Montserrat ★★

TK, Barcelona
The monastery of Montserrat. (Photo by Mikipons)

The mountainside monastery home of La Moreneta, the "Black Virgin" of Spain

The interior of the church at the Montserrat monastery
The interior of the church at the Montserrat monastery. (Photo by Antoni63)
One of Spain's holiest pilgrimage sites is nestled halfway up a 4,000-foot mountain at the base of the jagged, thin spine of rock that gives the area the name "serrated mountain."

A monastery has perched here since the 9th century, drawing the pious and the curious to worship the fabled La Moreneta, or "Black Virgin."

Montserrat also harbors a good little art museum and some stunning views of the surrounding area.

Visiting the monastery of Montserrat

La Moreneta, the
La Moreneta, the "Black Madonna" of Montserrat.
The monastery itself (tel.+34-938-777-777;, enlarged in the 11th century and rebuilt in 1844, sports a neo-Renaissance entry courtyard and 16th-century basilica. Today it is home to about 70 Benedictine monks.

Enter the church through the right-hand door to pay your respects to the La Moreneta, the Black Virgin.

According to legend, St. Luke himself carved La Moreneta, and the venerated image arrived in Barcelona around AD 50. Carbon dating, however, suggests that the time-blackened statue was most likely crafted in the 12th century.

She hides behind a sheet of glass, but sticks her gilded arm out so pilgrims can rub the orb in her hand for a blessing and good luck.

Try to be here at 1pm on weekdays, when the Escolania boy's choir sings hymns in honor of the Virgin and her monastery. (On Satrudays, pilgrims take over the singing.)

The basilica is open daily 7:30am to 8pm.

The Montserrat museum

Sant Jeroni by Caravaggio in the Montserrat Museum
Caravaggio's "St. Jerome" (1606), a chiaroscuro classic in the museum of Montserrat.
On Plaça de Santa María is the Cadafalch-designed Museu de Montserrat (tel.+34-938-777-745;

It houses a hidgepodge of prehistoric remains (anyone for a 2,000-year-old crocodile mummy?) and archaeological tidbits from Egypt and Mesopotamia alongside some quite nice paintings from a diverse group that includes El Greco, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, Picasso, Monet, Dalí, Chagall, Miró, and Degas.

In 2006, they added a collection of Byzantine and Slavic icons from the 15th to 20th centuries. The museum is open daily 10am–5:30pm.

Funicular rides around Montserrat

Santa Cova at Montserrat
Santa Cova at Montserrat. (Photo by Zolierdos)
Two short funicular (cog-railway) rides ( from Plaça de la Creu will take you either:

Where to eat in Montserrat

Abat Cisneros (tel.+34-938-777-701), on Plaça de Monestir, offers inexpensive set-price meals (around €27–€30) of unpretentious Catalonian fare under the stone vaults of what were once horse stales in the 16th century.

Tips & Links

How to get to Montserrat

Trains leave twice an hour from the Plaça d'Espanya station in Barcelona. The ride takes about 61 minutes.

Get off at the Monterrat - Aeri de Montserrat stop to catch the funicular (included in the ticket price; the rest of the way up to town.

The other, less thrilling, option is to ride teh train to the next stop, the main Monsitrol de Montserrat station, and take the 20-minute rack railway train up to the monastery (

You can purchase all sorts of combination tickets for transport and admission to Montserrat sights at the Barcelona station:

  • Trans Montserrat Monistrol: €26.60 for the train ride form Barcelona, a round-trip ticket on the rack rail, unlimited rides on the funiculars, and entry to the audio-visual show at the monastery
  • Tot Montserrat Monistrol: €42.65 for all of the above, plus entry to the museum and a self-service lunch.
How long does Montserrat take?

Planning your day: It only takes a few hours to see the monastery and surrounding sights, but budget all day for the trip, returning to Barcelona in time for a tapeo and dinner.

Stay away on Sunday—that's when the faithful flock here in droves.

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Escorted sidetrips from Barcelona

Leave the driving—and the guiding—to someone else with an escorted or guided daytrip. True, you're usually with a small group, but this is by far the best way to fit the most into a short amount of time.

  • Montserrat
  • Girona, Figueres, & Costa Brava
  • Pyrennes, Tarragona, & Catalan villages
  • Food & wine
  • Multi-day excursions


Reserve it


Tours Under $995 G Adventures

The Aeri de Montserrat cable car is by far the most interesting way to arrive at Montserrat monastery
The Aeri de Montserrat cable car is by far the most interesting way to arrive at Montserrat monastery. (Photo by Bernard Gagnon)

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in September 2013.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.