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Montserrat Monastery, Spain

Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - 9:45am by Lolo
0 miles and 0 hours from our last stop


Cable car to Montserrat MonasteryCable car to Montserrat MonasteryWe had a pretty long list of things we wanted to see in Barcelona, but we had been such eager beavers that we had checked off most of them in the first two days (and 30 miles of walking). That gave us time to use our third day to squeeze in something I had really found intriguing during our pre-trip research - a side trip to Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery nestled on the side of a 1,236-meter mountain with weird, bulbous limestone peaks, reaching up like gnarled fingers.

The journey up to Montserrat is the most popular day trip from Barcelona, and pretty easily accomplished via several legs of transportation. We started our day by walking to the Arc de Triomf metro station, where after a bit of confusion we took the L1 to the Placa d’Espanya.

Montserrat MonasteryMontserrat MonasteryOnce at the Placa d’Espanya station, we walked to the platform for the R5 train and went through the process of purchasing our ticket for Montserrat. I say process, because there are many options. The first decision we had to make is whether we want to take the cable car or the rack railway up to the Monastery. That would also determine what stop we should get off.

We chose the cable car option, which is called the “Aeri de Montserrat,” because it is said to be more scenic and exhilarating. Exhilarating sounded good. We would just have to make sure we got off at the Aeri de Montserrat stop rather than the latter Monistrol de Montserrat stop, which is for the Rack Railway.

decided to go for it all and bought a "ToT Montserrat" ticket for €53.85 each.

Lolo enjoying the Montserrat MuseumLolo enjoying the Montserrat Museum“ToT” in hand, we started the second leg of our journey on the R5 train. In about an hour, we got off at the Aeri de Montserrat stop and got on the line for the cable car. We just missed the cutoff for the first car, but another one came within about 15 minutes. Since we were first to get on the next car, we got the best position in the car, right by the windows leading up the mountain. The journey, which lasted just 5 minutes, was scenic as promised, passing over the River Llobregat, the village of Monistrol, and the Santa Cova shrine.

Upon arriving at Montserrat, we decided to start our visit at the Museum, for which our “ToT” ticket would allow us free entry. The museum was actually much more impressive than we had expected, with works by El Greco, Caravaggio, Picasso, Monet, and Degas. We also really enjoyed looking at over a dozen depictions of the Monastery by various painters throughout the centuries.

The boys choir getting ready to performThe boys choir getting ready to performThen we had to decide whether to add more goodies to our ticket, like museum entry, free funicular rides to the top of the mountain, or a buffet lunch. We Afterwards we headed over to the basilica to try to get a seat to hear the famous boys choir sing, which they do at 1 pm and 6:45 pm each day - and have been doing so since the 14th century (different boys I assume). We thought we were plenty early, but all the pews were already full, so we took our position, along with many others along the steps on the left side aisle.

As we waited, we watched a long line of people along the right aisle of the church take their turn in front of the “Black Virgin,” a revered wood-carved statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus on her knee, which is placed behind the main altar. The statue is enclosed in a protective glass case, with only her hand, which holds a royal orb, extending out. As each person approached the statue, they rubbed the orb and gave the sign of the cross. This continued throughout our entire time in the church, even through the boys choir singing.

Rock climbers enjoying the viewRock climbers enjoying the viewAt 1 pm on the dot, we were treated to the angelic voices of the 50 boys, aged 9 to 14, singing Virolai, a hymn written by Cataonia’s national poet, and Salve Regina. It gave us goosebumps.

As part of our “ToT” ticket, we had a free buffet lunch, which turned out to be fabulous. It even included all the wine and beer you could drink, which is kind of dangerous in early afternoon.

Quite satiated, and perhaps a bit tipsy, we headed over to the Funicular de Sant Joan (also part of our “ToT”) and took a 10-minute ride to the top of the mountain, where we looked down on an awesome view of the basilica.

Bulbous limestone peaks of MontserratBulbous limestone peaks of MontserratFrom there we did a 7.5 km loop hike to Sant Jeroni, Montserrat’s highest peak. The views along the way of the unique rock formations were stunning. We also stopped to talk to a few rock climbers enjoying the limestone cliffs along the way.

Time to go, so we repeated our day in reverse - funicular to cable car to train to metro to our comfy hotel near the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona.
What a great day! Montserrat is definitely a very worthwhile day trip from Barcelona.


Looking down from atop the Funicular de Sant JoanLooking down from atop the Funicular de Sant JoanMontserrat is a Benedictine monastery nestled on the side of a 1,236-meter mountain located about 30 miles northwest of Barcelona. It’s name, meaning “serrated mountain,” comes from the weird, bulbous limestone peaks, which reach up like gnarled fingers.

The monastery, which is Catalunya’s most important pilgrimage site for 1,000 years, was established in 1025 to commemorate the site where shepherds were visited by a vision of the Virgin Mary, complete with celestial light and a chorus of music. Hymns explain how the mountain was carved by angels with golden saws. This is a very important place for devout Catholics.

The 11th-century church was replaced in the 1800s with a Neo-Romanesque basilica, inside of which resides Montserrat’s top attraction - La Moreneta (“Little Brown One” or “Black Virgin”), a revered 12th-century Romanesque wood-carved statue of the Virgin Mary with Jesus seated on her knee. The statue is located behind the main altar and is enclosed in a protective glass case, with only her hand holding a royal orb extending out. Each day, hundreds of people line up on the right side of the church to get their chance to rub the orb.

Every day at 1 pm and 6:45 pm, the famous Montserrat boys choir performs, usually to a full house. This tradition has been going on since the 14th century.

Angelic Montserrat boys choirAngelic Montserrat boys choirIn addition to the basilica, there is an excellent art museum ranging from Egyptian mummies to Gothic altarpieces, to Spanish masterpieces, to Impressionist paintings. It is well worth a visit.

To get away from the crowds visiting the monastery, take the 10-minute Funicular de Sant Joan to the top of the mountain, where there are excellent views of the monastery below. From the top, there is a 7.5 km loop walk to Sant Jeroni, Montserrat’s highest peak, with wonderful views along the way.

Today, the monastery is the most popular day trip from Barcelona, and the best way to get there is to take the R5 train from the Placa d’Espanya station. On arriving at the train station you will be faced with a selection of ticket options. Not only will you need to decide whether you would like to take a rack railway or a cable car from the bottom of Montserrat Mountain to the top. You will then have the choice of a number of combination tickets covering everything from a simple return journey to inclusion of lunch or entrance to the museum with the ticket price.

The "ToT Montserrat" ticket includes everything: return train journey, choice of either the cable car up to Montserrat mountain or the Rack Railway, free entry into the Montserrat museum, free funicular rides to the top of the mountain, plus a free buffet lunch at the restaurant at Montserrat. The cost of this ticket is €53.85 per person.

Montserrat Monastery location map in "high definition"

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