8.30 or 9.30AM
DRIVE TO MONTSERRAT
Meet your guide & driver
IF YOU STARTED AT 8.30AM
BLACK MADONNA SHRINE
If you booked a 6-hour tour, after driving up the mountain you’ll be first of all taken to the Basilica, where a special path through the side chapels and 50 steps take you to the Shrine where the Black Madonna is worshiped. You’ll be able to follow the tradition: touch her and make a wish. The view from there over the inside of the Basilica is quite stunning.
This must be completed before 10.30AM, when they close the doors until mass is over. When they reopen later, the lines are extremely long and guides are not allowed to skip them.
IF YOU STARTED AT 9.30AM
CABLE CAR, RACK TRAIN OR DRIVE
If you booked the 5-hour option, here are 3 different ways to get to the Monastery:
- Cablecar*: Our favorite way, unless you are scared of heights. The ride takes less than 5 minutes, and even if guides can’t skip lines, there isn’t usually many people when we get there. Not recommended for people with walking issues either, as the walk from the upper station to the Monastery is uphill and involves some steps.
- Rack (cog wheel) train*: The option for those who are scared of heights and get motion-sickness. Unfortunately, guides can’t skip lines there either and specially in the weekends and high season they can be particularly long. The ride takes 15 minutes.
- Drive: You can of course choose to just stop to take a picture of the Monastery from the bottom of the mountain and continue by car. It’s a very scenic winding road and the ride takes around 15 minutes.
Things to do in Montserrat
Around 2 hours
The Monastery area offers lots of activities to choose from. Here are some ideas:
- St Joan Funicular and optional hike back. Best as you arrive in case there are long lines, it departs every 20 minutes and takes you to a high point from where to enjoy the views over the Monastery and the rest of the mountain. The ride takes 5 minutes, and once there you can also visit a small exhibit about the geology and the nature of Montserrat (15 minutes). You might also choose to hike down a relatively easy path (walking shoes needed, though) that takes about 45 minutes to walk. The views are spectacular and it can be done with kids at a slower pace.
- Art Museum. If you like art, you will be impressed by the beautiful collection the monks have gathered throughout the centuries! The visit takes at least 1 hour.
- Holy Cave. If you are into churches and able to walk, you might want instead to walk to the Holy Cave Ermitage, where it is said the Black Madonna was originally found by miracle. The little church isn’t especially beautiful, but the views are and the path is partially decorated with sculptures representing the Misteries of the Cross, one of which was designed by a very young Antoni Gaudi. A funicular saves you 10 minutes of the way, that takes around 40 minutes (one way). The walk involves steps.
- Via Crucis path. This shorter walk with decorative panels describing Jesus Path of the Cross takes around 30 minutes and despite a few steps here and there, it’s quite easy to walk and it takes you into the nature and away from the pilgrim and visitors crowds for a while, with also some nice photo opportunities.
- Audiovisual and Exhibit. A 10 minute audiovisual explains what the Mountain and the Monastery of Montserrat mean for the locals, from its history, its religious significance, the art and the nature. Then the visit continues through a nice exhibit that explains how the monks and the children of the choir live (about 20 minutes more, after watching the video).
- Shopping. There are two gift shops and a small farmers market with a dozen stalls selling local food products such as cheese, honey, fig bread and caramelized nuts.
You’ll discuss the options with your guide, and spend your time focusing on your favorite activities. Your guide will stay with your during the entire time.
ENTER THE BASILICA
Waiting for the Choir
The Basilica gets packed, so for the best experience we recommend arriving 30 minutes earlier to get a good spot standing as close to the altar as possible (or one hour if you wish to be able to seat). During the waiting time your guide can continue whispering you explanations, and as the Choir time approaches, a monk will read some passages of the Gospels in different languages.
Oldest Boy Choir in Europe
The Escolania Choir sings every day except Saturdays and school holidays at 1PM (Sundays at Noon) two songs: the Salve and the Virolai, two hymns to the Virgin Mary. The Basilica gets packed, so for the best experience we recommend arriving 30 minutes earlier to get a good spot standing as close to the altar as possible (or one hour if you wish to be able to seat). During the waiting time your guide can continue whispering you explanations, and as the Choir time approaches, a monk will read some passages of the Gospels in different languages and encourage people to join him praying the Our Father.
The singing is considered a sung prayer – not a concert. This is why it is not appropriate to clap at the end. It is also free of charge for this reason.
After the Choir, you’ll head straight back to the car. We need to depart quickly in order to avoid the tremendous traffic jam that happens after the Choir when dozens of tour buses try to leave the Monastery at the same time via the single road that takes there. This is why toilet and shopping must be done BEFORE the Choir.
DRIVE BACK TO BARCELONA
Down the mountain road
Saturdays when there is no Choir and Sundays when they sing earlier the descent from the monastery can be done by cable car or rack train (please let us know in advance so the guide can plan your timing accordingly and have the driver waiting at the right place).
Otherwise, your driver will take you down following the road that goes around the Mountain, so you can see the other side of it, as well. During the ride, the guide will continue telling you stories about the mountain and maybe point at some rocks with curious shapes (depending on weather and visibility). Back down, you’ll have a last view of the whole range before joining the same road you took in the morning.
At the end of the tour, you’ll be dropped off back to your hotel or apartment, or at some local restaurant for a late lunch on your own.
IF YOU BOOKED A FULL DAY TOUR...
LUNCH IN A COUNTRYSIDE FARMHOUSE RESTAURANT
If you booked a full day tour, at 2.30PM you’ll head back to the car, and a short 30ish minute ride will take you to a “masia” farmhouse restaurant at the foot of the mountains that locals love, where you’ll have lunch.
Around 4.30PM you’ll head back to Barcelona, arriving back to your hotel around 5.30PM.