Montserrat is an ancient monastery that sits atop a mountain near Barcelona. I took a train there early in the morning to beat the crowds. Then, I waited at the tiny train station for a cable car to take me up the side of the mountain. Visitors also have the option of taking a funicular up, but the cable car offered a more impressive view of the Spanish countryside.
At the top, a tiny town built to accommodate tourists and pilgrims. I walked past a couple overpriced cafes on my way to the monastery. I recommend bringing your own picnic instead.
The monastery itself is impressive with looming arches and religious statues overlooking the mountainside.
I hadn’t done much research before going to Montserrat, but luckily I met a lady in the cable car who told me I had to see the Madonna. She advised me to visit it immediately in order to beat the crowds. It was the Holy Week before Easter and many people had visited the monastery that day as part of a religious retreat, but the line to see the Madonna wasn’t too long. Many of the people I waited in line with kissed the feet of the Madonna before going outside to light candles.
After leaving the monastery, I took a funicular part-way down the mountain to walk to Santa Cova, a religious shrine where people believe the image of the virgin Mary appeared. The path to “The Holy Grotto” was long, hilly, and uneven, so I wouldn’t suggest making this part of the trip unless you’re in pretty good shape. Along the way, I found myself marveling at the fact that people were able to transport tons of building materials up the mountain to build the monastery. Even the idea of paving the path I was walking along seemed insanely treacherous.
While Santa Cova itself was quite humble, the statues placed along the sides of the path were ornate and worth seeing, as was the view.