After a city break with a difference? Come and conquer Montjuïc.

Vibe on the street: cultural, natural, sporting, chilled-out.
Famous for: fantastic views, the Magic Fountain, the MNAC art museum, the Joan Miró museum, the Poble Espanyol, the Olympic Stadium, wildly spiky cactus gardens, a controversial castle.
After a city break with a difference? Come and conquer Montjuïc.
  • The legacy of the 1992 Olympics very much lives on all over Montjuïc, and sporting facilities are dotted all over the place. If you’re keen to try out a former Olympic venue you could pack your swimsuit and head for the Piscines Bernat Picornell, just along from the main stadium. It’s got both an indoors and roof-top outdoors pool, so is good for a dip all year round. Music concerts are often held at the Olympic Stadium, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for what’s on when you’re in town. If you’re here over the summer, you might also be interested in the open-air cinema that takes place in the former moat of Montjuïc Castle. A massive screen is hung from one of the battlements and original language films are projected up on to it under the starry Spanish sky…a novel way to spend a summer evening.

    Nearby sights

    There are honestly too many to do justice to here. For art lovers, there are a couple of world-class museums – the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), which houses Catalan art from the last thousand years, and the Fundació Joan Miró. Hundreds of the artist’s paintings, drawings and sculptures are displayed here in a custom-built building.

    For scenic gardens, there’s plenty on offer. The large Jardì Botànic (Botanic Gardens) are situated some way up the hill, and are often neglected by tourists as a result. A lovely spot to take a picnic or just sit and relax is the Laribal Gardens, which boast flower beds, bowers, fountains and just the right amount of shade to give you a break from the sun. Another stunner is the cactus gardens on the eastern side of the hill, overlooking the port. Known as the Jardins Mossèn Costa i Llobera, the garden is located on the site of a former quarry, which is sheltered from the cool north wind. Hundreds of species of cacti flourish here, in an incredible display of shapes and colours. Again, this spot tends to be largely ignored by the crowds.

    For an entertaining tour of Spanish villages throughout the ages, there’s the Poble Espanyol – a real-life model of typical architecture, crafts and cuisine of the various regions of the country. It’s also known as ‘the City of Artisans’, and contains more than 40 craft workshops, including one of the only two traditional glassblowing furnaces left in Spain. Ideal for picking up a couple of original holiday gifts.

    Eating out

    Montjuïc is definitely not the place for epicureans or those eager to enjoy Barcelona’s nightlife (but you probably knew that already). There are a few noteworthy venues, though, scattered around. If you think you’ll want to stop in somewhere on route, it’s a good idea to plan in advance where the eateries are and how to reach them. The whole area is deceptively large and walking from one place to the next can take longer than you might think.

    Top-of-the-range is the restaurant of the 5-star Miramar hotel, which sits imperiously at the eastern side of Montjuïc. The très chic Forestier restaurant offers a choice of traditional and gourmet Mediterranean menus, with dishes served up by attentive staff in a luxurious setting. A good, and not exorbitant, option for a romantic meal out. Another place you might like to try is El Xalet, which also includes phenomenal views of the city below. Some visitors maintain that the views make up for the somewhat modest portion sizes – something to keep in mind if you’ve got your heart set on enjoying a big feast.

    The influence of Modernisme even reached Montjuïc as well. La Font del Gat (fountain of the cat) restaurant sits a little further down the hill from the Joan Miró museum, and was designed by Modernista master Josep Puig i Cadalfach. It offers a good-value lunch menu amid a lovely, lush setting, although the fountain itself is on the unassuming side.

    If you’re up near the Castle, it’s worth taking the 20-minute clifftop walk along the Camí del Mar, which will bring you into a pine-clad glen that’s home to the outdoor café of the Caseta del Migdia. Live music accompanies the barbecue that sizzles with sausages, chicken and corn-on-the-cobs, and the whole place has an enviably chilled-out vibe. There’s also a picnic area with plenty of space for kids to run around.

    Or, of course, you could just do what the locals do, and pack a picnic to enjoy on one of Montjuïc’s secluded grassy slopes. There’s no better spot to enjoy a wedge of tortilla and some plastic cups of Cava than overlooking the city of Barcelona sparkling below.

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