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Abbey of Montserrat

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The Abbey of Montserrat, also called Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Catalonia. Visitors can drive, take a scenic cable car trip, or take the funicular railway to the monastery, which looks down over the lowlands of the region, before visiting the impressive basilica and museums. Make sure to visit the monastery’s most important icon, the Black Madonna, also known as La Moreneta, a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus whose skin has darkened over the centuries. A popular site for day trips from Barcelona, book your trip today to see the incredible Abbey of Montserrat!
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4 Tips for Visiting the Abbey of Montserrat

Climb Sant Jeroni | Flickr: Josep Maria Viñolas Esteva CC BY 2.0
1
Go Hiking in MontserratThe mountains of Montserrat are an excellent place to challenge yourself on a hiking trail. It takes about an hour and a half to hike up to the monastery from the lower cable car station, or take a longer hike to the summit of San Jeroni, which is 4,055 feet (1,236 meters) above sea level.
Santa Maria de Montserrat in the Clouds | Flickr: wxwillett CC BY-SA 2.0
2
Discover Angelic VoicesL’Escolania is the famous boys’ choir at Santa Maria de Montserrat, a tradition that dates back to at least 1223. Today they sing daily in the basilica, where you can watch. They perform Salva and Virolai at 1 pm and Salve Montserratina at 6.45 pm. They don’t sing on Saturdays, in July, or during the Christmas holidays.
3
Try the Local DelicaciesYou’ll find plenty of locally produced treats to taste at the market stalls at the monastery. Sample local honey, fig cakes, and cheeses, or buy some to take home to friends and family.
4
Take the Rack Railway or Cable CarBeware: the two funicular railways don’t take you up the mountain! Take either the cable car or the rack railway to enjoy amazing views as you ascend to the monastery from the train stations below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Montserrat?

Montserrat refers to a mountain range northwest of Barcelona, named for the way the peaks look like the serrated edge of a saw blade. It was designated as a national park in 1987 and is popular with hikers and rock climbers, but is most famous for being the site of the Abbey of Montserrat. The Benedictine Abbey was founded in the 11th century and is housed in staggeringly impressive buildings built into the mountain. From the site, you’ll get awe-inspiring views across Catalonia to Barcelona. On a clear day, you can even see the island of Mallorca from the height of Montserrat.

What will I see on a trip to the Abbey of Montserrat?

The most important area of the abbey is the Basilica, which was first built in the 16th century before being rebuilt in 1811 and given a new facade after the Spanish Civil War. The Basilica houses one of the great religious treasures of Spain, the Lady of Montserrat, also known as the Virgin of Montserrat, who also gives the monastery its name. The statue shows the Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ, with a globe in one hand. The skin tones of the figures were originally a lighter hue of wood but grew darker after being exposed to candle smoke or varnish. Subsequent restorations have deliberately painted them black, hence the figure’s other name, La Moreneta, or the ‘little dark one’. Pilgrims can see the statue and touch the globe in the hope of receiving a blessing. The abbey complex also contains two museums, gift shops, restaurants, and market stalls.

What’s inside the museums at Montserrat?

There are two museums at Montserrat, the Espai Audio Visual and the Montserrat Museum. The Montserrat Museum contains art dating from Ancient Egypt to 2001, much of which has a religious theme. There are also ethnographical and zoological artifacts on display. The permanent collection has six themed areas: the archaeology of the Biblical Middle East, paintings from the 13th to the 18th century, Catalan art in the 19th and 20th centuries, the iconography of the Virgin of Montserrat, Slavic icons, and liturgical objects from the 15th to the 20th century. These exhibits contain works by Caravaggio, El Greco, Picasso, Dalí, Miró, and Degas. There are also usually two temporary exhibits that rotate roughly every five months. The Espai Audio Visual is a more modern space that uses videos and specially created audio to inform visitors about life at Montserrat in a unique and entertaining way. It’s split into five sections: Mountain, Presence, Monastery, Sanctuary, and Culture, and at the end visitors have the chance to enjoy a 15-minute presentation following a full day in the life of the monastery.

How can I enjoy nature at Montserrat?

There are several walks clearly signposted when you reach the monastery, each of which will allow you to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain. The most popular walk is the walk to Santa Cova where, according to legend, an image of the Lady of Montserrat was found. Unable to move the icon, the bishop and local people decided that it had to be worshipped in the cave itself. The walk takes just over an hour to reach the cave and return and is easy enough to walk on the way down. On the way back up you have the option of using one of the funiculars to avoid the steep ascent. There are also several longer walks which take you to some of the peaks in Montserrat and which will take you further away from the tourist center and monastery. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather and to bring water and snacks, especially in summer. There are also two main areas for rock climbing, Sant Salvador and Santa Magdalena. You can hire rock climbing equipment or book a guided climbing session with a company in nearby El Bruc.

What’s the easiest way to reach the monastery? What’s the rack railway?

Montserrat is about 31 miles (50 km) away from Barcelona and takes about an hour to reach by car or bus. It’s relatively simple, but if you want to drive all the way up to the monastery then you should be prepared to drive on some very narrow and winding mountain roads next to steep drops. It’s not one for inexperienced drivers! It’s relatively easy to reach the mountain via public transport, you can either take trains from Plaça Espanya to Aeri de Montserrat (for the cable car) or Monistrol de Montserrat (for the rack railway). The cable car journey to the monastery only takes five minutes, but the views are staggeringly beautiful. The Cremallera de Montserrat, or rack railway, takes 15 minutes and is the most comfortable way to travel up the mountain. Finally, there’s the most traditional way to climb the mountain: on foot! Follow the paths taken by pilgrims throughout the centuries and hike to the monastery. The hiking routes take less than two hours from either of the train stations but are quite steep and challenging.

What are the funiculars?

The funicular railways at Montserrat take you from the monastery to important locations further up or down the mountain. The Funicular de Santa Cova can take you from the monastery down to the sacred cave of Santa Cova and back again. Meanwhile, the Funicular de Sant Joan takes you further up the Montserrat mountain, taking you to the start of three hiking trails that start above the monastery. At the top, there’s also a small exhibit about the natural park, its flora, and fauna.

Should I take a guided tour?

It’s easy to explore Montserrat by yourself, without the help of a guide. The Montserrat Museum has an audio guide to provide context, while the Espai Audio Visual is more or less self-explanatory. However, the monastery complex is large and it can be helpful to have a guide to orient you before you explore by yourself. Many of the full-day and half-day tours which visit Montserrat from Barcelona have a tour guide on board who will be able to provide some basic information about the site and answer any questions before you set off to discover the basilica by yourself. There are also tours where the guide stays with you for the duration of your trip, so you can choose the option which appeals most to you.

What’s the best season to visit Montserrat?

The site is busiest during summer, and that’s also when the weather is at its most scorching. If you’re visiting in summer, make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, especially if you plan to hike any of the trails. The boy’s choir is also on vacation during July, so if you desperately want to see them perform, make sure to take their schedule into account. The winter months aren’t ideal for hiking trips, and in very bad weather you won’t be able to enjoy the views from the peak. If you can visit between March and the end of June, you should be able to enjoy more temperate weather with smaller crowds.

What are the dining options available at the Abbey of Montserrat?

There are several restaurants at the monastery. Restaurant Montserrat offers Mediterranean cuisine while the smaller Restaurant Abat Cisneros offers specifically Catalan dishes. It may be worth reserving a table in advance if you’d like to visit one of these restaurants as they are often full due to large group bookings. There are also two buffet-style restaurants, La Cafeteria and Self-Service Montserrat, and a bar called Bar de la Plaça which is only open between March and November each year. For those who would rather bring their own food, there’s a picnic area on the terrace of the Mirador dels Apostols building. You can also shop for picnic food at the monastery’s small supermarket, although be aware that prices are slightly higher than at most stores in Spain.

General Information

Opening Hours

The tourist information point at Montserrat is open from 9 am to 7 pm on weekdays and from 9 am to 8 pm at weekends. The Basilica is open from 7.30 am to 8 pm, while the Virgin of Montserrat can be visited from 8 am to 10.30 am and from 12 noon until 6.15 pm. The Museum of Montserrat is open from 10 am to 5.45 pm on weekdays and from 10 am to 6.45 pm at weekends. The funicular from Monistrol de Montserrat begins services at 8.35 am, and final services run between 6.15 pm and 8.15 pm depending on the season. The cable car begins running at 9.40 am at weekends and on weekdays during peak season (March to October), and at 10.10 am on weekdays outside of peak season. Final trips back down the mountain vary between 5.45 pm and 7 pm depending on the season.

Address

Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey
08199 Montserrat
Barcelona
Spain

Tickets

There is no charge for visiting the basilica or the Black Madonna of Montserrat. Tickets for the Audio Visual exhibition cost €5.50 for adults and €4 for students and visitors aged 60 and over. Tickets for the Montserrat Museum exhibitions cost €8 for adults and €6.50 for students and visitors aged 60 and over. A combined ticket for the Audio Visual exhibition and the Montserrat Museum costs €7.50 for adults and €6.50 for students and visitors aged 60 and over. Tickets for the cable car cost €7.50 for a one-way adult ticket, €11.50 for a return adult ticket, €6 for a one-way ticket for visitors aged 60 and over, €9 for a return ticket for over-60s, €4 for a one-way ticket for a child (aged 4 to 13), and €6 for a child’s return ticket. Ticket prices for the funicular railway vary according to the season. A return journey costs €11 for adults, €6.05 for children (aged 4 to 13), and €9.90 for visitors over 60 in the low and mid-season. In the high season, the same tickets cost €12 for adults, €6.60 for children, and €10.80 for over-60s.

How to get there

The easiest way to travel to the Abbey of Montserrat by public transport is to take the R5 Manresa line train from Plaça d’Espanya to Monistrol de Montserrat if you want to take the funicular railway up to the top of the mountain, or to Montserrat-Aeri to take the cable car. There is car parking available at the bottom of the mountain (if you want to take the cable car or funicular) or at the sanctuary itself. Parking costs €6.50 for a full day.
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