Top 10 Museums in Barcelona Spain
My Top 10 Museums in Barcelona
Museums are not just repositories of the past and the old. No. They engage and awaken the creative in us which drives our own development. There is no better way to flex such creativity than to be exposed to art, to do art and to engage with history.
Fossils, ethnographic and historical evidence may not be your interest but allow these to tell you about the human spirit as it uses its creative potential to tell how the aworld changed.
When we visited Barcelona in the winter of 2017-18 and stayed there for almost 3 months, we really had a chance to visit many of its museums not just once for some but several times. A few were boring, some were obsessed with Catalan independence but choosing 10 was a tough choice but here they are:
1. Museum National of Art in Catalonia
2. Joan Miro Museum
3. Picasso Museum
4. Maritime Museum of Barcelona
5. Caixa Forum
6. Ethnology Museum
7. Museum of the History of Catalunya
8. European Museum of Modern Art
9. Olympic and Sports Museum
10. Casa Mila
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
If you're interested in knowing more about the evolution of Catalan art, this is the Museum to visit. The curators have done this beautifully in the way they display collections from the earliest days to the modern. In each of these, they showcase the Catalan artists and the local and international influences that strongly shaped their art.
There are 3 major displays: Romanesque, Renaissance and Modern Art. The Romanesque collection, one of the best in the world, displays in a Church-like setting the murals and statues, mostly religious, that came from the remote old Churches, many in the foothills of the Pyrenees. One of the masterpieces you must not miss as you can only see it in this museum is the Apse of St. Climent by the Master of Taull.
The Renaissance display moves towards Catalan artists doing commissions from the new rich bourgeoisie and developing their own style and expression though largely influenced by the art movement in Europe especially France and Italy. The collection also includes other popular international artists at that time.
The Modern Art dispay shows contemporary artists like Dali and Picasso as well as the other more recent Catalan artists. Each gallery is an architectural beauty.
The building itself, constructed for the opening of the 1929 International Exhibition, is amazing inside and out with views of Barcelona and even a distant peek at Gaudi's great work, Sagrada Familia.
Fundacio Joan Miro
Fundacio Joan Miro was started by the painter himself who wanted to have a centre to make art easily accessible to the public. He relinquished a majority of his works, over 10,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, stage designs and wall hangings, to the Museum which was opened on June 10, 1975. The earliest of these works was dated 1901. Since then, the Museum continues the vision of its founder and in 1977, it won the European Museum of the Year Award.
You can see in Joan Miro's works the vivid colours, the revolutionary soul, the integration of various materials into art pieces which largely characterize his modern view. Beyond Miro's works, the Museum organizes alternating exhibitions of artists from the 20-21st century, cultural events and research projects. One of the most engaging is the "Nits de Musica (Nights of Music) where international artists play classical music every Thursday.
The building in itself is worth seeing. It was designed by the first modern internationally renowned Spanish architect, Josep Lluís Sert, who was at one time the head of the School of Design at Harvard University in the U.S.
The Picasso Museum is huge, housed in 5 large contiguous palaces dating as early as the 13th century in the Carrer de Moncada. Picasso lived in Barcelona during the years when he was learning his art so this made him feel a close link to the city. As such, he chose Barcelona for the museum so his close friend and personal secretary, Jaume Sabartes, worked with the city council and made available his own collections of Picasso's work. Picasso was very much involved in the design but he was not present for the opening because he swore he would not go back to Spain as long as Franco was in power.
Opened in 1963, the Museum got other endowments like the donation by Salvador Dali of the illustrated book, Les Metamorphoses d'Ovide which contained 30 etchings by Picasso and the only cubist collage at the Museum donated by Gala. The Museum also acquired other collections making it a rich resource for those who want to study Picasso in-depth.
To see the collection, you enter a courtyard and access the main floor via and outdoor stairway but there are elevators for those who need them. The Museum organizes exhibitions to highlight some of Picasso's works. Some of these exhibitions include: Picasso's Kitchen, Picasso Discovers Paris, Pablo Picasso and the Publishers Gustavo Gili, and Sabartes by Picasso.
The Museum also has a Library which is open by prior appointment for those who want to study the painter. The Library has a documentary collection on the artist and has a reading room with open access to documents and 18 work desks where you can really dig in. To access this free service, call this telephone (+34) 93 256 30 31 to set an appointment.
Maritime Museum of Barcelona
Given that Spain was a great maritime power and Barcelona, an important port in the Mediterranean, this Museum is located inside Barcelona Royal Shipyard that was used to build galley ships for wartime.
The displays show the history of navigation and sea exploration from the early days focusing on the Spanish navy since the reign of the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century. It is also interesting to see several navigation instruments, weapons, portolans and paintings, but the showpieces are the large boats used by the Spanish navy.
It is located in Port Vell so it is a great place to visit as you take a stroll through Barcelona's sea port.
Caixa Forum Barcelona
Built as a textile factory, CasaRamona, it was designed by one of the Modernist Art Noveau architects, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, as a display of humanitarian ideals spread to workers. CaixaForum in Barcelona has one of the richest collections of modern art in Europe, including works of Beuys, Anish Kapoor, Juan Usle and Tony Cragg.
The Japanese architect Arata Isozaki added to the entrance area designed by Mees Van De Rohe to the renovated building, welcoming visitors with a tree made of steel and glass.
Beyond the amazing modernist architecture of the building, there are interesting exhibitions here. As an example, when we visited, the exhibition was from the British Museum on Greek Classical Art. This Museum organizes many public activities and its gift shop has many books and toys for kids.
Ethnology Museum of Barcelona
This Museum was created in 1962 from two museums built in the 1940s, the Popular Arts and Industries Museum (1942) and the Ethnologic and Colonial Museum (1949). Its permanent collection displayed on the ground floor has the theme "Feel our Heritage" as it highlights the traditional life of people in the Catalan region. The display divided the space into 6 areas which highlight the Catalan heritage: the Boat, the Winepress, the Loom, the Shepeherd's Cabin, the Blacksmith's Shop and the Herbalists corner.
A provoking display on the interconnectedness of world cultures engages visitors to an appreciation of this. There are other temporary exhibitions, concerts and other activities which you can check out in the Museum website. The Museum is very eager to promote Catalan culture and underline its uniqueness in Spain.
Museum of Catalan History
Used as a warehouse in the 19th and 20th century, the Museum gives a very interesting overview of Catalan history from the time when they were hunters and gatherers to the rule of the Iberians, the age of the Romans and to the Middle Ages. This is followed by an interesting display on the suppression of the Catalan culture before and during the Franco reign.
Don't miss the top-floor restaurant and rooftop terrace which offers stunning views of Port Vell and Montjuïc. In front, there are many seaside restaurants where you can enjoy a meal and watch the yachts and tourists in promenade at the seaside.
European Museum of Modern Art
Opened in June 2011, under the Foundation for the Arts and Artists which was created in 2005 to promote figurative artists and to provoke artists to use new approaches. It was also designed to change our perspective of art from the usual representations into new modes and mediums.
The Museum collection is not the usual and it will challenge your thinking about art. The Museum offers courses and workshops as part of their education program but some of the events are interesting like the Friday Blues and the Summer Opera on Sunday afternoons. There are competitions as well like the recent one on modern photography. You can check the website for more upcoming events.
Olympic and Sports Museum
Opened in 2007 at the Olympic Ring in Barcelona, the Olympic and Sports Museum Juan Antonio Samaranch promotes different facets of sports using interactive displays and the Olympic Games as well. It is an entertaining and educational experience to know more in-depth about the Olympics.
It is also a display on how technology has affected sports. But the memorabilia is impressive especially of the Olympics in Barcelona. It is an easy walk from the Stadium so spend a bit of time and explore this Museum.
Barcelona is not complete without Gaudi and Casa Mila or La Pedrera being the last of Gaudi's buildings before his complete immersion in the Sagrada Familia. Located in the Eixample, it is also called La Pedrera or the Quarry House because of its unusual construction of irregular shapes like a solid rock broken by waves.
Its Modernist organic design resembles Nature closely. It is something that attracts attention of every passer by. In its attic which is quite large, there is an exhibition on Gaudi's life and works.
But what fascinates the crowd that line up to enter this building is the rooftop with its unusual chimneys, ventilation shafts looking like knights guarding the Palace, and the staircases all created with imaginative shapes and colours. Because of these Modernist groundbreaking details, it certainly deserves its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Video of Casa Mila or La Pedrera
Museums' Addresses and Opening Hours
1. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc, s/n, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2. Fundacio Joan Miro
Parc de Montjuïc, s/n, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday - Saturday:10 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Sunday:10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
3. Picasso Museum
Carrer Montcada, 15-23, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Monday From 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sundays From 9am to 8.30pm Thursday From 9am to 9.30pm; Closed:1st January 1st May 24th June 25th December; Reduced Opening Hours:24th December From 9am to 2pm 31st December From 9am to 2pm 5th January From 9am to 5pm; Free of Charge: Thursday afternoons from 6.00pm to 9.30pm, First Sunday of each month, from 9am to 8.30pm, Open Door days: 18th May and 24th September
4. Maritime Museum of Barcelona
Av. de les Drassanes, s/n, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
10:00 am-8:00 pm from Monday to Sunday. Hours may differ on big feasts
Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 6-8, 08038 Barcelona, Spain; Phone: +34 934 76 86 00
Daily: 10.00-20.00 July and August, Wed.: 10-23.00; Closed on 1 Jan., 6 Jan. and 25 Dec.
6. Ethnology Museum of Barcelona
Passeig de Santa Madrona, 08038 Barcelona; Phone: +34 934 24 68 07
Tue-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun and Bank Hols 10am-8pm; Closed Mon, 1 Jan, 1 May, 24 Jun and 25 Dec
7. Museum of Catalan History
Pl. de Pau Vila, 3 (Palau de Mar); Phone: +34 932 254 700
Tu. - Sa.: 10.00-19.00 Wed.: 10.00-20.00 Su. and public holidays: 10.00-14.30; Monday closed (except public holidays). Closed on 1 May, 5 June, 25/26 Dec. and 1 and 6 Jan.
8. European Museum of Modern Art
Barra de Ferro, 5 08003 Barcelona; Tel. (+34) 933 195 693
Tuesday to Sunday, from 11m to 7pm
9. Olympic and Sports Museum
Avinguda de l'Estadi, 60, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Tuesday to Saturday, from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
10. Casa Mila
Passeig de Gràcia, 92; Phone: +34 902 202 138
March to November. Monday to Sunday: from 9am to 8pm (last admission: 7.30pm); November to February. Monday to Sunday: from 9am to 6.30pm (last admission: 6pm); Closed: 25 December, and one week in January for maintenance, 1 January: special opening hours from 11am
Poll on the 10 Top Museums of Barcelona
Which of these museums in Barcelona is the most interesting?
Barcelona as a Museum City
Barcelona is a vibrant living city with a host of activities. But it is much more and as the home of Catalan culture, its Museums are part of continuing struggle for cultural recognition.
Though I only included 10 museums here, Barcelona as a city is in itself a Museum. As you stroll the various neighbourhoods, look up and you will be fascinated by the architecture, paintings, sculptures and the beautifully decorated doors to the stores. So, spend some time and just let the beauty of art engulf you.
© 2018 Mary Norton