Montserrat with Lunch and 1000 Year old Winery Tour with Kids!
Updated: Mar 27
Montserrat is a popular day trip for many travelers from Barcelona. It is situated approximately 50 miles northwest of Barcelona (Going to Barcelona? Check our our post on Barcelona here). We booked a guided tour through Castle Experience Wine Tours . Our tour included an air conditioned bus ride to Montserrat with pick up from a central point in Barcelona, information about Barcelona and the Catalan people during the trip there, a cable car ride up the steep mountainside, a guided tour of Montserrat monastery and its history, free time at Montserrat, lunch at a vineyard, a tour of the vineyard and a wine tasting. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and I highly recommend the tour company.
Montserrat History The origins of Montserrat are filled with tales of divine intervention and stories of miracles. The name Montserrat means "saw or serrated mountain." Visitors can easily see where the name came from when viewing the jagged peaks surrounding the top of the mountain.
Catalans have long told the tale that angels carved the mountain with golden saws into the jagged peaks visitors see today. The mysticism of the mountain has thrived for generations. During the year 880, a group of shepherd children noticed a celestial light shining down on the mountain and heard the voices of angels singing from the heavens. The children related the miraculous encounter to their parents. Thus began several trips to the mountain by people from all around the area. The villagers reported the sightings to the religious authorities in the area, who traveled to the current day Montserrat and testified to having a similar experience. Religious leaders brought in a Vicar who was led by light and angelic voices to a cave where they found the Black Madonna.
The Black Madonna is also known as "La Moreneta," which translates to "the brunette or little dark-skinned one" and the "Virgin of Montserrat." The religious figures who found La Moreneta tried to move the Madonna to the church in Manresa. According to the legend, the Madonna became heavier and heavier with every step, and they decided that this meant that La Moreneta must remain on the mountain where they found her. Finally, in the 11th century, the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was founded. In early 1808 Napoleon was making his way across Spain through the Catalonian region on his way to take Barcelona. On the way to Barcelona, Napoleon and his troops were to pass through Manresa and Igualada. Situated in between the two tows are the peaks of Montserrat. A young boy, who wanted to help, went up into the mountains and began beating his drum loudly and furiously. The echoing of the drums gave the French army the impression that many thousands of troops were in the hills ready to defeat them. The trick worked, and the army fled. Sadly, Napoleon's Army came back. In both 1811 and 1812, Napoleon's troops burned down and sacked the Abbey, stealing many of its valuable possessions. The Abbey was closed in 1835 and reopened in 1844 when the restoration was complete.
During the Spanish Civil War and Franco's oppression of the Catalans, the Abbey was a place of refuge for scholars, artists, politicians, and students. After 1940, the Abbey and was a symbol of Catalan pride. On April 27, 1947, a Mass conducted to celebrate the enthronement of La Moreneta. Over 100,000 people attended and heard the Mass given in Catalan, which was illegal at the time. In further defiance to Franco, the Abbey also published several books in Catalan.
Visiting Today When we toured with CastleWine Experience, we took the "Montserrat with Cogwheel, Food & Wine Tour." Upon arriving at the foothill of Montserrat we boarded a cogwheel train and made a very scenic ride up the side of the mountain. The views were fantastic, and our boys enjoyed the unique trip up. From the top of Montserrat, we enjoyed a one hour tour with our guide of the Abbey and surrounding architecture.
The views from the top were truly stunning. She guided us through the Abbey, and though we did not see La Moreneta up close, we learned its history and saw a replica. It was possible to see La Moreneta, but we chose to spend our one hour of free time exploring the top of the mountain instead. Pilgrims come from all over to touch the Madonna's hand, which is the only part of the statue not enclosed in glass. The thousands of pilgrims who come to see the Madonna believe that with a simple touch of the Madonna, they can be healed. Once healed, the pilgrims return to leave a gift for La Moreneta, signifying the cured illness. For example, a disabled person who can now walk easily might leave a cane or walker. The items left are on display in testament to the miracles believed to be performed by the Madonna of Montserrat. Any item deemed worthwhile is donated to charity.
Once on top of the mountain, there are a few sites to see. The views are stunning, and there are a few short trails that lead to other views. Additionally, there is a cafeteria, gift shop, and some local vendors set up selling cheese. Visitors can also find the Museu de Montserrat. The art museum was started in 1911 as a biblical museum. Today the museum houses Baroque and Renaissance paintings originally housed in the Abbey in addition to 19th and 20th century works donated privately. Winery Tour and Lunch After our visit to Montserrat, the tour continued to the 1000-year-old castle of the Oller del Mas Winery. We began with a 3-course lunch consisting of gazpacho soup, duck, and Catalan creme brulee paired with a red and white wine from the winery. If you are interested in learning more about food in Spain, check out this post on Food in Spain You Have to Try. After exploring the Abbey and Montserrat that morning, the lunch was a welcome and relaxing experience. Our guide was energetic and knowledgeable. We truly enjoyed learning more about her and the other travelers in our group, which was only eight people in total.
Following lunch, we toured the small medieval castle and learned about the Oller family, who has lived there for 1000 years, making wine and cultivating the land. Today the vineyard produces top-quality organic wines. We finished the tour with a tasting of several wines on a beautiful patio balcony overlooking the vineyard. The winery provided red and white grape juice for our two boys, which they both thoroughly enjoyed. (The Spanish people love children. For more information about why Spain is great for kids, check out this post.) It was an unforgettable experience. To learn more about Oller del Mas, click here.