The Palau Nacional, this noble building dating back to the 1929 World's Fair, houses the Catalan National Museum of Art (MNAC) and its collection of works from sculpture, painting and drawings to prints, posters and photography, and with the objective of explaining the importance of Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century. It's also home to some of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection, formerly at the Convent de Pedralbes, and the legacy of Francesc Cambó.
Admission is free every Saturday from 3pm, and on the first Sunday of every month. Admission is also free 24 Sep, as well as on 18 May, coinciding with International Museum Day.
Stretching from the Plaça del Rei to the cathedral are some 4,000sq m (43,000sq ft) of subterranean Roman excavations – streets, villas and storage vats for oil and wine, all discovered by accident in the late 1920s when a whole swath of the Gothic Quarter was dug up to make way for the central avenue of Via Laietana. The excavations continued until 1960; today, the labyrinth can be reached via the Casa Padellàs, a merchant's palace dating from 1498, which was laboriously moved from its original location in C/ Mercaders to allow the construction of Via Laietana.
Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm and all day the first Sunday of every month. Other free days include Sep 24th and May 18th.
Finally rehoused in the Auditori concert hall in 2007 after six years in hibernation, the Music Museum's collections comprise over 1,600 instruments, displayed like precious jewels in red velvet and glass cases, along with multimedia displays, interactive exhibits and musical paraphernalia. With pieces spanning the ancient world to the modern day, and including instruments from all corners of the world, the museum's high note is the world-class collection of 17th-century guitars.
Admission is free the first Sunday of every month, as well as the following dates: May 18th, Jun. 21st, Sep. 23rd-24th, and Nov. 22nd
Kleptomaniac and general magpie Frederic Marès (1893-1991) 'collected' everything he laid his hands on, from hairbrushes to opera glasses and gargoyles. Unlike most private 19th-century collectors, Marès didn't come from a wealthy family, but spent every penny he earned as a sculptor and art professor on broadening his hoardings. The exhibits here are divided into three main sections: sculpture dating from the Pre-Roman era to the 20th century; the Sentimental Museum, with objects from everyday life; and a room devoted to photography, and Marès' study and library now filled with sculptures, many of them his own.
Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm, and the first Sunday of every month from 11am-8pm, as well as May 18th and Sep. 24th
La Virreina Image Centre's programme features photography, audiovisual works, election broadcasts, book publishing, literary festivals, talks, digital documentation and expanded literature in the age of the image, among others.With a mission to explore the notion of the image as knowledge and also as a way of sparking new cultural experiences, La Virreina aims to forge its own identity within the network of spaces in Barcelona, as well as working closely with other centres for visual creation.
The permanent collection of some 3,800 pieces has now been spread across five adjoining palaces, two of which are devoted to temporary exhibitions. By no means an overview of the artist's work, the Museu Picasso is rather a record of the vital formative years that the young Picasso spent nearby at La Llotja art school. The seamless presentation of Picasso's development from 1890 to 1904, from deft pre-adolescent portraits to sketchy landscapes to the intense innovations of his Blue Period, is unbeatable, then it leaps to a gallery of mature Cubist paintings from 1917.
Admission is free every Thursday from 6pm to 9.30pm, and the first Sunday of every month from 9am to 7pm, as well as all day May 18th and Sep. 24th
Spain's largest cultural centre was opened in 1994 at the Casa de la Caritat, a former almshouse, built in 1802 on the site of a medieval monastery. The massive façade and part of the courtyard remain from the original building; the rest was rebuilt in dramatic contrast, all tilting glass and steel. The centre features three large exhibition halls with rotating exhibits; the first dedicated to smaller, lesser-known exhibitions and the other two reserved for larger features. The CCCB's exhibitions can lean toward heavy-handed didacticism, but there are occasional gems.
Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm to 8pm, and on the following dates: Feb. 12th, May 18th, May 19th and Sep. 24th
Even if you can't tell a caravel from a catamaran, the excellent Maritime Museum is worth a visit, as the soaring arches and vaults of the vast former drassanes (shipyards) represent one the most perfectly preserved examples of civil Gothic architecture in Spain. With the aid of an audio guide, the maps, mastheads, nautical instruments, multimedia displays and models show you how shipbuilding and navigation techniques have developed over the years. Admission also includes the beautiful 1917 Santa Eulàlia schooner docked nearby in the Moll de la Fusta, and the Maritime often has some interesting temporary exhibitions.
Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm, and on May 18th.
The construction of new access points for the 1992 Olympic Games facilities of the Olympic Games favoured the proposal to create a new botanical garden for the city. On Montjuïc, between the castle and the Olympic Stadium, the shape of the garden's 14 hectares is reminiscent of a great amphitheatre with preserved collections of Mediterranean plants worldwide and magnificent views over the Llobregat delta, the Olympic Ring and part of the metropolitan area of Barcelona.
Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm and the first Sunday of every month all day, as well as the following dates: Feb. 12th, May 18th, and Sep. 24th
The Museu Blau ('Blue Museum') started in 2011 in the Parc del Fòrum as part of the Natural Science Museum. All 9,000 square metres of it are spread over two floors. At the main entrance you're welcomed by the skeleton of a whale that beached itself on Catalan shores in 1862. The museum is made up of installations and spaces that include 'Planet Life,' an exhibition that takes you through the history of life and its co-evolution with Earth; the media library; and the Science Nest, where children up to age six can explore and play with natural materials.
Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm and the first Sunday of every month all day. As well as Feb 12th, May 18th, and Sep. 24th
If you're used to being soft-soaped by eager-to-please art centres, you'll have to adjust to the cryptic minimalism of the MACBA. Yet if you can navigate the fridge-like interior of Richard Meier's enormous edifice, tackle shows that flutter between the brilliant and baffling, and, most important, are prepared to do your reading, a trip to the MACBA can be extremely rewarding. Since its inauguration in 1995, the MACBA has transformed itself into a power player on the city's contemporary art scene. Its bookshop is fantastic for quirky gifts and artist design objects.
The Macba does not open for free on Sundays, but on Saturdays from 4 to 8 pm. Do not miss the opportunity!
The old Born market has reopened as a cultural center. Inside the iron and glass structure built by Josep Fontserè in 1876 are preserved archaeological remains from 1700 of the district of Vilanova de Mar. You can walk around this area and visit the 'De les pedres a les persones' ('From Stones to People') exhibition and archaeological sites (by reservation only). These are the main attractions of this centre that aims to show how life in the city was before and after the siege of 1713-1714.
The two exhibition halls host open door days every Sunday from 3pm-8pm. They also hold open door days on Feb. 12th, May 18th, Sep. 11th, Sep. 24th, and Nov. 30th. Tours of the excavation site are reservation only, but it is easily viewed from the exhibition halls.