Located 50km northwest of Barcelona, Montserrat is at the heart of Catalan identity – and essential for every traveler’s itinerary
If you ask a local to list the essential places to visit during your time in Barcelona, there is a big chance that Montserrat will be at the top. The mountain, located 50 km northwest of Barcelona (or one-hour driving), is considered the highlight of Catalonia by many visitors. The reason? It is more than just a mountain: it’s a mountain, a natural park, and a magical monastery whose history dates back to 880. Visiting all three at the same time, while admiring the breathtaking landscape of Catalonia’s countryside is definitely something not to be missed. Traverse the mountain yourself or sign up to visit the peak with one of our experienced guides and book a Day Tour to Montserrat.
Montserrat: The Mountain
The word “Montserrat” means “serrated mountain”, which is a literal description of the mountain’s profile and topography. The rocks of Montserrat consist of hardened and eroded rocks and limestone, make the mountain instantly recognizable. It is the type of landscape that pictures just don’t do justice – you can even bring your camera, but it will be hard to capture its beauty in one shot. Once you get there, you won’t believe your eyes!
Montserrat: The Natural Park
Throughout the Montserrat Natural Park, you will find four villages: Monistrol, El Bruc, Collbato and Marganell, each one of them rich in architectural and historical heritage.
When it comes to the park and its natural diversity, it reflects the damp Mediterranean climate of the region, making it a great visit for all those interested in plants and vegetation. Over 1250 species of plants grow on the mountain! Once you exit the funicular station at Funicular de Sant Joan, you will find a small museum called ‘Aula de la Natur’ that will give you information on the park and its secrets.
Montserrat: The Monastery
History says that the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary of Montserrat has its origins in the hermitage of Santa Maria, from the year 888. In 1025, a new monastery was founded, began to receive pilgrims and visitors who would come to hear and spread the miracles performed by the Virgin. The monastery became an independent abbey in 1409, and later that century (1493-1835), it underwent great reforms in order to grow in size and splendor.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, partly due to the important composers being formed by the Montserrat Music School, the monastery would finally become a cultural center. After suffering a temporary abandonment during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), it returned to its former glory thanks to the Catalan government. Today, a thousand years after its foundation, the Monastery of Montserrat continues to attend to the needs of pilgrims.
Escolania, the “Boy’s Choir”
You may have heard about Escolania, ‘one of the oldest boys choirs in Europe.’ Documents testify to the existence of a religious and music school in Montserrat as far back as the 14th century; today it enjoys international fame and prestige. All the choir members receive a high standard of musical training, along with traditional studies and education. Important: The boys don’t sing on Saturdays and have periodic holiday breaks throughout the year. If possible, avoid missing out on this historical choir!
The Black Virgin, “La Moreneta”
Definitely a worthwhile experience, even for the less religious visitors. The Black Madonna, a wooden sculpture, was believed to have been carved in Jerusalem at the beginning of the religion. It is one of the most famous Black Madonna statues in the world and in 1844 the Virgin of Montserrat as declared the patroness of Catalonia.
Why is it black? There isn’t exactly one definitive answer to this question. Some insist that ‘La Moreneta’ (“the little black lady” in Catalan) is black due a portrayal of a black African Madonna, others say that it is just a matter of time passing, simply darkening the sculpture. It doesn’t really matter: you have to see it for yourself to find out how you feel about La Moreneta – just make sure to get there early enough in order to avoid the huge lines (or come with us! We’ll skip all lines, saving you time that will later be dedicated to exploring other corners of the majestic monastery).
Explore the amazing 1000-year-old monastery of Montserrat with panoramic views, scenic walks and Escolania boy’s choir accompanied by Catalan lunch and afternoon tastings to a Penedes winery. FROM 95€
Interested in a wine and a guided tour of Montserrat? Hop onto one of our Montserrat and Wine Country Day Trips!