Museum City Guide: My Top 5 in Barcelona

July 15, 2013

Spain

Thank you for all your positive feedback on the first post in my Museum City Guides series. After starting off in Berlin, we continue to sunny Barcelona this week.

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I was fortunate enough to visit Barcelona last year for a week and managed to cram in about a dozen museum visits. So once again it was a challenge to choose my top 5. And yes, Barcelona does have many art museums, but please keep in mind that these are all personal recommendations and my personal preference just happens to be for museums with ‘things’ rather than art in them. Having said that, an art museum actually made it on to the list this time. Without further ado, here are my final five:

1. Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport

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I think I surprised myself a little that this was my favourite out of all museums I visited in Barcelona, since I’m not overly interested in sports. It was mainly my interest in unusual museum topics that drove me to the Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport (The Olympic and Sports Museum). And I’m so glad I went. Billing itself as “a window on the universe of sport”, it just had the right balance of objects, images, textual information, and hands-on activities. As well as learning about the history of the Olympic Games, from their birth in the 8th century BC right up to their modern day incarnation, the museum also introduces every conceivable type of sport with its key facts, equipment and significant dates and events in sporting history. There’s a special exhibit focused on Barcelona, who hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1992, as well as sections on sport and peace, sport and the environment, the development from recreational activities to adventure sports, art and culture in sports, and sports and the media. And at the end, visitors get to test themselves against the champions in a couple of physical challenges. So, next time you’re in Barcelona, don’t just visit all the famous art galleries, check out the Olympic and Sport Museum too. Did I mention you get to ride a funicular railway to get there?

Read my detailed review on the Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport

2. Museu Moto

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As if falling in love with a museum about sports wasn’t enough, the biggest surprise was stumbling by accident upon the Museu Moto (Motorbike Museum). As the city with the biggest number of motorbikes per inhabitant in Europe, Barcelona seems a logical location for it. It aims to cover all aspects of motorbike culture, from the early milestones in one of Catalonia’s most significant industries, through the golden age of motorbiking and the subsequent knocks, up to the modern day of motorbike racing championships. One of the highlights is a 10 minute long film showing historical footage of motorbikes being manufactured and assembled, though for me it was the beautiful early 20th century motorbikes that stole my heart and transported me right back to watching ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ at the cinema. Whether or not you are particularly interested in motorbikes, this unique insight in to a significant part of Barcelona’s history is not one to miss.

Read my detailed review of the Museu Moto

3. Museu Europeu d’Art Modern

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I probably would not have sought out the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (European Museum of Modern Art), had it not been for Maria Villalba’s passionate summary of it on the Adopt-a-Museum blog. In fact, at the time of my trip to Barcelona, it was so new that it wasn’t actually listed in my guidebook. Located in a magnificent renovated 18th century palace which, according to Maria, is an “important part of the museum’s beauty in the surprising collection”, the museum aims to “highlight that contemporary art is not only abstract art”. So for someone like me, who had until then imagined contemporary art to be all obscure abstract pieces on oversized canvasses, this was an excellent introduction. With over 200 artworks by almost as many artists, there’s sure to be something that takes your fancy, whether it’s portraits, artistic nudes or some of the amazing sculptures. I genuinely enjoyed my visit, and can wholeheartedly recommend this little gem to anyone visiting Barcelona.

Read my detailed review of the Museu Europeu d’Art Modern

4. Museu del la Xocolata

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Who can resist a chocolate museum? Not I! And in the Barcelona heat, it’s one place you can be sure of being refreshingly cool – we wouldn’t want the exhibits to melt, after all. The Museu de la Xocolata introduces the history of cacao and chocolate, from its origins as an exotic food to its widespread popularity with all social classes around the world. Several audio visual and touch screen exhibits spread around the museum make your visit more interactive. Compared to other chocolate museums I’ve been to, some of the sections here were a bit thin on the ground in terms of objects, but the museum makes makes up for it with plenty of information and images, though the display on serving chocolate has some pretty unusual objects I bet most of you have never seen or even heard of before. I hadn’t! But what really steals the show, is the unique gallery of amazing chocolate sculptures from the Annual Chocolate Contest. Just for those it’s worth a visit. And your admission ticket is a small bar of chocolate – what more could you want?

Read my detailed review of the Museu de la Xocolata

5. Museu del Perfum

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Located through the back of the Perfumeria Regia, the Museu del Perfum (Perfume Museum) exhibits around 5000 perfume bottles and other vessels to show the evolution of perfume throughout history and from around the world. Ranging from miniatures to giant sized bottles and everything in between, the collection is divided in two. One half takes us chronologically from the ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome, to modern times, and includes everything from a cosmetic box for black eye make up from Pre-dynastic Egypt, to a prized perfume box with two flasks that belonged to Marie Antoinette. The other half is a ‘who is who’ of the perfume world from the late 18th century until today. The perfumes are grouped by brands, regardless of which year they appeared on the market, showing how brands have changed over the years. Whether a visit to the museum is worth 5 Euro (a disgruntled Foursquare reviewer thought not), depends on how much you love museums or perfume I guess. I happily spent an hour marvelling at the 5000 bottles on display, which not only mirror the art and culture of the societies that used them, but also reflect the artistic movements that emerged throughout history.

Read my detailed review of the Museu del Perfum

Other museums

Although it took  me a little out of my museum comfort zone, lovers of contemporary are will relish what the  Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (a.k.a. MACBA) has to offer. It has become a significant player in Barcelona’s art scene since its inauguration in 1995, and the architecture of the building itself is also very impressive. If you’re looking for a nice day out away from the city centre, I can recommend Parc Güell on top of a hill to the north of Barcelona, which also includes the small Casa Museu Gaudí (Gaudi House Museum). But it’s the park itself, which shows Gaudi’s architectural influences and also gives fantastic views of the city, that’s the real showpiece. It takes a very steep climb to get there, but luckily escalators built into the side of the hill take you most of the way!

All that museum visiting making you hungry?

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When in Barcelona, the obvious recommendation is to eat tapas. As my visit was mainly focused on museums, I can’t actually remember any specific eateries. I mostly picked road side cafés or bistros and ordered a selection off the menu. In Barcelona, good tapas never seem to be very far away. But if you are visiting the Museu del la Xocolata, you should definitely stop for a mug of hot chocolate in the café and stock up on some souvenir bars to take home – from the familiar sounding Catalan Cream flavour, to the more obscure Honey & Cheese!

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One Response to “Museum City Guide: My Top 5 in Barcelona”

  1. Christy@SweetandSavoring Says:

    How I love Barcelona! Unfortunately, I didn’t visit many museum when I was there, but now you’ve given me a nice guide for whenever I get to return :)

    Reply

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