One of the most popular day trips from Barcelona is a visit to the monastery of Montserrat, situated about 40km outside of the city. The monastery has a truly spectacular setting, and it would definitely be worth making a trip here to enjoy the scenery and National Park if visiting the monastery itself is of no particular appeal. Asides from the remarkable setting and the monastery, Montserrat is also famous for its world renowned boys choir.
The legend of Montserrat concerns the discovery of a figure of the Virgin Mary in a cave in the mountains in 880AD; the figure, known popularly as "La Moreneta" for its dark colouring, was said to inspire miracles and by the 12th century a monastery had been built at Montserrat in her honour. The cult of the Black Virgin grew until she became a patroness of Catalunya; now over 2 million visitors, tourists and pilgrims alike, flock to the Benedictine Monastery each year to visit her shrine and the Holy Cave in the mountain where she was discovered.
Aside from the monastery and La Moreneta, there is also a museum displaying a broad collection of art. It houses various liturgical objects, items from ancient civilizations, Catalán art (including Fortuny, Picasso, Dalí), works by Old Masters such as El Greco and Caravaggio, and finally a modern art collection encompassing French Impressionism and graphic art. Open 10am-5.45pm.
The Montserrat Boys Choir is one of the oldest in Europe with roots tracing back to the 14th century. Visitors to Montserrat can enjoy free concerts of the boys singing Gregorian chants and other choral music in the basilica (1pm every weekday, 12pm every Sunday and religious holiday, apart from Christmas/July/public holidays.)
The mountain setting for the monastery of Montserrat is filled with unusual geological formations which inspired its name; Montserrat means "sawed mountain". 1.236m high at its highest peak, the mountain appears higher as it drops dramatically to the river of Llobregat below. Aside from its breathtaking beauty, the mountain range also has many species of flora and fauna unique in Catalunya and it has been protected as a National Park since 1987.
There are many different itineraries you can choose to follow for walks in the National Park, most of which can be enjoyed by all visitors and not just the super active! The walks start from the top of the mountain which is reached by a funicular railway; itineraries for walks can be picked up from the Nature Centre at the top of the railway.
GETTING TO MONTSERRAT
The easiest way to travel to Montserrat is to take the train from Plaça Espanya, catching the FGC Linea R5 (Barcelona – Manresa) which leaves every hour, the journey taking about 60 mins. There are two stations at which you can disembark; the first is Montserrat-Aeri, from where you can catch a cable car up to the monastery. The second station is Monistrol de Montserrat, which provides the option of taking the rack railway (ŽEl CremalleraŽ) for those visitors who find travelling by cable car less than relaxing.
Cable car (Aeri de Montserrat)
Opened in 1930 the cable car remains the quickest way to reach the monastery at Montserrat, travelling up 1350m in just 5 mins.
1 March- 31 Oct (9:25am-1:45pm and then 2:20pm-6:45pm)
1 Nov-28 Feb (10:10am-1:45pm and then 2:20pm-5:45pm)
Rack railway (El Cremallera)
The rack railway is the modern way to ascend Montserrat, and is a railway of comfortable and safe air-conditioned electric trains. The journey offers some spectacular views and takes 15 mins. Trains leave from Monistrol-Vila (connected with the FGC Monistrol de Montserrat station) every 20 mins.
Timetable: trains run from approx. 7.30am-8.30pm depending on time of year.
Funicular de Montserrat
There are two funicular railways operated from the monastery at Montserrat, the Sant Joan line which runs up to the top of the mountain, and the Santa Cova line which takes visitors to the Holy Cave. Trains leave every 20 mins.
San Joan: runs Jan/Feb/Nov/Dec – 11am-5pm Apr-Oct – 10am-5.30pm
Santa Cova: same timetable as for San Joan
Tot Montserrat: ticket that includes metro/FGC train/rack train or cable car/museum entry/self-service lunch/audiovisual show
Trans Montserrat: ticket including metro/FGC train/rack train or cable car/audiovisual show