At the base of Montjuic in Barcelona, while standing in the Placa d’Espanya, visitors see before them two majestic towers. Constructed in 1929 as part of the Palau Nacional for the World Exhibition, they form the entrance to this Spanish city’s magnificent hilltop park.
But long before those towers were constructed this hill held a special place in Barcelona. Thousands of years ago Iberian Celts settled here. Serving a military purpose, it housed a fort in 1640. That was replaced in the 18th century by a large fortress (called the Castell de Montjuic) that overlooked the city below.
Today, the area holds many attractions for tourists who have nothing more violent on their minds than a good hike across gardens and through museums.
The Castell de Montjuic houses the Museu Militar and can be reached by a funicular, a type of small cable car. It begins at the Paral-lel metro station and takes you straight up to the museum.
The Palau Nacional situated at the entrance holds even more delights for the museum goer. Inside is the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). The collection housed here ranges across thousands of years, including Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. It continues through the 19th and 20th centuries.
Even the grounds around the palace give visitors a delightful view of architectural art of the sort to be found everywhere in this artistic city. The Font Màgica (Magic Fountain) is an outstanding example. It is at its most spectacular at night when the illuminated spray decorates the view of the palace.
Immediately adjacent to the Font Màgica is a museum dedicated to one of the 20th century’s most innovative architects, Mies van der Rohe. The Pavelló Mies van der Rohe was demolished after the International Exposition for which it was built, but it was reconstructed according to the original plans in the 1980s. The building is a fine example of the undecorated ‘glass and steel’ minimalism of this architect. Rohe popularized the phrase ‘less is more’ in relation to building.
Equally popular is the Poble Espanyol, also originally hailing from the 1929 Exhibition. A collection of homes constructed in varied Spanish styles, it continues to attract thousands of tourists every year.
Much later additions to the Montjuic family of sights are equally impressive.
The 1992 Olympics were held in Barcelona and as a consequence several structures were built, many of them still here today. The Anella Olímpica (Olympic Ring) houses several sports facilities, not least of which is the central Olympic Stadium. Though the facade is circa 1929, the interior was completely redone for the event.
In addition, several of the mountain’s famed gardens received considerable updating. The Nou Jardí Botànic is a botanical garden housing over 2,000 plants of all varieties. One unusual offering is the Jardins de Mossen Costa i Llobera, which holds an enormous variety of cacti.
Whatever your interest, the Hill of the Jews (Montjuic) offers something to appeal to everyone.