10 Stunning Attractions of Montjuic Barcelona
Parc de Montjuic
Given its humble beginning as a Jewish burial place, Montjuic today is not only the crown on the top of Barcelona, offering stunning views of the city, but is also the repository of Catalan history and the major player in the rebirth of Barcelona.
Many Catalans look at this site as part of their struggle for independence as many of them have fought or been imprisoned there. More recently, it has been the site of some of the most important events not just to the city but to the world as it hosted the 1929 International Exposition and the 1992 Summer Olympics. Both of these events helped Catalans move from their inward navel gazing to a profound awareness of the world around them.
Today, Montjuic is one of the most visited places in Barcelona because of the many things to see here. From here, you can have the best view of the city even a peek at "Sagrada Familia" , the Poble Espanyol, a minature Spain with all regions and their food represented as well as the treasures of the Boi Valley, 11th century church paintings house in the glorious 19th century castle at the peak of the hill.
History of Montjuic
Naturally wooded on its slopes, this hill was used historically by the inhabitants of Ciutat Vella to grow crops and graze animals. But given its strategic position by the Mediterranean and as one of the hills surrounding Barcelona, Montjuic played a significant role in the struggle for an independent Catalunya.
It was here that the Catalunyans took a strong defense of the city amidst fierce fighting in the 1705 Siege of Barcelona where many of Catalunya's defenders were imprisoned. In the next 300 years, Montjuic came under the control of the Spanish central government when the hill was used against the Catalan revolutionaries who looked at the hill as a place of defeat, imprisonment and execution. It was said that more than 170 people were executed in Montjuic from 1936-1938 during the Spanish Civil War..
After the end of the conflict, the area was cleared to give way to development which then attracted several international events. Today, it has become one of the most visited areas in Barcelona with its many attractions including the Olympics site, the Joan Miro Museam and even a Greek wall. Below is the map showing the various attractions in Montjuic.
Attractions in Parc de Montjuic
Stunning Attractions in Montjuic Barcelona and Vicinity
There are so many things to see and do in Montjuic for everyone. There are gardens, parks, museums, fountains, snippets of Spain, concerts, games, castle and fortress and 360 views of Barcelona. What more can one ask for? Here is a list of these attractions:
1. Palau Nacional
2. National Art Museum in Barcelona
3. Montjuic Castle
4. Olympic Park
5. Joan Miro Museum
6. Ethnology Museum
7. Joan Brossa Garden and the Botanical Garden
8. Poble Espanyol
9. The Magic Fountain
10. Caixa Forum
Palau Nacional of Catalunya
Approaching from Plaza Espanya, your eyes will immediately be caught by the most imposing attraction on the crest of the hill, the Palau Nacional. When the Magic Fountain is on, this whole area is transfomed into a fairy tale and with escalators to bring you all the way up, it is an easy climb.
As the main site of the 1929 International Exhibition, the Palau has a huge Oval Room, about 2,300 m², where the opening ceremony was hosted by King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie.
There are always performers here both inside and outside. When we were there, there was a fabulous guitarist, Gaby Sellanes, who played right in front of the Palau. You can enjoy his music of the Montjuic as you gaze down the city and enjoy the full view with a cup of coffee from the Cafe.
There is also a reasonable restaurant and a cafe inside.
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Inside the Palau Nacional is the Museum of National Art of Catalonia. This Museum takes visitors to a journey through the development of Catalan art and helps to engage with the artists who shaped the uniqueness of Catalan art.
The works of the artists are displayed on the background of what was happening in the world of art in specific eras. The Renaissance and Baroque collections are exceptional including works of Titian, Velázquez and El Greco but what we enjoyed most was the Romanesque exhibition which portrays art from the isolated villages at the foot of the Pyrenees like the Boi Valley. The design of the exhibition imitating the Church naves displays the Romaneque art close to its authentic orginal setting. One begins to develop an understanding of why Catalans see themselves as having a unique culture.
Jessica Bowler's Video of Montjuic Castle
With 360 degree views of Barcelona, Montjuic Castle sits about 173 meters above the Port. Today, it is a popular attraction but for Barcelona, it was from this Castle that their city sustained heavy bombing and many of their fighters were imprisoned. General Franco opened a weapons museum here and the Spanish government had control of this area for many years.
Today, the citizens of Barcelona feel ownership of this place and from here, one can enjoy amazing views of the city. The gardens are well worth a visit especially in Spring and Summer..
Olympic Park Barcelona
The Olympic Park alone could take you the whole day to explore. The stadium is huge and the Telecommunications tower is such a photographic interest. But the most interesting thing to do here is to enjoy the exhilarating views of the various parts of the city and then visit the museum.
The place is quite impressive and one hopes that more events can be held here. In peak tourist season, when you get tired of the hustle of Barcelona, come up here with a picnic lunch and there are many places where you can enjoy peace and quiet with a just distant view of the busy city.
Joan Miro Museum
Joan Miro Museum displays the evolution of Joan Miro's art work and his commitment to the use art to express his nationalist views. He also experimented with many art materials which he then incorporated into his works. The collection is impressive and very well curated. You can sit in the Cafe and gaze at some of Miro's works while enjoying an Espresso. Miro's work engages children as well and with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, bring the kids.
The Ethnology Museum
Many visitors miss this, as the location is a bit hidden and the building is not as spectacular as its neighbours but what's inside is very interesting. It is an exhibition of the evolving culture over recent time. It shows the faces of Barcelona inviting tourists to look at the city with eyes of one who sees it for the first time. It is one of my most enjoyable visits as it gave a much deeper understanding of the Catalan culture today but most especially of the city of Barcelona.
There are several gardens in Montjuic worth spending time in, the Botanical Garden and the Joan Brossa Garden are but two. In these two gardens, there are many unique plants you can enjoy and some of them had been there for many years. You can sit and recover your spirit after being sensually inundated. There is also another garden within the Poble Espanyol full of sculptures of and by famous Catalan artists.
Poble Espanyol was created for the 1929 International Exhibition to give visitors a glimpse of Spain's varied regions. This architectural display imitates regional Spanish villages with its narrow lanes and significant features. It give visitors a glimpse of what they might see in the different regions of Spain.
Today, these architectural gems house artisans, restaurants and stores of the region- specific food and products of Spain. This has also become a popular venue for concerts, weddings and other events. It's also a great lunch spot away from the boiling city.
The Magic Fountain
The Magic Fountain of Gaieta Buigas is a sight not to miss. Unhappily, in the winter the fountain is seldom in operation. We were lucky to be there for the New Year when the fountain danced in various colours and it was awesome.
In the summer, it is in operation the whole time. So, if this is one of the things you really want to see, make sure you visit when it is on.
This Art Nouveau Modernist Architectural structure at the bottom of Montjuic is a social and cultural centre. When we visited, there was the classical Greek exhibition from the British Museum and it was fascinating to see some of the rare pieces in Greek history and how these pieces spoke of the values of Greek culture.
Looking more like a Castle, this building used to be a textile factory called Casaramona. Its owners commissioned one of the famous Modernist Art Nouveau architects in Barcelona, Josep Puig I Cadafalch who created one of the most human places to work in at that time reflecting the socialist concerns that were the norm.
Part of the Caixa is the Mies Van Der Rohe Pavilion which was reconstructed when this site was the temporary German pavision in the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona. Mies Van der Rohe was a German-American architect famous for his "bones and skin" architecture. For him, less is more and he showed this in this pavilion shown below.
How to Get to Montjuic
The best way to go to Montjuic if you are using the Metro is to get on the funicular which is part of your Metro fare. The funicular was built to ferry people during the 1929 International Exposition. Built in 1928, it carried around 6000 people one of the leading funiculars at its time.
If you stay close to Barceloneta, the best way for you and the one which will be more fun and scenic is to use the cable car.
If you are fit enough, take a walk from Plaza Espanya and just keep going up. There are escalators to help you so the walk is easy. With a cane, my husband made it to the Olympic park and Poble Espanyol. In front of Poble Espanyol, you can take a bus to go to Montjuic Castle.
Don't be discouraged by the fees you must pay to visit the Montjuic attractions. Every Sunday, at 3 p.m. the Castle, Poble Espanyol and Palau National Museum of Art are free. In fact, the National Museum of Art is free to Seniors every day.
Cable Car to Montjuic
Where to Stay When Visiting Montjuic
Because we stayed close Plaza Espanya, we could easily walk to Montjuic and enjoy the attractions a piece at a time to truly appreciate what each one of them has to offer. The first two days of our visit, we spent on board the Hop On Hop Off bus as we really wanted to see the extent of what the city offered. We wanted a small taste of it all as we were planning to come back here after our self-drive tour of other cities and just hibernate for the winter.
We did just that and Montjuic is one place we would return to often. Just the museums alone took us several days. Our first visit took us to Joan Miro Museum. We gave this priority as we have not seen his works in other museums we have visited before.
We, then, went to Poble Espanyol to give us an idea of the other places we must visit on our drive to the rest of Spain. We got good ideas here and even identified the places we have to see in the various Spanish cities as well as the things we "must do".
A Visit to Parc de Montjuic
Have you visited Park de Montjuic?
Montjuic and Barcelona
Barcelona is so much more than Gaudi's amazing architecture. It is the core of the story of the Spanish civil war. It is a thousand year history of the changes and travails of a city. It is the home of Catalan culture. Montjuic gives a taste of all of these and helped us understand that Barcelona was worth more than a 3-day visit.
© 2018 Mary Norton