The hills are alive, with the sound of maracas ...
Barcelona is a city with so much to offer and one can easily spend a few days exploring the Catalonian capital. But if you're like me, you'll want to escape the city and see the diversity of the surrounding area. I love doing day trips out of major cities and when I first heard about Montserrat, I knew that I just needed to make the visit on my next trip to Barcelona. And that's exactly what I did.
Getting to Montserrat
Montserrat is a mountain range located just 60 km from Barcelona. The site boasts incredible sweeping views of the Spanish landscape and also features an inbuilt monastery. After doing some research online, I discovered that this gem was actually really easy to visit with local transport. The R5 Train travels between central Barcelona to the two train stations serving Montserrat. They run hourly between Barcelona Pl. Esplana station and Montserrat. Find the latest timetable here. Return tickets cost around €22 depending on whether you take the funicular or cable car to the peak. You can't pre-book your tickets online, rather you can purchase them from the easy to use self service machines at the station which also have plenty of station staff to assist with any queries.
When purchasing your ticket you'll need to decide whether you want to take the funicular or cable car to the peak, price varies slightly but also it impacts on which train station you exit at. So, very important to make note.
1. Cable Car
Book your train ticket to Aeri de Montserrat. You can also pre-purchase your cable car ticket when booking your train journey. Once arrived at Aeri de Montserrat follow the signs to the cable car.
Book your train ticket to Monistrol de Montserrat. You can also pre-purchase your funicular ticket when booking your train journey. The system is really well set up so that funicular departs after the train arrives, all you have to do is change platforms. That way you won't be stuck waiting at the station for ages. The funicular takes about 15 minutes to reach the peak.
Of course there is a third option to reach the summit, and that is to hike. To do this book your ticket to Monistrol de Montserrat. Once arrived exit the station and follow the hiking trail to the summit.
I wanted to make the absolute most of my visit to Montserrat so I took the first train at 7:36am. Although it was an early start, it is well worth it if you want to skip the crowds. The journey took around 1.5 hours, having me arrive around 9am. The main draw card that I had to the region was the stairway to heaven sculpture, made quite famous over instagram from travel bloggers such as gypsy_lust and doyoutravel. So I headed there first, but unfortunately due to the popularity of it and safely risks, it has been fenced off. And not just by a little fence, with slight openings to it, as some online blogs had mentioned. This was a legit, heavy duty, 4m high fence. There was no chance that I was going to be able to recreate one of my favourite photos. But I guess you can't have it all.
I explored the monastery and then decided to follow one of the hiking trains to another panoramic view point. There were two main signed hikes that I came across and I chose the Sant Jeroni hike. Key word being hike.
I wasn't exactly prepare for how strenuous this was going to be. I expected a light walk, and boy, was I wrong. Not that I'm complaining, I absolutely love hiking but for anyone planning on following the same way, wear activewear and proper runners. Stairs upon stairs to start, it was definitely legs day. The hike was well signed and the scenery was absolutely spectacular. The advised hike time was 1hr 45mins to the viewpoint. Now this is obviously an average time, and it's easily achievable to complete it faster than this. Stopping for plenty of photos along the way, it was an incredible sight, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Being conscious of the train schedule, I stopped short of the summit and chose another area for my scenic view.
The return journey was definitely quicker and much much easier. I got my train schedules slightly confused, and ended up arriving 40mins prior to the next funicular. So definitely make sure you check the funicular schedule to the train station, as they sometimes only go to the carpark. But it gave me the perfect excuse for an ice cream.
The hike was the highlight of my visit and although it was absolutely gruelling, it was incredibly rewarding. Even though, I had been drawn to visit because of that stairway sculpture, I gained so much more from my visit and am so glad that I was able to incorporate it into my trip to Barcelona.
There is also a wine region, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, not far from Montserrat, so with time on my side I decided to visit in the hopes of tasting some delectable Spanish wines. Again it was a rather simple area to reach, being well connected with public transport. I caught the R5 train from Monistrol de Montserrat to Martorell Central where I then changed to the R4 with my final destination of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia.
Now I happened to visit on a Sunday around 3:30pm, which unfortunately meant everything was closed. Any other day and my plan would have worked, but it was still worth a try. If you're planning to visit the region, definitely check the opening times of the local companies and it is recommended to contact them in advance to ensure that they can accommodate you. I didn't find that there was much to do with all the wineries closed; it was a bit of a ghost town.
So I hoped back on the train, direct to central Barcelona and after relaxing and refreshing myself, I treated myself to some delicious tapas and delightful wine at Masquementos.