Though famed for its food, great weather, photogenic spots and beaches, Barcelona is first and foremost a city of art, culture, and architecture – a bubbling pot of history that cannot be left unexplored. Indeed, even if you’re only planning on hitting the major tourist attractions on your next visit, you’ll likely spend time in some of the city’s living museums, such as the La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, each telling its own story of 20th-century life in the city.
But if you want to fully immerse yourself into the Barcelonian culture and marvel over the stunning works of some of our finest talents, there are several museums you must add to your bucket list, each offering a unique insight into both historical and contemporary artists.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best Barcelona museums for discovering local art…
From the moment you step foot off the plane, Joan Miró is waiting for you. Indeed, the artist’s famous mosaics are splashed around Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, giving you the first taste of Barcelonian culture. Born in 1893, Miró was a painter, sculptor and ceramicist and was considered one of the city’s greatest artists, so the Miró Foundation is a must-do if you’re an art connoisseur and want to sample some of the city’s finest works.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the Miró Foundation is that it was designed by Miró himself, initially as a place to show off works from his own private collection, before evolving into the cultural hotspot it is today. With light-filled buildings, all crammed with works from Miró’s earliest sketches to paintings from his final years, the museum also showcases a range of 20th and 21st-century artists, whilst an auditorium and a library hold more than 10,000 items from Miró’s collection, though only a few are on display at any given time.
Once you’re done exploring one of the world’s most outstanding museum buildings, you can spend some time in the Jardí de les Escultures, gardens with modern sculptures and stunning views – a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic or an ice cream after a busy day soaking up the culture and immersing yourself into the world of Joan Miró.
Considered the most influential artist of the twentieth century, Picasso needs no introduction. If you’ve only got time for one museum on your next trip, let it be the Picasso Museum, located in the Born district off Calle Montcada. The gothic architecture of the building makes the experience all the more charming, with each room dedicated to a different stage of Picasso’s life, taking us on a journey from 1890 to 1917 through his early years, exploring his unique relationship with the city where he was born – a city that influenced his iconic works.
With more than 4,200 pieces of art on display, visitors can partake in guided audio tours, chronologically tracing his earliest paintings and sculptures through to his blue period, and everything in between, with some history and unique insights to boot. However, it’s important to note that there are often very long queues, so be prepared to wait or buy your tickets online – but remember that it’s worth it if you want to come face-to-face with the works of the world’s most famous artist.
Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya
The national museum of Catalan was built back in 1929 and lets visitors experience more than a thousand years of art under one roof. Housing a collection of Catalan art spanning the early middle ages through to the 20th century, the museum’s works are split into four strings: Romanesque and Gothic art, Renaissance and Baroque art, Modern art, and the Catalan Numismatic Department, each packed with fun activities, artefacts you can touch, and more.
Alongside classic artworks such as The Woman in Hat and Fur Collar by Pablo Picasso, The First Cold Miguel Blay and permanent collections from some of Spain’s most beloved artists, the museum offers temporary exhibitions showcasing Avant-garde sculptures and paintings from history, many borrowed from other arthouses around Europe for limited-time displays. Be sure to check the schedules before arriving to avoid missing out on a one-off spectacle.
MACBA: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
Designed by American architect Richard Meier and opened in 1995, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona is dedicated to contemporary artwork from the second half of the twentieth century, featuring more than 5,000 works from the 1950s and beyond, from artists such as Antoni Tàpies, Paul Klee, Francesc Torres, Mario Merz and Zush. Though each sculpture and piece tells its own abstract story, they all share a common string – the city of Barcelona, and how it has inspired the artist to be creative and live the lives they’ve led.
If you’re a fan of abstract art and minimalism, you’ll have no problem spending the entire day exploring MACBA. But if you think you’ll need some handholding to truly understand the majesty of the pieces, then the MACBA App is for you – offering a guided tour of the museum in English, and delving deeper into each piece and the reasons why each artist is celebrated.
Arts Santa Mònica
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Arts Santa Mònica is that you’ll never have the same visit twice. This museum is installed on the former Santa Mònica Monastery, and since its opening in 2009 has welcomed more than 150 exhibits and hundreds of conferences, each studying, exhibiting, and interpreting contemporary works from Catalan artists. With free entry, this museum is open every day but Monday, and guided tours can be booked if you want to get a deeper insight into the latest installations from an experienced aesthetician.
Situated on the La Ramblas, this partially open-air venue features three exhibition galleries and hosts exhibitions featuring artwork on performing arts, music, design, gastronomy and much more – and because exhibitions typically only stick around for a month or two, you’ll be able to visit every time you return to the city and experience a whole new side to Barcelona.
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
Finally, a quick nod to the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. This museum opened in the 1990s and produces a number of exhibitions and festivals whilst encouraging creativity, exporting many of its in-house productions to other art centres around the world.
Located inside the former almshouse, the Casa de la Caritat, the museum has become a central hub for artists and art lovers, with three large exhibition halls all featuring rotating exhibits, meaning there’ll be something new to explore every time you’re visiting Barcelona.
The museum also houses the Xcèntric Archive, a unique archive for experimental films in several languages. Featuring a small 12-seat theatre, the museum boasts more than 1,000 titles in its back catalogue and regularly screens both contemporary and historical films.
Though it would be impossible to explore every museum and art gallery in Barcelona over a couple of days, the suggestions we’ve offered above should prove useful when planning your trip. If you’re not sure what you want to see, consider booking a Barcelona local guide, who can help you explore Barcelona’s artistic side, following in the footsteps of artists such as Antoni Gaudi, Pau R. Picasso and Joan Miró. Contact us today to discover more…