Moving on beyond La Rambla, we found ourselves exploring what is quite possibly the favorite hiking spot for any local living in Barcelona: the Parc de Montjuïc. Filled with dozens of verdant parks, sculptures, statues, waterfalls, gardens, an ancient ampitheater, the castle, and the arena + remants of the Barcelona Olympic Games, it is the ultimate green space and place to get away from it all. We’ll start off with the Castle itself.
As far as ancient structures go, Castle Montjuïc might not be the most epic. It’s not as large or as famous as what you’ll find further north in the Costa Brava region. And it’s not nearly as aesthetically pleasing. It’s history, however, is poignant to the region, as it was christened with its first battle in 1941, just a year after the foundation was laid, during the Catalan Revolt when Catalonia first rebelled against Spain and challenged its authority.
The initial structure was completely demolished in 1751, and what stands today is the work of engineer and architect Juan Martin Cermeño. And it was here that the castle bears the bloody stains that it is perhaps most famous for: from 1936 until 1939 when, during the civil war, political prisoners from both sides were tortured and killed on-site.
It wasn’t until the late 20th century that the site was declared a military museum, and since then it has become the top-most starting point (or end, if you come from the bottom of the hill and work your way up) for those who wish to explore the overall park, and it offers up some of the most impressive views out over Barcelona, the harbor, airport, and the coastline that you’ll find within the city.
On a clear day you can see all the way to the Pyrenees north along the border to France, and during our trip up into the Pyrenees you could see all the way back down to the mountain of Montjuïc on a clear day. This should give you some perspective of the types of views you’ll have (although they are weather dependent). Don’t forget to check out the video below for a peek at what we’re talking about!
We happened to be there during one of the monthly weekends of La Festa Catalana, which take place April through October. It’s a weekend celebration of local traditions, customs, culture, and folklore, and it is organized by Adifolk, or the Folklore Association. It was pure luck that we happened to go there on one of the days that the celebration was taking place, which means we spent more time at the castle than we would have otherwise.
There were local food merchants along with local crafters showcasing the traditions of the region, and they also organize musical performances by local artists. Plus it’s general fun and revelry that is more than what the typical tourist fare provides: this is a chance to step back in time and get off the guided path and see what life was like centuries ago, and how those traditions have carried down over the years.
Check out the video below for a more intimate view of the castle and La Festa Catalana. And don’t forget, if you need more information on the city itself you can read up on the Visit Barcelona website as well as over at the Catalunya Experience, or pick up our our Barcelona travel guide, jam-packed with local information such as apartments and houses for rent, chapters on local transportation, restaurants, cultural hotspots and more.