Montserrat Visit Report: A Day to Remember

Montserrat: A Day to Remember
by James Portelli

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Introduction

The Camino Aragones is arguably the longest Camino on Spanish soil, starting either in Barcelona or in Montserrat and continuing for over 1,000 km to Santiago Compostela.

We are starting the Camino Inglés soon but decided to experience a taste of Catalunya and visit Montserrat first. Montserrat is another renowned pilgrimage site and, being 45 km from Barcelona, can be combined with Manreza for a 4 or 5 day Camino with a day of rest in these two picturesque places.

How To Get There

We decided to travel by train from Plaza de España in Barcelona. There are various ticket options from train only to a full day all-inclusive ticket that covers the train, cable car, and funicular, as well as entry to the museum and Basilica. Even with the all-inclusive option there is still a fair amount of hiking that can be undertaken on Montserrat and, therefore, trekking gear and a walking stick is recommended for those who wish to explore beyond the hermitage to experience a panoramic view of Catalunya. The prices for the ticket options vary between 22 and 46 euros. We went for the all-inclusive ticket in order to avoid queuing at the various places of interest on Montserrat. If traveling by train, do not take one later than 9:00 a.m., since Montserrat does require a full day to experience.

A Day to Remember

We arrived in Montserrat at about 10:00 a.m. and immediately boarded the cable car. There is the option to trek up for a couple of hours or so, but the cable car allows for a more efficient use of one’s time to cover as much as possible in Montserrat in one day. The cable car took us through the clouds and immersed us in the spectacular scenery of crisp blue sky, serrated mountaintops, and lush green woods all on a bed of cotton-white clouds.

On the way to San Juan on the mountain top

On the way to San Juan on the mountain top

Once at the top station of the cable car we proceeded to the chapel cove. The descent on a gravel trek to the cove and walk back up requires approximately 1 hour. The trail has imagery of the fifteen traditional mysteries of the rosary all along the brow of the mountain.

 

On the Rosary Path

On the Rosary Path

Mountain views

Mountain views

It is important to plan the day around events that have a specific start time. For example the boys’ choir the Basilica is at 1:00 p.m. If you need to sit down for this recital, be in the Basilica at least an hour before. The cost of securing a seat in the Basilica for the choir recital is the loss of an hour’s of sightseeing during which one might fit in the museum or an art exhibition. But, sitting or standing, the choir recital is a must.

Inside the basilica

Inside the basilica

The museum houses an impressive art collection including Caravaggio, Monet, Dali, El Greco and Picasso among many others. It also has an array of icons from the various Eastern Christian churches as well as archeological artifacts.

Salvatore Dali

Salvatore Dali

If visiting the shrine of the Black Madonna (known as the Throne of our Lady) is left to the end of the day, queues would have subsided substantially, and the time one saves can be spent visiting San Joan or the mountain top, for example. There is lot to see, but with careful planning, all can be accommodated in one rather full day.

The Basilica has stories of martyrs to share, including the monks killed by the Republicans during the Civil War and the Catalan scholars and artists who sought refuge in the Benedictine monastery when General Franco was in power.

Detail of wrought Iron Work on the way to the cove

Detail of wrought-iron work on the way to the cove

We returned to Barcelona in the evening having savoured every minute of every hour of this day in Montserrat. Some visitors stayed back because Montserrat has to hotels / hotel apartments almost adjacent to St. Cecilia’s monastery for those wishing to spend the night there. The monks also share their abode with travelers; but only with those on a spiritual quest or retreat. Something to add to our list for the not distant future.


I thank James for this report on Montserrat, one of my favorite places in Spain, so far. I visited Montserrat in 2010 and was amazed by the dramatic serrated mountains, breathtaking views, history of the monastery, and of course, the Black Madonna. I also remember tasting a delicious herbal liquor made by the monks.  I look forward to returning someday and doing the all-inclusive visit that James recommends. As a Camino pilgrim, I have a new sense of appreciation for this sacred destination.

For more information on Montserrat, visit:

Follow James’s Camino on this new page at caminoprovides.com/routes/ingles2016.   I will also announce his daily updates on my Facebook page, so be sure to Like Facebook.com/CaminoProvides, to be alerted about James’ reports.

If you have plans to walk a Camino this summer or fall and would like to be a route reporter for this blog, contact me.  This could be a good platform for those who don’t have a blog of their own and want a publicly visible page to refer to.

See you on the Camino Portugués May 21-30.

2 thoughts on “Montserrat Visit Report: A Day to Remember

  1. Montserrat is one of my fave places too! I’ve been there twice now.

    I don’t think I’ll be anywhere near the Camino Portuguese on those dates, but I wish you a Buen Camino and look forward to reading all about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, by James Portelli | The Camino Provides

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