Located 50 kilometers northwest of Barcelona, Montserrat is not just a spectacular rugged mountain range, but is also a spiritual destination. Home to Benedictine monastery and miles of serene walking trails, it is no surprise that Montserrat is a popular day-trip destination for those visiting Barcelona.
Traveling to Montserrat
Montserrat is best visited from Barcelona, and easily accessed by train, bus and car. For those taking the train, once you reach Montserrat-Aeri, you will then be able to choose between taking a funicular or a cable car up to the monastery, although the majority would agree that the cable car offers a much more scenic journey.
Black Madonna and the Monastery
Montserrat has always been a popular pilgrimage spot, and is home to the Black Madonna, a wooden statue that was found in 880 AD, glowing at the back of a cave. Legends states that when attempts were made to move the statue away from the mountain, it became impossibly heavy, and so a chapel was built around it. The monastery, which is home today to several Benedictine monks, was then later established in 1409. When visiting the Black Madonna, keep in mind that this is the most revered relic in Catalonia, so expect to spend some time waiting in a line.
The Montserrat Museum is another popular stop on the mountain, and while you may not expect much from a museum with such an out-of-the-way location, it actually contains some seriously impressive art. The displays feature pieces by Catalan masters, with some of the highlights being the artwork by Dali, Miro and Picasso.
There are numerous walking trails crisscrossing around Montserrat, with one of the most popular starting at the Funicular Sant Joan, from where you can walk to Sant Jeroni, the highest point on Montserrat. The hike between Sant Jeroni and the monastery takes about two to three hours, offering panoramic views over the local landscape, and while all of the main trails are quite well-marked, picking up a trail map from the information desk is still advised.
If you are visiting Montserrat on a day-trip, then you can either bring your own lunch, or dine at one of the venues on the mountain. The two formal restaurants to be found here at Restaurant Montserrat and Restaurant Abat Cisneros, but there are also two canteen-style venues for those who want a quick and casual bite. Montserrat is incredibly beautiful, and if you are visiting on a pleasant day, it could be worth visiting the small supermarket, as well as the nearby market stalls, to pick up a few items for a picnic on the mountain.
Montserrat is a destination that holds a special place in the heart of many Catalans, and is worth a visit if you want to experience a unique spiritual side to the region. From the scenic cable car ride at the start of the day, to a picnic lunch overlooking the mountain’s rocky landscape, to a visit to the Montserrat Museum to view some world-class art, a day spent in Montserrat promises to be a fascinating one.