When I went:
What I did:
Hike to Sant Jeroni
Escolania de Montserrat
One of my favourite things to do is to walk and hike in nature. I absolutely adore walking on a dirt path or trail. Seeing no-one else except a few passing hikers, and hearing the birds chirping in the distance, the water trickling in a creek, and the wind through the trees. So I was glad to hear of a place just outside of Barcelona, that’s a must see for anyone visiting Catalonia, that could deliver just that.
Montserrat (meaning serrated mountain) is a mountain range about an hour north of Barcelona. Almost at the top is a monastery which is still in use to this day. The monastery was founded in the 10th century, and has been witness to many violent periods in Spanish history.
Barcelona to Montserrat – Getting there to Montserrat
Getting to Montserrat could not be easier! Elizabeth and I hopped on the train from Barcelona’s Plaça d’Espanya train station. The right platform (R5) could be a bit tricky to find but there’s plenty of big signs pointing the way – this leads to a specific information booth make sure to look for the signs to Montserrat (there are a lot!). There’s also a specific information booth, as well as automated ticket machines to buy from. There was a massive conference on when I was there, so luckily the station was packed with attendants, directing the flow of people.
After about an hour on the train, the Montserrat mountain ranges appeared almost out of a nowhere. Broad, white fingers of rock, streaked with dark grey spots and greenery, seemed to just grow out of the ground. All around us, tourists whipped out their mobiles to try and take photos of the beautiful scenery.
When you buy your train ticket, you choose whether you head up via cable car or funicular. We decided to take the cable car option – which takes about five minutes. Halfway up the mountain the monastery pops into view. From this angle, it looks like it’s been carved into the mountain.
Our first stop was the information booth, where we got a map of the area, and a second map of hiking trails. There are 5 trails to take – from 20 minutes to 3 hours. Elizabeth, being a lot braver than I was, immediately decided to do the longest hike up to the highest peak, Sant Jeroni. I needed a bit more convincing, so we walked around the monastery and the grounds. Just in front of the monastery, there was a little farmers market with some locally sourced produce. My biggest regret was that I didn’t buy one of the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted (IT WAS AMAZING!). At 1pm every day, the Escolania de Montserrat (the Boys’ Choir of Montserrat) performs inside the church. It’s one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, so we took the opportunity and listened to the free concert.
And then, it was time for the hike! Conveniently, there’s a funicular that takes you higher up the mountain and from there, most of the walking trails start. The instructions are pretty easy to follow and the hike is quite beautiful – there are some amazing views and cute little spots. Interestingly, the path goes past a few little abandoned homes and churches. Apparently some of the monks from Montserrat holed up in isolation up there.
Towards the end of the walk, it does get pretty steep. We’d walked up to this path and hit this rock, which I thought was the peak. We stopped and took photos of the view, which was incredible, but then turned around and realised I was still a steep staircase away from the actual peak! The last 200 metres was a slog, but once we got up there it was incredible!