The Barcelona Maritime Museum is considered the best of its kind in Europe and is also one of the most popular museums in Barcelona. The museum is located in Barcelona´s medieval shipyards, Drassanes, which date back to the 13th century and were in continuous use until the 18th century. They were then used as barracks from 1792 until 1935 when they were handed over to the city.
The collection was first established in 1929 and was founded on acquisitions and donations made by Catalan ship-owners and merchants. Since then it has grown continuously and the museum now has a very substantial collection of a variety of artifacts. The focus is on the Catalan contributions to maritime history, with a special emphasis on the Catalan maritime golden age, which is considered to be from 1750-1850. Highlights of the museum include its collections of model ships, nautical instruments, ex-votos, maritime paintings, figureheads, cartography, the replica of the royal galley of Juan de Austria, and the schooner of Santa Eulàlia.
The idea of the museum was proposed in 1931 and work began in 1936, but the museum was not inaugurated until 1941 due to problems stemming from the Civil War. In 1985 a reform and restoration project began with the objective of restoring the entire complex and creating a cultural center in the shipyards to promote sea and sailing. In 1993 the Barcelona Shipyard Consortium was founded to ensure its conservation and development.
The centerpiece of the museum, which is also the largest exhibit, is a full-scale copy of a 16th century royal galley, the Galeria Real. It was sailed by Don Juan of Austria in the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, during which the Turkish Armada was defeated. This battle was important because it ended the Ottoman dominance over the Mediterranean. The Galeria Real is over 60 meters long and is true to the original, right down to the detailed carvings and paintings on the sides. Both the original and the replica were built in the Barcelona shipyard itself.
There are many ship models in the museum, including one of an 80-cannon warship, which was constructed in Havana, Cuba, around 1740. It was brought to Spain and served as a model for at least seven Spanish men-of-war. In 1808 the model was captured by Napoleonic troops and taken to France. During WW2 it was taken to the United States and eventually ended up in the New Bedford Whaling Museum. In 1985 the museum ceded the relic to the Barcelona Maritime Museum.
As expected, the museum includes exhibits on the various voyages made by Columbus and Magellan, including models of flagships and other vessels and wall maps based on some of the charts used during the time of the voyages. Model ships include the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and Santa Clara, which were used during Columbus´ search for Asia. There is also a great model of the Victoria, on which Magellan and his crew sailed in 1519.
The ship was at sea for three years and managed to fully circumnavigate the globe before returning with a cargo of spices worth more than twice the cost of the voyage.
There are also a number of interactive displays throughout the museum, including the audio-guided “Voyage to Havana”. Visitors stand on a full-sized replica for a 19th century schooner and experience stormy weather as the foredeck pitches and rolls while lightning flashes and thunder booms.
Another interesting exhibit shows the different foods that were discovered during the Spanish voyages to South America and brought back to Spain. Included are the potato and the tomato, two of the most commonly used foods in Spain today.
The museum is not very large and most visitors spend anywhere from 2 hours to half a day. Many of the exhibits are in Spanish or Catalan so be sure to pick up the English audio-guide, which is included in the price of admission. This museum is also great for children because it´s so interactive.
There is a restaurant/café in the museum which is quite decent, and which also has an outdoor terrace. The terrace is particularly nice in warm weather and turns into something of a lounge bar on summer evenings.
The museum is open every day from 10am to 8pm. Entrance is €3 and includes the schooner Santa Eulàlia. Combination tickets can also be bought for the museum and Columbus viewpoint for €7.20 or the museum, viewpoint, and a boat trip around the port for €9.60. There are also various discounts for children, students, and seniors. Entrance is free the first Saturday of every month.
Address: Av. de les Drassanes s/n
Phone: +34 93 342 9920
How to get there: Metro L3, stop Drassanes , bus lines 14, 18, 36, 38, 57, 59, 64 and 91
Web site: http://www.mmb.cat/