We have been total city people and have not driven our car in almost an entire month. Before leaving this region, we decided it might be worth driving up to Monserrat Monastery, since we had heard lots of great reviews from others who have visited.
Well...they probably, almost definitely, visited this amazing place in sunshine. Nevertheless, here is our story of visiting Monserrat in a torrential downpour!!
Did you know Monserrat literally translates into serrated mountains? What a fitting name! Keep reading and check out the pictures to see why.
Let's start with 5 simple questions you might want to know the answers to.
1. Is there an Admission Fee?
Yes. Motorcycles pay €3 and cars have to pay €6.
2. Does the Admission Fee cover all activities inside?
No. The visit to the church (Basilica) as well as hiking through the mountains are included in the admission price; however, to visit the museum and see the audiovisual exhibit you have to pay additional fees.
3. Are there places to eat? Should I bring my own food?
If it's a nice day (please only go if it is a nice day!), then you should consider packing your own food and eat as a break between hikes. If you are not interested in packing and carrying around extra weight, then you are in luck because there is a large restaurant complex very close to the entrance, where you can get sandwiches or self service hot food. There are also other restaurants to eat at as well in the area if you want a more proper meal.
4. Is this a family friendly activity?
Yes! Definitely. Even in the rain, scratch that, in the torrential downpour, we had a great time there as a family. It is probably way more fun if you can do the hikes and take the Sant Joan Funicular to the very top of the mountain.
5. What if the weather is bad? Should we still go?
I'd say if you have the option of going on a nice day, then don't go in bad weather! We certainly wish we had gone on one of the other 27 days of nice weather this month! We were completely drenched and it was not fun to have wet sneakers. It was also windy, which was really unpleasant for a soaked bunch! If the weather is bad, but you really want to go, go anyways and just bring raincoats and have fun with getting wet, we did :) Just make sure you protect your electronics. We were so glad we had the Aloksak water / sand proof dry bags, because everything in our backpacks got totally wet! The views will be mostly blocked by the clouds, but it is still very awe inspiring.
What we saw, What we thought
We saw...well...lots of rain! Ok, asides from that, since the weather was not so great, we visited the Abbey, and we went to the museum of art. We did pop our head into the Audiovisual section but did not go in.
As you enter the Basilica's "courtyard", go to the left since there is a lovely pathway that glows with all the lit candles. Make sure you don't miss out on just taking a walk through this. It is built into the side of the mountain, so it feels like you are walking in a cave, a spiritual one :) We lit one candle for the health of all those we love, because that's all that matters.
On the right hand side of the Basilica's entrance, we saw a long line which turned out to be the people who wanted to touch the "Black Madonna". Also known as Our Lady of Montserrat, she is a Patron Saint of Catalonia, an honor that she shares with Saint George (Jordi).
Muse de Montserrat
Since it was still raining really hard after we left the Basilica, we decided to check out this museum. We love art, but honestly we would rather be hiking! Though small in size (perfect for walking through it with kids), we were very impressed by the amazing art collection inside. Photography was forbidden, but I did sneak a few quick photos because they were just so beautiful and colorful! Shh.. don't tell anyone! I was very good after the first few rooms and just enjoyed the art without breaking any laws. Our 2 and 4 year olds also enjoyed the museum and looking at the different paintings and sculptures. If the weather conditions are poor, or if you are not a hiking person, then you should definitely check out this museum. You won't be disappointed. The price is also reasonable at €7 per adult, and our kids were free.
The Upside, The Downside
The upside of our trip was that because of the crazy weather and our timing (we arrived shortly after noon), we were able to park only half a mile from the Basilica and take a quick walk there. We did not need to take the funicular from the lower parking lot. I also did really enjoy watching the clouds move through the mountains. The clouds and fog added to the divinity of the place.
The downside, we did not get a chance to hike the beautiful mountains, and we are big on hikes :( We would have loved to take the Sant Joan funicular to the top and then hike down.
Another downside, and one that I'm sure anyone visiting would experience, probably more so on a nice day, is that the Montserrat area is such a tourist trap. Even on a rainy day, there were still many busloads of tourists, and some areas were rather crowded. We had seen on TripAdvisor many complaints from people that go here for pilgramiges that the crowds really take away from the spiritual experience, so if you are going purely for religious reasons it may be something to consider. If you are going for hikes, the area is big enough that you probably won't be as affected by the crowds.
Oh well, they say you win some you lose some, but overall, I am glad we made the trip. We saw some breathtaking views despite the low visibility, and can officially cross Montserrat off our Barcelona to-do list.