The cultural highlights of Montjuïc, in the southern part of Barcelona, merit an entire day. The most striking is the Palau National, an enormous building constructed for the 1929 International Exhibition. It looks like it could be the capitol building of a country, and it has in fact played that part in a number of films. Today it houses the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
, best known for its outstanding collection of Romanesque works, many rescued from monasteries and churches.
Another of Barcelona’s famous artists is the focus of the Fundació Joan Miró
. Miró established the museum himself, basing it on his own collection. He worked in a number of different media—sculpture, ceramic, tapestries, and paintings—but one constant in much of his work is a combination of surreal whimsy and modernist influences including expressionism and Color Field painting.
One of the most important works of modernist architecture, the Barcelona Pavilion
, also awaits in Montjuïc. The spare building with marble and glass walls and a small reflecting pool was constructed as Germany’s contribution for the 1929 International Exhibition. Despite its small scale, Mies van der Rohe’s design had an enormous impact—its emphasis on unadorned materials and a simple plan is echoed in subsequent buildings throughout the world.
From modernist purity to old-fashioned kitsch: the Poble Espanyol
qualifies as the latter, given its somewhat odd but charming collection of 117 buildings representing various regions of Spain. It, too, was built for the 1929 exhibition to provide visitors with a countrywide overview. You can travel from the whitewashed villages of Andalucia in the south to the stone buildings of Galicia in the north without ever leaving the poble.
This evening head to Barceloneta
for dinner. The neighborhood was long the home of the city’s fishermen, but it’s now also home to new hotels and restaurants. Whichever waterfront restaurant you choose, you can enjoy a paella made with the very freshest fish.