If you want to escape the heat and noise of Barcelona, there is no better place to do it than Montjuic. This expansive ‘green’ belt’ is perched high above the city and despite hosting countless intimate parks and gardens, a handful of the city’s top attractions, and breathtaking city vistas at every turn, it is surprisingly under-used by locals. When Barcelona’s beaches are packed to the hilt, head on up to Montjuic for some fresh, pine-scented air.
On Montjuic’s uppermost peak is a formidable fortress-castle (best reached by cable-car from the port), which has the most panoramic views and is a great place to let kids run wild. The rest of Montjuic’s architecture stems from the two major events. The 1992 Olympic Games’ heritage is the ‘Olympic Ring’; the stadium (now mainly used for large-scale musical events), water-sports facilities and the Palau Sant Jordi a striking auditorium designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.
At the Plaça Espanya end of Montjuic’s landward, the 1929 Universal Exhibition left a string of pretty pavilions, now the locations of some of Barcelona’s best museums, including the National Museum of Catalonia, the Archaeology and Ethnographic Museums. Also here is the Poble Espanyol, a showcase ‘Spanish Village’. In between the ‘white houses’ and castle towers (now aged enough as to look almost authentic) are craft shops and cafes.
Montjuic is blanketed with parks and gardens, each connected to one other via a series of walkways, stairs and in some cases escalators. On the port side of the hill, the Jardins Joan Brossa, is one of the newest, and has a hugely imaginative adventure playground for children. Adjacent is the shaded, Jardins Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer, a lovely spot to have a picnic whilst gazing at the cityscape below.
There are various ways to get to Montjuic, though with all of them be prepared to do a bit of walking whilst you are there. The most spectacular is the cable car that swings you over the port. Or you could take the funicular from Paral.lel metro station that also has a connecting cable car to the castle. The more energetic amongst you could embrace the stairs that lead up from various streets in Poble Sec; the cosy neighbourhood that lies at the foot of Montjuic The clutch of museums at the Plaza Espanya are easily from the Espanya metro station. From here, you could also take a special tourist bus that will whisk your round the sights of this wonderful urban oasis.