During our recent visit to Barcelona we did a day trip to Montserrat, 50km west of Barcelona, and the Penedes wine region, approximately 80km to the south west, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our small group of ten travellers and one tour guide left Barcelona at eight thirty in the morning and arrived at Montserrat, the medieval monastery and eponymous mountain, pretty much straight inland from Barcelona, less than an hour later, even though our van was travelling only slowly.
The “saw mountain” (that’s what Montserrat means in Catalan) looks beautiful with hundreds of little peaks, as if it was made from plasticine by some crazy giant who had forgotten to take his medicine. The mountain is 1,230m high. Santa Maria de Montserrat, a medieval Benedictine abbey, (the very vast majority of which was destroyed on various occasions over the centuries) sits in the rock wall about half way up from the valley at 725m. The monastery hosts the Black Virgin of Montserrat, and is believed by some (not by us) to also be the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth. Locals insist that on a clear day you can see all of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia from the top of the mountain and as far as Mallorca (which some locals count as part of the geographic region of Catalonia, in addition to Andorra and a number of French towns such as Perpignan).
From the monastery/hamlet, which also contains a pretty decent art museum with works of various world class artists including Picasso and Matisse (plus an awesome Egyptian mummy; reserve at least two hours for monastery, museum, tiny touristy market, shops and viewing platforms), you can either take one of two funiculars to another platform about 150m uphill or walk it yourself. From that platform you can then do various beautiful walks, for example to the top of the mountain, to one of the many little chapels that are built into the wall, or simply back down to the monastery (the shortest trip back goes uphill at first and not straight, about an hour’s walk or so), which is what we did. The path (at least the one we chose) is extremely easy to walk, doesn’t require any gear, not even hiking shoes, and is well-marked.
After buying some cheese and a baguette at the tiny market and having both as our lunch, the time to be back at our meeting point for pick-up together with the other travellers had already arrived and we all took off with the van to the Penedes wine region, which took about 1h30m, because we didn’t go directly, but first went the opposite way for some more breath-taking views of the mountain.
We had originally hoped to be able to combine Montserrat and Cordoniu, our favourite Cava vineyard, and were slightly disappointed when the last trip combining the two regions that was still available when we booked was not to Cordoniu, but to Parés Baltà vineyard. However, the experience, including a guided tour and some wine tasting with a few local snacks like small bits of cheese, sausage, bread, and an extremely delicious olive oil, produced on the premises, was brilliant. They’re not only producing all their very tasty goods (wine, cava, and olive oil) organically, but in a way that they refer to as biodynamic.
We learned a lot about wine, had a great time, but more than that, we also learned a lot about their very impressive production methods. For example, they use animal bones they collect from local slaughter houses (among other natural ingredients) as fertiliser, and it’s shocking how little fertiliser they need, it sounded like a handful per acre, that’s how potent the stuff seems to be.
We would recommend this trip to everyone and anyone who’s in Barcelona for more than 4 days (or who has been there before).