the top of the mountain (Abat Cisneros Hotel). It allows you to experience the sunrise from a wonderful vantage point and a chance to hike and explore the area. The hotel is around $50-80 a night, make sure you get a room with a front facing window.
Ideal place to view the mountains and valleys, the walking tracks and beautiful vegetation. There is also the chance of seeing someone climb the monument, how foolish it was as the wind was very strong.
A viewing platform is a great place to take photos and also view the cable car.
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.