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Thirty miles from Barcelona sits a whole different world. Montserrat is a mountain-top monastery situated against very unusual rock formations (the name Montserrat actually means “jagged (serrated) mountain” in Catalan). Though there’s plenty to do in the city itself, this easy day trip is one of the best things to do in Barcelona.
There are two main reasons to visit Montserrat: for its religious significance and its gorgeous outdoor setting. With Catholicism such an important part of Spanish culture and my deep love of nature, I intended to see both.
Photo by Iain McLean via Trover.com
Arriving at the Benedictine abbey first thing in the morning, I headed straight to the basilica. Many pilgrims travel here to pay their respects to La Moreneta (the black virgin), a statue of the Virgin Mary. A pathway leading upstairs to the statue is lined with beautiful pictures of saints. Here, pilgrims touch the orb in Mary’s right hand as a symbol of accepting Jesus.
Photo by Crystal via Trover.com
Catholic tradition says La Moreneta was carved by Saint Luke near Jerusalem around 50 AD, though historians claim it was actually made in the 12th century. Regardless, it was moved centuries ago from its original location down the mountain at Santa Cova (Holy Grotto) to its position today.
While La Moreneta holds great symbolism, it is the rest of the abbey that’s breathtaking even for the non-religious. Santa Maria de Montserrat basilica is ornate in a way that reflects the devotion of monks and pilgrims without being flashy or materialistic. The most beautiful part, in my opinion, was the Ave Maria Path, a walkway lined with candles lit in prayer request.
Photo by Jennifer via Trover.com
An early morning visit will mean you’re surrounded by the devout, rather than tourists. However, midday visitors are delighted by the renowned L’Escolania boys choir, who sings nearly every day.
Photo by Sharrie Shaw via Trover.com
Montserrat’s spectacular setting adds to the sacredness of the site. Its also a beautiful place to hike. One funicular, or cable railway meant for steep inclines, leads down the mountain, allowing you to walk a short ways along the Santa Cova trail. Several monuments along the way depict the life of Christ as the trail twists and turns along the side of the mountain, offering splendid views. The path ends at Santa Cova itself, a chapel built into the rock.
The other funicular, Sant Joan, goes steeply up the side of the mountain, climbing another 820 feet at gradients of more than 65%. From the top, there are incredible vistas along with a small nature center and several paths. Time permitting, include both in your visit.
If you go…
Starting from Barcelona hotels, private transportation (such as a Barcelona rental car) is the quickest way to reach the base of the mountain but trains departing from Plaça d’Espanya are also an easy option.
From the base of the mountain, you can choose between heading up by funicular or cable car. We chose the train and funicular combination and would recommend it for tourists.
Tickets including transportation from the city to the basilica, all admissions, and lunch start at €46,20.
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