Barcelona remains a popular European destination, and for good reason. It caters to most tastes, combining big-city entertainment and culture with sun, sea and sand.
What it also has in strong supply are museums and galleries. During the two months I spent in the city this summer I had ample opportunity to check some of these out. Some are great, some… not so much.
Here’s my list of which museums in Barcelona are worth a visit, and which are best avoided.
Though Picasso was born in Malaga (and indeed there’s a museum dedicated to him there, which is small but enjoyable), Pablo Picasso passed significant periods of his life in Barcelona, and his museum should not be missed.
Depending on whether you’re an avid fan or just mildly curious, you could spend anywhere between one and four hours in this museum, which chronicles his work and development during his teenage years, through to his adult life.
The entrance fee isn’t too steep at 11 euros, but if you visit on Sunday afternoons (after 3pm) or the first Sunday of the month, entrance is fee. Take into consideration that the queues are long, especially on the free days, but they are more than worth it.
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art
Verdict: Hit or miss, depending on the temporary exhibitions
Macba is a contemporary art gallery based in the funky Raval district, and plays host to various temporary exhibits throughout the year. The building itself is surprisingly modern, contrasting with much of the surrounding neighbourhood, and allows for a lot of natural light inside.
When I visited, the first exhibit focused on the work and ideas of Andrea Fraser, a performance artist and critic of the contemporary art world. The upper floor housed a punk art exhibition. Neither of these interested me, so I was left underwhelmed to say the least.
However, if you check out the website first, you can make up your mind depending on whether the current displays take your fancy or not. Either way, it’s worth checking out the building and the surrounding plaza – full of skaters, noise and life – in what I would say is one of the best neighbourhoods in the city.
CosmoCaixa, Science Museum
Verdict: Fun, interactive museum, good for kids and adults alike
One of the less-visited museums by foreign tourists, the Science Museum is a large space with a huge range of interactive displays on all things to do with science, engineering, nature, space and the environment.
It takes a bit of time to get there, but its location – just below Tibidabo with its grand church and amusement park – means it is much less crowded than the city centre.
The highlight of the museum has to be the recreated rainforest, the Flooded Forest, which houses a huge number of birds, fish, turtles and even a caiman.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), National Museum of Art of Catalonia
Verdict: Beautiful building, mediocre museum
The Palau Nacional, which is the home of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), is truly a sight to behold. Set just beyond Plaza Espanya and its Magic Fountain on Montjuïc hill, the grand building – which dates back to 1929 – is beautiful both at day and night.
The museum itself, however, I would hesitate to recommend to anyone other than real religious art enthusiasts. Its collection of Romanesque art is particularly renowned, but unless this is something that interests you, be prepared to trawl through what feels like a never-ending number of rooms dedicated to somewhat garish-looking religious paintings and sculptures.
If you’re still set on going, I’d recommend taking advantage of the free entrance on Saturday afternoons.
Museu Egipci de Barcelona, Egyptian Museum
Verdict: Surprisingly impressive little museum
If, like me, you studied the Ancient Egyptians at school and never quite lost that child-like fascination with this amazing civilisation, then this museum should definitely be on your itinerary. It holds an unexpectedly extensive range of exquisite relics, from jewellery to kitchen equipment to, of course, sarcophagi and mummies.
The museum is located in the Eixample district, close to Plaza Catalunya and Casa Battló and Casa Millá, two of the most famous Gaudi buildings in the city. Thus, it makes for a nice detour (or break from the hot summer sun) if you are in the area and taking in its many sights.
If you have zero interest in the Ancient Egyptians, of course, you can safely avoid this one.
Dalí Museum, Figueres
Salvador Dalí was born in the nearby city of Figueres, which is the location of his fantastically weird and wonderful museum.
The unusual building holds a vast collection of paintings, sculptures and jewellery by the surrealist painter. For Dalí fans it is an absolute must-see, but even those with less interest in the artist will be more than entertained.
The journey to Figueres takes around one to two hours, depending on which train you take, so it is doable as a day trip. However, Figueres itself is a pretty place and has a lovely castle and fortress, which make it a good choice for a weekend away, too.
The added bonus of the museum being based outside of the always-busy Barcelona is that there are far fewer tourists than, say, the Picasso Museum.
These are just a few of the many museums on offer in and around the beautiful and cultural city of Barcelona. I daresay I will be back in the city soon enough, at which time I’ll check out a few more. If I’m not being lazy with my writing I might even blog about them too.