A Breathtaking Day at Montserrat

Montserrat literally means “jagged mountain” in Catalan.

Just an hour outside of Barcelona, these dramatically sculpted rocky formations are sacred home to a monastery and a basilica housing a black Madonna. The UNESCO World Heritage Site draws tourists and pilgrims who come from near and far to see the beauty nestled in this small mountain range.

How to Get There:
Take train R5 from Placa d’Espanya station in Barcelona. You can get off at two different stops, depending on whether you choose to take the aerial cable car or the rack railway to the top of the mountain.
This page offers some more info on how to get there and reiterates my confusion over ticketing.

I set off on foot from my hostel. I had about 45 minutes until the next train left, so rather than taking the subway to Placa d’Espanya, I thought it would be a nice, albeit slightly brisk, walk. When I reached Placa d’Espanya, I had about five minutes. Initially I took the wrong set of steps underground and had to come back up and cross the street to get to the right train line. Time was ticking, and I still wasn’t sure if I needed to buy a different ticket for the train or if my T10 pass would work. I looked at some signs, but couldn’t find the information. When I went to inquire about it, there was a line of people. With seconds to spare, I decided to just use my T10 pass. I swiped my card, ran down another set of stairs, and literally saw the doors closing before me. I ran and leapt on to the train just in the nick of time. While I wish it were as romantic as you see in the movies, I had just thrown myself on to a crowded train and later would find out that I, indeed, had the wrong ticket.

Once I got on the train, I looked at the map to see the different options for getting up to Montserrat. I wanted to take the rack raliway, but wasn’t sure on the ticketing, so I played it safe and took the cable car.  It was only a five-minute ride up to the top and very beautiful.

I initially walked around outside and took photos of the views. I was sitting along the wall up near the basilica until a guard told me to get down. I went into the church and walked around. I then saw a long line heading upstairs and realized people were waiting to see this black Madonna up close and personal. Not wanting to miss out, I got in line. There were signs everywhere to be quiet, but of course there was a loud family in the mix. Finally, someone reamed them out and it got quiet again. As I got closer to the front of the line, I was unsure what to do. Though the statue is behind glass, in her hand is a sphere, and this part is not behind glass. It is tradition to touch the sphere and many kiss her hand or the glass . The smeared kiss marks on the glass led me to worry about the unsanitary condition… I touched the sphere, paused for a moment, and moved on.

Once out of the side exit, I found myself surrounded by thousands of candles down a narrow walkway beside the church. There were workers whose sole job was to remove the burned out candles. You can purchase a candle to light- the colored ones are more expensive than the white ones. I’m sure this money goes towards the upkeep of the church, but you should have seen just how many candles were lit; this church isn’t closing its doors anytime soon.

I walked around a little more, took plenty of photos, and eventually hopped back on the cable car and caught the train back to Barcelona. I highly recommend going to Montserrat- it’s a really beautiful place.

Have you been? If so, did you take the rack railway?

18 thoughts on “A Breathtaking Day at Montserrat

  • We were there in 2007 and it was a highlight of our trip. Loved spending the entire day there. There were so many kids around M had fun running around with them even though she was only 4 at the time. :-) Great photos!

  • I’ve enjoyed reading about your time in Barcelona — you certainly took me back to my visit!

    I thought that T10 card covered part of the journey — or wait, maybe I’m thinking about the travel card to Montserrat that includes the train, cable car, and the other steep ride. See, if it tricky…I have no clue what I’m talking about O:-)

    If I’m ever in Barcelona again, I’ll have to make a return trip — I had one of the best pastries EVER in the simple dining area. Surprise!

    • Ah yes, I remember discussing the fact that you had been here when I failed to search for your book ;) Yes, there is an all-inclusive ticket for the day.

  • Um I totally was just looking at the pretty pictures and re-read the post to realize there’s ANOTHER Montserrat! I’ve never heard of this one, but I really want to go to the Caribbean isle, Montserrat (and now here, too! I wrote my first guidebook for Frommer’s to Spain and never even heard of this town).

    • Haha, yes there is more than one… I probably should have mentioned that! It’s beautiful and quite a popular day trip now from what I understand.

    • Debbie-
      The church is really beautiful. I took more photos of the ornate details inside but the quality just wasn’t good enough to post.

  • Wow – simply BREATH TAKING. And I am sure that it more beautiful to see in person. Thanks for sharing- I’ve never been there before but will keep in mind if I’m in that part of the world again ^_^

    • Thanks Leanne! The views are stunning. And it’s a very affordable activity- you just have to pay for transportation. Entering the church and walking the grounds are free.

  • Wow, that looks beautiful. And it’s not even very well known is it? I’ve never heard of it.

    We’ll be in Barcelona next month and we migth have to go check it out!

  • Montserrat is a “must-go” if one visits Barcelona. It is easily done as a day trip and I followed the instructions on the site that you linked to and had no problems with transportation whatsoever. I skipped the Black Madonna as the queue was crazy and went into the main nave of the cathedral where there was a wedding ceremony going on. I went in to the “candles” walkway from the opposite way from where one might exit if one went to see the Black Madonna.
    I thoroughly enjoyed walking along the path to the Holy Cave where one encounters beautiful sculptures at almost each turn of the corners depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary. The trail was rather quiet and it is a good time for reflection (I’m not religious but I still found it a very peaceful time for introspection).
    I’d definitely jump at any chance to go back to Montserrat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *