You can tell a lot about a culture by the art they create and by the way in which they display the works.
The National Museum of Catalonian Art (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, known locally as MNAC) is a 540,000 square foot palace of art. The classic style building with a dome reminiscent of that on St. Peter’s Basilica, dominates the landscape of Montjuïc, which overlooks Barcelona from the South.
You might think this mighty structure was home to royalty from long ago, but it is less than a century old. Built for the 1929 International Exhibition, it was the first of many developments above the city. Nearby are also the sports complex created for the 1929 festivities and renovated for the 1992 Olympics, the Joan Miró Foundation and an exhibition of Spanish architecture from the 1929 event.
Wide staircases (and, thankfully, escalators that travel both up and down) lead to and from the building to man-made cascades to magical fountains to the bustling city below. Those with serious mobility issues might be challenged by the climb so they might consider the bus (see note below) that brings them closer to the entrance.
The Catalan people, who inhabit the province including Barcelona, are fiercely proud of their heritage. They are first and foremost Catalonian and, secondly, Spanish. They have their own language, traditions and art which were suppressed but not forgotten during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco (who was in power from 1939 to 1975).
They are equally proud of the last ten centuries of art that has been created in Catalonia by both natives and those who came from elsewhere to join the artistic community.
Ranging from religious paintings, church pieces and sculptures from the Romanesque period to short films of the late 20th Century, there is something for everyone in the two levels of exhibits. It took us half a day to make our way through the museum. We did not visit the library which houses manuscripts and books dating back to 1493.
There is a lovely coffee shop with simple snacks and good, strong coffee at fairly reasonable prices, a gift shop with museum memorabilia at the sorts of prices one would expect in a museum gift shop, and a restaurant with breathtaking views of the city below, which we didn’t visit, but their posted menu showed three course gourmet meals with a drink for about €28.
Transportation: From the center of Barcelona take the L3 Metro to the Placa Espanya station and walk up the steps. The 150 bus, which stops near the Metro station will drop you nearer the entrance to the museum if you prefer to walk less.
Hours: At this time, the museum is open 10 am until 8pm, Tuesday through Sunday. They are closed Monday.
Tickets: Like with any tickets, avoid the third party vendors in order to get the best price. It is not necessary to get tickets ahead of time. At this time tickets are €12 per person. For an even better deal, visit MNAC on Saturdays after 3 pm or on the first Sunday of the month, when admission is free.