It was my first trip to Barcelona and we only had two days. There was so much I wanted to see. I love mountains and like to visit them when I can. I really wanted to visit Montserrat (which means serrated mountain in Catalan) and also do some wine tasting so the English language tour I found with Castlexperience was perfect. It was a six hour tour that combined both.
We met the tour group outside the Hard Rock Cafe in Placa de Catalunya at 10 am. They were easy to spot, holding pink umbrellas that matched the pink bus. There were multiple groups through Castlexperience, each with a tour guide, headed to Montserrat. While we were waiting for the group to gather, we chatted with two other couples who were from Kentucky. We boarded the bus and left at 10:15.
The travel time to Montserrat was about an hour. For the first 15 minutes, our tour guide Clara gave us a brief history of Barcelona and threw in some jokes whenever possible. It was interesting to learn more about Spanish history. Clara was not a native English speaker so she did have an accent, but I didn’t have any issues understanding her. We also passed right by one of Gaudi’s houses, so she also told us a few stories about him.
Once we got to the mountain, we parked the bus and Clara got our tickets for the train ride up to the monastery. We took a few pictures and then it was time to board the train for the 15 minute ride up the mountain. The train goes along the edge of the mountain and through a few tunnels. We sat on the left side of the train and the views were spectacular.
Then once we got off the train, we split into separate groups. There were only nine people in our group, which was great. The majority were Americans, and then there was Russell (from England), and two ladies from Russia. Our first stop was a liqueur tasting. We tasted 4 flavors – a floral one, walnut, macadamia, and a creme. All were lovely, but the walnut one was my favorite and it was only 15 euro, so I bought it. Clara was so nice and offered to put the bottle in her backpack, so I wouldn’t have to carry it around. We also got to taste another local specialty pastry, sweetbread, which does actually taste like sweet bread.
Next we climbed the stairs to the basilica. Since it was a Sunday there was a service in session, so Clara told us about a few highlights before we went inside. The basilica actually has a Black Madonna, which many people make a pilgrimage just to see. We saw a long line of people waiting to go up to the Black Madonna and touch her for good luck. Then we went inside and it was packed. We were able to find some space in the crowd and weaved our way towards the altar along the side. We still weren’t able to get too close and we could barely see the Black Madonna. One of the reasons the service was so crowded is that the famous boys choir from the boarding school in Montserrat was performing. It was nice to be able to hear them sing.
Then we visited the plaza outside the basilica. We learned that most of the area had to be rebuilt because it was targeted by Napoleon because of its significance. Then it was time to head back to where the bus would pick us up. On the way we had a little time to stop at the market. I wasn’t expecting this, but it was a really nice market. Most of the vendors were offering samples of their local goods. Everything was tasty and reasonably priced, and we ended up buying a small fig cake. We also had a chance to take some pictures of the amazing view.
Then we boarded a large bus to head to the winery, which is in a castle. They told us it would be about a 30 minute drive. It was a nice curvy and scenic road. We passed through the forest of crosses which is an art installation by Marc Sellares to raise awareness of forest fires, which was very dramatic.
We started out our time at the Oller del Mas winery with a nice glass of white wine and Clara began to tell us about the family that runs the winery. The same family has owned the castle since the 10th century, but it is not the original building. Next she showed us some of the vineyards and took us to see some of the machines that they use to make the wine, which are all organic.
Now it was time to go inside the castle for our tapas lunch and wine tasting. Besides a few workers, we had the castle to ourselves. We had another glass of the white and then also tried two other light to medium bodied reds. I enjoyed all of them but I ended up buying the white because it was so affordable – only 9 euros! They also had a rose that was the same price, which I was also tempted to buy for Katherine but unfortunately there was limited space in my bag.
At the end of the wine tasting we had a little fun having wine from a porron. Clara demonstrated and then a few of us tried it. We did make a bit of a mess on the floor, but they provided us with a bib so our clothes were fine. (I do really enjoy Spanish wine, I spent a full day in the Rioja region – more on that in a later post).
Then it was time to head back to Barcelona. It took about an hour, and we drove through the scenic town of Manresa. Russell and I both had a nice siesta on the way back. Shortly after 5 pm, we were back in Placa de Catalunya where we started. We had such a great day, I was really surprised how much there was in Montserrat. Our tour guide, Clara, was so knowledgeable and funny. I would be tempted to visit again next time I am in Barcelona and do some hiking or maybe even take the funicular to the top. Have you been to Montserrat? I would love to hear about your experience.
- Lunch is later, so you might want to bring a snack.
- Sit on the left side of the train for the best views.
- If you are going inside the basilica during a mass, please be respectful by being quiet and covering your shoulders.
- The weather in Montserrat may be colder (and windier) than Barcelona, so you may want to bring a sweater or jacket.
- You can travel from Barcelona to Montserrat on your own, but please do your research before you go.
Disclosure: No financial compensation was received, but Castlexperience did give us a discount on our tour. As always, opinions are my own.