Constructed in the 17th century but heavily modified a century later, this castle—actually more of a fortress—lords over Montjuïc hill. Its use as a military bastion spans from the 1600s to the mid-1800s, when Barcelona experienced a number of government insurgencies. It was later used as a prison and execution site for anarchists—most notoriously during the Franco regime, when the exiled president of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was killed there by a firing squad in 1940. Today it’s a museum tracing the castle’s long military history. A platform atop the castle’s parade ground provides excellent views of the city and harbor below. Castle admission is free on Sundays after 3 p.m.

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A Royal Hike

Getting here takes as much or as little effort as you want. If you’re in it for the workout, start at Nou de la Rambla and walk uphill. Just. Keep. Walking. Gardens and dog parks are scattered along the way if you need a break from the steep incline. A sky gondola is also available to take you from one side of Montjuic to the other, providing panoramic mountain-to-sea views of Barcelona. If that sounds a little too exhausting, hop-on-hop-off buses will bring you to the castle entrance. The castle’s upper decks offer yet more stunning views of the city and shoreline, and certain interior rooms describe the history of Catalonia and Montjuic Castle itself. No matter how you make your way up the mountain, the views and the history lesson are well worth the trek.

City-to-sea views at Castell de Montjuïc

After your visit to Barcelona‘s Palau Nacional, take a short bus ride up the hill to Castell de Montjuïc. The 360-degree views of the city and sea are fantastic on a clear day. You may even be able to pick out La Sagrada Familia. The castle itself isn’t super interesting; it’s all about the view. If you’re staying in Barcelona for more than a day or two, I strongly recommend purchasing a metro pass. The subway and bus systems are a cinch to use, even for a non-Spanish speaker. The ride from the Palau Nacional is worth the fare alone, taking you past Olympic Stadium and the radio tower. There’s a cafeteria and outdoor self-service food stall if you get hungry. It’s also a great picnic spot. If you don’t mind heights you can spring for a ride down the mountain via cable car. I hear the views are spectacular as the ride sweeps down the hill and over the water to land near the Rambla del Mar.

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