Barcelona’s civic institutions have long created a lively artistic district, with museums and more in the shadow of a mountainous castle.
Sants-Montjuïc hosted the 1929 International Exhibition, and the museums, buildings and fountains created for the event still mark its landscape. Barcelona’s biggest district is an amalgamation of two previously independent areas, centered on Montjuïc, whose lumbering form marks the city’s skyline. Named for Barcelona’s Sephardic Jewish community, who once used the hill as a cemetery, it has seen the extremes of Barcelona’s history. Get a sense of Barcelona’s distant past, its early 20th-century glory days and its contemporary daily life.
Start at the top, taking the cable car to Montjuïc Castle, now an open-air museum of Barcelona’s military history. Look out at the city bustling about below. Traipse down the hill back to Plaça d’Espanya, the entry to the various sites of the International Exhibition. See the birth of Modernism at the Pavelló Mies van der Rohe and appreciate the breadth of Spanish artistry among the scale models at the Poble Espanyol. View the world’s largest collection of Catalan art at the Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
See and smell the amazing collection of Mediterranean plants at the modern El Jardin Botanico or wander between the smaller gardens dotting the hillside. Appreciate the work of a master at the Joan Miró Foundation, which shows works from throughout his storied career. As the sun goes down, settle in to watch the show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, which exemplifies the neighborhood’s energy.
Though Montjuïc tends to take prominence over Sants, venture south to visit the Can Battló, a factory revitalized as a cultural center.
Sants-Montjuïc is Barcelona’s biggest district, spreading out southwest from the old city center. Most transportation for the tourist areas leave from Plaça d’Espanya, a 25-minute ride from the airport. The Sants neighborhood, home to many middle-class families who commute into the center of town, is well served by subways and buses. Most of the sights in the district are clustered around the area developed for the International Exhibition and therefore it’s possible to walk between them.