Barcelona is rated one of Europe’s top destinations to visit, and after spending five incredible days in the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, I can certainly see why. This enchanting city boasts history and culture, amazing architecture, and has some of the best food in the world. And not forgetting the summery vibes of the city’s famous beach! There aren’t many cities that can say they “have it all”, but Barcelona is definitely one of them.
However, one of the things I enjoyed the most about Barcelona, was getting away from the city and heading to the magical mountains of Montserrat. It’s hard to believe that such jaw-dropping natural beauty lies so close to the city, but what makes this place even more special is the monastery that hides away peacefully at the top of the mountains.
About Montseratt Monastery
Catalonia’s most important religious site, the Montserrat Monastery has been the home to Benedictine monks for almost a thousand years. The monastery is steeped in rich history, having been almost entirely destroyed by Napoleon’s Army in 1811.
In 1858, the monks returned to Montserrat to start reconstruction and today you can now visit the monastery and marvel in its breathtaking views, incredible architecture, and ornate basilica. There’s much to be admired at this spiritual destination, and below are just some of the things you can expect from a day trip.
The unusual rock formations and amazing landscapes
According to the traditional Catalan language, the word “Montserrat” literally means “serrated mountain.” And when you look up at the jagged peaks, it’s not surprising to see why these mountains go by this name.
Poets claim that the mountains were carved by little angels with golden saws. Whereas geologists believe, over a period spanning ten million years, movements in the Earth’s crust, and changes in climate and erosion, formed the mass into the shapes that we see today. But either way, with its unique formations and dramatic cliff-clinging monastery, it really does offer some inviting scenery and awesome photo opportunities.
The incredible architecture
If there’s two things I love when travelling, it’s being in nature and marvelling at architecture, and Montserrat certainly delivers on both accounts. The buildings that now stand here are mainly a mixture of Renaissance and Gothic architecture built in the 1900s, and every inch of the grounds are visually stunning. It is even said that some of Antoni Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces were greatly influenced by his visits to the mountains.
The Basilica and the Black Madonna
The Black Madonna is a statue of the Virgin Mary, which has drawn religious pilgrims from all over the world to Montserrat. When the monastery was destroyed in 1811, it is said that the only piece that remained intact was the Black Madonna. And apparently, the entire of the monastery that you see today was rebuilt around her!
Many visitors come to see the statue, which is located at the back of the basilica encased in glass. However, one of her hands, which is holding a sphere (and symbolises the universe), is not behind the glass. And many believe that upon touching her hand, they will have their wishes granted. Unfortunately I didn’t have time for the one hour queue (and make my wish for a life of full-time travel!) but see if you can spot her above the alter below…
Other things to do at Montserrat
The Museum – across from the basilica, there is a museum filled with works of art from many famous Catalan artists, including El Grecco.
Torres Cellar – a guided visit around the winery and vineyards, which have produced some of the world’s best wines and brandies (sold in more than 140 countries) for three centuries. Wine tasting included!
Ride the funicular – there are two funiculars that can take you to the top of the mountains, giving you an awesome opportunity to see the monastery from above.
Hike the mountains – if you’re feeling fit and adventurous, there are also many hiking trails which will lead you to the summit of Sant Joan – the highest peak at Montserrat.
Getting to Montserrat
Montserrat is located approximately 60km from Barcelona and there are many ways in which you can get there – hiking, cable car, train, bus, or hiring a car and taking a road trip yourself.
I booked a morning trip through 365 Tickets, who can organise all your transportation and a guided tour for you. Our coach picked us up a few blocks from the Plaza Catalunya and took around one hour. It currently costs just under £35 and you can quickly and securely book online via their website.
Have you ever visited the magical monastery and mountains on Montserrat? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories below!
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