One of my best friends, Ellen, and I decided to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain during the summer before our senior year of college. Throughout our education abroad program in Barcelona taking trips outside the city was one of our favorite things to do. I loved spending the weeks in the relaxed and robust city, but the wanderlust bug crept up on me during the weekends. There is always something new to explore and I needed to explore it!
One of my favorite weekend excursions was to Montserrat. Ellen and I were trying to figure out how to spend our last weekend in Barcelona and we somehow stumbled upon information on Montserrat. By going over the info, we found out that Montserrat was an extremely popular abbey located in the mountains about an hour train ride outside of the city. It is accessible by the Placa D’Espanya station which we were able to get to with our regular Metro card so getting there is no problem if you're decent with trains.
Montserrat's most famous feature is its monastery, a Benedictine Abbey called Santa Maria to which people trek during pilgrimages. It is also home to some awesome views. The best part is that it was just a few euros for the train to the site! We decided to take a day and venture to Montserrat.
When your train stops at the platform you’re immediately beside the ticket station for the cable car to Montserrat. Just like Montjuic, Montserrat has a cable car to take you to the tip top – except Montserrat’s cable car is much larger than Montjuic’s so be prepared for lofty heights! There is an additional fee to use the cable car but it’s minimal, keeping the trip affordable.
Once you get to the top of the mountain, be prepared for amazing views. As soon as you step out of the cable car’s platform building you’re given a panoramic shot of where you were standing at the train station. Definitely a photograph you want to take!
After a few minutes of gawking at the view, make your way to the abbey. The abbey is home to the Virgin of Montserrat, a statue of the Virgin Mary holding an infant Jesus. She is one of the 450 to 500 black Madonna figures in Europe and is believed by tradition to have been created in Jerusalem, but she is more than likely a 12th century wooden carving. Either way, she’s extremely interesting, and it was very humbling to be able to see something with such history and connection to the Catalan culture. The statue is given the utmost respect and is considered one of the most notable Christian images in all of Spain. She has even been rumored to have performed miracles if you happen to touch the sphere in her hand. This is what keeps pilgrims coming to the area. If you plan to visit Montserrat, definitely take the time to research the Madonna’s historical significance. Knowing the relevance of the statue makes your trip to visit the abbey - her home - much more spiritual and awe-inspiring.
When you walk outside of the abbey, you’ll see a square where people are removing their shoes to stand inside of a stone circle. The circle is warm – and no, it’s not from all the feet on it – because the sun hits it in all daylight hours. Pretty cool. I’m not sure if it’s true, but rumor has it that if you remove your shoes and stand inside of the warm stone circle while facing the basilica you’ll enter a state of spirituality. We tried it, of course. I’m not sure if I would classify my experience standing on the circle as a spiritual awakening but it was very peaceful and serene.
After we finished touring the monastery area, we ventured to a funicular named after Saint Joan. This funicular isn’t for the faint of heart! It takes you almost directly up the mountain; it is remarkably steep. This is another (very small) fee but in my opinion it was worth it. The views are ridiculous from the top. You have time to hike around the area, venture from spectacular view to spectacular view, and take everything in. It was the perfect ending to our month in Spain.
To learn more about Montserrat and all it has to offer visit Barcelona’s site dedicated to the mountain here!
Hi, I'm Madeline
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