Montserrat – a Catalonian treasure
The most popular destination in Catalonia is certainly Barcelona, but if you are staying slightly longer in the area and would like to see some spectacular views (and discover some history), a day trip to Montserrat is a must.
1. Getting there
Montserrat means Saw Mountain in Catalan and is not far from Barcelona, only an hour by train. It is a spectacular rocky mountain with a Benedictine Monastery at its heart (pictured above). You have to take a train to Manresa from Plaça Espanya Station in Barcelona. Have in mind that there are two options to go up to the monastery, by cable car (Aeri) or by funicular (Cremallera). You have to decide in advance because the tickets and train stops are different. I choose the cable car because I love the views from high up.
2. Montserrat Monastery and the Black Madonna
In the Monastery you can see the Black Madonna, a statue of Virgin Mary and Christ called La Moreneta by the locals. Legend has it that the monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, so instead chose to build around it. According to another legend La Moreneta was carved by St. Luke and brought to Montserrat by St. Peter in 50 AD and later hidden from the Moors in Santa Cova. The statue's sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon.
3. Basilica Choir Boy Performance
While you are visiting the Monastery don’t miss the choir performance. You can listen to this famous boy’s choir daily from 1pm and it is free. Montserrat Museum is a nice surprise too as, unexpectedly, you can see works of art by major artists such as Dali, El Greco, Caravaggio and Monet.
4. Santa Cova Cave and Sant Joan Chapel
There are two more funiculars that enable visitors to explore the mountain. You can buy combined funicular ticket to Santa Cova and Sant Joan.
Santa Cova funicular takes you down to the cave where, according to the legend, the image of the Virgin Mary was seen by shepherds. The cave chapel is about a 20 minute walk and besides the splendid views you can see sculptures by the roadside too.
Sant Joan funicular takes you further up the mountain. You can walk to Sant Joan chapel and enjoy the magnificent scenery. There are many hiking options in Montserrat with spectacular views of Catalonia and wherever you turn your head you can see beautiful landscapes. Before you go back to Barcelona make sure you try some local homemade food from a small market near the monastery.