One of our favorite spots in Barcelona is MontJuic, as it is for most Barcelonans too. It’s an extensive park with fountains sprinkled throughout the green space and topped by the historic castle and the Olympic Stadium. From our apartment, getting there is part of the fun. We walk down Passeig de Colom to La Rambla, then take the Metro one stop to the funicular, which transports us right up the hill, all on one Metro ticket.
Saturday was at least our third ride up the hill. This time we were bound for the Olympic Stadium and complex at the top, a walk of about 15 minutes or so from the funicular station. The idea was to tour the stadium, then walk all the way down to Placa Espana at the ground level. The trip offers some of the best views of Barcelona around, with Tibidabo in the distance and Familia Sagrada standing out on the horizon depending on where you are on MontJuic..
Barcelona, which is not all that much larger than New Orleans in population, hosted arguably one of the most successful Olympics in modern history back in 1992. The main Olympic stadium, officially named Estadi Olimpic Luis Companys, was originally constructed in 1927 for the 1929 International Exhibition and Barcelona’s 1936 Olympic bid, which went to Berlin. It was refurbished and repurposed for the 1992 Olympics and continues to host athletic events and major concerts to this day.
Remarkably, the stadium is open to the public to tour and walk about for free . The main concourse overlooking the field is open for viewing about 180 degrees around the stadium. A gift shop and cafe are both conveniently located steps from the main entrance.
A new program called Open Camp Europe offers young people the opportunity to go out on the field and actively participate in a number of sports like soccer and track, plus other fantasy activities like broadcasting from the press box. Tickets range from 5-20 euros, depending on the level of participation. It was in full swing when we visited.
The stadium is the crown point of an extensive plaza that leads down MontJuic all the way to Placa Espana. It is a most interesting walk down past the Olympic arena, the rows of tall columns flanking the center and the Telefonica needle that served as the visual symbol of the Games in 1992.
Beyond Placa Europa, a monument to the origins of the EU, the rest of the walk is a pleasant stroll that winds more or less around MontJuic to the huge fountain in front of Placa Espana on the ground level. We enjoyed that so much that we decided to do it again and go up to the Museum of Catalan Art, about halfway up the hill.
Rather than walk all that way, we availed ourselves of the convenient escalators that whisk passengers up MontJuic to the museum past the cascading fountains, all of which were in full operation. Once again at the entrance to the museum, we walked right in, since our tickets were good for two days.
We made a quick visit to view a temporary exhibition of paintings by a rare female artist in Barcelona, Llüisa Vidal, who painted around the turn of the 20th century. Although considered “modernisme” by the museum, her style was reminiscent of late Impressionism and quite attractive.
Then it was back down MontJuic along the series of cascading fountains, all of which were in operation and quite impressive in their totality. As we descended Placa Espana to take the Metro back home, Lynn noticed an extensive shopping mall inside the station. It’s hard to miss, with a food court on one level and department stores, etc. on the next two. She had been on the hunt for nail polish remover for weeks, so hunt we did through the Mall de Placa Espana. And by golly, she found it.
Now all we had to do was get back to the Metro station, which was not all that simple. First we descended one level too far and wound up in the parking garage. Then we finally reached the station for the L1 train, and, weary from walking, Lynn plopped on the bench to wait for the next train. Unfortunately, we needed the L3 line not the L1, so off we walked again, this time for what seemed like a half a mile to get to the correct platform. Even then, we went to the wrong side by mistake and just barely missed a train home. Luckily, even on Saturday the trains only run three minutes apart.
By the time we reached our apartment, we were pretty tuckered out. Going up and down MontJuic twice will get your three to five miles of walking in for the day and then some. But it’s well worth the effort.