Things to do in Barcelona

The Best Museums in Barcelona

Surrealism, cubism, and modernism — oh my! Immerse yourself in culture with a visit to a Barcelona museum.

Welcome to Barcelona! Known for its Gothic architecture and high-end boutiques, the city is a cultural mecca situated on the Mediterranean. Palm trees, sailboats, and lush green parks come together to create an urban oasis.

Barcelona is also one of the best destinations for history buffs and art lovers. Whether you’re just passing through or planning to spend a lifetime in the city, visit at least one museum before you try any other things to do in Barcelona.

Artistic Icons of Barcelona

When it comes to artistic excellence, we can’t say enough good things about Barcelona. Sure, Paris has the Louvre, but Barcelona was home to Pablo Picasso, Antoni Tàpies, Joan Miró, and Salvador Dalí.

Each artist left an indelible mark on the art world, making Barcelona one of the best places to visit if you’re interested in cubism, surrealism, Dada, or modernism. Get your trip off to a good start with a visit to one of these Barcelona attractions.

1. Museu Picasso

If you’ve ever admired one of Picasso’s paintings, Museu Picasso is the place to be. The enigmatic artist invented cubism, making him one of the most famous residents of Barcelona. Picasso also created sculptures, designed sets and costumes for theaters, and worked with ceramics.

If you only visit one museum in Barcelona, make it Museu Picasso. The collection contains over 5,000 paintings, drawings, sketches, illustrated books, and ceramic pieces.

During your visit, watch for some of Picasso’s earlier works. Paintings such as House in the Country and Vultures are a far cry from the style he developed later in life.

For example, House in the Country looks like one of Monet’s landscapes. With its subdued colors and thick brushstrokes, it appears to be an impressionist painting rather than a work of art by the father of cubism.

Jaume Sabartés with Ruff and Bonnet looks more like a Picasso painting. Although it’s a portrait, the subject’s nose is on the right side of his face instead of centered, and his eyes are out of alignment. With his hat and collar, Sabartés is reminiscent of one of Shakespeare’s characters.

After your visit, stop for a meal at one of the best paella restaurants in Barcelona.

Photographer: Birmingham Museums Trust

2. Fundació Joan Miró

One of Spain’s most famous painters and sculptors, Miró incorporated abstract elements into his surrealist paintings. He was also known for producing biomorphic art. A biomorphic painting uses abstract images to represent humans, plants, and animals.

In 1975, the Fundació Joan Miró (Joan Miró Foundation) established an art museum in Miró’s honor. This made his work much more accessible to the people of Barcelona. You could easily spend all day viewing Miró’s rich paintings.

Look for Morning Star and Chapel of Sant Joan d’Horta if you only have time for a quick visit. Wassily Kandinsky aficionados are sure to appreciate Morning Star. The painting blends colorful abstract shapes with a smattering of eyes and noses.

The Chapel of Sant Joan d’Horta is a little more traditional but has flair. Puffy clouds, rolling hills, and crooked trees surround the main structure.

If you have a little extra time after you visit the Fundació Joan Miró, stop by the museum operated by Fundació Antoni Tàpies. One of Barcelona’s most famous artists, Tàpies incorporated modern art, informalism, and abstract art elements into his paintings and sculptures.

Photographer: Liza Bakay

3. Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

The Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona is a work of art in its own right. Designed by Richard Meier, the modern building is made up of several prisms. A thick cylinder runs from the roof to the basement, breaking up the exhibition space. The Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona also has plenty of glass to let in natural light.

These design features give the museum a welcoming space for families, school groups, and other visitors. If you need a break during your visit, head to Macba Bar to enjoy the fresh flavors of the Mediterranean.

Once you have your energy back, check out one of the current exhibitions. The museum is always changing, so it’s possible to visit multiple times without ever seeing the same thing twice.

Past exhibitions have featured works by Laura Lima, Nancy Holt, Bouchra Khalili, and other contemporary artists. Each one has a central theme, connecting the works and making visitors think about life in a new way.

Historical Treasures of Barcelona

Although people have lived in Barcelona since the New Stone Age, the city didn’t exist until the Romans established the colony of Barcino in the 1st century CE. The Mediterranean Sea provided a natural barrier against invaders, making the site particularly attractive.

Eventually, epic battles led to technological advancement, turning Barcelona into a bustling metropolis. Fortunately, nonprofit organizations throughout the city have made it their mission to preserve historical artifacts. You can view some of these artifacts at the museums below.

4. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

Barcelona has some of the best art museums in the world. The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya is no exception; it has many Romanesque paintings.

As the precursor to Barcelona’s beloved Gothic style, Romanesque art featured striking colors and religious symbols. MNAC also has an extensive collection of photographs and paintings by some of Barcelona’s most famous artists.

One of the most popular displays is a large collection of modern art. The museum expanded the exhibit in 2018, giving visitors even more opportunities to enjoy works by postwar and avant-garde artists.

The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya also has a large collection of Baroque and Renaissance paintings. We especially love Two Cloths From the Doors of an Altarpiece With Scenes of Saint Catherine’s Life. Painted by Pedro Berruguete, the cloths are from a funeral chapel in Toledo.

If you prefer something a bit more modern, check out Plowing Machine by Francesc Todó García.

5. Museu d'Història de Barcelona

Museu d'Història de Barcelona is charged with preserving Barcelona’s cultural history. Staff members strive to create exhibits that act as a mirror for the city.

These exhibits reflect what happened in the past and what’s happening now, allowing visitors to form strong cultural connections with Barcelona. As a history museum, Museu d'Història de Barcelona also serves as a portal to Catalonia, making it an important attraction.

Before you visit, you should know that MUHBA isn’t a single building. It’s a collection of spaces designed to spark curiosity. Casa Padellàs serves as the House of History. The 16th-century structure originally served as a palace but is now an experimental museum space.

Plaça del Rei is the place to be if you want to look at ancient ruins. MUHBA uses the space to host temporary exhibitions. To see restored wall and ceiling paintings from the 1st through 4th centuries, stop by the Domus Avinyó.

Photographer: Mylo Kaye

6. Museu Marítim de Barcelona

No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a stop at the Museu Marítim de Barcelona. The museum is responsible for preserving Barcelona’s heritage as a shipping port and a seaside escape.

If you visit on a Saturday morning, keep your eyes peeled for the Santa Eulàlia. The schooner is over a century old, linking the past with the present. Constructed more than 700 years ago, the main building has exhibits related to shipyards, medieval boats, and the transatlantic trade.

Don’t miss 7 Vessels, 7 Stories. The narrations make it easier to understand life for people who spent most of their time in the Mediterranean.

Unique Collections in Barcelona

Had your fill of paintings and sculptures? You’re in luck. Barcelona is home to some rather unique collections, including a museum dedicated to chocolate. Don’t leave the city without visiting one of these specialty museums.

7. Museu Egipci de Barcelona

The Strait of Gibraltar connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, so there’s more of a connection between Egypt and Barcelona than you might think. Museu Egipci de Barcelona is a private collection with approximately 1,200 objects.

It has a whole room dedicated to figures of Egyptian pharaohs and other royal family members. If you visit, look for the stone tablet featuring Cleopatra VII, the wall relief depicting King Akhenaten, and the statue of Rameses III.

Jewelry buffs are sure to appreciate the exhibit on the ground floor. It’s packed with rings, amulets, collars, and breastplates made with gems and precious metals. The head of Osiris is an especially fine example of Egyptian art. Made from gold, the sculpture sparkles under the museum lights.

Don’t leave Museu Egipci de Barcelona without viewing the exhibit on funerary beliefs and practices. It’s jam-packed with urns, mummified animals, and other objects to help visitors understand how ancient Egyptians laid their loved ones to rest.

Photographer: vanessazoyd

8. Museu de la Xocolata

Chocolate lovers, rejoice! Barcelona is home to Museu de la Xocolata, a chocolate museum located in a former monastery. If the only chocolate you’ve ever had comes in a paper wrapper, you’re in for a treat.

Guests who are at least 16 years old have access to chocolate tasting throughout the year, along with workshops and other activities. The Museu de la Xocolata exists to help you understand the global impact of chocolate.

Although many people think of chocolate as nothing more than a dessert ingredient, it helped build Fortune 500 companies and supported fledgling civilizations. The museum’s exhibits tell the story of chocolate through an economic and social lens.

9. Disseny Hub Barcelona

Located on Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, the Disseny Hub Barcelona is more than just an art museum. It’s a laboratory where creative people can experiment with design. Although the first floor is in a basement, it has plenty of natural light, making it the ideal event space.

It also has ample space for public use, making the Disseny Hub Barcelona an important gathering space for artists with several museums combined into one. Its permanent collection has exhibits dedicated to fashion, product design, graphic design, textiles, and decorative arts.

If you want design inspiration, head to the decorative arts area. It has an impressive furniture collection, a set of Catalan enameled glass, and other objets d’art. The product design collection has everything from lamps to musical instruments.

10. Museu Frederic Marès

Many Barcelona museums focus on paintings or historical objects, but the Museu Frederic Marès is all about sculpture. Marès started his career by producing sculptures for mausoleums. He had the opportunity to learn from more experienced sculptors, which helped him develop his own style.

Later in life, he focused on sculpting monuments. As a professor and a working sculptor, he collected objects from all over Europe. You’ll see many of those objects if you can visit.

If you’re interested in religious art, no art gallery in Barcelona could come close to having as many crucifixes or statues of the Virgin Mary as the Museu Frederic Marès. This spot also has a large collection of sculptures from the 12th through 19th centuries. As you view each collection, you can almost see Spain’s history flashing before your eyes.

Photographer: Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

Embracing Barcelona's Rich Tapestry: A Journey Through Its Museums

Visiting the famous museums of Barcelona is like taking a journey through history. Ancient sculptures, contemporary paintings, and architectural wonders await you.

Once you finish a tour of the best museums in town, look for other things to do in Barcelona, such as swimming in the Mediterranean Sea or shopping on the Passeig de Gràcia. Park Güell and the Erotic Museum are also popular options.

Immerse yourself in a world of wonder with tickets to one of our shows in Barcelona.

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