Looming above Plaça Espanya (home to MNAC and the Magic Fountain), Montjuïc Castle is one of the best spots in Barcelona to take in stunning panoramas of the city from great heights.
Montjuïc Castle: a history in brief
Named after the 184.8-meter-hill it’s located on, the current castle is an 18th-century fortress built over the original 17th-century structure. The fortress was a bargaining chip in the war of Spanish Succession, and was occupied by Napoleon’s troops in 1808. In the not-so-distant past it’s had the dreary functions of imprisoning and executing political prisoners.
It was here in the castle on top of the hill that Franco had the Catalan nationalist leader Lluis Companys i Jover imprisoned, tortured and eventually disposed of after the Nazis captured him in France and extradited him to Franco’s government.
The castle was a military prison until 1960, and was inaugurated by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in June 1963 as a military museum, which it remained until 2009 for more than 30 years after the Spanish transition to democracy. It was only in 2008 after the castle was returned to the city of Barcelona, that a rare (for post-regimen Barcelona) statue of General Franco was finally removed.
At present, the Barcelona government is working on spaces for performances, and social and cultural activities, as well as interpretative spaces explaining the history of the castle.
Once you reach the castle, taking a break on its wide expanse of lush green lawns is a good plan. Just be sure to bring a beverage to slurp and something to snack on. We recommend a bottle of water and cheese or Spanish ham on pa amb tomaquet (bread smeared with fresh tomato and drizzled with olive oil).
Post-rest, take a self-guided tour of the Castle gardens and search out famous sculptures like the snowy curves of “La Fertilitat” by Josep Clarà and strangely challenging stance of Pau Gargallo’s “La Pomona”, clutching apples in her skirts. Along the way, pose with cannons and snap shots of Barcelona’s busy port at the Alcalde look-out point and the Explanada de Miramar. At the look-out point, the floor, an elaborate mosaic of ceramic and glass, warrants a few moments of your undivided attention.
After a nice stroll about the grounds, cross the drawbridge and follow stone steps to the wide expanse of the castle’s roof-top terraces for sweeping views of Barcelona and beyond. For too many years this fairy-tale-esque castle embroidered with ivy was a miserable place, where people were denied their liberty, their humanity and their lives.
But today the fortress stands tall above Barcelona, a symbol of where Barcelona’s been, and how far it has come – for all to see and remember.
How to get there
You can, of course, hop on the metro to Parallel, and then grab the Funicular to Parc de Montjuïc, but a better option is heading to Plaça Espanya and hauling yourself up the hill on foot. As you go, stop and stare at Montjuïc Palace and the magic fountain and look down at the Plaça as you climb higher and higher.
Metro: to Parallel + Funicular FM-Parc de Montjuïc to Parc de Montjuïc/ Bus : 13, 55, 150
October through March 31: Monday – Sunday 9am to 7pm
April through September 30: Monday – Sunday 9am to 9pm