The city of Barcelona tops the list of cities to visit in Spain. While the food and the Gaudi’s fairy tale architecture are invariably the top things to do in the city of Barcelona if you have an extra day in Barcelona then consider visiting Montserrat one of the popular day trips from Barcelona. Montserrat an hour train ride away from Barcelona is a giant massif part of Barcelona mountain range that looks like a myriad of closely-knit carved rock pillars and is bound to leave anyone awestruck with its picturesque vistas. Montserrat Monastery or Santa Maria de Montserrat located on top of Montserrat mountain is revered as a Catalonian Pilgrimage Destination in Barcelona. “Montserrat” literally means jagged or serrated mountain in Catalan and took millions of years to form the spectacular relief, which entices many day-trippers from Barcelona.
How to get to Montserrat from Barcelona?
There is a good frequency of trains from Placa d’Espanya or Espanya rail station which is well connected with Barcelona city center and other parts of the city by metro. The trains from Barcelona to Montserrat run on Line R5 which is well-marked through the Espanya rail station.
About Placa d’Espanya
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 monumental fountain adorns the center of the square and 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.
Montserrat Combined Tickets with various combination of the trains to Montserrat with the cable car or rack railway are available at the Placa d’Espanya station. There is staff to help you with the tickets. The Trans Montserrat ticket includes return train fare of Barcelona to Montserrat train (Montserrat mountain can be reached by either cable car or rack railway or funicular which needs to specified while buying a ticket and is not interchangeable), 2 return journeys on 2 different funicular rides to the other parts of Montserrat mountain from Monastery and 2 free metro rides. The other ticket Tot Montserrat tickets include everything that the Trans Montserrat ticket offers plus the entrance to the audiovisual exhibition and a lunch at Montserrat restaurant. Check for Montserrat funicular prices and R5 train schedule.
Train from Barcelona to Montserrat and Montserrat 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 offers breathtaking views of the jagged massif. If you don’t fancy riding at heights or if you are not comfortable standing then go for the funicular option.
Train from Barcelona to Montserrat and Rack Railway Montserrat
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.
We chose the 5-minute ride in Aeri cable car to the Montserrat mountain. Chhavi was only a year old and we were not sure how feasible it would be to hike with a stroller hence we 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 legion of jagged mountains towering over the dense the forest below cut through by tiny sparkling streams.
Once on the mountain, we visited the information center to get an idea of the places that can be visited on the Montserrat Mountain.
Montserrat Monastery or Santa Maria de Montserrat
We started with the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat. The Montserrat Abbey is Catalonia’s most prominent religious destination enshrining Our Lady of Montserrat or the Virgin of Montserrat. The main courtyard of the abbey has several arches in the left wall which offers incredible views of the valley below and has niches with interesting sculptures. The access to the church is through an 18th-century atrium which is an open-roofed courtyard with the marble floor. The facade of the church is beautifully adorned with sculptures of saints or kings depicting the history of Montserrat.
The basilica is a beautiful gothic architecture building housing several chapels. The statue of the Black Madonna or the Black Virgin 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 Black Madonna sculpture sits in a small alcove at the back of the church the way to which is through a beautifully designed corridor adorned with beautiful mosaic work, paintings and silver doors. The corridor is accessible from the 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 of the Montserrat Monastery and the mountain. An audiovisual video at the end of the museum gave an insight into the life at Montserrat concluded by the delightful video of the famous boy’s choir.
Sant Joan Montserrat
From the monastery, we took the Funicular to Sant Joan, which is further up to the top of the mountain. Montserrat hiking trails are very popular for its remarkable scenic vistas.
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. The trails are not accessible with the stroller and hence we could not proceed further.
Santa Cova Cave Montserrat
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. Though the route was not very stroller-friendly we could still manage to pull along.
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.
View of the Monastery from one of the vantage points on the way to Santa Cova Cave.
Back from the Santa Cova Cave, we headed to the market place where various stalls selling local produce like cheese and other food items were setup.
Stairway to Heaven Montserrat
‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Steps of knowledge’ Montserrat is the most photographed point of Montserrat.We weren’t aware of the name of the sculpture until we visited Montserrat and didn’t know where to find it. We got the first glimpse of it on the way to the Santa Cova Cave when we were photographing the monastery. The sculpture is on the other end of the market. The stair sculpture was fenced may be for the reason that the climb is dangerous but still, people jumped the fence and climbed it 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. Montserrat monastery is definitely a must-do day trip from Barcelona. What do you say? Have you been to Montserrat? Do share with us your experience.
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