Montserrat is a Benedictine monastery outside Barcelona. It takes about 90 minutes to reach by public transport – and accessing Montserrat is on the itinerary of many tourists. Montserrat was founded in 880, and has a world famous boys’ choir, spectacular views, and the famous Virgin of Montserrat. It is still in operation as a monastery and boys’ school. Montserrat is now mainly visited by tourists both for its architectural beauty and for the scenery it’s in.
The challenge of accessing Montserrat
The first thing to say about Montserrat is that it’s absolutely stunning. The second is that it isn’t very accessible. As someone using a reasonably sturdy mid-wheel drive electric wheelchair, I was alright. For others – especially people in manual wheelchairs, the broken and irregular surfaces of the ground could be a real issue. However, the accessible parts of the Basilica & Church were beautiful and I definitely don’t regret going.
Getting to Montserrat
The route to get there is via train from Plaça Espanya. Here, the metro doesn’t have access but the Rodalies train does – ish. The tickets were about €49 for two people (though check prices yourself). This covered the train taking you out of Barcelona and the cremallera (rack railway) up to Montserrat. The Basilica was free to enter, but there was a paid audio-visual exhibition I didn’t go to. When buying tickets, the cremallera is accessible but the cable car is not, so be careful which ticket you buy.
Getting both onto the train at Plaça Espanya and off at the interchange for the cremallera involved a bit of a bump, but I managed. On that train, the wheelchair spaces are in a lower section than the rest of the seats. There are no companion seats except in the fold-out spaces of the other four wheelchair/pram spaces on that train. This means that if they’re all taken, your companion can’t sit near you.
The train is timetabled to connect with the cremallera. This was much smoother on and off. It’s well worth parking your chair on the left side of the cremallera, for the views down (and up) the mountain, as long as you can cope with heights.
Once you’re at Montserrat
Up at Montserrat, there are a range of shops, markets, and restaurants, as well as the Basilica, which was flat access, and the area with the icon of the Black Virgin. I knew that the Black Virgin wasn’t accessible, so didn’t attempt to go there (and rested in the sun instead). There are also two further funicular railways to take you higher up the mountain, which are not accessible.
Inside the Basilica is stunning though I have no photos from the actual Church because signs said not to. The whole monastery area is architecturally beautiful, but I was more impressed by the views across the valleys and mountains. There was a wonderous contrast between human and nature.
Exploring the area
There’s a ramped walkway that goes a distance up the hills. My chair really struggled with this but I was able to get some gorgeous photos. As you can tell from some of these, the surface is very poor quality, so would be difficult in a less powerful electric wheelchair, or a manual wheelchair.
Very disappointingly, accessing Montserrat further is hard. The two funiculars that take you further up to the top of the mountain were both inaccessible. Even more frustratingly, the path had a locked gate over it. There was a route round for bicycles, but it wasn’t big enough for a wheelchair.
Final thoughts on accessing Montserrat
I do appreciate that mountains and ancient monasteries are hard to adapt. Maybe there was a reason they couldn’t have an adapted funicular further up the mountain. However, the fact that someone had locked the path felt very unnecessary. It was a real example of a human-created barrier – because there was no need for this to be the case. I would have loved to explore further – but I was grateful for the time I had in such a beautiful place.