Museu d’Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona (Conjunt Monumental de la Plaça del Rei) - A Walk Through the History of the City
The Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat de Barcelona (City History Museum) was inaugurated in 1943. However, its history actually dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the city council decided to renovate various parts of the city. In 1908 work began to reconstruct Via Laietana, one of the most important roads in Barcelona. In order to open the road the city had to tear down more than 2,000 buildings. In the 1930´s, as construction continued, the city realized that the Casa Clariana Padellàs, a gothic palace, would be affected. The building was considered an important part of the city´s history so they decided to save it from destruction.
In order to save the building, they had to move it piece by piece to the Plaça del Rei. During the move, workers discovered important Roman remains in the plaza. Work was put on hold while archeologists were contracted to excavate and analyze the remains. As the excavation continued, it was decided that a museum should be created in order to preserve and publicly display the ruins. Today, the museum is known as the Conjunt Monumental de la Plaça del Rei. The Casa Clariana Padellàs is now part of the museum and houses artifacts from the Renaissance and Baroque period.
The Conjunt Monumental de la Plaça del Rei includes the Palau Reial Major (the royal palace), the Capilla de Santa Àgnata (the chapel of Santa Àgnata), and the Casa Padellás. It is an enclosure of more than 4,000 m2, some of which is under the plaza itself, which gives visitors the opportunity to explore Barcelona´s 2,000 year history. The Palau Reial Major is a medieval architectural complex that was commissioned by King Pedro, which was the official count´s residence. Within the complex is the Santa Àgata chapel, which was built in 1302 and is set in the Roman wall, and the Torre del Rei Martí, the watchtower.
Of course, most visitors would agree that the highlight of the museum is the underground archeological section, which is accessed via elevator. On display are the ruins of Colonia lulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino, the Roman city of Barcelona, from the first century B.C. through the 8th century A.D. At that time, Barcino was one of the most important Roman cities in Europe.
The exhibit runs under the plaza and the surrounding streets as far as the cathedral. The remains are the world´s largest subterranean Roman ruins, so seeing them in person is an incredible experience. Visitors have the opportunity to walk among the ruins of ancient Barcelona, from the public baths, to the winery, to the laundries. The condition of the ruins varies, and many of the objects have been destroyed, but there are explanatory diagrams throughout the museum which show what the city would have looked like before, as well as models, mosaics, and murals.
The museum has seasonal exhibitions and offers guided tours in different languages. There is also a free audio guide, so if you don´t take a tour make sure to take get one, because it gives an explanation of everything you see, and the displays themselves don’t explain nearly as much. Night visits are also available, as well as lectures and seminars.
This museum is perfect for anyone interested in learning more about the history of Barcelona, or anyone with an interest in the Roman Empire. It is an ideal way to escape the heat on a hot summer´s day and it is also a lot of fun for children because it’s so interactive. With the audio guide, and allowing time to visit the monuments in the plaza, the visit normally takes a minimum of two hours. As it´s a public museum, entrance is free on the first Sunday of every month (although it is also significantly more crowded than usual).
In 1999 the museum was reorganized and other museums were incorporated. The Museu d’Historia de Barcelona (MUHBA) now includes the Conjunt Monumental de La Plaça del Rei, the Museo-Monasterio de Pedralbes, the Museo-Casa Verdaguer, the Centro de Interpretación del Park Guell, the Espacio Santa Caterina, the Refugio 307, and the Centro de Interpretación de El Call. However, the nucleus of the museums continues to be the original, the Conjunt Monumental de la Plaça del Rei. Make sure to keep this in mind if you are asking for directions to the museum or looking for information on the internet, and specify the Conjunt Monumental de La Plaça del Rei in order to avoid any confusion.
Address: Pl. del Rei, 1
Opening hours: 1 June to 30 September, Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-2pm and 4-8pm. Sundays, 10am-3pm. 1 October to 31 May, 10am-8pm. Sundays, 10am-3pm
Phone: 00 34 93 256 21 22