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Montjuïc and Pedralbes: Everything you need to know

For art and gardens you need to get yourself across the city and head up to the verdant park area of Montjuïc. The hill is topped by a sturdy castle and anchored around a series of top-notch art collections. But this area also draws families thanks to its open-air Poble Espanyol and the soaring cable car ride to the castle. Further north, design fans should make a beeline for Avinguda Diagonal, while Pedralbes is home to one of the greatest football stadiums in the world: Camp Nou.

Montjuïc came into its own as the site of Barcelona’s 1929 International Exhibition, and again for the 1992 Olympic Games. It has since been rejuvenated so its shady gardens, panoramic views and outstanding complex of museums and activity facilities are more popular than ever.

To get the most out of your trip up, take the scenic route: one way of getting up and down Montjuïc’s hill is to use the funicular that runs from Paral.lel metro to just above the Fundació Joan Miró. From there the teleféric cable car ascends to the castle. This is an exhilarating way to take in the whole area, gliding above the buildings and giving you a bird’s eye view of the hill’s gardens. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry: the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus (the Barcelona Bus Turístic) from Plaça d’Espanya to the castle also stops at all the major sights in the area.

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Montjuïc attractions

Beside the square is a bullring built in 1899, now home to the Arenas de Barcelona, a shopping, cultural and recreational facility. A central avenue leads upwards to the vast Palau Nacional, which houses the Catalan art museum, MNAC, and past the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain), which performs a son et lumière show – music, lights and water aerobics – every night. It’s a bit cheesy, but great fun for kids and big kids alike.

Nearby is the seminal Pavelló Mies van der Rohe, built for the 1929 Exposition, dismantled, then rebuilt in 1986. The glass, stone and steel cube house is a wonder of cool Bauhaus forms. Opposite is Casaramona, a magnificent modernista textile factory converted into the CaixaForum, the Fundació la Caixa’s wonderful cultural centre, with a full programme of exhibitions and concerts.

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Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

External elevators make the ascent to the domed Palau Nacional easier. This is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), housing one of the world’s finest collections of Romanesque art. Another building constructed for the 1929 Exposition, it holds 1,000 years of Catalan art, bringing together various collections under one roof. It also holds excellent

Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya

Up the hill is the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya. Among the exhibits, drawn mainly from prehistoric, Iberian, Greek and Roman sites in Catalonia, are reconstructions of tombs and life-like dioramas. 

Fundació Joan Miró

Further up lie the Jardins de Laribal, and on the edge of them is the Teatre Grec amphitheatre, where the Festival Grec is held in summer. Steps from here lead to the simple and elegant Fundació Joan Miró. This excellent museum is one of the must-sees in Barcelona, and not just for dedicated art-lovers. Set in peaceful gardens with views back over the city, the gallery was designed by the architect Josep Lluís Sert to house a large collection of paintings, drawings, tapestries and sculpture by the Catalan surrealist, who died in 1983 at the age of 90.

The exhibits follow Miró’s artistic development from 1914 onwards and in a building that’s flooded with natural light, they are truly seen at their best. In the grounds outside are a number of his sculptures. The on-site café is a delightful place to take a break, whether or not you’ve been inside the museum.

Castell de Montjuïc

The Castell de Montjuïc is a peaceful, breezy spot and offers some of the best panoramic views out over the city from its vantage point. It wasn’t always so serene: built in 1640, the castle is a former military fortress. But today, it is owned by the citizens of Barcelona and is a great place to take in its vistas.

Montjuïc’s gardens

There are a number of beautifully-landscaped gardens on Montjuïc – the formal, French-style Jardins de Joan Maragall form the grounds of the Palauet Albéniz, while the Jardins de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer are in the English country-house style. The Jardí Botànic, located between the Olympic Stadium and the castle, is a sustainable garden showcasing plants from Mediterranean zones around the world including South Africa, Chile and California. Jardins de Mossèn Costa i Llobrera, on the south side of the hill and sloping towards the sea, was once a strategic defence point for the city. Exploring some of these gardens makes for a peaceful respite from a busy day of sightseeing, especially in the heat.

Anella Olímpica

The Anella Olímpica (Olympic Ring) spreads across the northern side of Montjuïc and can be reached by escalator from the Palau Nacional. The original 1929 Estadi Olímpic (Olympic stadium) was enlarged for the 1992 Games and further alterations were made for the European Athletics Championships in 2010. It now houses a state-of-the art Open Camp, where groups of 25 or more are able to experience the world’s first sports theme park offering 25 experiences related to different disciplines that blend sports activities with digital technologies. Near the entrance to the stadium is Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport, a must for sports enthusiasts.

Poble Espanyol

And now for something a little different. Down the hill from Montjuïc is the Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village), a family attraction by day and also a popular nightspot. Built for the 1929 Exposition, it’s a composite of architecture representing Spain’s varied regions, arranged along a network of streets and squares. The entrance is through a gate of the walled city of Ávila. There is a flamenco show, restaurants, discos and demonstrations of regional crafts, including weaving, pottery and glass-blowing, which make it a good place to find well-made souvenirs. Yes, it feels a bit strange, but for a whistlestop tour around the country, it’s a one-off experience. 

The Diagonal

Heading north from here, you hit the broad Avinguda Diagonal, which slices across the city’s grid from the coast to the hills, linking up with the city ring roads. From Diagonal Mar, you can head into the El Poblenou area; a tram runs through 22@ district with its cutting-edge architecture, up to the busy Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes roundabout.

Nearby is Ricardo Bofill’s neoclassical Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and Rafael Moneo’s L’Auditori, a concert hall which includes the Museu de la Música.


Further up the Avinguda Diagonal is the Palau de Pedralbes, a Güell-family estate converted into a royal residence in 1919. On the other side of the Diagonal is the Zona Universitària and Camp Nou Stadium, home of Barcelona’s revered football club, Barça, with a museum which includes a hugely-popular tour. At the top of Avinguda de Pedralbes is the atmospheric Monestir de Pedralbes. The districts on the hillsides were once separate villages where residents of Barcelona spent summers and weekends. They’ve been absorbed over the years, but each preserves its own character. Pedralbes is patrician – full of expensive, residential villas with gardens – while Sarrià retains the feel of a small Catalan town and is very charming.

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