National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC)

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC)

This is Barcelona’s main arts museum that features items of the thousand year history of Catalan art starting from the 10th century. The museum is easily seen from the far, as it is located inside the former Palau Nacional, the main site of the 1929 World’s Fair that sits on the slope of Montjuic hill. This solemn neo-Baroque building was started by outstanding architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, however, later he removed from the works by dictator Primo de Rivera.

One of the most valuable treasures of the museum is its unique Romanesque church paintings. In the early 20th century the frescos from small rural churches lost in the Pyrenees were moved to a new basis and taken to Barcelona. The timing was perfect as soon the Civil War broke out and many of those tiny temples were destroyed or damaged. Among these impressive treasures there are marvelous vivid frescos, especially Christ in Majesty from the church of Sant Climent de Taull and the Virgin Mary with the Child and apostles from the neighboring church of Santa Maria de Taull, and wooden sculptures. The items are placed in mock up churches, copies of those from which they were taken – this gives an idea of how these masterpieces looked as a part of decorations in the ancient temples.

The Gothic section features 13th-15th century exhibits, among the most prominent are those by Jaume Huguet, Bernat Martorell and Luis Dalmau. Renaissance and Baroque marked the period of Barcelona’s artistic decline so there are no prominent works of Catalan artists on display in that section. However, thanks to Francesc Cambo and Thyssen-Bornemisza who gave their precious collections to the museum today you can see here some truly outstanding works by Cranach, El Greco, Zurbaran, Titian, Rubens and Velazquez. In the hall dedicated to the contemporary art it would be interesting to familiarize with the exhibits starting from the late 19th century – paintings by Ramon Casas, Rusiñol, Gaudi’s furniture and artistic works by Dali and Picasso are surely worth seeing.

The spot right before the entrance to the museum offers great views over the Magic Fountain, Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina with its Venetian towers and Plaça d'Espanya. Copies of four columns by Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1919) stand next to the fountain symbolizing the four stripes of Catalan flag. The building of the museum with its marvelous staircase and beautiful fountains is worth seeing not only during the daylight but with the evening illumination as well. During the night time the searchlight from behind the dome makes nine blueish lines honoring the number of letters in the name of the city.

Address: Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc
Opening hours: October – April Tue-Sat 10 am – 6 pm, Sundays and holidays 10 am – 3 pm; May – September Tue-Sat 10 am – 8 pm, Sundays and holidays 10 am – 3 pm; closed on Mondays, except for holidays; closed: January 1, May 1 and December 25
How to reach: metro Espanya
Coordinates: 41.368451, 2.153532