Among the best things to do in Barcelona is visiting the city's impressive collections of art in Barcelona's museums and galleries. Famed Spanish artists such as Picasso, Dalí and Velázquez, among others, run the gamut of the 'isms' – Cubism, Impressionism, Modernism and Post-Modernism (to name a few). But in Barcelona's museums you'll also find plenty of collections that span from medieval times to the 1990s. Contemporary works by established and lesser-known artists are omnipresent too; and almost every museum organises temporary exhibitions that fill in the gaps (momentarily at least) in their permanent collections. Here is our list of the best museums in Barcelona.
RECOMMENDED: Must-see art exhibitions in Barcelona
Barcelona's best museums
What is it? It's the Picasso Museum! The permanent collection features nearly 4,000 pieces, mainly showing off young Pablo's formative years in art school, and his time later hanging out with Catalonia's fin-de-siècle avant-garde.
Why go? For the unbeatable seamless presentation of the artist's development from adolescent portraits to the intense innovations of his Blue Period; the gallery of mature Cubist paintings; and the inspired temporary exhibitions.
Top tip: Queues can be punishingly long; visit at lunch or shortly before the last entry, or buy your tickets in advance online.
What is it? The National Art Museum of Catalonia, where you can get an excellent overview of Catalan art spanning from the 12th to the 20th centuries.
Why go? For the impressive Romanesque collection with 'rescued' 10th-century murals, the fantastic gothic collection, and the uniquely Catalan, Modernista collection. Plus, once you've climbed the steps up to the former castle, you've earned that stunning view of the city below.
What is it? Josep Lluís Sert designed one of the greatest museum buildings in the world specifically for his friend Joan Miró, which beautifully intertwines art and architecture, and houses a massive art collection, including all of Miró's graphic work.
Why go? In addition to the permanent collection showing off Miró's trademark use of primary colours and simplified organic forms, the outdoor sculpture gallery is a feast for the senses in itself, where, as a bonus, you're surrounded by the nature of Parc de Montjuïc.
What is it? Richard Meier's hulking white behemoth of a museum signified a grand turnaround in the fortunes of the Raval neighbourhood, and still shines as a beacon of modernity outside as well as in.
Why go? It houses the city's main collection of contemporary art (which, in this instance means 'post World War I'), and while its permanent holdings focus on Catalan and Spanish artists, temporary exhibitions have a more international flavour.
Top tip: Watch out for (or join in with) the skateboarders in the square out front who have made it their second home.
What is it? Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies set up this space dedicated to the study and appreciation of contemporary art in 1984. Nowadays it's a cultural centre and museum dedicated to Tàpies's work and life.
Why go? To admire the building's tangled crown of aluminium piping and metal netting outside; and inside, works by Tàpies, whose thing in the 1950s was using waste paper, mud and rags as part of his paintings (later he moved up to include the likes of whole pieces of furniture and running water).
What is it? A former almshouse built on the site of a medieval monastery is now home to Barcelona's Centre of Contemporary Culture, whose three halls feature ever-changing exhibitions with a leaning toward multimedia arts.
Why go? Check the calendar for regular guest speakers and interviews, which have included big international names talking about important contemporary issues, at ridiculously affordable prices.
Top tip: The first Sunday of each month means it's free in to the fifth-floor lookout, where you can get some amazing views of the mountains, city and sea.
What is it? In addition to the permanent contemporary art collection, there are three impressive spaces for temporary exhibitions – often among the most interesting shows to be found in the city.
Why go? The building itself, a renovated century-old yarn and textile factory, is a masterpiece of industrial Catalan modernism, and once you're in you can explore its walkways and impressive terraces – with views of course.
What is it? The charitable arm of the Mapfre insurance company set up this exhibition space in 2015 at the Modernista masterpiece that is the Casa Garriga-Nogues.
Why go? If you're a fan of photography and works on paper, that's what you'll find here, with focuses on Catalan artists, lesser-known photographers and the great masters of photography. Among the rotating exhibitions, you may also come across collections from the Romanesque, Gothic and Modernista periods.
What is it? At this centre for visual creation you'll find exhibitions and activities related to photography and the image, still or moving, silent or with audio.
Why go? The collection and related things to do are housed in a former Baroque palace right in the middle of La Rambla, and you won't have to pay a cent to go in and admire the architecture or the artworks.
What is it? A museum where the roughly 300 works displayed are by Catalan artists, sculptors and photographers from the last 50 years or so, both unknown and internationally successful.
Why go? Arguably the star of the show is the building itself, a startling revamp that showcases the building's original features but adds a new element of sharp angles and poured concrete, with sunlight streaming through plate glass to illuminate the displays in a refreshingly natural way.
What is it? Another museum on La Rambla, this time with its arms open wide to welcome nearly all artistic disciplines and endeavours with a special focus on digital media produced in Catalonia.
Why go? Exhibitions and goings-on are so varied, there's something for everyone: architecture, performing arts, visual arts, music, literature, design, gastronomy and more.