Are you planning on going on a trip to Barcelona? And do you want to see art, culture or other things that are different from the mainstream? Than read further! In this guide we will highlight the most extraordinary museums in Catalan capital.
We will give you some insights on the history and masterpieces and of course useful and practical information. At the end there will be given some extra tips for the diehard museum lovers that you might find interesting when buying your museum tickets.
In this article we want to highlight the Reail Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes in Barcelona. We are talking here about the museum that used to be a monastery built in the 14th century and was transformed to a museum in 1983.
The beautiful Catalan gothic buildings that you find in the green gardens are a represent the architecture of the late medieval style. Everything was built in one year, such as the monastery itself of three floors, the church, the hospital and the houses. If you want to escape from the busy touristy streets in Barcelona, then you should definitely pay this Gothic oasis of peace a visit!
What Is The History Behind The Monastery?
- In 1326 there was a clever Queen, Elisenda de Moncade who married King Jaume II of Aragón, who was already old for medieval terms and would die within a couple of years.
- Before King Jaume II died, the queen let him build a monastery for a community of Poor Clares, which were mostly same aged members of noble families. Next to the cloister, Elisenda let also built a palace where she could live after the death of her husband.
- The queen had some rare wishes, like when Queen Elisenda died in 1364, the palace got demolish because she gave the orders to destroy the castle after her death. The remains were discovered somewhere in 1970.
- The nuns, with whom the Queen was friends, received all kind of privileges. For example, they received the protection of the city, so they would be defended in case of danger and exclusion for certain taxes.
- Because of the donations and the testament that the queen left behind, the exclusion to the taxes and the ongoing protection that the queen had assigned to the monastery, the nuns could remain in the cloister.
- For years, the monastery was not assessable for outsiders, but in 1972 the government of Barcelona agreed on opening it for public and in return the nuns would get another monastery.
The frescos in the cloister, the colorful mural paintings made by Ferrer Bassa in order of Queen Elisenda in 1346. Ferrer Bassa was a Catalan artist who was born around 1285 in Tortosa. Although his history remains a mystery, the paintings are incredible, especially the 7 Glories of the Blessed Virgin in the Chapel of St. Michael.
Queen Elisenda’s Sculpture
Queen Elisenda’s tomb, a detailed intriguing sculpture of the queen. She is portrayed on the side of the church in royal attire, while on the other hand on the side of the courtyard of the monastery she is dressed in a habit like a Poor Clare.
Before you leave the cloister take a look in the last room before the exit. This is the chapter room and it has a stained-glass window which dates back to 1420.
The name “Pedralbes” comes from the Latin words Petras Albas referred to the white stones found at the foot of the St. Peter Martyr Mountain, where the monastery was located. Normally, those stones were used for the cornerstones of the apsis.
The cloister is constructed in one year! That is in a very short notice in comparison to the restorations of the buildings that started in 1972 and were only finished in 1983.
How Do You Get to the Cloister?
FGC Train: L6 Reina Elisenda station
Bus line: 22, 63,, 64, 75, 78
Bus Turístic: Ruta Blava (Blue Route)
Telephone: 932563434 and 932563427 (for reservations)
|Winter Hours||Summer Hours|
|(From 1 October – 31 March)||(From 1 April – 30 September)|
|Closed on Mondays||Closed on Mondays|
|Tuesday until Friday from 10.00-14.00||Tuesday until Friday from 10.00-17.00|
|Saturday and Sunday from 10.00-17.00||Saturday from 10.00-19.00|
|Sunday after 15.00, Free entrance||Sunday from 10.00-20.00 (after 15.00, Free entrance)|
General Admission Fee: 5.00€
If you are walking down la Rambla it might be so that you will see Marilyn Monroe waving to you from a balcony! Although she looks real, she is a performance of the Erotic Museum in Barcelona. The museum opened in 1997 and ever since collected and displays more than 800 pieces presenting the history of erotic manifestations within different cultures all over the world.
Find yourself in the sexy world of the Hindu Kama Sutra, travel through time when seeing the art from Greece and Rome dated from 1920, see the origins of Spanish pornographic films and banned art from Japan and of course much more. The museum is all about sensuality, sexuality and provocation and definitely different from the mainstream museums in Barcelona. They offer group arrangements and guided tours.
They are also different from other erotic museums because The Museum of Erotica in Barcelona is the first museum with erotic art and culture, where you can explore the development of eroticism through different artistic and cultural fields. It is displayed through the anthropological, archaeological and literary perspectives.
One of the highlights is for sure these short Spanish films made in 1926 in the red-light district of Barcelona. They say that these films are the beginning of the Spanish pornographic scene. Strangely it was the king of Spain in that time, King Alfonso XIII Borbón, who commissioned these movies.
Another highlight is the two erotic art pieces created by one of the great masters of painting, Pablo Picasso! The museum exhibits Citation from Turkish bath: Women sunbathing at swimming pool, and Romand Chariot with falling horsewoman, naked woman and spectators. The paintings are both made in 1968.
The last highlight would be the world cultures collection, sexuality expressed in all kind of drawings, cult objects and more. It is very interesting because every culture you will see will show you a different form of expressing sexuality.
Erotic Museum of Barcelona is the first museum of erotic art and culture where the emphasis is not just on erotic but it can be viewed through different artistic and cultural perspectives.
When the paintings of Picasso were shown for the first time in 1968 in Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris they were exhibited in a private room, because the museum found it inappropriate to display the paintings next to Picasso´s other works.
As result of a research about the interest of erotic art in the world, Europe was definitely the continent with the most interested, with France leading. The results also show a significant difference in interest within the people in Spain, the Catalan were slightly less interested than the rest of Spain, although they are the ones with an erotic museum!
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Monday until Sunday||From 10:00-24:00|
Stimulate your senses in Museu de la Xocolata, Barcelona´s chocolate museum located in the former Sant Agustí monastery in the trendy district el born. This tasty museum exhibits the history of chocolate in a fun and interactive way, after the tour you will understand how chocolate was used as a trade element, as remedy and what happens in the production.
Next to the interesting history explained on big screens, with the real cacao beans and plants, you will find nice sculptures of famous icons. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take a small bite out of the sculptures, but the museum distracts you from your thoughts of secretly still trying it, with your chocolate entrance ticket.
Why a Museum for Chocolate?
- In 1528, the Spanish explorer Fernando Cortez came back his trip to Mexico. He brought not only treasures, but also cocoa beans which were used by Aztecs to make a drink that as they believed would give you more energy and intelligence. But the people in Spain did not like the bitter drink until they added sugar and vanilla.
- When other countries found out about this tasty drink the Spanish kept the ingredients secret so they could make a business out of it. The beans became more and more popular and the value increased so rapidly that the beans were used as payment for goods and services. This made the port of Barcelona a central point of distribution of the product all over Europe.
- With this rich history in mind the Barcelona Confectionery Guild (El Gremi de Pastisseries de Catalunya) started a museum in 2000 with the goal to gain more popularity for the confectionery guild.
- The monastery in which the museum is built had already a history with chocolate. In the 18th century was it a shelter for the army of bourbon, who ate a lot of chocolate.
The first highlight is a thirty year old replica of The Pieta, a world famous Renaissance sculpture of Mother Mary with Jesus lying on her lap, made by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The real sculpture can be found in St. Peter’s Basilica church in Vatican City.
Another sculpture that is definitely a highlight is the 30 kilo gorilla named Floquet de Neu (Snowflake). Snowflake was an albino gorilla that was held in the Barcelona Zoo. The animal was the only albino gorilla whose existence was known.
The Original Xocoatl
After eating you delicious entrance ticket another highlight is the Xocoatl, the original chocolate drink based on the recipe they used by the Aztecs. You can buy a cup of this brown drink in the museum shop that is in the entrance or exit of the building.
The Spanish explorer Fernando Cortez was not the first one who discovered the chocolate drink of the Aztecs. Christopher Columbus already knew about the existence of the cacao product, but he found it not interesting enough to bring it with him. He must have had big regrets when the product got so popular.
Around eastern the museum host an annual international event, where professional chocolate sculptors from all over the world will compete by making unique sculptures, called monas. Every year has its own theme which makes it a really interesting and creative event.
A research that was done in 2008 in Switzerland showed that the biggest consumers of chocolate where the Belgians, British and the Swiss themselves; each eating more than 11 kilo of chocolate a year! The Spanish keep it below average with a minor 3.3 kilo a year.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Regular Hours||Summer Hours|
|(From 16 October – 16 June)||(From 17 June – 15 September)|
|Monday until Saturday 10.00-19.00||Monday to Saturday 10.00-20.00|
|Sunday 10.00-15.00||Sunday 10.00-15.00|
Our third museum that we want to highlight has his roots in Amsterdam! We are talking about the Barcelona Hash Museum, founded in 2012 in Barcelona. The founder of the museum which is located in the beautiful Palau (palace) Mornau, is the Dutchman Ben Dronkers, who is also the founder of the first Hemp Museum in the world in Amsterdam.
This museum will transcend your expectations. Besides the beautiful building in which it is located, the museum has a large collection of original art, books, and information about the plant, and the uses of industrial, cultural, medicinal nutritional hemp. Take a look in world´s biggest Hemp museum in the Gothic district of Barcelona!
What Is the Story Behind the Museum?
1985: When Donkers opened world´s first hemp museum in Amsterdam in, 1985 there was a great interest. And annually it still attracts 100.000 visitors.
2002: So it is not so surprising that when he bumped into the building Palau Mornau which was for sale, when he was there on holidays, that he wanted to open a sister museum in Barcelona. That the palace from the 15th century was fallen into severe disrepair, did not hold him back, he started realizing his dream.
2012: After ten years of renovation, the museum was finally ready for public. With a surface of 900 square meters, the institution has now more than 65,000 objects, ethnographic artefacts and hemp-related visual material.
The first highlights are the original paintings from baroque painters from the 17th century. The museum has paintings of David Teniers de Jonge, Herman Saftleven and Cornelis Decker.
Medicinal Cannabis Bottles
The second highlight is world´s largest collection of medicinal cannabis bottles. Some of the jars date back out of the 19th century. The collection represents testifies the worldwide use of cannabis for medicinal reasons in the past.
And last but definitely not least, the building itself, Palau Mornau is definitely a highlight. The original owners were the noble Sant Climent family in the 15th century. But the building received his real beauty when the architect Manuel Raspall renovated the building with floral motifs, wrought-iron balconies and other decorative elements that represent the 20th century.
Did you know that hemp is not only used to smoke in the past? In the thirties people were experimenting with hemp as a source for textile, but the projects were halted after the United states prohibited the plant the hemp plant in favour of the oil, nylon and cotton industry. However was hemp still the source of many materials aboard the sailing ships that sailed between Europe and America. Nowadays one of Dronkers goals is to re-introduce the sustainable properties of hemp for all sorts of industrial uses, from textiles to furniture
Barcelona is the only city in Spain where hemp which is officially illegal, is being tolerated. But watch out when you want to buy some hemp as a tourist, because it is prohibited in Spain to transport (soft) drugs and to use it in public areas. The Cannabis Social Clubs (private members clubs where members cultivate and smoke weed) should therefore only tolerated grow for their own members, officially for personal use in private space, so it is not allowed to use it as a tourist.
Looking at the amount of clubs that the city has we can conclude that the hemp plant is one of the most popular plants in Barcelona. They have more than 200 Cannabis Social Clubs throughout the city
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Monday until Sunday||From 10:00-22:00|
One of Barcelona´s newest museums is the Jamón Experience where they will tell you everything about the Iberian Jamón. A tour through the museum will interactively explain you the process of production, its origins and the various types of Jamón.
The museum is located in the former Fàbrica del Llibre and has its expositions and tastings in a modern area of over 2,200 square meters. The tour includes besides the audio visual tour through the 8 rooms a tasting with free wine or cava and 6 delicious kinds of hams carved by professional carvers!
Why a Museum for Ham?
Traditional ham is derived from the Ibérico pig, which is one of the animals that have been living for more than a millennium in Spain. To get the best quality ham, the pigs need extensive care. It takes around 4 years to go from piglet to the expensive ham! Enrique Thomas is one of the fortunate people who selling the ham, he has more than 50 stores in Spain.
He is the one who wanted to dedicate a museum to this famous and delicious Spanish product. His dreams came true in 2014 when the museum opened its doors.
The museum is divided into 3 parts:
- The interactive exhibition: 8 audio visual rooms where you will learn about the handmade methodology of the ham designed by the well-known architect Dani Freixas.
- Tasting table: the moment that you will taste different types of ham while sipping wine, cava or a beer.
- Product exhibition: a store with 500 square meters of Jamón, you will be assisted ham experts.
This highlight cannot be unnoticed; once you walk through the entrance a giant ham of 4 meters long will welcome you into the museum. If you feel like taking a bite, you will have to wait a little longer until you are at the demonstration of professional ham cutters.
Always wondered why they leave the hoof on the ham? Well, it is a trademark for the kind of pig; the Iberian ham is made of an Iberian piglet which have black hoofs, and the cheaper version the serrano ham is made of a piglet with white hoofs.
Jamón Ibérico is according to experts, world’s finest ham and according to the Guardian in 2010, also world’s most expensive ham. The ham, around 8 kg, was sold for £1,800, which is just about € 2,526!
To get this delicious ham, the piglets are on a diet of cereals and acorns. They have to eat enough acorns around 6kg of acorns a day, to reach their specified weight of 160kg to get the title of the fine ham, the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Besides the weight there is another rule, the piglets must be full grown within a lifetime of 18 months.
How Do You Get to the Museum?
|Monday until Sunday||From 11:30-20:00|
Tips for the Museum Lovers
The Barcelona Card is a popular city pass made by Barcelona Turisme, the Tourist Office of Barcelona. With this card you can visit museums for free, travel for free with public transport, and you get nice discounts for a lot of attractions, shops and restaurants.
The Barcelona Card can be bought on the website of Turisme Barcelona or visit one of their offices in the city. When picking up your card you will receive a free guide and map of Barcelona.
Lots of museums in Barcelona have on Sunday free entrance after 15.00! Always check the museum website if it applies to the museum you want to visit. Be aware that sometimes there are long lines after 15.00.
Recommended District for Museum Lovers
We recommend the El Born district if you want to stay the a neighborhood of artists, youngsters and lots of museums like Museu de la Xocolata and the Picasso Museum. Besides El Born, we recommend staying in one of our apartments in the Gothic area. This beautiful neighborhood is full of Gothic buildings. The museum of Hemp is situated here and it is very close to the Barcelona Erotic Museum and the Jamón Experience.