50 km northwest of Barcelona and a very easy daytrip to another world entirely is Montserrat.
Literally meaning 'Serrated Mountain', it is unlike any other mountain in the Barcelona region.
Huge jagged pillars of rock line the ridges of Montserrat and 13 hermitages and two major
monasteries are located on it. It is accessible by cable-car, a narrow gauge train, or
a road which is not for the faint of heart. The Monestir de Montserrat is the major attraction
and is located just across from the cable-car and train stations.
This is one of the many hermitages which are located on the mountain. Most of them are
accessible by hiking trails of various distances and difficulties. Many of them are now
in ruins due to Napoleon, the Spanish Civil War, or just time and weather. The earliest
monasteries on the mountain date from 1025.
The basilica is one highlight of the monastery which is still active today. The
Montserrat Boys Choir gives regular performances although they were away during our
visit. Instead we sat in the basilica and watched Vespers. There were perhaps 40 monks
at the service. The Black Virgin of Montserrat is the primary relic here, and just outside
the basilica is an interesting room filled with gifts people have left in gratitude for
various answered prayers (and some quite unusual prayers apparently).
Across from the train station are a couple of gift shops. The monks of Montserrat produce
a variety of interesting liquors among other things. Ratafia seems to be the most popular
which has something like hazelnuts on the picture on the label but we can't really vouch
for what might be in it. We recommend the variety pack of mini herbal liquors.
This picture is in Placa de Santa Maria just outside the basilica. There are also
two hotels, a campground and a couple restuarants on the mountain. You can also
get to the summit via a hiking trail. The road that winds up and around the mountain
towards Barcelona passes a bunch of trailheads so you don't necessarily have to start
from the monastery.