Walk Description

It’s hard to miss the large, verdant hill supporting the south side of Barcelona. Not quite a mountain, as its name infers, Montjuic has had a fascinating up-and-down history, one of leisure pursuits and attempted conquests (both military and urban), through the industrial revolution, the 1929 World’s Fair, and the 1992 Olympics. On this three-hour walk your docent, an architect or historian, we will peel back these historic layers as we tour the various sites around the hill, each one offering insight into the efforts to conquer the mountain.

The name Montjuïc is the medieval Catalan translation of "the Mountain of the Jews," as in those times a Jewish cemetery was located there. Archaeological digs have uncovered evidence of a pre-Roman town on the hill; however, Barcelonians were never able to convert it into a residential area since then. The area remained virtually abandoned, used mainly for animal grazing, until the War of Succession when the victorious Spaniards decided to solidify their conquest of Catalonia with an imposing fortress, looming over the city from the peak of Montjuic. In the mid-1800s with the demolition of the medieval city walls and the heightening of the industrial revolution, factories began popping up near the base of the hill, and along with them, small homes for their employees.

The first stop on our walk will be one of the few remaining factory buildings: the Fabrica Casaramona. A key work of Modernista architecture from 1912, it functioned as a factory for less than a decade. Though it was used in part for the 1929 World’s Fair, it then lay dormant for the rest of the 20th century, eventually being converted into the CaixaForum contemporary art center in 2002. It is a perfect example of the rehabilitation of the sites on Montjuic and leads us to exploring the next stage in the evolution of the area for the World’s Fair.

The 1929 World’s Fair brought much change to Montjuic with vast building and urbanism. Right across from the CaixaForum is the German Pavilion for the Fair. A stark contrast to the busy forms of the modernistas, this building was designed by German-American Mies van der Rohe and is considered one of the best examples of modern architecture and a reference in the history of art.

Heading up to the top of the hill we will enjoy one of the best views of the city and then we will take a look at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. The museum building was first conceived as the Spanish Pavillion for 1929 Fair and today is a museum covering Catalan art (a visit of the collection available for private tours on request). From here, we will look at several more of the World’s Fair buildings including the Stadium which was also used for the 1992 Olympics.

Starting to descend after the Miro Museum (interior also available on request; see below), we will pass through some of the hidden gardens built into the hill, a useful setting to discuss the area’s links to working class society and leisure. Since the factory workers began inhabiting the base of the hill in the neighborhood of Poble Sec, the green areas have been a popular spot for picnicking and relaxation. This will bring us down to Poble Sec, today gradually being gentrified. Here we can further our discussion of the development of the city and how there still remains a tug of war battle to conquer the mountain.

Custom Private walks: We are happy to include any of the museums, the castle, or the Poble Espagnol (a good option for children) on private walks. Please put your special requests in your trip notes and we will confirm your itinerary accordingly.

Duration: 3 hours
Category: History
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    Biel Heredero

    A native of Barcelona, Biel has recently obtained his degree in art history from the University of Barcelona where he wrote his thesis on Catalan artists. He is active in the Barcelona arts scene, and as a Catalan he has tremendous knowledge of the region's history and culture.

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    Celia Marin

    Celia is an architect and PhD candidate in architectural theory and history while she teaches as an associate professor at the Barcelona School of Architecture. She has worked as a freelance researcher and investigator on Catalan art and architecture before the Civil War for various museum exhibitions, including the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and the Reina Sofia in Madrid. She is an enthusiast on architecture and history and loves to discover new and interesting things every day; luckily Barcelona has a lot of secrets and surprise to offer. She was an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo, and is a big fan of Japanese culture and architecture.

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    Suzanne Wales

    Originally from Australia, Suzanne has lived in Barcelona for nearly twenty years. With a background in fashion and a love of design and interiors, she quickly immersed herself in the city’s rich visual culture, writing for design and architecture magazines such as Wallpaper*, Dwell, Frame, Surface, and others. She currently works part time as a media consultant for a local communications agency specializing in design, art, and architecture.

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    Bernat Carrau

    Bernat is a native Catalan architect who specializes in the preservation and rehabilitation of old houses and buildings. He obtained his degree at the Barcelona School of Architecture and was an exchange student at the University of Texas. Possessing a deep understanding of architecture and the cultural forces that drive it, Bernat is a true native and lover of Barcelona and her built environment. He spends his spare time strolling through the offbeat neighborhoods of this amazing city.

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    Oriol Catalan (Barcelona)

    Born and raised in Barcelona, Oriol studied tourism and medieval history, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in medieval christian sermons and preaching in the Crown of Aragon (XIVth-XVth centuries). His Ph.D. research has afforded him a great understanding of the cultural, political, and religious life of Barcelona in the Middle Ages and its relations with other cities and Kingdoms, in addition to the roots of Catalan identity and its evolution over time. He is acutely aware of how Barcelona has changed and adapted to the 21st century while trying to keep its personality and identity. In addition to working as a docent, Oriol teaches secondary school social sciences.