Barcelona is reeling under the recent terror attack. We really hope that the victims of this abhorrent terror attack rest in peace and their survivors and loved ones find justice and the courage to move forward. The city has always shown its strength and resilience, bouncing back from such tragedies to keep marching on. But what it cannot march on from is the impact of tourism. The past months of 2017 have really shined the spotlight on a pressing problem in Barcelona: it is seeing too many tourists. There have been anti-tourism protests happening in the city. But the UN World Tourism Organisation stresses the need for managing growth more sustainably rather than cutting down tourism. So, while Barcelona attempts to curb its tourism numbers on one hand, it is also promoting a nearby destination for travelers: Montserrat. Here is a look at some reasons why you should be heading to Montserrat instead of Barcelona for your trip. ALSO READ: Destinations in Europe That Have Been Adversely Hit by Tourism
Montserrat is more than a day trip
The Mountain of Montserrat as seen along a road to in Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, Catalonia, Spain
Montserrat is usually seen as a quaint little day trip from Barcelona, where the real action happens. But while Barcelona is certainly the most culturally active when compared to the smaller Montserrat, the latter has more to offer than what you can cover in a day trip. So do yourself a favor and spend some days in the town, exploring the jagged mountain rocks and the history of this place. The monastery and choir at the basilica are not the only draws here.
The unique natural landscape offers plenty of potential for adventure
Montserrat’s green rocks near the Montserrat abbey, Catalonia, Spain
While some come to Montserrat for the ancient monastery, the town is also famous for its natural park, where you have plenty of trails to walk and climb all around the mountain’s serrated edges. The mountain’s spectacular views from the top and beautiful, centuries-old architecture also have the potential to take your breath away. The benedectine monastery itself is almost 1,000 years old, perched halfway along the way up the mountain.
The Black Madonna
12th century statue of Black Madonna of Montserrat, Barcelona Province, Catalonia, Spain. She is protected glass cover with orb protruding for pilgrims to touch.
The patron saint of Catalonia, La Moreneta or Black Madonna as she is more commonly known, is a big part of Montserrat’s culture. Built in the 1100s completely with wood, the Romanesque art piece is strongly revered in the town. It is said that when she was found by shepherds, they tried to move the statue to the town of Manresa, but found that it suddenly became heavy. The monastery was eventually built at the spot to honor the saint.
Montserrat’s heritage and art scene
View of the monastery Montserrat in Spain near Barcelona
Montserrat has a massive library with more than 300,000 tomes related to music, science, humanities and religion. The volumes date back to the 14th-15th centuries, and there is also a museum where you can find a large collection of paintings by such artists like El Greco, Picasso and Salvador Dali. You can even find treasures from Egypt on display.
Food, restaurants and markets around Montserrat
Perfomance of the famous Montserrat Boys Choir in Basilica Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat in Spain
Montserrat may not have a very sophisticated palette, but its simplicity and use of fresh local ingredients can win over any foodie’s heart. You can find local marmalades, chocolate, honeys and cheeses in the shops around the Montserrat monastery, and rows of market stalls selling regional specialties like locally made fig and cheese cakes, along with the fresh cheese Mato, best eaten with some honey. The food and views at Restaurant Montserrat and Restaurant Abat Cisneros are also well work checking out.
Stunning views and trails in the Montserrat natural park
Monastery to Santa Cova, Montserrat, Spain
Montserrat natural park’s biggest feature is the massive hill that rises 4,000 feet high, with serrated shapes and rounded peaks jutting up into the sky. In fact, the name Montserrat literally translates to serrated mountain. Within this mountain, you can find chapels, caves, hermitages and paths and stairs leading to them scattered everywhere, with incredible views all along the way to soak in. Montserrat is also relatively cooler than Barcelona, which has been seeing a heat wave in recent months. NOW READ: 5 Facts About Catalonia Every Traveler Should Know
Simply put, a visit to Montserrat cannot be completed within a day. There is plenty to see and do here, so take the road less taken and spend more time here. Barcelona can do with a break, and Montserrat can do with a little more attention. Weekends can be hectic with locals escaping the crowds of Barcelona to head to Montserrat. Rent a car or take a train to Manresa and get down at the bottom of the mountain, and take a cable car to the top or stop at Monistrol.