Montserrat which means “serrated mountain”, is an impressive mass of rock with peculiar shapes and jutting peaks rising between the Bages plain and the coastal depression.
Located 65 km Northwest of Barcelona, the short distance made Montserrat the ideal side trip from Barcelona. The main activity hub atop Montserrat is the Placa del Monestir, also known as the Sanctuary.
Driving is the easiest way to get to the Sanctuary. Our love for mountain driving made it the natural choice for us. Can you spot the road leading up to Montserrat?
The roads are good and well signposted. The best part is being enveloped by artistic rock formation as we drove round the mountains. It felt surreal.
Visitors may park their cars at the guarded surface parking lots located just before the entrance to Placa del Monestir for a fee (hotel guests enjoy discounted fare). Since it is the only parking space near to the Sanctuary, parking lots are in high demand.
Alternatively, visitors can park their cars at the guarded parking garage at Monistrol Station. Thereafter, take the Montserrat Cremallera Funicular to the Sanctuary. Ticket for the funicular includes the parking fee.
For visitors who prefer the train, there are 2 options available:
Option 1: take a train from Espanya Station* in Barcelona to Montserrat, then take the cable car to Montserrat Aeri Station.
Option 2: take a train from Espanya Station* in Barcelona to Montserrat, then take the Montserrat Cremallera Funicular to Sanctuary.
* You need to decide on either option 1 or 2 when purchasing your train ticket at the Espanya Station. The fee for cable car or funicular ride is included in the train tickets. Whichever option you choose, they cost the same. If you are not acrophobia, we recommend the cable car ride….the view is spectacular!
Tips: Beware of pickpockets at the Espanya Station. It is a daily affair because of the long queue to buy tickets.
Where to Stay
There are many lodging options at the foot of Montserrat. However, nothing beats that magical experience of staying next to a monastery atop a 4,000 ft high mountain; and waking up to the sound of ringing church bells and be greeted by a beautiful sunrise.
Fantasy aside, for light sleepers (like me…the wife), you may want to bring earplugs to ensure a good night sleep. The huge clock at the sanctuary chimes at the start of each hour through the day and night!
Visitors staying atop Montserrat are given a resident card. This allows them unlimited use of the funicular during their stay. There are two lodging options available:
Cel.les Abat Marcet (Monastery Apartment)
Cel.les Abat Marcet, a monastery apartment, is the place if you are looking for cheap yet functional accommodation. The apartments are housed in an old dormitory-style building. There is an old and very slow lift that serves every floor.
Though the units and the furniture are very aged, they are very clean. Each unit comes with a well-equipped small kitchen, a tiny television set, extremely good heaters and a simple en-suite bathroom. Guests are required to put on the bed sheets and pillow cases themselves.
The only problem we had with the apartment was the bed. The spring was so soft that it doesn’t provide any support, and every slight body movement causes it to squeak. The consolation for me (the wife) for the sleepless nights was waking up to alpine fresh air and vast mountain view right from our room.
Hotel Abat Cisneros
Hotel Abat Cisneros is a 3-star hotel. Being the only lodging that offers comfort and a little luxury here, rooms don’t come cheap and expect it to be packed with tourist groups.
Where to Eat
There are vending machines at the lobby of Cel.les Abat Marcet if you need some snacks or hot drinks. Or you can go to the gift shop for more sophisticated stuffs.
For value meals, there’s a huge canteen next to the gift shop that sells mostly sandwiches. To splurge, there are two restaurants at the sanctuary or you can dine at Hotel Abat Cisneros.
Except for the restaurants in the hotel, all the shops at the sanctuary are closed by 7pm Monday to Saturday; 5pm on Sunday. No worries though. Take the funicular to Monistrol de Montserrat (town at foot of Montserrat) and many dining options awaits.
Top Activities in Montserrat
The highlight atop Montserrat is the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. Here, you can view the original Black Virgin discovered 1,000 years ago. Or for heavenly indulgence of the senses, go for the choir performance by The Escolana, a renowned boys’ choir group in Europe. Read about the Shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat.
Montserrat also offers many hiking trails of varying degrees of difficult.
1. Holy Grotto Trail – pilgrimage trail leading to the cave where the original Black Virgin was discovered
2. St Miquel Trail – trail to retrace the ancient path to Montserrat mountain
3. Via Crucis Trail – trail depicting the last journey of Christ
4. Magnificat Trail – also known as the Cami dels Degotalls trail.
This beautifully shaded trail can be easily completed in 30 mins. The “wall” along the trail is adorned with monuments dedicated to Catalan artists; and majolica offerings dedicated to the most varied avocations to the Mother of God.
If you visit on a Saturday, there is a small weekend market selling cheeses, nuts, honey etc. We bought some extremely delicious snacks here. In fact, we regretted not buying more.
Make Montserrat part of your itinerary and come to experience the magic of this place! We went and had our most wonderful memories carved here.