Montserrat in Catalonia means a lot of things to us.
- To some it is a monastery where you can listen to the famous choir sing in the basilica every day.
- To some it is a natural park where you can walk and climb up and around the mountain.
- To some it is a mountain with an impressive architecture and spectacular views.
Whatever your reason for coming to Montserrat, you will be amazed by its unique beauty and spirituality and so impressed about the views!
Why should you visit Montserrat? Here are 17 reasons!
1. The Monastery – 1000 years of history
The benedictine Monastery is nearly a 1000 years old! You will find it perched half way up the mountain and sheltered by its peaks. The community of monks also runs a boys’ school devoted to the study of music.
Did you know there is a community of around 70 monks that live in the monastery?
2. The Basilica
Walk in the basilica, and the first thing you will see is la Moreneta above the high altar looking out for everyone.
Take some time to wonder around. The paintings, gold lamps, and hundreds of candles.
3. “La Moreneta” – the Black Madonna
The Virgin of Montserrat, is the patron saint of Catalonia, a presence strongly felt and revered. She is la Moreneta, the Black Madonna and Our Lady of Montserrat. You can touch one of her hands, which holds a sphere that symbolizes the universe.
La Moreneta is made of wood and was built in the 1100s, it is a unique piece of Romanesque Art. To learn more visit the MNAC National Museum in Barcelona, it has an impressive collection of Romanesque Art.
Why is the Black Madonna black?
It is said that she was discovered by some shepherds, they followed a bright light in a cave and found the Black Madonna there, they wanted to move the wooden statue to the town of Manresa, but suddenly it became so heavy that they understood it was the spot where she wanted to be. The Monastery was built there in honour of la Moreneta.
Some also say she was made of a dark wood and, in time, the smoke from the candels darkened the statue. Since then she has been refurbished and always maintaining the dark colour.
4. L’Escolania de Montserrat – the Boys’ Choir Performances
Another highlight of your visit to the monastery is to listen to the angelical voices of the Boys’ Choir, l’Escolania – they mainly sing Gregorian chants and other genres of religious choral music. It is one of the oldest choirs in Europe, there are documents form the 1300s.
When can you listen to the Boys’ Choir?
You can listen to the Salve during mass at 1 pm and at 7 pm during school holidays (except Christmas, July and some other festive periods during the year).
Below is the choir singing El Virolai, the himn dedicated to la Moreneta, the Black Madonna
Montserrat has a library with over 300,000 volumes, many of them from the 14-15th centuries. They cover the knowledge to understand the world: religion, humanities, science and music.
6. Art – the museum
If you’re interested in art don’t miss the museum! An extensive collection with paintings by Dalí, Picasso and El Greco, and even treasures from Ancient Egypt!
There are many shops around the area of the Monastery, the main one is called La Botiga – The Shop, where you can find:
- Food: marmalades, alcohols, olive oils, cured meats, pasties, cheeses, honeys and chocolate
- Souvenirs and gifts: jewellery, ornaments, religious relics, guidebooks, postcards and mosaics.
- Childrens’ toys: stationery, cuddly toys, children’s clothes and games.
8. Market stalls at Montserrat
One of my favourite places in Montserrat are the market stalls. You will find a row of stalls of local suppliers selling regional specialties. You’ll be able to buy local honeys, cheese and fig cakes. Don’t miss the fresh cheese Mató! Delicious when you add some honey.
There are some cafe bars where you can take a drink with the family, but if you prefer a restaurant these are the two main ones:
- Restaurant Montserrat: This restaurant is located in the ‘Mirador dels Apostols’ building where you can enjoy some spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding area.
- Restaurant Abat Cisneros: This restaurant is a bit smaller and more personal. The restaurant sits inside a building that used to be the stables for the monastery in the 16th century. One of Restaurant Abat Cisnero’s most appealing features is its stone arch ceiling
10. The Mountain
Montserrat is a Mountain, a unique Natural Park, and a massive rock over 4000 feet high, visible for miles, with weird shapes and hundreds of rounded peaks that jut into the sky. In fact, Montserrat literally means serrated mountain. There are paths, stairs, caves, chapels and hermitages scattered over the mountain, extraordinary landscapes and wonderful views.
11. Stunning views
One of a kind views of the mountain and also views of the whole country spreading out at your feet.
For many people the visit to Montserrat is not complete without doing one of the walks around the mountain. Beyond the visit of the Monastery – you have a whole mountain to discover.
>>> Top choice for a walk: Start easy and take the Sant Joan Funicular Railway and in 5 minutes you will arrive to Sant Joan chapel, you will avoid the first steep part. If you’re in for a full day walk go towards Sant Jeroni, otherwise it is also worth to return in a light 2 hours walk back down to the Monastery.
The walk is worth the effort – you will be rewarded with a magnificent view of Catalonia!
The steep peaks make it a spectacular place to climb – but that is only for the bravest!
14. Mistery in Montserrat
Visit Montserrat on a misty morning. You might not see the spectacular views, but you will feel the magic of this place, its solitud and spirituality.
15. Could the Holy Grail be there?
The legend says the Holy Grail is located in a mountain called Monsalvat, mount of salvation. Some believe that is Montserrat. In fact, even Himmler, head of the Nazi S.S. came looking for the Holy Grail in Montserrat, during a trip Hitler made to visit the Spanish dictator Franco.
16. Look out for UFO’s!
The mistery continues. For many Montserrat is a place for UFO sightings. They meet on the 11th of every month in search for Unidentified Flying Objects.
17. Combine with Penedès Wine Region
If you’re looking for a perfect day out, near Montserrat is the Penedès wine region, a rough and dry region with an ideal climate for vineyards and therefore, it is the place to visit some winecellars. It is interesting to see the traditional and modern winemaking procedures and, above all, taste some wine! This is also where cava is made, method champenoise wine.
→ Practical information
How to get there?
The best way to get there on your own is either to rent a car or by train, wake up early as it will be a full day trip:
- Take the FGC train from Plaça Espanya Rail Station, the R5 line towards Manresa.The train departs about every hour. That will leave you at the bottom of the mountain.
- To get to the top, either stop in Aeri de Montserrat train station and take the cable car, or stop in Monistrol if you prefer the funicular.
If you perfer a guided tour, this is our top choice:
- The Montserrat Tour. The easiest way to get there, especially for those who prefer to spend the day in Barcelona and leave Montserrat for the quietness of the afternoon. Daily from 3 to 7 pm.
- Montserrat & Codorníu Wine Cellars Tour. Visit the Penedès wine region on the way to Montserrat Sanctuary, the two most popular sites near Barcelona. Daily from 8h30 to 3 pm.
- Montserrat & Sitges Private Tour. A great way to spend the day is combining the beach town of Sitges with Montserrat. The guide will meet you at your hotel at your preferred time.
Montserrat’s climate is colder than Barcelona city. Just remember to dress a bit warmer and wear comfortable shoes!
When to go
Avoid weekends, especially Sundays, as it is when both locals and tourists visit the mountain. I prefer to go in the afternoon, again because it is when there are less people than in the morning and, if you have some extra time, the evening Boys’ Choir is a magical experience.
When can you listen to the Boys’ Choir?
The choir sings during the masses daily at 12:00 pm and 7:30 pm, except weekends and during school holidays. You can check the schedule here.
Don’t forget to tell us about your experience. What did you like most of your visit to Montserrat?