Montjuic – Mount of Museums and Cultural Half of Barcelona!

March 9, 2009 by Olga Simon  
Filed under Montjuic

Montjuic is one of the most spectacular areas of Barcelona. Although the meaning of Montjuic is in some doubt, either from Mont Jueu (Jewish Mountain) or Monte Jovis (Jupiter’s Mountain), there is no doubt whatever about the impressive nature of this area. Known primarily for its cultural opportunities, it affords spectacular views and arresting scenery as well.

Montjuic’s primary heritage comes from two very significant events which occurred here in the last century. The International Exhibition of 1929 made sure the area became prominent on the world map, and then again in 1992 the eyes of the world were once again upon Barcelona, and Montjuic in particular, with the Olympic Games.

In preparation for the International Exhibition in 1929 extensive building and landscaping work took place around the Montjuic Mountain region, with a number of tremendous buildings erected, from palaces to pavilions, spread out over an area of nearly 120 hectares.

Museo Nacional d´Art de Catalunya

Museo Nacional d´Art de Catalunya

I think that one of the most spectacular sights which remains from the Exhibition is the Palau Nacional, (National Palace, although you probably guessed that!)

Come along here in the evening and you really are in for a treat. Stroll up the Maria Cristina Queen avenue which leads right up to the palace, and along the avenue you will see beautiful glass columns which at night are lit up, creating a fairy tale image that really is quite enchanting. Children will be mesmerized, and for a romantic evening - what could be better!

At the end of the avenue there is staircase which truly deserves to be described as magnificent, with sets of fountains and waterfalls cascading away either side, with many coloured lights illuminating the water as it dances away.

Montjuic is an extremely good choice for those who are particularly drawn to the world of art. There are several excellent facilities to enjoy, including a number of museums and several art foundations. Within the Palau Nacional there is the Museo Nacional d’Art de Cataluña, known more simply as MNAC. This is effectively the national museum of art, and it is here that you can enjoy exploring a thousand years of art, tracing the traditions and styles from Romanesque to Modernism. The best way of reaching it is to walk there from the Plaza España, or alternatively there is an escalator, the Escaleras Mecanicas, which takes you down from Montjuic Mountain.

I would also strongly recommend visiting the Caixa Forum which is nestled right at the foot of Montjuic Mountain. The building itself once used to be a factory, but today it is a fascinating and diverse collection of art exhibitions, multimedia art projects and lectures. The whole place is not just a showcase of art, but also a lively and dynamic centre which is used by a wide range of art groups, exhibitors, artists and local councils.

If you are an art lover I would also recommend you to visit the Fundacio Joan Miro, which can be found in Barcelona’s Parc de Montjuic. Not only is this the best place to enjoy Joan Miro’s artwork, but you can also enjoy seeing a wide range of exhibitions featuring contemporary artwork here too.

Other sights to see:

The outdoor Teatre Grec, used only during the festival of the same name (located at the lower slope).

Poble Espanyol; an outdoor museum that represents the architecture from all over Spain, plus craft workshops.

Jardi Botanic, a superb example of contemporary landscape gardening.

Museo d´Arquelogia de Cataluña, which houses good collection of local Roman finds.

And of course Magic Fountain (Font Magica), a sound, light and water spectacle.

The Olympic Games of 1992 brought a second wave of regeneration and development, and today you can enjoy a number of features and facilities. This includes the Olympic Ring (L´Anella Olimpica) which stretches over a vast area, and includes the Olympic Stadium. There are also outdoor pools available here known as the Piscines Bernat Picornell.

The area of Anella Olimpica is both very clean and quiet. During the busier seasons, particularly spring, I have found relatively few people here, although during summer numbers will naturally be higher. If you enjoy the Olympics and sport in general, then I would definitely recommend a visit here.

Estadi Olimpic built for the Olympic Games of 1992

Estadi Olimpic built for the Olympic Games of 1992

The Olympic Stadium (Estadi Olimpic) has a seating capacity of 77,000, and today houses the Galeria Olimpica. This is a small exhibition space which is full of memorabilia from the Games themselves.

Other things to see at L´Anella Olimpica:

Palau Sant Jordi, designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki; the palace is now the city’s main venue for bog –name music stars like Madonna or Shakira and large scale meetings.

Transportation is very good, and you have a number of choices to get there.

1.) In order to visit Plaza España, Palau Nacional and Fira Barcelona Fair and Congress Centre you simply need to head for the Plaza España. The simplest way of doing this is to use the metro, and follow either the L3 green line or the L1 red line. There are also a number of busses which you could use too.

2.) In order to get to Montjuic Park you can either go by metro again on the same lines, or by bus to Plaza España. Once you arrive, I’d suggest taking either the Nº 50 or the Nº 55 bus which will take you all round the Parc de Montjuic, with regular stops at every point of interest.

3.) Another way of reaching the park is to go to Paralell metro stop, (L2, violet line). You can then take a funicular which will take you all the way to the very highest point of Parc de Montjuic.

Teleféric de Montjuic - Barcelona Cable Car

Teleféric de Montjuic - Barcelona Cable Car

If you want to continue your climb upwards to the very top of the mountain you will need to take the Cable Car (Teleféric de Montjuic in Spanish) which connects directly from the funicular, stopping at mirador (lookout point). At the top of the mountain you will not only be rewarded with superb views stretching from the sea to Tibidabo, but a chance to enjoy Montjuic Castle, and wonder just how did they get all that stone up here?

This impressive 18th century fortress is no crumbling ruin. Indeed, many of its rooms have been refurbished and now house Museu Militar (Military Museum) with a wide collection of exhibitions which chart the development of arms and armour through the ages.

It’s worth noting that in the very centre of the Plaza España and also right near the entrance to the funicular station on the top of the mountain there is a useful Tourist Information Point. Fortunately, they speak a number of languages, and can provide you with many leaflets and flyers with useful information.

The best time to choose to visit Montjuic Park is on a sunny, clear day. You’ll be able to enjoy the views at their very best, taking in the whole of Barcelona city. I would also highly recommend that you wear comfortable shoes to explore both Montjuic Park and Montjuic Mountain, as there is a tremendous amount to see and do, spread out over 120 hectares. I would also strongly suggest that you try to visit the Plaza España and the magic Fountain which leads up to the Palau Nacional at night. The lights and illuminations, combined with the beautiful cascading waters are truly magical.

In a word if you intend to visit Barcelona for business or pleasure, Montjuic will offer you the opportunity to visit some of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona.

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