Visiting Montserrat Monastery, near Barcelona – with Kids!

I’ll start by saying that visiting Montserrat Monastery with kids is a great idea.  It’s an epic destination, that leaves a staggering impression on adults and there’s ample room for tots to explore too.  Only a short drive from Barcelona it rivals anything the city has to offer.

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Just 45km from Barcelona, the mountain Montserrat has been of religious significance since pre-Christian time:  a temple to worship Venus was built here by the Romans.  Monks went on to develop hermitages, and the current monastery has developed over time from these initial early religious explorations.  Miracles were attributed to the Black Madonna which is still a object of pilgrimage today.

GETTING THERE – There are several ways to visit Montserrat.  The first option is the cable car.  When we visited in August the queues for this amazing trip were snaking round the building, so with two toddlers in a buggy, we aborted mission and headed for the railway.  RAILWAY/FUNICULAR – You can also arrive at Montserrat after a scenic rail trip.  The day we visited there was a strike.  Go figure.  Abort mission again.  ROAD – Thankfully you can also drive and park relatively close to the monastery.  I say relatively close as pushing the buggy uphill in thirty degree heat was tough – but it was definitely worth it.

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LOCATION – The views from the 1200 meter mountain back down the valley are breathtaking. You can spend a good twenty minutes or so just exploring and taking photographs of the Catalonian scenery.  Then there’s the monastery itself.  Almost carved into the rock it’s a unique building in a unique setting.  The forecourt is perfect for little explorers; we released our toddlers from the buggy and let them take in the sights.  Carved archways, statues, steps, lamp posts, trees – lots for little legs to run around.  My husband and I were still in awe of the views and the building itself.

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Once inside the  the shaded courtyard there’s often a long queue of people waiting to see the Black Madonna.  We were satisfied to look at the ornate carvings and pillars, the marble flooring (the children loved the sea creatures featured) and take in the atmosphere.  There’s a certain reverence and calm in the air – except for my toddlers of course.

There’s a lot going on here – a museum, an open air museum, a library, an interactive exhibition and a boys’ choir perform regularly if you time it right.  According to the Tourist Guide Montserrat, ” There are four gift shops at Montserrat Monastery. There is also a supermarket and there are stalls selling fresh local produce. The concept behind the main gift shops is that they should resemble the old workshops from medieval times at Montserrat. This means that, in medieval times the monks would welcome pilgrims to the monastery with food and gifts made in the sanctuary workshops. For this reason, the shops have a similar atmosphere and style: cakes and pastries are sold from the bakery, liqueurs are sold that are made from Montserrat mountain herbs and pottery is on sale that is made by the monks of Montserrat”.

For us seeing the building and the scenery was ample.  Our trip was therefore free apart from eating at the cafe and standard parking fees.

WHERE TO STAY – I’d recommend the Barcelona Golf Resort and Spa, only half an hour from the monastery, the city of Barcelona and its airport.  Read more here.  We drove to the monastery but there are ample day trips organised from Barcelona and other resorts to this stunning destination.

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