The giant massif that looks like a myriad of closely-knit carved rock pillars is sure to leave anyone awestruck. “Montserrat” literally means jagged or serrated mountain in Catalan and took millions of years to form the spectacular relief, which beckons many day-trippers from Catalonian capital Barcelona.
There is a good frequency of trains from Placa d’Espanya station in Barcelona to visit Montserrat. One of the busy squares in the city the Placa d’Espanya square houses the Barcelona’s old bull-fighting ring, which is now Las Arenas a mega shopping mall. The rooftop terrace of mall offers 360 deg views of the city. A pair of 47 m tall towers called the Venetian Towers opposite to Las Arenas on the other side of street leads to the National Art Museum of Catalonia.
Train and Cable Car – board a train on the R5 line in the direction of Manresa from Placa d’Espanya station. The train journey takes around an hour. Disembark at Montserrat Aeri station and take a 5-minute ride in Aeri cable car which rewards one with remarkable views of the jagged massif. If you don’t fancy riding at heights or not comfortable standing then go for the next option.
Train and Funicular – board a train on the R5 line in the direction of Manresa from Placa d’Espanya station. The train journey takes little more than an hour. Disembark at Monistrol de Montserrat station and take a 15-minute ride on Cremallera (rack railway) to the top of Montserrat mountain.
One can also go hiking to the top of the Montserrat mountain from Monistrol de Montserrat station on various hiking trails.
Tickets with various combination of the trains to Montserrat with the cable car or rack railway are available at the Placa d’Espanya station. The Trans Montserrat and Tot Montserrat combined tickets offer a combination of metro rides, the return train tickets to Montserrat, the ride with the funicular (Aeri) or rack railway, funicular to other points from Montserrat and the entrance to the audiovisual exhibition, which can also be bought at the Placa d’Espanya station.
We decided to take the 5-minute ride in Aeri cable car to the mountain and decided to buy funicular tickets to other points from Montserrat on the mountain. The cable car ride from Aeri offers astonishingly spectacular vistas of the multitude of jagged mountains and the forest and tiny streams beneath.
Once on the mountain, we visited the information center to get an idea of the places that can be visited on the Montserrat Mountain.
Santa Maria de Montserrat
We started with the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat. The abbey of Montserrat is Catalonia’s most prominent religious destination enshrining the Virgin of Montserrat or the black virgin. The Basilica is a beautiful gothic architecture building housing chapels. The beautifully designed atrium floor of basilica houses the statue of the Virgin of Montserrat in a small alcove.
The statue of the Black Madonna is a wooden statue dating back to the 12th century. It is called “La Moreneta” because of the black color of her face. The Virgin has a crown of diadems and the statue of Jesus Christ on her lap. The small alcove is accessible from a beautifully designed corridor and staircase on the right side of the abbey, which is usually queued up.
On exit from the visit to the Black Madonna, we entered the Ave Maria Path, which had many colorfully lit candles. The pilgrims light these candles as a prayer to the Virgin Mary.
Espai Audio Visual
After seeing the basilica, we visited the Espai Audio Visual, which is one of two museums in Montserrat. An audiovisual gives an overview of the history and present of the Montserrat Mountain and the monastery. An audiovisual video at the and of the museum gave an insight into the life at Montserrat concluded by the beautiful video of the famous boy’s choir.
From the monastery, we took the Funicular to Sant Joan, which is further up to the top of the mountain.
There are several walking paths of different lengths with spectacular scenic beauty and rock formations. One of the paths leads to the highest point of Montserrat mountain Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome). It is suggestible that one who can do a lot of trekking in gravel paths opt to visit.
Once back from Sant Joan, we took the Funicular down to the caves of Santa Cova. The caves are referred to as ‘The Holy Grotto’ because it is believed that the statue of the Black Virgin was originally found here in 890. The cave also has a small chapel.
The picturesque winding route known as ‘Path of Rosary’ from the funicular station to the cave is dotted with many beautiful monuments and offers remarkable panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and the Montserrat monastery.
We next walked past various market stalls selling local produce like cheese and other food items to the most photographed point the ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
The stair sculpture was fenced may be for the reason that the climb is dangerous but still, people jumped the fence to take pictures.
It is believed that the spiritual atmosphere of the Montserrat Mountain is a source of great energy and we did experience it too.
Have you been to Montserrat? Do share with us your experience.
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