Barcelona boasts an extensive range of tourist attractions. The city has more than enough to keep visitors amused it the centre, but there’s also many interesting day trips to choose from. One of the most beautiful, without a doubt, is Montserrat.
Montserrat is just 30km from the Catalan capital and has it all, nature, culture, mystery, tradition and history. This is a trip to visit not one, but two places of outstanding beauty.
First up is the Montserrat mountain range, a stunning multitude of rock formations in the Catalan lowlands, where visitors can enjoy the natural formations in the shapes of animals, people and other motifs taken from popular imagery. It’s also the basic point for climbing enthusiasts, so don’t forget to pack your climbing shoes!
The second is the Monastery of Santa María de Montserrat, a Benedictine enclave situated at almost 800 metres above the surrounding countryside, where spirituality and art come together to provide visitors with a series of sensations that are hard to forget.
The monastery is considered one of the great symbols of Catalan identity, and one of the highlights is the choir (la escolanía), which is one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, and a ‘must’ for all who make the trip to Montserrat. The sanctuary, together with those in Torreciudad, El Pilar, Meritxell and Lourdes make up the well-known Marian Route. The route offers an unforgettable experience with an interesting mix of culture and devotion, architecture, nature and gastronomy.
You can hear the boys’ choir every Sunday at noon when they sing during mass. They also perform other days of the week (except Saturday) at 1pm. The Basilica is open from 7am to 8pm and we recommend visiting it on weekdays for a more intimate experience.
A separate entrance to the monastery takes you to a corridor where you’ll join a queue of pilgrims and tourists waiting in turn to see the iconic image of the Virgin of Montserrat, which is commonly known as La Moreneta because of her black skin. You can visit between 8 and 10:30 in the morning and again between 12 and 6:15pm.
According to legend, the Madonna of Montserrat was found in the year 880 by a group of young shepherd children. They saw a strange, bright light in the mountain that led them to the cave where the image was discovered. When the Bishop of the region heard the news, he tried to have the statue moved to the city of Manresa but it proved impossible as it weighed too much and couldn’t be lifted. The Bishop took this to mean that the Virgin wished to remain in Montserrat and ordered the construction of the shrine of Santa María, where the monastery is located today.
The 95cm statue is a 12th century Romanesque carving of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus sitting on her lap.
Another highlight in the area is a visit to Santa Cova. The walk from the monastery to the cave where the statue was found takes a little more than 30 minutes.
And if you’re fond of walking, we strongly recommend another trek from the monastery to the Cruz de San Miguel that takes about the same time. This is a great spot to take some photos of the monastery in all its splendour and enjoy the incredible views.
Another option for hiking and nature lovers is to climb up to Montserrat’s highest point, Sant Jeroni at 1236 metres above sea level. As you’d imagine, this is a “top” spot where you can enjoy a 360º view of the spectacular surroundings.