Just less than an hour outside Barcelona, the place where the image of the Black Virgin Mary appeared over 1000 years ago, today, attracts tourists, locals and devout Christians alike. Montserrat (which literally means, 'Sawed off mountains') is a range of jagged rocks and home to a Monastery, which over the years has become a sacred site for Catholics worldwide. They flock to the mountain to ask for miracles from the Black Virgin and to pay their respects.
Montserrat — Photo courtesy of escuelasannyas.blogspot.com
If you have a few days in Barcelona and feel like taking a break from the city noise, Montserrat is an easy getaway either by car or by train. It's a relaxing and interesting day trip, rich in history, breathtaking landscapes and surrounded by nature. You not only can visit the Monastery, but you'll be able to enjoy the gorgeous surroundings and panoramic views atop the highest peak that’s accessible by the Saint John Funicular. Atop the mountain is also the Santa Cova (Holy Cave), which you can get to via the funicular or by foot. One of the highlights of a day in Montserrat is listening to the boys’ choir. This famous choir sings almost every day (schedule varies depending on the season so be sure to check, it's usually around 1pm) and is a peaceful way to end or begin an enchanting day on top of one of Barcelona's most magical mountains.
This day trip can be done in 5 hours, or you can spend a full day there, exploring the sights as well as the Montserrat Museum, which has a collection of paintings as well as an audiovisual experience.
Montserrat is also a great destination for those who enjoy hiking. There are a few trails, best done with a guide or someone who can point you in the right direction, but it’s an ideal place to go for walk and take in the scenery amongst the nature. Many tour groups offer excursions up the mountain and some incorporate a hiking component into the tours.