Day Trip: Montserrat, Barcelona
An hour by train from Barcelona is the impressive Montserrat. From the train station at Espana, you can buy the round trip tickets that include both the train and the cable car for around 18E. The Church features the famous Black Virgin, and there can be a long line to walk up next to the figurine. Unfortunately, we timed it during a school field trip.
Montserrat - massif 50 km NW of Barcelona with dolomite-like rocks. Richard Wagner stayed there - his opera Parsifal uses the mountain as its backdrop. The Benedictine monestery is a popular shrine in Catalunya, with its Black Virgin (La Moreneta), a 12th century wooden sculpture. Splendid views and rambles - an ideal day out.
Monastery (f. 1025) sacked by Napoleon's troops in 1811. Dissolution of monestery in 1830s (anti-clerical laws). Choir sings the 'Virolai' at 13:00 and the 'Salve Regina' at 19:10 Mon. through Sun.
Hike along one of the paths behind the monestary to the far side of the massif (next to the radio masts). There is an impressive sheer drop of a 1000 feet of so if you fancy peering over the edge (warning, do not try this in fog!).
The monestery is ugly. The side streets offer trinkets and dear catering. Avoid weekends and holidays (coach parties galore!).
A local wag said of Catalonia that "a country with a black virgin and a white gorilla can't be all bad" - cruel but funny. Sadly, the gorilla ("Floc de neu", a.k.a. "Snowflake") died in 2003 and it turns out the Montserrat virgin only went black over the ages. She is a sickly cream colour beneath the grime.
Should you be one of the few VIPs asked to sign the visitors book, ask to see the entries for 1940/41. Lo and behold, there is Heinrich Himmler's name! The old bugger was convinced the Holy Grail had been taken there from Montsegur after the Pope and his cohorts wiped out the Cathars in 1244 (the Catholic Church at the time had its own version of "The Final Solution"). Wagner, Parsifal, Himmler, and the Nazis' obsession with the occult - you won't find this kind of information in the tourist brochures.
FGC (Catalan railways):
Dep: Placa Espanya stn. Barcelona
Arr: Monsterrat Aeri stn.
(Journey time approx. 1 hr.)
then cable car to monestery
Enter stations, travel date & departure time in the 2nd. web below for timetables. Round ticket includes cable car.
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.
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)
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.
To be completely honest we don't like the guided tours that much. We definately prefer to have a look around ourselves and explore the historical grounds by just watching and learning. The guided tours are so well attended that you're unable to hear the guide anyway and we therefore we think that you will miss out on the beuatiful details and it's also one type of tourism we don't like ... the massive groups of people wandering around (and getting in your way!).
We took our self-guided tour with some help of a map and booklet. This itinerary lead us to the most significant monuments and areas of the Sanctuary, such as the Basilica and the throne of Our Lady of Montserrat. We learned the amazing Montserrat's history through some of its architectonic and sculptoric remains and the story which was told to us by some people we spoke to. Finally we visited Montserrat's Museum which owns an important collection of modern painting, with works by Dalí, Casas, Picasso, Rusiñol, Monet, et cetera. We also saw archeology of the Biblical East and painting from 13th to 18th century, with an exceptional work by Caravaggio. So at the end of the day we could say that we had a great time at this historical place, a real pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain!
08100 Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain.
56 kilometers north western of Barcelona.
What to do on a day that you don’t want to go to the beach, don’t want to stroll the lanes in the Old Town of Barcelona, and whenever you have been to for example beautiful Tarragona the day before? What to do? We took our travel guide out of the bag and started reading it. At the page of Montserrat we read ”For many visitors a trip to Montserrat is the highlight of their visit. Montserrat is a spectacularly beautiful Benedictine monk mountain retreat about one hour North West from Barcelona by train. Not only is Monestir de Montserrat of significant religious importance, but the natural beauty surrounding the monestary is simply breathtaking.” . The pictures enclosed to this article did the rest for us. We knew that we wanted to do, we took the car and went to Montserrat.
Driving to it was a great experience by itself. We could see the “Serrated Mountain” (Mont Serrat) from kilometres away. Its highest peak rising to 1,236 metres. We were quite early and driving the mountain road was relaxing as we did not have too many busses or coaches in front of us. We also experienced magnificent views of some of the most unusual rock formations in the whole of Catalonia. Because of our early time scedule it wasn’t crowded at all and therefore we were able to park the car on a nice spot not too far away. It was an one hour and 15 minutes drive, and there we were!
08100 Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain.
56 kilometers north western of Barcelona.
During our small hike upwards to the Monestir de Montserrat we read something about its facinating history. The monastery was first mentioned in the 9th century, enlarged in the 11th century, and in 1409 became independent of Rome. In 1811, when the French attacked Catalonia in the War of Independence, the monastery was destroyed. Rebuilt and repopulated in 1844, it was a beacon of Catalan culture during the Franco years. Today Benedictine monks live here. Via Plaça de la Creu we ended up at the Plaça de Santa Maria. We were overwhelmed by the beauty and size of the Gothic Cloister, and other structures. We also took some time to have a look at the views of the amazing Catalonian countryside. The “Serrated Mountain” (Mont Serrat) is a superb setting for Catalonia’s holiest place.
We walked over the Plaça de Santa Maria and had a look at the focal points of the square -> The two wings of the Githic Cloister built in 1477 and the modern monastery façade built by Francesc Folguero. After a quick lunch we noticed that it was getting more and more crowded. The avarage age of the people we saw must have been around 65 years! Before we entered the Inner Courtyard and the Basilica itself we learned something about the Virgin of Montserrat. This small wooded statue of La Moreneta (the dark maiden) is the soul of Montserrat. It is said to have been made by St. Luke and brought here by St. Peter in AD 50. Centuries later, the statue is believed to have been hidden from the Moors in the nearby Santa Cova (Holy Cave). Carbon dating suggests, however, that the staue was carved around the 12th century. In 1881 Montserrat’s Black Virgin became patroness of Catalonia.
08100 Montserrat, Catalonia, Spain.
56 kilometers north western of Barcelona.
Montserrat is not meant to be a tourist hot spot but more of a place for quiet serenity and spirituality. For many people it is a place for pilgrimage and prayer. In that respect I think you can appreciate more of the beauty of the monastery and the area. For many others is a well an amazing place for hiking and enjoy the nature.
Montserrat as well is one of the symbols of Catalunya. Even for non-Catholics, as this place played a key role of the preservation of Catalan culture, language and traditions during the dark times of the Franco's dictatorship (1939-1975)
No need to get a tour to go there, it's easy to go there by public transport, and you can organize you trip on your own way. Tours tend to loose a lot of time having lunch or shopping. BTW, nothing especially interesting to buy there apart from religious items and the delicious local "mel i mató" (kind of cottage cheese, traditionally served with honey)
About Montserrat and how getting there:
Apart from visiting the monastery (and if you're into art, the museum, one of the best of the region), I highly recommend you to take the racktrain to Sant Joan's peak. The views are impressive. You can return with the racktrain again, or can walk down the monastery. It is a very nice, not difficult but long walk (about 3 hours). If you're fit enough, you can walk as well till the highest point of the Mountain: St Jeroni. This one is a more difficult walk, but really scenic. There are as well other nice mountain paths, but you'll need more than a daytrip to full explore the area.
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.
You have to make sure you have to go in through the right Metro entrance at Espanya station, you need the R5 line on FGC.
The train & cable car combined ticket is around 13 Euros. A train/funicular ticket is available also. Both can be purchased from the ticket machine in the station. Machines coins, notes and credit/debit cards.
The trains leave every hour to Montserrat at 36 minutes past the hour. The journey takes just under an hour. The destination and line number are displayed on the front of the train and the side of each carriage.
Trains leave Monsterrat at around 39 minutes past.
On reaching Montserrat Aeri (cable car stop) its a very short walk to the cable car. Keep hold of your ticket!!
The cable car itself can get very full so it is worth waiting a bit to get a later cable car up and leave earlier to get a cable car down 20 -30 minutes before the train is due then you are more likely to get a decent spot by the window without getting an elbow shoved down your ear.
We took a short peek round the monastery but didn’t bother joining the huge queue to see the black virgin statue. You can see it from the monastery and you can take a picture from there with a decent enough zoom!
There is a hotel, a couple of restaurants and several shops at the top. The main cafeteria almost opposite the cable car entrance sells everything from soup and sandwiches to three course hot meals with wine. There are also vending machines dotted around selling ice cream, pop (Coke etc), water and the rather nice alcohol free, low calorie Spanish beer Free Damm.
Montserrat was a lot more built up than I thought but there are a lot of walks up and around the mountain and its woods which get you away from the crowds. Paths are marked and paved making for easy walking albeit up some steep gradients.
The Sant Joan funicular rises 820 feet above the monastery (Just over 6 Euros return) from the funicular station its about a 20 minute walk to Sant Joan chapel another funicular heads towards Santa Cova - the holy cave.
A visit to Montserrat Mountains and monastery is absolutely compulsory. The last part of the train trip offers an absolutely stunning scenery, and the views from the top of the mountains are trully amazing.
The monastery is beautiful also. Inside you can find a famous sculpture of Virgin Mary. There is no entrance fee to visit the monastery.
You can add up to the already amazing experience by taking the Sant Joan funicular straight up to the top of the Montserrat mountains. It is a very steep line up.
Reaching Montserrat is very easy from Barcelona. You will take a train from the metro station Espanya (you will have to take a special line from there). As you approach the platform you will find a special kiosk with flyers and leaflets about Montserrat. As we were students we paid around 15 Euros for the transportation there.
The transportation can be various. You can also hike up to the monastery I believe. Our route was from Barcelona Espanya to Monistrol to Montserrat. There we changed to another train called la Cremallera de Montserrat. It is wise to pick up this solution as on the return you will have guaranteed places to sit. The train gets very crowded sometimes and it is pretty small.
For another 5-7 Euros you can take the Sant Joan funicular right to the top of the mountains. It is a very nice experience, very worth if you are in Montserrat.
In Montserrat there are several cafes available and also a small museum.
Beware of the temperatures in Montserrat. Always take some warmer clothes and definetely an umbrella.
Monserrat produces a good bottle of anise flavored liquor, of which I am consuming a cool cocktail of right now, so please go to the other websites for more historical details of this great monastary. There's plenty of hiking in the rocks around the monastery, and inside there are plenty of religious relics to appreciate, but mostly this is about the funicular and views from above. Don't forget to buy the Aromas de Monserrat before heading for tram down the cliff.
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.
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.