Montjuic: Treasure Mountain
A scenic wooded hill in the South West of Barcelona, rising 173m above sea level in between Placa Espanya and the commercial port, Montjuic gets its name from the Catalan meaning 'Jewish Mountain', and was once the home of the city's Jewish community.
Thanks to its raised altitude, the hill was chosen as the site for the Castell de Montjuic fortification, which far from protecting the city in fact bombed it during the 1842 insurrection when Barcelona rose up against the Spanish government in Madrid. The garrison continued to be a sinister symbol on high for the rest of the century and beyond, serving as a political prison and even a place of execution for dissidents such as Catalan nationalist Lluis Companys who was killed there in 1940 by Franco's men.
Above: Watching the Magic Fountain from Montjuic at sunset
Today's visitor to Montjuic is scarcely likely to feel any of these evil associations as they wonder around the mountain's cultural treasures, surrounded by woodland, in what has become one of the most attractive areas of Barcelona. In the 1920s the hill was chosen as the site for several exciting new developments in time for the International Fair 1929. Amongst the new markers on Barcelona's cultural map were the fabulous Palau Nacional, a majestic palace which now hosts the Museum of Catalan Art, the Font Magica (Magic Fountain), an impressive waterworks which spurts to the tune of classical music and still functions today, and Poble Espanyol, a mock-Spanish village designed to showcase the various regional styles of archictecture on the peninsula, which has subsequently become one of Barcelona's most popular tourist attractions. Also built was the Olympic Stadium, designed for the 1936 Games, however Barcelona lost out to Berlin... there were plans to stage an anti-fascist Games in their place but the Spanish Civil War put an end to that.
Thankfully all that brick-lugging was worth it in the end however as Barcelona did finally get there Olympic Games - in 1992. Around this time Montjuic saw a second wave of exciting projects, as many of the constructions built for the 1929 Fair were renovated and several more were added. Most notably an 'Anella Olympic' or Olympic Ring of facilities was constructed, based around the renovated Olympic Stadium, which included the Sant Jordi Palace sports hall, the Picornell Olympic swimming pools (named after a Catalan waterbaby) and the Torre Telefonica Communications Tower, designed by Calatrava to transmit the Games on television.
Montjuic's attractions don't end there either. One of Catalonia's most famous artists, Joan Miro, is celebrated at the Joan Miro Foundation, a vast museum of over 14,000 of his works. There's also a delightful Botanical Gardens, for exploring Mediterranean fauna, the Pavelló Alemany (German Pavilion) designed by Mies van der Rohe (who designed the Barcelona Chair), the superb Caixa Forum, a factory-turned-exhibition space, and not forgetting the wonderfully romantic Teatre Grec (Greek Theatre), an ancient-style amphitheatre that hosts al fresco performances throughout the year - one of the best places to congregate during the yearly Montjuic de Nit festival.
Even the best way to reach Montjuic is an attraction in itself - the Teleferic de Montjuic Cable Car will hoist you up the hill in a skiing-style four-person carriage, right up to the Montjuic Castle. From this side of the mountain you can look down on the sprawling port. To access the attractions on the other side (the lion's share) take the metro to Placa Espanya and approach between the 47m high twin Venetian Towers.
View Tour by Barcelona eBikes
Take Barcelona eBikes "View Tour" and you'll leave the flat Old Town and power your way effortlessly up the slopes of Montjuic, via the winding paths of the cactus gardens, up to the mirador for panoramic vistas over the port, Mediterranean and entire cityscape! After that you'll take in some of the mountains other top attractions, like the Caixa Forum and palatial MNAC, all without breaking into a sweat, thanks to eBike's electric power assisted pedalling! A great way to cover everything Montjuic has to offer in just a few hours.
I'd definitely schedule at least one day for Montjuic and be sure to visit the magic fountain, the MNAC, the castle and military museum and the Olympic stadium. I particularly like Calatrava's needle as well. However there's not much you can do with it except take a photo.
reviewed by Israel from United States on Oct.11.2011
Also great are the Montjuic a nit festival, when all the attractions on the mountain are free for one night and there are tonnes of concerts etc. Takes place in July! And Sala Montjuic which is the open air cinema which takes place besides the castle. This year it got a bit too popular unfortunately, so hopefully they will extend the programme next year to accommodate more people
reviewed by Renata from United States on Aug.24.2011