Exploring Montjuïc: Barcelona’s Hilltop Perch
One of the joys of visiting a vibrant city is viewing it from above. Looking down on the energy gives a certain appreciation that can’t be appreciated at eye level. Barcelona has a view places to see the city from above including tremendous views from Park Güell. Montjuïc however is unique in that the view is hardly the only reason to visit. It is packed with attractions and should not be missed during any visit to Barcelona.
Montjuïc means Jewish Mountain and is a hill to the southwest of downtown. The large hill is perfectly situated near the city centre and also has room for plenty of attractions on its own. Located near the waterfront, it offers great views of the harbor and was a perfect place to build a stronghold to protect the city.
The two biggest events that shaped its design was the 1929 worlds fair and the 1992 Olympic Games. The Worlds Fair brought the stunning Palau Nacional, a perfect introduction to Montjuïc. Today it is home to the Museum of Catalan Art, the largest such in the world. In front of the Palau Nacional and all of those stairs is the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc. The fountains host free nighttime shows on select nights. Lights illuminate the fountains in different colors and accompanied by music.
In front of the fountains is the Plaza d’Espanya. The grand plaza was the entrance to the exhibition grounds for the worlds fair. Two towers mark the entrance and resembles the bell towers of Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice. To get a great view of the plaza go to the top of the Arenas. The former bull fighting arena is now a circular mall. The roof has a free viewing area along with restaurants. Nearby and also built for the fair is Poble Espanyol. The village was built to show off different architectural styles from all over Spain to those visiting the fair. It still is active today for those looking to get a taste of all the different aspects of Spanish life from around the country.
The 1992 Olympics were a coming out party for Barcelona. Tourism exploded after the games to the point now the city is trying limit the number of toursits entering the city. Many Olympic sites are still on display on top of Montjuïc. The Olympic Stadium has a place to stop by and take a look inside. It still hosts athletic events and concerts throughout the year. Next door is the Olympic and Sports Museum.
Also in Olympic park is Palau Sant Jordi and the iconic telecommunications tower. The Montjuïc Municipal Pool was home to diving and swimming events. Today it is a public pool and offers great views of the city below.
Montjuïc Castle was built in the 17th century and has seen plenty of action including the Spanish Civil War. The impressive ramparts and hilltop location made it an imposing fortress to try and conquer. Today there are gardens, a museum, and beautiful views to take in.
In addition to the Museum of Catalan Art, there is also an Archaeological Museum, Ethnology Museum and the Fundació Joan Miró, dedicated to the surrealist artist.
While Montjuïc is a draw purely to grab some great views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea, there is also plenty to see and do within the neighborhood itself. You can easily spend a day exploring the hill and take in everything it has to offer, however for most people a half day should be sufficient.
The nearest metro station is Plaça Espanya, which sits at the base of the hill and is serviced by the green L3 and red line L1 lines. Also nearby is Sants Estacio station which has direct access to the airport. You may also take the Funicular de Montjuïc from the Paral.lel metro station near the city centre and drops you off near Montjuïc castle. Finally there is a cable car that runs from Montjuïc all the way to Barceloneta.