For the perfect day trip from Barcelona, visit beautiful Montserrat. A quick hour and a half train ride will bring you to this beautiful mountain monastery found in the Catalunya mountains. While in Montserrat you can marvel at the mountain top views over Catalonia, view the Holy Grotto where it is said the Virgin Mary appeared, listen to the world famous Montserrat Boys Choir and view the Black Virgin of Montserrat which is said to date back to the earliest years of Christianity.
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HOW TO GET TO MONTSERRAT
There are numerous ways to reach Montserrat, from driving to taking a tour but the easiest way is via train. Leaving from Barcelona, a trip out to Montserrat will take about 1.5 hours by train. The train will take you to the base of Montserrat where you can either take the Cable Car or a Funicular to the top. Leaving from Barcelona, head to Placa de Espanya and follow the signs for the Montserrat R5 train. When you purchase your ticket, you will need to decide between the Cable Car and the Funicular - both are the same price - so it's really just a preference. For us, we choose to take the Cable Car as we were traveling with our 2 1/2 year old son and knew he would love it! When choosing the Cable Car option, upon reaching the Montserrat Aeri stop, depart the train. From here, at the base of Montserrat you will then take a Cable Car up to the mountain-top monastery. For those that prefer to take the Funicular, you will ride the train to a stop further than the Cable Car stop at Montserrat Aeri to the Monistrol stop. From here depart the train and head to the Funicular that runs up to the top of Montserrat.
CABLE CAR TO MONTSERRAT
Get an early start on your day if possible - we took the 8:36am train out of Barcelona and arrived a little after 10am to Montserrat before most of the crowds had arrived and had the Cable Car to ourselves as we headed up the mountain - what a beautiful sight!
MONTSERRAT MONASTERY & BENEDICTINE BASILICA
Arriving to the top you are greeted by the sight of the Montserrat Monastery which includes the Benedictine Basilica. In 1025, a monastery was founded here and soon after, stories of sightings of the Virgin Mary in the area began to spread. Pilgrims and those looking for healing began to flock to the site and still do so to this day. As you head to the Benedictine Basilica, you will come to the courtyard area outside of the Basilica, look down and enjoy the black and white marbled courtyard floor that was inspired by the Capitolium in Rome. Today, the Basilica that is seen dates from the 16th century although much of the facade was rebuilt in the 20th century and is home to about 80 monks who follow the rules of Saint Benedict. In 1881, the church was named a Basilica by Pope Leo XIII and is the honored home of the Black Virgin of Montserrat which is one of Spain's most honored religious symbols.
BLACK VIRGIN OF MONTSERRAT
Referred to by many names - the Black Madonna, the Black Virgin, the Virgin of Montserrat, La Moreneta (the dark one), or the Black Virgin of Montserrat and is the highlight for many that make the religious pilgrimage to see this famous statue. Even if you are not religious, seeing this statue is a worth your time. Believed to have been carved in Jerusalem possibly by St. Luke himself during the beginnings of Christianity, this wooden carving is one of the most famous Black Madonna's in existence. Despite popular belief, the Black Virgin is not a depiction of an African Black Madonna nor does the color come from the wood, but it believed that over time the color has simply darkened. From the main chapel in the Basilica you can see the Black Virgin sitting high above the main alter. To see the statue close up, look for the line (that can at times be quite long) that will lead up up to see the statue. Reaching to what is called the 'throne room', the Black Virgin sits upon an ornate throne with an outstretched hand that can be touched as you pass thru the room. While the rest of the statue sits behind a protective glass panel, it is custom to kiss or touch the Black Virgin's hand - many believe that touching the Black Virgin's hand has the power to heal.
MONTSERRAT BOYS CHOIR
Also while visiting Montserrat, try to time your visit to include listening to the Montserrat Boys Choir. The world famous choir has been around since at least 1223 and is a wonderful experience while you are visiting Montserrat. Daily performances take place at 1pm and 6:45pm. We happened to be in the long line to see the Black Virgin during the 1pm performance and were able to enjoy a peak from above the alter to look down at the choir - what a cool experience! Listening to the music as we waited in line for our turn to see the Black Virgin was wonderful - the sounds were truly heavenly!
SANTA COVA FUNICULAR
Unfortunately, the Santa Cova Funicular was closed due to repairs when we visited Montserrat. This Funicular will take you partially back down the mountainside to a trail that leads out to the Santa Cova Cave. From the Funicular the cave is about a 20 minute walk and leads to one of the most revered sights at Montserrat. The Cave is also known as the Holy Grotto and was the sight of where an image of the Virgin Mary first appeared. To this day, this cave is a sight of worship and pilgrimage. In addition to visiting the cave, you will also come across the 'Chapel of the Holy Grotto', which is built in the form of a cross right into the rocky hillside.
SANT JOAN FUNICULAR
Luckily the Sant Joan Funicular was open and were were able take the steep ride even further up the mountain. Taking a ride on the Sant Joan Funicular was an experience in itself - the funicular is the steepest found in Spain at a 65% grade and as you ride up the track you are able to enjoy the stunning views looking back down towards Montserrat. Arriving to the top will take your breath away! From here you can simply wander around and enjoy the views or can choose to take advantage of some of the trails offered in the area. On a clear day, you can see for miles over the beautiful Catalunya mountains. After walking around for a bit enjoying the views, we came across the Sant Joan Hermitage that provides for additional stunning photos of the area. In all, there are 15 ancient hermitages that dot the Montserrat Mountains. The views from this vantage point make the entire day trip to Montserrat completely worth it - absolutely stunning!
Interested in planning your own trip to Montserrat, Spain? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!
Day trip to Montserrat - Purchase Trans Montserrat tickets at Placa de Espanya, follow signs for Montserrat or the R5 train towards Manresa (choose ‘Aeri’/cable car option when purchasing), 1.5 hour train ride from Place de Espanya. Try to get on the 8:36 departure. Get off at Montserrat Aeri to take cable car up to Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery: Benedictine Basilica, Black Virgin of Montserrat (closed for viewing from 10:30-12), listen to the Montserrat Boys Choir (1pm), Santa Cova Chapel (take Santa Cova Funicular down to trail, then follow trail to chapel (allow about 1 hour roundtrip), Funicular de Sant Joan (high observation point). Try to catch 4:45 train back to Barcelona.