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There are so many things to do in Montjuïc!
I must confess I skipped Montjuïc on my first visit to Barcelona, I wanted to go up and visit the castle, but I was very tired. It was my last stop after 30 days of traveling… With my luck, life gave me a second chance and one year later it was love at ‘second’ sight!
The Montjuïc Mountain become one of my favourite places in Barcelona, the place is a huge open park. If I lived in Barcelona, I’d definitely go there every weekend for a long run and to enjoy the beautiful landscapes.
There are so many things to do in Montjuïc, I spent an entire day at the mountain and still I couldn’t visit all spots. This is a great place to spend an entire day, or if you don’t have enough time…. ride up to the top and enjoy the views close to the Castell and Palau Nacional!
A Bit of History
Montjuïc means Jewish hill in an old Catalan – the story has it that there was a Jewish cemetery in that area.
During the Middle Ages, the hill was a quarry and provided stones for the main churches and other constructions in the city. The big change occurred centuries later, when Montjuïc became the headquarters of the International Exhibition of 1929. Many pavilions were built, such as the Palau Nacional, the Olympic Stadium, the Greek Theatre and the Poble Espanyol. Catalans did a remarkable job with landscaping, they recovered the quarry exploitation damaged areas and created a great park with beautiful gardens.
The second revival happened in 1992 when Montjuïc became the heart of the Olympic Games.
The Parc de Montjuïc is the largest green area of the city and there you can find several attractions such as the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNCA), the Fundació Juan Miró, the Castell de Montjuïc, the Font Màgica, and the Jardí Botànic…
How To Get to Montjuïc
There are three main ways of getting to Montjuïc:
- Walking from Plaza de España up to the Museo Nacional D’Art de Catalunya (there are escalators to help you, thanks to Catalans!!)
- Taking the cable car from Barceloneta
- Taking the funicular railway from Parallel Subway Station (I chose this option)
Once you get to Montjuïc, there is a second cable car that takes you to the castle at the top of the hill.
Castell De Montjuïc
My first stop! The Castell offers fantastic views over the city and harbour. It also holds a military museum. You can reach the castle by two means of transport: one – taking the cable car, that takes you directly to the castle.
Or, by the option number two – is to walk your way uphill. I chose the first option, I needed to save my energy, I had a full day walking ahead of me. The cable car is an attraction by itself! I even managed to catch sight from far of the famous Sagrada Família!
The Castell de Montjuïc is a military fortification built in 1640. It was a symbol of repression. The city and citizens of Barcelona suffered several bombings from the castle, which was also used as a prison and a torture centre during various periods of their history.
During the civil war it was used as a prison for Franco’s political opponents. Most of them often disappeared or were executed. In 1940, the President of the Generalitat (Government of Catalonia), Lluís Companys, was executed at the castle upon orders from the Franco regime.
From the castle you can enjoy a panoramic view of Barcelona and the harbour:
Inside, there is an exhibition on the castle history, there is also short movie about the shootings and wars (a bit graphic), old guns… On Summer days, there is an open-air movie festival right by the castle.
If you have time, visit the castle. If you don’t continue your walk, the view from the outside is pretty good too:
Fundació Joan Miró
I took the funicular down from the castle and walked to the Fundació Joan Miró.
The Miró Foundation was built and designed by Joan Miró himself, a famous Catalan artist. The entire museum is dedicated to his life and his work. There are pieces from every stage of his career: paintings, sculptures and ceramics.
Admission fee is: € 11.
The Tale of Two Gardens
There are two botanical gardens located at Montjuïc – the Jardí Botànic Històric de Barcelona and the Jardì Botànic. Confusing, I know… But let me explain the difference between them to you!
The first one was inaugurated in 1941, to complete the landscape work done for Barcelona’s Internacional Exhibition (1929).
In 1986, the gardens closed for almost 20 years, due the problems arising from the planning actions that were taken for the Olympic Games of 1992, which led to the creation of the second Jardí Botànic, behind the Olympic Stadium, just 1km from the first garden.
I recommend a visit to the oldest garden. Why? Because it’s located were the old quarry used to be, and I like places with a story! The Jardí Botànic Històric is located between two hollows known as ‘Sot de la Masia’ and ‘Sot de l’estany’ (something like ‘hollow of the pond’) which date back to when the area was used as a quarry.
It’s like a small oasis to stroll through … It often goes unnoticed to people who pass by, partly because it’s in between two hollows and the leafy trees help to camouflage it as well.
The Olympic Stadium Lluis Companys was constructed in 1929, when Barcelona was bidding to host the 1936 Olympic games that were eventually awarded to Berlin. The structure went through severe renovation in 1989 just in time to host the 1992 Olympics.
Olympic and Sports Museum
The Barcelona Olympics and Sports Museum is right next to the Olympic Stadium. Between the two there is a ‘walk of fame’ with footprints of great sportsmen.
This peculiar museum is very cool and offers many interactive experiences! It explains every discipline in the world of sports, focusing in the different aspects of each sport and Olympic values.
Palau Sant Jordi
This futuristic stadium held the volleyball and basketball games. Brazil won the first volleyball gold medal here! =] Today it’s an extremely popular venue for concerts, indoor athletics and swimming events.
Museu Nacional D’art Da Catalunya – MNAC
Also known as Palau Nacional, this Neo-Classical palace is home to the National Art Museum of Catalonia.
The first time I saw Palau Nacional was in a type B movie called Art Heist. I don’t remember the story very well, but some men were trying to rob an important painting from this museum. The one thing that I remembered was: how grand this museum looked like!
With that memory in mind, I headed to the MNCA and it looked even more imposing in real life! Some sectors are open to the public, some others require an admission fee. From the museum you get a spectacular view of Font Màgica and Plaza de España!
The Oleum Restaurant, located inside the museum, offers the same view with great food! Behind MNCA is a small park called Joan Maragall Gardens. There you can take a short break if you want.
Not Just Any Old Fountain
The Font Màgica is another popular attraction, a remnant from the International Exhibition of 1929, whose theme was water and light.
In front of the magic fountain there are four columns of neoclassic style, they represent the four bars of the flag of Catalunya. On Summer evenings there is a show of light, music and water. The show lasts about half an hour. The fountain doesn’t operate on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; no admission fee is required.
Van Der Rohe Pavilion
This modern architecture pavilion is a bit hidden behind the trees and is on the left side of Font Màgica (MNAC back). The architecture lovers tend to freak out in this building. I also really liked it.
The towers are a copy of the towers that are in Piazza San Marco in Venice. You can’t visit them, in fact, they were built to keep all the machinery of the 1929 exhibition of lights and also functioned as Expo entrance.
Plaza De España
In the center of the square is a monument representing the rivers and seas of Spain. Las Arenas shopping used to be the old bullring. My tip: go up on the top floor of the mall for a better view of the square and Montjuïc. The stunning Palau Nacional makes a beautiful backdrop!
My tour suggestion ends at Plaza de España, where you can easily head to any other place in the city.
I hope you liked!
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