Montjuïc Castle (in Catalan, Castell de Montjuïc in Catalan; and in Spanish, Castillo de Montjuic) is a military fortress dating from 1640, which was converted into a military prison at the end of the 19th century and then into a military museum in 1963. And nowadays, it’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in Barcelona!
Installed on top of the Montjuïc mountain, almost 200 meters above sea level, Montjuïc Castle follows the so-called “Vauban style”. This model of fortification was created by the French military architect Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban and stands out for the bastions at the ends – which often form a star!
So, do you want to know more about Montjuïc Castle: Best Tips For Visiting In 2023? Keep reading!
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Brief History of Montjuïc Castle
The history of Montjuïc Castle dates back to 1640, the year in which the first fortification was erected. At that time, times were unstable in the region of Catalonia and Montjuïc Castle ended up being the protagonist in the Battle of Montjuïc (on January 26th, 1641), one of the many conflicts of the so-called “Reapers’ War” (1640-1652).
However, the current Montjuïc Castle is the result of a renovation designed by the Spanish architect and military engineer Juan Martín Cermeño in 1751. Interventions carried out between 1753 and 1779 included the demolition of parts of the old fortress, the construction of new structures, and the improvement of existing ones.
How to Get to Montjuïc Castle
In my opinion, the easiest way to get to Montjuïc Castle is by metro. To do this, just take the L1 or L3 lines to Plaça d’Espanya station and then walk about 2.6 km to the military fortress. This walking route takes close to 40 minutes, which may seem a little time-consuming. But the monuments that you’ll see along the way are really photogenic!
Alternatively, you can take the Montjuïc Cable Car, which costs €9.40 (adults) or €7.50 (children from 4 to 12 years old) for a single trip, and €14.20 (adults) or €10.20 (children from 4 to 12 years old) for a return trip – when purchased from the official website!
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
Montjuïc Castle is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm (from November to February) or from 10 am to 8 pm (from March to October), with the ticket office closing at 5:30 pm or at 7:30 pm (respectively). And the only closing days are the holidays of January 1st and December 25th.
Tickets cost €9 (normal fare) or €6 (reduced fare, for young people aged 16 to 29 and seniors over 65). But on the first Sunday of each month (all day) and every Sunday from 3 pm, admission is free for everyone. Even so, confirm all the practical information on the official website of the Montjuïc, before buying your ticket!
What to See at Montjuïc Castle
Access to Montjuïc Castle is made via a stone bridge with four masonry arches, which crosses the former moat – now, a formal garden – from the outer perimeter. But have you noticed that the last part before the monumental gate consists of a Drawbridge (in Catalan, Pont Llevadís; and in Spanish, Puente Levadizo)?
The Drawbridge of Montjuïc Castle is made of wood and iron, and could be raised to prevent entry to the Guard House (located on the right side), isolating the fortification from the outside world. Completed in 1767, the structure was also protected by the Bastion of Saint Charles and the Bastion of Saint Amalia.
Bastion of Saint Charles
The Bastion of Saint Charles (in Catalan, Baluard de Sant Carles; and in Spanish, Baluarte de San Carlos) is one of the first points of interest that you’ll be able to visit at the Castle of Montjuïc.
Also called the Bulwark of Saint Charles, this is the only one of the four bastions of the Castle of Montjuïc that was built from scratch, according to the design of Juan Martín Cermeño.
The works began in 1756 and lasted until 1773. And its name is a tribute to the monarch who ruled the country at that time: King Charles III of Spain!
A bastion (or bulwark) is a defensive structure, which protrudes from the walled body of the fortress, forming a triangle or pentagon.
Bastion of Saint Amalia
The Bastion of Saint Amalia (in Catalan, Baluard de Santa Amàlia; and in Spanish, Baluarte de Santa Amalia) rises 14 meters high from the outer moat. And, as you would expect, it has stunning panoramic views over Barcelona!
Also known as the Bulwark of Saint Amalia, this defensive platform features a well in the center, which in turn is connected to an underground cistern with two chambers. This reservoir was the main source of water supply for Montjuïc Castle.
The Bastion of Saint Amalia is what is called an “orillon bastion” (or “orillon bulwark”). The orillons are rounded reinforcements, which protect the short sides of a bulwark.
The Place-of-Arms (in Catalan, Pati d’Armes; in Spanish, Patio de Armas) is the “heart” of Montjuïc Castle. Like other military fortresses, this square terrace served as a place of concentration for the military garrison, in case of enemy siege or assault.
In the casemates around the Place-of-Arms of Montjuïc Castle, there’s a Visitor Center (with four rooms), three exhibition rooms, two workshops, an information desk, a café with a terrace, toilets, and the access stairs to the Terrace.
As I mentioned earlier, the Visitor Center of Montjuïc Castle (in Catalan, Center d’Interpretació; and in Spanish, Centro de Interpretación) consists of four adjoining exhibition rooms.
In each of these former rectangular casemates, visitors can learn about the history of Montjuïc Castle, from the human occupation of the Montjuïc mountain (including the objects and archaeological remains found here) to the construction of the fortification and its functions.
The exhibition at the Visitor Center includes several information panels, fragments and artifacts discovered at the site, and a large-scale model of the military complex.
The Watchtower (in Catalan, Torre de Guaita; and in Spanish, Torre de Vigía) is one of the most emblematic structures of Montjuïc Castle.
On the roof of this square-shaped tower, there was another lookout and signal tower, which has been documented since the end of the 11th century. Communication with ships and boats arriving at the port of Barcelona was done with flags (during the day) or bonfires (during the night).
Between 1792 and 1793, the French astronomer Pierre Méchain chose the Watchtower of Montjuïc Castle, to establish the coordinates of Barcelona and the triangulation that led to the calculation of the meridian arc – which served as the basis for the creation of the decimal metric system!
Did you know that the Sea-Facing Wall (in Catalan and in Spanish, Muralla de Marina) is the longest stretch of the curtain wall of Montjuïc Castle, without any defensive structure in between? Yes, this western wall facing the Mediterranean Sea is 155 meters long!
As you can see from the photo, the Sea-Facing Wall of Montjuïc Castle offers privileged views over the port of Barcelona, from the docks to the international cruise terminal. And from this same place, you can also see the Lighthouse of Montjuïc (in Catalan, Far de Montjuïc; and in Spanish, Faro de Montjuïc)!
Santa Eulàlia Moat
The Santa Eulàlia Moat (in Catalan, Fossat de Santa Eulàlia; and in Spanish, Foso de Santa Eulalia) is the moat located between the Bastion of Saint Amalia and the Velasco Bastion.
In reality, the Santa Eulàlia Moat isn’t an independent moat, but a section of the large Perimeter Moat that surrounds Montjuïc Castle, from the Bastion of Saint Charles to the Landward Lunette (in the second enclosure).
Created to give more height to the fort and improve its defense, the Santa Eulàlia Moat was used as a military training ground and a stage for political executions in the 19th and 20th centuries. The most famous was the shooting of President Lluís Companys on October 15th, 1940, by Francoist authorities.
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