Montserrat - Background and Getting There
Montserrat (Serrated Mountain) is a jagged 4000-foot peak located about 30 miles northwest of Barcelona. A day at Montserrat is an interesting side trip from Barcelona and can be visited with a tour group or on your own.
Barcelona is one of the most popular cruise ship ports in the Mediterranean as well as one of the most popular embarkation or debarkation port. So, if you are spending a few days before or after your cruise in Barcelona, Montserrat is a great day trip, especially if the weather is clear as seen in the photo above.
On a clear day, the views from the Montserrat summit are spectacular, but most people visit this sacred mountain because of the 16th-century monastic complex, Monestir de Montserrat. One of the displays at the Montserrat monastery is La Moreneta, the Black Virgin, who is venerated by many Catalans.
How to Get to Montserrat from Barcelona
The easiest way to get to Montserrat is via train from Barcelona. Trains run from the station at Placa Espanya starting at 9 am. About five to ten trains run each day, depending on the season. A combination ticket for the train to Montserrat and the cable car to the top of the mountain where the monastery is located can be purchased at the station. The ride lasts about an hour and follows the River Llobregat. Exit the train at the Aeri de Montserrat station, which is the lowest stop for the Montserrat cable car. The cable car ride to the top is quite exciting and runs every 15 minutes.
For those with a car, the drive is relatively short, but the drive to the top of the mountain is winding and steep. Guided bus tours also run from Barcelona and can be purchased at your hotel or cruise ship. The bus tours drive to the top of the mountain so you don't ride the cable car. Be sure to take along a jacket - it's cooler at the summit of Montserrat than in Barcelona.
A third option for those on a car or bus is to take the cogwheel train from the foot of the mountain up to the level of the hotel and monastery. The train ride is scenic and less harrowing than the road.
Montserrat - At the Top of the Sacred Mountain
The views from Montserrat of the valley, the basilica, and the monastery at Montserrat are spectacular on a clear day. Once at the highest cable car or train station near the monastery, there is an information office with maps of the mountaintop and monastery.
Other than visiting the monastery, hiking along the mountain is popular. A web of trails leads to various views of the valley as well as to about a dozen small, deserted hermitages. Some of the trails end in steep cliffs or provide close-up views of the rock pillars that give the mountain is serrated look.
Since the monastery is set into the side of the mountain, those who want to visit the mountaintop will need to ride the funicular train (or hike). The funicular has a small fee but saves both time and a long hike to the summit.
Montserrat Monastery near Barcelona
A day trip from Barcelona to the Montserrat Monastery (Monestir de Montserrat) is the primary reason most people make the pilgrimage to the sacred, serrated mountain of Montserrat. Founded in the 10th century, the Benedictine monastery has been rebuilt several times. Napoleon's troops destroyed the monastery in 1811 after ransacking its treasures and burning the library. The present brick facade was rebuilt about 50 years later.
Most Catalan pilgrims come to see La Moreneta, a 12th-century wooden sculpture of Mary with the infant Jesus that is carved in the Romanesque style. La Moreneta is sometimes called the Black Virgin because the finish has been darkened by decades of candle smoke. According to legend, St. Luke made La Moreneta and she was brought to Barcelona by St. Peter. In addition to the millions of common people who have filed past the statue and paid homage, many royal and noble persons have visited La Moreneta. This Black Virgin has been Catalan's official patron since 1881.
The abbey has sponsored a Christian school at Montserrat since the 13th century. The school has one of the oldest boys' choirs in the world, and visitors to Montserrat can hear this marvelous boys' choir sing in the basilica daily at noon and again in the late afternoon. Hearing their sweet voices in the lovely church is a memorable part of a visit to Montserrat.
The Montserrat monastery also features a museum with an eclectic collection of art, so there is plenty to do and see at this sacred mountain just a short distance from Barcelona.