To the west of Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella is the Parc de Monjuic, site of a 17th century hilltop fortress, a cemetery, a botanical garden, and several museums and sporting arenas leftover from the 1929 International Exposition and the 1992 Olympics. To reach Montjuic, you can walk up any number of streets in the Poble Sec neighbourhood, make a grand entrance via the staircase at the foot of the Avenguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, or take the Funicular de Montjuic at the Paral-lel Metro station. Do not confuse the Funicular with the Teleferic de Monjuic, the 8-passenger cable car which operates between the hilltop Parc Montjuic and Castel stations via the Mirador. (For prices and schedules: http://www.telefericdemontjuic.cat/en/information) There is also an aerial cable car, the Transbordador Aeri del Port which takes you from Montjuic Hill across the port to Barceloneta. (For prices and schedule information: http://www.barcelonayellow.com/bcn/transport/cable-cars/transbordador-aeri-del-port)
Montjuic was traditionally used as farmland by the residents of the Ciutat Vella, but also housed (in medieval times) a separate cemetery for the Jews of the Call. Today the hillside still has a cemetery – the Cementiri de Montjuic (Mare de Deu del Port, 56-58) – built into the steep slopes overlooking the harbour. The winding lanes of this necropolis cover almost 140 acres and provide a showcase of sorts for some outstanding funerary art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the luminaries buried there are composer Isaac Albeniz and artist Joan Miro. To get to the cemetery, take the #121 bus at the Paral-lel-El Prat Metro station. (Open daily, 8am-6pm – Free guided tours on the second and fourth Sunday of the month at 11am in Catalan and 11:15am in Spanish)
The first fortress on Montjuic, with its 360° view of Barcelona, was erected during the Catalan Revolt (1640-59), and was the scene of a Catalan victory over the Spanish Crown. The Revolt was ultimately put down, but the Spaniards saw the value of the position, and added bastions and battlements to the fortress in 1694. That fortress was demolished in 1751; the current Castell de Montjuic (Carretera de Monjuic, 66) dates from 1779-99. The Castle was used as a military prison, army base and weapon’s museum during the 20th century, and now houses an Interpretive Centre. You can get there via Bus #150 or the Teleferic de Montjuic. (Open Daily Oct-Mar, 10am-6pm; Apr-Sept, 10am-8pm – Admission €5)
Located between the Castle and the Olympic Stadium is the Jardi Botanic (Dr. Font I Quer, 2). There are some 1,500 species planted in these Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1999, with plans for the collection to grow to 4,000 species. Dedicated to the conservation of Mediterranean bio-diversity, the Gardens also include specimens from other areas with a similar ”winter-rain” climate, such as California, Chile, South Africa and Australia. Accessible via Buses #13, 55 or 150. (Open Daily Oct-Mar 10am-6pm; Apr, May & Sept 10am-7ppm; June-Aug 10am-8pm – Admission €3.50. Free guided tours every weekend excepting August between 10:30am and 1:30 pm. Inquire at the Garden Box Office)
Today, Barcelona is most closely identified with the “Modernisme” of Gaudi, Domenech and Puig, but in the 1920s, there was a real desire to break that mold. As a result, the “Noucentisme” (loosely translated as “new century”) movement, en expression of a more orderly classicist aesthetic, played a large part in the design of the buildings constructed for the 1929 International Exposition.
If you enter Montjuic from the Plaça d’Espanya, with its ornate Modernist fountain, you will notice two Venetian Towers which mark the beginning of the Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina. The Avenue leads to the Font Magica, which is best appreciated at night, when a sound and light show bring the fountain’s 3,000 jets to pulsing, vibrant life. (May-Sept, Thurs-Sun, 9pm-11:30pm, with shows on the half-hour until 11pm; Oct-Apr, Fri & Sat, 7pm-9pm, with shows on the half-hour until 8:30pm; Christmas and Easter, Thurs-Sun, 7pm-9pm, with shows on the half-hour until 8:30pm – Free)
At the top of a grand staircase flanking the waterfalls that descend to the Font Magica, is the Palau Nacional. This was the main exhibition hall of the Exposition, and has been the home of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya since 1934. The Museum has outstanding collections of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as an important collection of “Modern” art spanning the period from the early 19th century through the 1940s. Of special interest is the Romanesque collection, which is a unique showcase of church murals dating from the 11th through 13th centuries. The jewel of this collection is the famous Pantocrator (Christ in Majesty) from the Apse of Sant Climent de Taull. (Open Oct-Apr, Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun and Holidays 10am-3pm; May-Sept, Tues-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun and Holidays 10am-3pm; Closed Mondays – Admission €12, Museum/Poble Espanyol Combination ticket €18) For more detailed information, visit: http://www.mnac.cat/index.jsp?lan=003
If your visit to the Museu de la Xocolata whet your appetite for reproductions of Spanish architecture, then you’ll want to head over to the Poble Espanyol (Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, 13). Another relic of the 1929 Exposition, this open-air museum holds 117 buildings representative of Spain’s many architectural styles, including a few exact replicas of some of Spain’s most iconic buildings. Arranged as a village around several squares, the Poble Espanyol was renovated in 1988, and now houses several artisan workshops as well as bars, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. (Open Mon 9am-8pm; Tues-wed-Thurs-Sun 9am-Midnight; Fri 9am-3am; Sat 9am-4am – Admission €11, Children under 12 €6.25) For more detailed information and a virtual tour, see: https://www.poble-espanyol.com/en
Barcelona’s Estadi Olimpic (Av de l’Estadi, 60) was constructed for the 1929 Exposition with an eye toward getting the Olympic Games in 1936. Those Games were awarded to Berlin, so plans were made to stage an anti-Fascist “People’s Olympiad” instead, but the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) put an end to those plans as well. The stadium hosted various sporting events until the 1970s, when it fell into disuse. When Barcelona was awarded the 1992 Summer Olympics, the Stadium, which seats 55,926, was renovated; in 2001, it was renamed in honor of Lluis Companys, the Catalan President who was executed at the nearby Montjuic Castle by the Franco regime. Today the Stadium continues to host various sporting and musical events, and is the home of the Catalan National Football Team. (Open daily 10am-2pm and 4pm-7pm – Free)
The Estadi Olimpic is the center of the Anella Olimpica, or “Olympic Ring” of sport facilities built for the 1992 Summer Olympics. These facilities, which include the Palau Sant Jordi (an indoor arena), the Piscines Bernat Picornell and the Piscina Municipal de Montjuic (used for the swimming and diving competitions respectively) and the Institut Nacional d’Educacio Fisica de Catalunya (a sports science center), are still in use today, as is the striking Santiago Calatrava-designed Telecommunications Tower.
There are several other museums on Montjuic, including:
Another holdover from the 1929 Exposition, the Teatre Grec (Pg de Santa Madrona, 36) is the heart and soul of Barcelona’s Festival Grec, a 6–week summer festival of theatre, dance and music. Performances take place in multiple venues in Barcelona, including Montjuic’s Teatre Llure (Pg de Santa Madrona, 40-46) and the Mercat de les Flors (Carrer de Lleida, 59), both of which were also built for the Exposition. For schedule and price information on this year’s Festival Grec: http://grec.bcn.cat/