Barcelona Districts: Sants - Montjuïc
The area of Montjuïc, which takes its name from the Jewish community once settled on its slopes, is now home to many attractions and contains a great deal of Barcelona’s history.
Most notably here is the large hillside of Montjuïc, on top of which sits the Palau Nacional. Originally built in 1929 for the International Exhibition and adopting numerous functions over the years, this stunning building now contains the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) which features important and original Romanesque works dating back to the XI, XII and XIII centuries, removed from chapels and churches from around Catalonia to preserve them from ruin. Romanesque art was the first mediaeval artistic movement to spread internationally across Europe and this collection contains a fascinating and vibrant selection of this kind of art.
Built in conjunction with the Palau Nacional was the Magic Fountain, a large water-fountain illuminated to a spectacular crescendo of coloured lights and music. The buildings beside the Magic Fountain belong to the Barcelona International Trade Fair, where trade fairs of all kinds are held throughout the year.
Access to the see the spectacular Magic Fountain display is for free, so you just need to find a good viewpoint and enjoy the explosion of colours combined with different styles of music. Every show takes about 10 to 15 minutes and depending on the day it is repeated up to five times.
Montjuïc is the location of one of Barcelona’s most popular and adventurous museums, the Fundació Joan Miró, an impressive white building opened in 1975 and housing a vast collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures by the Catalan artist Joan Miró (1893-1983). Other less well-known but equally interesting museums nearby are the Museu Etnologic boasting cultural collections from Japan, Central and South America , Turkey and Senegal, and the Museu Arqueològic, devoted to the Roman period.
Not far from here, caved into the hillside is the Teatre Grec, a reproduction of an open-air Greek amphitheatre, also built for the 1929 International Exhibition and now used in Barcelona’s "El Grec" cultural festival held every summer.
At the foot of Montjuïc’s hillside is the Plaça d'Espanya one of the biggest public squares in the city presided over by the Venetian Towers and Las Arenas de Barcelona, a former bullring which is now a popular shopping centre.
On the opposite side of the hill you will find the Olympic Area built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, which includes the Olympic Stadium, originally built for the 1929 International Exhibition. Next to it is the Palau Sant Jordi, a multi-purpose venue designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. It is considered a master work of modern architecture and engineering and its structure enables the facility to be adapted to any type of event.
The Montjuïc Mountain houses plenty of gardens and shady green areas, ideal for a pleasant stroll and to enjoy the stunning panoramic views over the city. The 17th century castle right at the top of the mountain is well worth a visit before taking a breathtaking cable car ride down to the Barceloneta. The views from here over the city or out to sea are truly amazing. It’s advisable to get up very early in the morning to observe the city from here as it wakes up bathed in the first rays of sunlight.