For anyone visiting Barcelona, making a day trip into the Montserrat Mountain is a MUST. I am pretty sure the majestic beauty of the place played a part in inspiring Gaudi’s architecture (an unproven fact, but still…) Thanks to the efficient rail networks, getting to the small town of Montserrat is as easy as ABC and very do-able for a day tripper.
First of all, you have to get to Barcelona-Plaça Espanya Station where you will notice English signs directing you to a special ticketing area to purchase your return tickets to Montserrat. Due to the regularity of tourist visits, there are staffs on hand to help you should you not know what to purchase at the machines.
Do note that there are various ticketing options depending on what you intend to do up in the mountains or how you intend to get there:
1. Just the train ticket to the Monistrol de Montserrat = from €14.10
2. Train ticket + Cremallera (Rack train)/Aeri (Cable Car) + Funicular+ Audiovisual Show = €27.50
3. ToT Montserrat ticket which includes everything in option 2 + entry to the Motnserrat Museum + Lunch = €43.70
(Click here for a downloadable PDF of the transportation timings to get up to Monserrat)
You can choose the Option 1 if you intend to hike up to the mountain area. For the more unfit tourists, you can purchase the Option 2 where Funiculars from Montserrat town brings you even higher into the mountain and you can follow well marked trails. I purchased option 2 as I was planning to skip the museum
Get there early and give yourself some buffer time, We were confused as to which platform to be on since trains to similar sounding areas left from the same station. If in doubt just ask around, I have yet to meet anyone unhelpful 🙂
We wanted to take the cable car option but it stops early so we took the rack train instead to give ourselves more time in Montserrat.
Once you get out of the train station you will be faced with this gorgeous view of a town set in the cliffs of a beautiful mountain.
Monserrat as we see it today is highly modern since it was mostly destructed during the 19th century Napoleanic Wars and was rebuilt in the late 1800s. As you stroll down the well paved roads, do take time to enjoy the feeling of newness found in a place with a history that stretches back 1000 years.
Montserrat is most famous for Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery, a Benedictine Monastery (Communities that observe the rule of St Benedict) founded in 1025 at the Hermitage of Santa Maria de Montserrat. The opulent church is most famous for 2 things, the Black Madonna of Montserrat as well as the Monserrat Boy’s Choir (L’Esclonia), one of the oldest Boy’s Choir in Europe.
The famed Black Madonna of Montserrat was recorded to have been brought to the hermitage some time in the 8th or 9th Century but others have argued that it was made sometime during the 12th century. Today, it sits at the back of the church behind a clear glass adorned with ornate gold carvings. I visited off-season, and even then I had to queue almost an hour to see the statue. The good thing is that the queue snakes around the side gallery of the church so you get to enjoy beautiful paintings and brightly colored stained glass windows.
I seemed to have queued at the correct time as when I entered the church, they were just about getting ready for Mass. Singing at Mass is one of the daily duties of the Boys Choir will be to sing at Mass which is held at least once a day. There are records showing that the Choir was in existence as far back as the 14th Century. Since then, the music school has produced many famed composers and musicians. There are days when the Choir doesn’t perform so do check their schedule here before you go.
In the afternoon we took the St Joan Funicular which takes us up to about 1000m above sea level. From there we begun our hike up to Sant Jeroni, one of the highest peaks (1236m above sea level).
It looks like fun but it is really not that easy of a climb so do ensure that you are properly attired. It took me a good 2.5 hours and a lot of ups and downs to get up to the highest point. I was told that the views was breathtaking but unfortunately I came when the entire area was shrouded in mists 😦
It took us about 5 hours to reach the peak and get back down to Montserrat and it was a truly tiring climb. The only reason we could accomplish this was through pure grit and false hope provided by random signs along the trail informing you that you are “45 minutes from Sant Jeroni”. Don’t believe them! We figured that they were using Spanish walking speed which is waaaay faster than normal human speed (We witness it firsthand with a bunch of elderly ladies who out-paced us).
By the time we reached Barcelona, we were a little worse for wear but at least we had a great nights sleep.