A trip back to Barcelona last week where I revisited my favourite places and found some new ones reminded me of all the blog posts I still have in store from my extensive explorations of the city. An effervescent and dynamic regional capital, Barcelona has something for everyone. From its wide and inviting tree-lined Ramblas to its charming, winding streets in the Barri Gòtic, El Born, El Raval and the up-and-coming Gràcia, Barcelona is a city of contrasts and you’ll never be short of options.
Cultural options are no exception, and the museums in Barcelona are some of my favourites so far. I’ve visited my favourites 2 or 3 times each and I always see new things I like, whether it be new exhibitions or just a new piece of artwork I hadn’t noticed before. Here’s my take on the museums I’ve visited:
MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
This is probably one of the most stunning museums I’ve seen – it’s inside a Palace! Perched half way up Montjuïc, you can see the museum all the way from the Espanya metro station as you approach along the wide boulevard. Past the fountain (which has music and light shows on weekend evenings most of the year) and up some steps or escalators, you get closer to the museum and it looks increasingly elegant in its prominent position. The MNAC is free on Saturdays after 3pm, so I made the most of this and went four times during my six months in Barcelona; there are so many different rooms to see that I wanted to take the time to visit them properly. Sometimes, museums can get overwhelming so I find it’s best to take them in stages.
The MNAC has several sections: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Modern. Being a big fan of more modern art, I have visited those rooms many times and my favourite sections are definitely the ones which showcase Gaudí furniture, civil war propaganda and also old advertising campaigns. However, I would definitely recommend at least a flying visit to all the rooms as they all have something new to discover. The great thing about this museum is how well structured each section is – whilst the art forms displayed vary massively, this does not make the exhibition confusing to follow but much more interesting, as each section has an informative and well-written summary. I sometimes quickly tire in museums that have rooms and rooms of similar pieces, therefore I really appreciate the MNAC’s more chronological approach that favours work of different styles, eras and media.
All this is located inside a building with magnificent decorated ceilings (don’t leave without looking up!) and there is also a gorgeous function room in the centre. I definitely wouldn’t mind paying to enter so the fact that it’s free every Saturday after 3pm is such a bonus. There are also some temporary exhibitions in a small gallery downstairs, and last week it was a very interesting exhibition about international uprisings. I know I’ll go back to the MNAC every time I visit the city!
MACBA – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
I think this is probably my favourite museum in Barcelona for its educational and exciting exhibitions that I can always go and see more than once, even when I’m paying €8 entry (worth it). The building itself is very impressive: the décor is a minimalistic white on the inside and outside, and the design is modern and angular in a way that perfectly embodies a contemporary art museum. The galleries are set across three levels which each contain one exhibition, each explained in leaflets provided in 4+ languages at the entrance to each room.
The exhibitions I have seen this year are Hard gelatin, hidden stories from the eighties (looking at socio-political currents and reform from 1977-92 in Spain), Miralda MadeinUSA (bringing together projects by artists in the United States), and a MACBA-own collection built around time, experience and conflict. These exhibitions bring together similar work with sculptures, expressive pieces, videos and interactive works for an immersive and educational experience, from a tour of the USA through food and unity to walking through a huge wooden column holding ice cubes in your mouth (still trying to work out what the effect of that was supposed to be, but regardless I love an interactive piece). It’s a wonderful museum and again I know I’ll be keeping my eye out for new installations.
CCCB – Centre de Cultura Contemporánia de Barcelona
Located just next door to the MACBA, the CCCB offers another collection of touring exhibitions, and it was the place where I saw one of the most impactful exhibitions: World Press Photo 2016. I love the expressivity and power of photographs and therefore it was an extremely poignant exhibition, showing photo sets from scenes of conflict, personal sets portraying the effects of a family member battling illness, and also colourful photos of nature. As moving as this exhibition was with its stunning-quality photos and explanations, it did linger on the more negative photos in the press, although this as it is perhaps more reflective (unfortunately) of the situation in the world today and certainly provides food for thought and a chance to gain a glimpse of different socio-political realities worldwide. The 2017 World Press Photo exhibition will be there from the end of April.
Upstairs I also visited a Ramon Llull exhibition which explored Llull’s philosophical ideas, with a focus on light and geometry. I didn’t quite grasp all of the ideas as they were quite complex, but enjoyed the introduction to one of Catalonia’s most famous thinkers.
Fundació Joan Miró
This museum is also located on Montjuïc and offers an exclusive insight into the life and career of the famous Catalan artist Joan Miró. His sculptures and creations line the walls and populate the rooms of this in-depth and vibrant installation. The exhibition spills outside onto a terrace with views across the city, and you can get right up close to his pieces to appreciate the workmanship, textures and materials used to create each artefact. The permanent collection is complemented with temporary exhibitions such as “Seqüencia infinita”, focusing on the work of Ignasi Aballí, which explored time and continuity through a variety of media.
Also located close to Montjuïc, I stumbled across this building whilst walking around the neighbourhood. Obra Social “la Caixa” refers to the non-lucrative social and cultural activities carried out by La Caixa, the Catalan financial organisation. It has different centres in many cities across Catalonia and the rest of Spain, offering exhibitions covering the work being done internationally (such as a photo exhibition focussing on various countries across Africa) as well as activities for school and groups. It’s definitely worth a quick visit, as the building is also impressive and offers views across the area, and it is also a non-profit organisation for many great causes.
Finally, we have another museum at the bottom of the Rambla, the Maritime Museum. This is not the type of museum I would normally visit but I was happy to give it a try! It was free to enter, and I don’t have any photos of the permanent fixtures but you can see many boats and ships of different sizes and styles, as well as other nautical artefacts. This is not my specific area of interest but it was still impressive to see the boats looming over us to appreciate the design and the work up close. Upstairs was a temporary nautical photo exhibition which was my favourite part of the visit. It explored fishing and seafaring practices all over the world, with each screen showing photos from different countries. It was amazing to see all the different photos of men and women and the various ways in which the sea is involved in their daily lives.
These are all great museums to visit depending on your interests, and whilst I’ve not covered all museums in Barcelona, these are a great place to start, especially with the MNAC and the MACBA which are unmissable for museum-lovers! I hope you have enjoyed this overview – I would love to hear about whether you have visited any of these yourselves, or if you have any favourite museums anywhere in the world. 🙂