What to do on the mountain of Montjuic in Barcelona?

The mountain of Montjuic, home of the Tablao de Carmen, is one of Barcelona’s emblematic peaks, like El Putxet and Tibidabo, and one of the most culturally rich. It is known for its museums, theaters, and stunning viewpoints, but not many people are aware of its historical connection to flamenco.

What shouldn’t you miss on Montjuic?

  • A must-visit for tourists and locals who want to explore this mountain is Montjuic castle. Built in the 17th century, it has played a role in Barcelona’s history: it has been a fort, a prison, and a military installation, and in 2007 the site and the castle were handed over to the Barcelona City Council. In addition to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the sea, the port, Tibidabo, and the Baix Llobregat, you can enjoy one of its guided tours to discover it in whole (the parade ground, the walls, and the moat). Similarly, the Castle hosts temporary exhibitions and preserves graffiti from the thousands of prisoners who passed through its cells during the 20th century, one of the most impressive corners of this visit.
  • Another must-see on Montjuic is the Poble Espanyol, the “Spanish Village”, one of the most special corners of the entire city. It is a recreation of a typical Spanish village, which a group of architects designed to host the Spanish Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, after visiting a hundred villages throughout the country. Carmen Amaya danced there to commemorate the Exhibition. In 1988, the same courtyard saw the inauguration of the Tablao de Carmen in her honor.
  • El Greek Theatre is a unique amphitheater surrounded by gardens ideal for strolling or enjoying an outdoor concert. It has witnessed many flamenco performances as part of the Grec Festival, which since the summer of 1976 has filled Barcelona with music, theater, dance, and circus shows. The Teatro Lliure and the Mercado de las Flores also host many festival events.


History on Montjuic: Museums and Cultural Points

  • The National Art Museum of Catalonia, also known as MNAC, is one of Barcelona’s most famous, and the first one reached when walking to Montjuic from Plaza de España. The visit is worthwhile even before entering: the museum is in the National Palace, also built for the 1929 International Exhibition—50,000 square meters of a palace inspired by the Spanish Renaissance. The permanent collection is a journey from the Renaissance and the Baroque, through Modernism and the work of Gaudí, to the rooms dedicated to the Spanish Civil War. The views from the museum’s restaurants are also not to be missed.
  • Two other important stops for the artistically inclined are CaixaForum and the Joan Miró Foundation. CaixaForum offers exhibitions on cinema, virtual reality experiences, collections of 19th-century portraits, and cultural talks. The Joan Miró Foundation invites visitors to discover the work of one of the most internationally renowned Catalan artists in history, as well as collections of paintings that other artists dedicated to Miró.
  • For architecture lovers, Montjuic is home to the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion and the Calatrava Tower. The first was built by architects Mies van der Rohe and Lily Reich to house the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exhibition and is a pioneering work of modern architecture. The second is a telecommunications tower built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and is also considered an avant-garde work of design.

“Where the city changes its name”

Caserma di Montjuic Jacques Leonard’s fotography, “el payo Chac”

There is a crucial part of Montjuic’s history that, although not honored in a museum, is well worth knowing about: the shantytowns. They are estimated to date back to the late 1800s, and were formed by immigrants from the rest of Spain (Andalusians, Murcians, Aragonese, Valencians) who had difficulty finding decent housing in the city. It is estimated that in the 1950s, 30,000 people lived in the shantytowns of Montjuic, concentrated in three areas: Can Tunis, Can Valero, and the southern area around Poble Sec. Families, mostly Roma and Flamenco, lived in very harsh conditions.

Jacques Leonard Archive.

In the 1950s, plans to improve living conditions began, and in the 1960s (also forced by the construction of the Montjuic amusement park), they ended up evacuating the shantytowns and moving families to El Prat de Llobregat, San Roque (Badalona), La Mina (Sant Adrià del Besòs), Canyelles, or Camps Blancs (Sant Boi), far from Montjuic.

The last shantytowns were demolished in 1987, before the 1992 Olympics. Today, only one street remembers the Can Valero neighborhood. In 2018, an article entitled “The very last of Can Tunis” by the newspaper La Vanguardia told the story of the only four families left in this area, next to a roundabout between the port of Barcelona and the Ronda Litoral as it passes through Montjuïc. “Where the city changes its name”, Francisco Candel titled his novel, a book that reflected life in this neighborhood, also called Casas Baratas del Port, and is considered one of the stories that best portrayed immigration in the city. In 2020, the Barcelona City Council organized the photographic exhibition “Living in Montjuïc: Memories of a forgotten shantytown” at Montjuic Castle, a tribute to this area now largely forgotten.

A girl dancing in the barracas of Montjuic. To her left, the seated girl is the dancer La Chunga. Jacques Leonard Archive

Plan your perfect day on Montjuic

Our recommended route starts at Plaza de España, one of the most iconic spots in the city, from where you can observe the Las Arenas, bullring, now converted into a shopping center, and the Torres Venecianas, which served as the entrance to the 1929 Exhibition. From there, you can walk to the Magic Fountain (currently inactive due to drought conditions; we advise checking if it is operational in the days of your holiday) and visit one of the nearby museums: CaixaForum, Museo Nacional de Arte o Archaeological Museum.

For those who prefer sports to museums, there is a climbing wall in the La Foixarda area, a morning perfect plan. For lunch, the perfect break can be found in several of the mountain’s restaurants, offering views of the entire Barcelona skyline. For the afternoon, you can take the Montjuic Cable Car or stroll through the Botanical Garden.

To end the day, we recommend honoring the flamenco heritage so rich in Montjuic. It was the setting for the film “Los Tarantos” in 1962, a social reflection of Barcelona’s flamenco scene in the sixties; and here is the neighborhood of Hostafrancs, where Roma families have preserved their own flamenco songs. In this area, the songs were even sung in Catalan instead of Spanish. And for a proper, pure flamenco experience, come to the Tablao de Carmen, in the Poble Espanyol, where the combination of flamenco show and typical Spanish dinner makes this plan the perfect finale for your day.

We are waiting for you!