Perched above Barcelona’s busy harbor is the Montjuïc district, a 600-foot peak that is home to many of the city’s captivating cultural sites. The area is also known as “Jewish Mountain” and is named after remains of a medieval Jewish cemetery found on the hill. Many attractions can be accessed via a 30-minute uphill walk or a two-minute funicular ride from the Paral-lel metro station. Beyond the funicular, cable car services are available for transportation to the summit. With sweeping panoramic views and a wealth of cultural resources, climbing Montjuïc is one of the top things to do in Barcelona.
One of the most historic reasons to visit Montjuïc is for its castle, which was built in the mid 18th century. The site’s history as a military fortress dates to 1640 and has an ominous past as the location of executions and a military prison. Admission to the castle is free on the first Sunday of the month and every Sunday after 3pm. Many other buildings in the area are remnants of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, a World Fair with participants from twenty countries. The Poble Espanyol features a total of 117 buildings representing typical architectural styles of fifteen Spanish provinces. Also built for the exposition, the Magic Fountain is a triumph of hydraulic engineering and artistry. Set to music, the fountain’s spectacular illuminated shows run at nighttime, typically on weekends from 8pm to 10pm. Show times vary depending on the time of year, so check opening times before climbing Montjuïc to visit the Magic Fountain.
Montjuïc was the heart of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, with the Olympic Stadium, Palau Sant Jordi, and Santiago Calatrava’s Torre Telefónica located on the hill. 1992 was a significant year for the Olympics; Germany competed as a unified nation for the first time since the 1964 games and South Africa was welcomed back to compete after a 32-year suspension. Sports enthusiasts can visit the Olympic Stadium, which held 67,000 people during the Olympics. The Palau Sant Jordi is an indoor arena that hosted the games’ gymnastics and volleyball competitions. The Torre Telefónica sits adjacent to the arena, and was built to transmit coverage of the Olympics worldwide. Calatrava, an architect known for his gravity-defying structures, designed the tower to resemble the iconic Olympic flame.
The district is a cultural epicenter for the city and contains many museums. Fondaciò Joan Miró houses countless works from the Catalan contemporary master, who established the foundation late in his life. Following Miró’s vision, the foundation also features rotating exhibitions of experimental works by other artists. Also located on Montjuïc is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, known as the MNAC for short. The museum, set in the stunning Spanish Renaissance-inspired Palau Nacional, boasts a comprehensive collection of Romanesque murals and Catalan Modernisme works.
Another reason to visit Montjuïc is for the must-see Pabellón Mies Van Der Rohe, a pavilion designed by architectural genius Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to represent German design in the 1929 exposition. Meticulously reconstructed in 1983, the building is an architectural marvel exemplary of the Modernist Movement.
Climbing Montjuïc will reveal an area of the city steeped in history, from the foreboding tales of past political conflict to the triumphant revels of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The recreational and cultural options sited on the hill appeal to a multitude of interests and, at the very least, offer stunning panoramic views of one of Spain’s finest cities.