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Most come to Barcelona for the urban excitement it offers. But what if you’re not much for cities? The crowds, the noise, the pollution… sometimes an escape is needed.
Lately, I’ve been feeling burned out on the metropolis’ din and have spent most of the summer’s weekends hiking. Many hiking trails in Catalonia require a car but not all. A few, like the Vall de Nuria and Montserrat, are easily reached by train.
The Montserrat Abbey is a big tourist destination outside of Barcelona. Around Plaça Catalunya you’ll see numerous signs offering bus tours to the spiritual site, set about an hour from the city. Going on a bus with a package tour is one way to see the museum, basilica, and monastery, but may not allow time for a hike into the mountains behind the abbey.
You’ll need about five hours to do the Sant Jeroni hike, which leaves from behind the monastery and will take you deep into the Dr. Seuss-like peaks that make Montserrat so unique. The landscape is that of a cartoon, with rounded, bulging rocks around every bend. Sant Jeroni sits at 1,236 meters, which means fabulous, 360° views stretching all the way to Barcelona and Penedès.
Preparing for the hike
When I did the hike I saw quite a few people marching up the mountainside in flip-flops. I don’t know how they did it. The hike is not easy, and requires a lot of up, up, up during the first 2 kms. Wear hiking boots or at least sneakers. Depending on the time of year, you should also have a jacket as the weather can quite cool at 1,200 meters. There is no water on the trail, so bring a couple water bottles and lunch.
If you come to Montserrat Abbey unprepared and want to do the trail, you can buy almost everything you’ll need for the hike at their supermarket. A sort of “religious Disneyland,” Montserrat has two ATM machines, a cafe, two restaurants, several gift shops, a hotel, and a small market on site. It’s a bit touristy, but worth it.
Most visitors do not make it up to Sant Jeroni because it takes time, gear, and physical ability. However, I saw a few families with kids (no younger than seven or eight) doing the trek, so it’s not that hard.
If you plan to see the religious buildings at Montserrat and then hike Sant Jeroni, you’ll need to leave Barcelona early in the morning.
Check out this website for more information about trains from Plaça Espana to Montserrat and its funicular.