mountain of Montjuic juts over Barcelona's
port on one face, and on the other
side overhangs the Placa Espanya.
With this location, it is ideal for
playing. The mountain became the
central mark of the World Fair of
1929 and the 1992 Olympic games.
It's beautiful and green, still forested
and covered in parks. Montjuic is
popular with pedestrians and cyclists
of all kinds because of its extensive
and green paths. Barcelona has recently
started working on installing walkways
and escalators to connect visitors
to the harder-to-navigate sections.
Among these sections is the Font del
Gat, once a fashionable modernista
cafe designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
Today, it's an information and visitors
center and restaurant, and a great
starting place to explore Montjuic.
Also in the tall mountain you'll find
some of the best museums in Barcelona
like the MNAC and the Miro Foundation.
The most popular attraction around
Montjuic is the Magic Fountain, or
Font Magica. In daytime, the grand
fountain beneath the MNAC staircase
seems ordinary, but after dark, you'll
see the magic part. Music blasts from
loudspeakers, and varicolored lighting
illuminates the dancing waters of the
fountain. Carles Buigas designed it
for the 1929 World Fair, and it's perfect
for watching from one of the cafes
surrounding it. Shows run throughout
the summer, from May to October on
Thursday through Sunday after dark.
(at other times of the year, they're
held only on Friday and Saturday after
If you want to visit the Castell de
Montjuic on the sea side of the mountain,
your best choice is via the cable car,
the Transbordador Aeri, that runs across
the port. It runs daily from 10:30
AM to 7 PM.
Once you're settled on Montjuic, there's
plenty to see and do.
What to Do
At the CaixaForum, you can view rotating
diverse art exhibitions on three floors
of a building that used to be a textile
factory designed by modernista architect
Puig i Cadalfach. Later, Japanese architect
Arata Isozaki added a walkway, courtyard,
and entrance to set off the art stored
within. At any given time, you're also
likely to find performances related
to the art being exhibited, especially
world music and modern dance, and there's
an excellent bookstore in the foyer.
You can find more modern art at the
Fundacio Joan Miro, devoted to the
master of contemporary Catalan art.
The Miro collection, donated by the
artist, is so large that only part
of it can be displayed at any given
time. If you're not familiar with Miro,
the audioguide you can pick up at the
front desk will help you understand
the depth and breadth of this master's
works. In sports-mad Barcelona, you'll
also find the Galeria Olimpica, a museum
devoted to the games held in 1992.
This museum is located in the cellar
of the old Olympic Stadium.
But in a lovely setting like Montjuic,
you don't want to be indoors all the
time. The Jardi Botanic opened in 1999,
but has already received international
admiration for landscaping and concept.
Most species are Mediterranean, or
from a similar climate like Australia
and California, and the park is divided
into regions for each area. The telecommunications
aerial, rather than detracting from
the beauty, is designed to blend with
the landscaping, and because of the
way it leans, it acts as a giant sundial.
The Poble Espanyol will keep you outside.
It's a recreated Spanish village built
for the 1929 World Fair and has almost
a Disneyish feel. You can find over
a hundred styles of Spanish architecture
in one tiny spot, from the Levante
to Galicia and Castilian high gothic.
The entrance, a facsimile of the gateway
to Avila, leads you to the center of
the village, where you can have drinks
at the outdoor cafe, or visit the flamenco
taberna and other nightspots. Provincial
crafts and souvenirs are sold everywhere,
and you can see artisans handprinting
fabric, making pottery, or blowing
glass. Though some see this as a tourist
trap, if you won't be able to see much
of Spain outside Barcelona this is
a good choice for finding almost everything
you're interested in.
And history, of course, is not neglected.
The Museu Militar de Montjuic is found
inside the Castell de Montjuic, a fortress
dating back to the 1600s that overlooks
the sea. The collection is a treasury
of military artifacts from armor to
weapons to accoutrements to military
art, and the fortress itself provides
breathtaking views of the Barcelona
skyline and the sea. The Museu d'Arquelogia
de Catalunya occupies the former Palace
of Graphic Arts of the 1929 World Fair.
It surveys the long history of Barcelona,
from the Iberian prehistory to the
Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian periods,
including many artifacts that were
unearthed very close by. On the floor,
you'll find actual mosaics moved here
from the places where they were unearthed;
the curators invite visitors to walk
over them, as they believe using them
as they were intended provides better
preservation for them.
There is much more to do on MOntjuic,
including visiting the Museu Nacional
d'Art de Catalynya (MNAC) or the Pavello
Mies van der Rohe. Your best bet: go
early, and don't have a set agenda.
Enjoy exploring MOntjuic.
Places to Stay
Montjuic, hampered by a lack of amenities
like water, has few homes but many
pleasant places to visit. One place
to try is the Hotel Torre Catalunya,
a skyscraper-style four-star hotel
with excellent amenities. Its restaurant,
the Ciudad Condal, offers gorgeous
views of the city from the 23rd floor.
You'll also find a Spa, health center,
and many other amenities here.
At Montjuic's base you'll find the
Hotel Fira Palace, which opened in
time for the 1992 Olympics and has
excellent access to the exhibition
centers of Plaza Espanya. Family accomodations
are unmatched in the area. Restaurants
are expensive, so you may want to try
outside the hotel, but the amenities,
like a piano bar, massage, service,
and patio garden, are unique.