Montjuïc Castle#12 in Best Things To Do in Barcelona
If you have even the slightest interest in history, make sure to add Montjuïc Castle to your Barcelona itinerary. While it may not be as fun as admiring Gaudi's whimsical works, the stone structure is teeming with history dating all the way back to the 11th century. The castle started out as a single watchtower that was occupied by a sailor looking out for enemy ships. During the Revolt of Catalonia during the mid 1600s, the government decided to add walls surrounding the watch tower when the threat of invasion from Spanish King Philip IV's fleet became imminent. Montjuïc Castle ended up defending the city from many attacks moving forward, including those carried out during the War of the Spanish Succession. It also served as a prison during the War of the Pyrenees and was occupied by Napolean's troops in the early 1800s.
Montjuïc continued to serve as a prison under multiple political leaderships over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, including during the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco, Spain's dictator from 1939 to 1975, took over Montjuïc and became an internment camp for Republican soldiers (Franco was part of the Nationalist party that overthrew the democratic Republic of Spain at the time). It was here that the President of the Catalan Government, Lluís Companys was executed at Franco's orders.
Today, the structure is much more serene and managed by the Barcelona City Council. The site boasts verdant gardens, a moat, towering stone walls and remnants of its military past, including cannons. Despite being full of history, travelers couldn't stop talking about the incredible views from the castle. From the top, visitors have panoramic views of both the city and the Mediterranean. Travelers recommended taking the scenic Montjuïc cable car to the castle for even greater views of the city, which can be found a little more than a half mile north from the Poble Sec metro station. If you are coming here for the history, exhibitions can be found inside and there are tour guides on-site.
Montjuïc Castle is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from November to March and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from April to October. Admission is 5 euros (about $6), though if you come on Sundays after 3 p.m. or the first Sunday of the month, admission is free. To get here, you can hop off the Poble Sec metro station to catch the cable car. Another way is to catch the 150 bus from Plaça d'Espanya. The last stop on the line is the castle and the ride is about a 20 minute journey. For more information on Montjuïc Castle, visit their website.
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#1 Park Güell
Antoni Gaudí's Park Güell is as whimsical as parks can get. The park was originally supposed to be a housing community for the rich, commissioned by Eusebi Güell. Güell hired Gaudí but the project eventually folded due to the land's incompatible building conditions. Gaudí continued on, modeling the park after gardens he had seen in England (Güell means English in Catalan) and building around the natural elements of the land instead of tearing them down.
Today's park covers 42 acres of space and features everyday park props with a twist that is quintessentially Gaudí. Instead of numerous benches spread throughout, here visitors will be greeted with one long, wavy stone bench adorned with vibrant mosaics and equipped with views of the ocean. And instead of drab administrative buildings, the welcome centers here (which house park souvenirs and learning materials on Gaudí and the park) look like buildings you'd see in a Dr. Seuss book. You'll also find plenty of picturesque pathways that weave along verdant vegetation, down cascading tiled staircases and through jagged stone columns and tunnels. While you're here, don't miss the chance to see the Sala Hipóstila. Located right at the entrance, the Sala Hipóstila was originally intended to be a marketplace. Today it serves as nothing more than to dazzle visitors with its stately stone columns and beautiful mosaic works, which you'll find dotted all over the ceiling. Other popular attractions here include the Casa Museu Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum), Gaudí's former home turned museum, and Turó de les Tres Creus, a lookout point with pretty impressive views of the city situated in the southwestern point of the park.
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