17 Top Barcelona Museums
Fine art, cultural treasures and chocolate… the city’s best collections
By Duncan Rhodes
The Museum Scene…
Barcelona undeniably plays second fiddle in Spain when it comes to museums. The capital, Madrid, boasts the nation’s most celebrated vaults, in the forms of the world famous El Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen Museum. However, there’s still plenty to see here on the coast of Catalonia…
Not one, but two of the 20th century’s greatest artists – Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali – have museums in and around the city…
Not one, but two of the 20th century’s greatest artists – Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali – have museums in and around the city, while ground-breaking Catalan greats, Joan Miro and Antoni Tapies, also have their own foundations dedicated to their life works, which are well worth viewing.
One could argue that the city itself serves as museum of Modernista architecture (the Catalan take on Art Nouveau), and its leading exhibitor is of course Antoni Gaudi. Most of his works are open to the public, so we’ve taken a broad interpretation of ‘museums’ when compiling this list of worthy cultural attractions, because you won’t want to miss the star of Barcelona’s show reel.
Sporty types won’t want to miss the FC Barcelona Museum – where trophies galore, 3D shows and memorabilia tell the rich history of one of the planet’s most successful football clubs. You even get to tour the stadium and dressing rooms!
It’s worth checking opening times of each place as some may be closed on Mondays, whilst others are free on certain days (for example the Picasso Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month) – however bear in mind that during those times they will also be the most busy! A more reliable way to save money is invest in a pass…
Museum Cards & Passes: Save Money!
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of places on this list you may want to look into buying one of the various cards and passes available for travellers. Here is a quick intro, more info as you keep reading.
Free entry into Barcelona’s top six art museums, valid for three months. Price is €35. Buy here.
Free entry into virtually every art and history museum, plus free public transport. Valid from 3 to 5 days, starting at €46. Buy here.
Free entry to La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, free tourist bus and free Aerobus transfer. Plus 20% off virtually every other attraction. From €80. Buy here.
– Best of Barcelona Combo
This combined product is the Barcelona Card (free museums and public transport), plus La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, flamenco show and boat trip. From €109. Buy here.
For more info on the best tourist cards and passes check this handy comparison.
Part I: Art Museums
Without further ado, here’s our list of the 17 best collections in town. To make the list more manageable we’ve broken this down into four categories… art museums, Gaudi buildings, fun museums and history museums. And we’ll put Dali in a league of his own.
Barcelona is the city Picasso considered home, despite spending only a handful of years here (he refused to move back to Spain during the Franco years, settling in Paris instead). Opened by the artist’s personal secretary in 1963, this impressive building in El Born hosts 3,500 of Picasso’s works covering the many stages in his artistic evolution. If you only know Pablo for his Cubist works, you’ll see a different side to the artist in his more realistic Blue and Rose periods, and you’ll be able to admire his lesser known flair for pottery and sculpture. More info on tickets below, or take the city’s official tour.
Address: C/Montcada 15-23 (El Born)
Opening Hours: Tues to Sun, 9am to 7pm (until 9:30pm on Thurs)
Closed: On Mondays
Ticket Price: €12
Our Verdict: 9/10 – Witness the evolution of a genius!
An editorial fave, the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) sits on top of the Western side of Montjuic mountain, in a magnificent building called the Palau Nacional, which overlooks the famous Magic Fountain of Barcelona. Within the palace’s regal confines you’ll find three floors of art, beginning with Catalonia’s legacy of Romanesque religious art. If you’re short on time, I’d advise you to devote the majority of your time and attention to the colourful and romantic works of the 20th Century, on the third floor, where you’ll find works by the talented Ramon Casas, alongside Picasso and Camarasa, and furniture by Gaudi. Closed on Mondays, half day only on Sundays.
National Museum of Catalan Art
Address: Parc de Montjuic (Montjuic)
Opening Hours: Tues to Sat: 10am to 6pm; Sun: 10am to 3pm.
Ticket Price: €12
Our Verdict: 8/10 – Amazing treasure trove on the top floor!
This tribute to Catalonia’s famous artist is set high on the leafy slopes of Montjuic mountain (the home of many other cultural treasures such as the Olympic Stadium, Poble Espanyol and the aforementioned National Museum of Catalan Art!). It inhabits a sprawling white modern complex, built for purpose by the talented Josep Lluis Sert in 1975. The foundation, set up by Miro himself, owns 217 paintings, 178 sculptures and some 8,000 drawings by the artist, from his early fauvist-inspired works through surrealism to his more experimental latter works. At the heart of much of his works is the land he came from. Hemingway himself was a fan, buying Miro’s The Farm and saying of it: It has in it all that you feel about Spain when you are there and all that you feel when you are away and cannot go there.
Joan Miro Foundation
Address: Parc de Montjuic (Montjuic)
Opening Hours: Tues to Sat: 10am to 6pm (until 8pm in summer); Sun: 10am to 3pm (or 6pm in summer).
Ticket Price: €13
Our Verdict: 8/10 – A must for lovers of 20th century art
Barcelona’s Contemporary Art Museum is most commonly known by its acronym, MACBA. This pristine white beauty of a building, designed by Richard Meier, is a work of art in itself… but pay a little bit extra and you can step inside to see what’s cooking in the world of contemporary art. That is if you can navigate your way past the hordes of skateboarders who consider the square outside a great place to practice their ollies and grinds. Closed on Tuesdays.
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art
Address: Plaça dels Angels 1 (Raval)
Opening Hours: Mon, Weds to Fri: 11am to 7:30pm; Sat: 10am to 8pm; Sun: 10am to 3pm.
Ticket Price: €11
Our Verdict: 8/10 – Challenging installations in an iconic building
The Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona is one of my favourite high brow hang outs, as it features not just exhibitions of particular artists, but thought provoking exhibitions based around themes like video games, photography, cinema and social politics, as well as the occasional poetry slams and musical performances. The centre doesn’t have a permanent collection, but there’s usually at least two exhibitions taking place at any one time. For new visitors to Barcelona, it’s worth knowing that the CCCB is just behind the MACBA, so it is easy to visit both in the same afternoon.
Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona
Address: C/Montalegre 5 (Raval)
Opening Hours: Tues to Sun: 11am to 8pm.
Ticket Price: €6 (one exhibition), €8 (two exhibitions).
Our Verdict: 8/10 – Fresh and thought-provoking
6. Antoni Tapies Foundation
Spain’s most famous post-war artist, Tapies was born in Barcelona and you can find his foundation in one of the city’s classic red-brick Modernista marvels, by the architect Domenech i Montaner. Its Moorish turrets are decorated by a vast tumbling morass of barbed wires… an installation created by Tapies himself. Inside, the ride into experimental art continues, as Tapies – taking over the baton from fellow Catalan, Joan Miro – uses different media and textiles to create his obras de arte. As it’s just around the corner from Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, you you might want to combine the two.
Antoni Tapies Foundation
Address: C/Arago 257 (Eixample)
Opening Hours: Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sat: 11am to 7pm; Fri: 11am to 9pm; Sun: 11am to 3pm
Ticket Price: €8
Our Verdict: 7/10 – Temple to experimental art
The Articket Museum Pass
You can visit all six of the above art museums for free (and without queuing!) when you invest in the Articket BCN museum pass. The pass costs just €35, whereas combined entrance to all six would set you back €64. In fact, provided you’re planning on visiting just four of the six, you’ll make a saving. Get yours via Get Your Guide. The pass is valid for three months after visiting your first museum!
Part II: Gaudi Buildings
We interrupt this list of cultural treasures to bring you some highlights of the big man himself. Without further ado…
I am generally hesitant to use the word ‘unmissable’, but there’s no denying that La Sagrada Familia demands the attention of all who visit Barcelona. Breathtakingly epic is scale, with towers and façades that border on pomposity, the interior is as close to heaven as man might hope to tread while on earth. Admire the towering white pillars as you bath in the light of the stained glass windows. For a little extra you can ride a lift up into one of those OTT towers (you have to walk back down). Guided tours also possible. There’s also a basement museum of Gaudi’s architectural models and drawings on site.
La Sagrada Familia
Address: C/Mallorca 401 (Eixample)
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat: 9am to 6pm (until 8pm in summer); Sun: 10:30am to 6pm (8pm in summer)
Ticket Price: From €25
Our Verdict: 11/10 – Gaudi’s masterpiece
8. Park Guell
Take a break from all those stuffy interiors with a stroll through this oxygen-rich garden which gifts you views over the entire city. Originally conceived as a leafy retreat for Barcelona’s bourgeoise (that never happened!), the park is now open to the public. You’ll need a ticket to get inside the Monumental Zone (i.e. the interesting bits!), but it’s well worth the entry fee to admire Gaudi’s mosaic-tiled lizard and benches, the colonnades and sweeping staircase.
Address: C/Olot 5 (Gracia)
Opening Hours: Every day, early morning to sunset
Ticket Price: €13
Our Verdict: 10/10 – Unique park with stunning vistas
9. Gaudi House Museum
Located in Park Guell (so easy to combine the two attractions), this natty little peach mansion was home to none other than Gaudi himself. Today it offers a fascinating insight into the life of a genius. The museum contains furniture designed by the architect as well as a number of his personal belongings. You don’t actually need a ticket to Park Guell to enter, as the museum is outside of the “Monumental Zone” in the public section of the gardens. But you do, of course, need a ticket for the house itself. You can reserve skip-the-line entry on Get Your Guide.
Gaudi House Museum
Address: Park Guell (Gracia)
Opening Hours: Every day: 10am to 6pm.
Ticket Price: €7.50
Our Verdict: 7/10 – Intriguing look into Gaudi, the man
10. La Pedrera
The Casa Mila (to give the building its official name) was a landmark work for Gaudi, as it marked a complete departure from the straight line. Yep, from the facade to the interior, it’s just curves, curves, curves! Such a feat of architectural ingenuity is not to be missed, and if you need any further convincing then just ask George Lucas what he thinks of the building. He is said to have modelled the iconic helmets of his Storm Troopers on the house’s distinctive chimneys. You can also do a night tour.
Address: Passeig de Gràcia 92 (Eixample)
Opening Hours: Every day: 9am to 11pm
Ticket Price: From €22
Our Verdict: 9/10 – Bedazzling Behemoth on the boulevard
11. Casa Batllo
The House of Bones, despite the rather macabre nickname, is probably the cheeriest of Gaudi’s buildings… a wonderful flight of fancy, with coral-coloured trencadis façade and dragon-spined rooftop. The house tour reveals Gaudi’s great flair for interior design and also includes augmented reality video guide and rooftop access. Find it just across the road from the aforementioned La Pedrera.
Address: Passeig de Gràcia 43 (Eixample)
Opening Hours: Every day: 9am to 8pm
Ticket Price: From €25
Our Verdict: 9/10 – Charming flight of fantasy
For more on Gaudi, his biography, legacy and complete works in Barcelona, keep reading.
The Barcelona City Pass
While the Articket is great for Barcelona’s “big six” art museums, and the official Barcelona Card is great for museums in general… neither are useful for tourists focused on Gaudi. For that, I’d recommend TicketBar’s Barcelona City Pass, which includes free entry to La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, and 20% discount on the other Gaudi houses, plus 60 so other attractions. It also includes a day pass on the Tourist Bus, plus Aerobus airport transfer. From €80.
Part III: Fun Museums
Let’s take a look at some of the more interactive, quirky and family-friendly museums in Barcelona.
Artificial tourist attraction to some, charming architectural museum to others, the Poble Espanyol (‘Spanish Village’) was originally created for the 1929 International Fair and is a sprawling, life-size showcase of Spanish architecture from every region of the Iberian peninsular. Within this miniature town you can find artisan workshops, flamenco tablaos, restaurants, souvenir shops and even nightclubs. Other highlights include FIESTA, a rollercoaster audiovisual introduction to Spain’s craziest festivals (think Running of the Bulls and La Tomatina!), and the Fran Daurel Museum, which contains art by Picasso, Miro and Dali. The complex also plays host to a number of events throughout the year, from Christmas celebrations to beer festivals. Read our feature length review here.
Address: Marques de Comillas 13 (Montjuic)
Opening Hours: Mon: 9am to 8pm; Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sun: 9am to 12am; Fri: 9am to 3am; Sat: 9am to 4am
Ticket Price: €12.60
Our Verdict: 8/10 – An entire village of attractions
20% DISCOUNT with Barcelona Card
How did we get this far down the list, without mentioning this shining hall of champions! In fact this museum, chock full of trophies and multimedia displays, is only part of the ‘Camp Nou Experience’ which also takes you to the stadium itself, through the players’ tunnel, into the dressing rooms and other cool spaces, like the FC Barcelona chapel! A must for sports fans.
FC Barcelona Museum
Address: C/Aristides Mallol 12 (Les Corts)
Opening Hours: Every non-match day 10am to 5pm in winter (9:30 to 6pm in summer).
Ticket Price: From €26
Our Verdict: 8/10 – Fun interactive tour of the blaugrana
14. Chocolate Museum
Need to motivate the kids to do some sightseeing… the Chocolate Museum, with it’s Willy Wonka-style edible ‘ticket’ on entry and gift shop full of tempting treasures, should be an easy sell! Chocolate has played an important role in the history and development of Barcelona, and the museum does a good job of telling the confectionary’s story in Spain via displays and historic artefacts. The choco-sculptures are impressive too! You can find the attraction in a former monastery in El Born.
Address: C/Comerç 36 (Born)
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat: 10am to 7pm; Sunday and holidays: 10am to 3pm.
Ticket Price: €6
Our Verdict: 7/10 – Where culture meets cocoa
15. Frederic Mares Museum
For a touch of light-hearted culture without the fanfare, just sneak around the side of the Gothic Cathedral to find this charming assortment of sculptures and antique treasures. Frederic Mares was an incorrigible collector of anything that took his fancy, and has managed to fill three floors with three-dimensional artworks and memorabilia. Check out the top floor’s impressive collection of 19th century artisan objects, including keys, fans, playing cards, pipes, clocks and combs. If time is on your side, be sure to linger at the delightful courtyard cafe at the entrance.
Frederic Mares Museum
Address: Plaça Sant Iu 5 (Gothic Quarter)
Opening Hours: Tues to Sat: 10am to 7pm; Sundays and holidays: 11am to 8pm.
Ticket Price: €4.2
Our Verdict: 7/10 – Intriguing collection, plus cute cafe
Part IV: History Museums
Explore the city’s Roman origins, or find a surprise collection of Egyptian artefacts…
The Museu d’Historia de Barcelona is responsible for some 16 heritage sites around Barcelona, but the museum itself is to be found on Plaça del Rei in the Gothic Quarter. I say ‘on’ Plaça del Rei, but ‘under’ would be more accurate…. after watching an interesting video on the evolution of Barcelona, guests take the lift below ground to where the city’s Roman foundations lie. In total you wander 4,000 square meters of ruins that delineated the Roman fort town of Barcino, and later its growth during the Visigoth period. Along the way you’ll see salted fish tanks, wine ducts, the pillars of a necropolis, some well-preserved mosaics and plenty of household objects… like hair pins and ceramic oil lamps. An absolute must for Roman history buffs. I’d advise you as well, to be sure to save plenty of time and energy for the museum’s exhibition “Barcelona Flashback”, which tells the history of the city through one hundred iconic objects… from the pick that King Alfonso XIII used to open up Via Laietana to the sign for Madam Petit’s luxury brothel.
Barcelona History Museum
Address: Plaça del Rei (Gothic Quarter)
Opening Hours: Tues to Sat: 10am to 7pm; Sun: 10am to 8pm.
Ticket Price: €7
Our Verdict: 8/10 – History made interesting
17. Barcelona Egyptian Museum
What started as a temporary exhibition of a private collection in the Hotel Claris, has – thanks to its popularity – become a permanent museum, and a great asset to Barcelona. In total over 1,200 items from ancient Egypt are displayed over two floors, including well-preserved sarcophagi, masks, statues and ushabtis, as well as more household objects such as earthenware and vessels. Arguably the best finds are the striking jewellery exhibits, which include colourful glazed dough collars, ceremonial belts, and an extremely rare gold ring with hieroglyphs. Some objects date back to circa 1500 B.C..
Barcelona Egyptian Museum
Address: C/Valencia 284 (Eixample)
Opening Hours: Mon to Sat: 10am to 8pm (closed 2pm to 4pm, Mon to Fri during autumn, winter and spring). Sun: 10am to 2pm.
Ticket Price: €12
Our Verdict: 7/10 – Fascinating private collection
The Barcelona Card
As you can see from this article, The Barcelona Card gets you into the vast majority of the city’s best museums, saving you plenty of euros better spent on tasty tapas and refreshing cervezas. It also includes free public transport, including free metro ride from the airport. They are valid from 3 to 5 days, activated from when you first use them. You can buy the card securely via Get Your Guide.
Note: if you’re interested in seeing some Gaudi as well, I’d consider The Best of Barcelona Combo by BCN.travel, which is the Barcelona Card plus tickets to Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, with flamenco show and boat trip included.
Not everything cultural happens in the Catalan capital, and one place in particular stands out…
18. Dali Theatre-Museum
Fans of the larger-than-life surrealist won’t want to miss this cultural Behemoth, about an hour’s train ride from Barcelona, in the sleepy Catalan pueblo of Figueres – Dali’s hometown. Built from the wreckage of the town’s burnt-down theatre, this turreted terracotta marvel is home to 1,500 of the artist’s works, making it the single largest Dali collection in the world. My favourites include Rainy Taxi, where you stick a coin in the slot to make the car’s interior nice and moist, and the Mae West room, where sofa lips and blonde drapes recreate the face of the actress, when seen from a certain angle. If time is on your side, it’s well worth the journey to Figueres to see the museum for yourself, and to pay homage to one of the art world’s most original minds. The man himself is buried onsite in the crypt.
Salvador Dali Museum
Address: Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí 5 (Figueres)
Opening Hours: Every day: 11am to 6:30pm (winter); 10am to 6:30pm (spring + autumn); 9:30am to 8:30pm (summer)
Ticket Price: €15
Our Verdict: 10/10 – A wild ride into a crazy mind!
Getting to the Dali Museum in Figueres
You can catch a fast train (€34 return, about 50 mins ride) from Barcelona to Figueres Vilafant, or a slower train to Figueres – check Renfe.com for timetables. From there you can walk to the museum in about 20-25 mins, although I was advised to take a taxi (€10) from Figueres Vilafant as the neighbourhood immediately around the train station is a little undesirable.
While I quite like travelling independently, for travellers jumping on an organised tour probably makes better sense. You won’t have to worry about transport and you might even save a bit of money, when everything is added together. This small-group full day tour departs every day of the week, except Mondays, and not only includes tickets to the Dali Theatre-Museum, but also takes you to the Dali House Museum in the nearby Port Ligat, as well as the stunning fishing village of Cadaques. Great itinerary and great value overall.
Temporary Exhibitions for 2020
Until the 27th April 2020 you can experience the serene tranquility of Monet’s impressionist world in three dimensions at the IDEAL centre in Barcelona. Fully immerse yourself in his paintings which are animated and projected in 360 degrees across this vast exhibition space. Check out our events calendar for more info, or go right ahead and book your tickets via Tiquets.com, who also offer 24/7 customer service via live chat or email.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.