One of my favourite nights of the year in Barcelona is fast approaching: The Night of the Museums. This free late-night viewing of exhibitions is not only exclusive to my city but is part of a wider initiative across Europe. It doesn’t matter if you are a local or a visitor. It is a great activity for all and in 2019 it will take part all around the city on May 18th, from 7 pm until 1 am. This year is also quite special as there is a full moon in Barcelona that night.
Like every year, some venues will include special activities, live performances and music. I love this night. There is something so special about entering these cultural venues late in the evening, sometimes with live music playing and with rooms full of people chatting. In my eyes, it adds a lively light on the exhibits and you view them through a more fun perspective. So put your glam rags on and follow some of my suggestions of what I think are some of the more interesting things on offer from 2019 Night of the Museums programme (Spanish or Catalan only).
From Montjuïc to l’Hospitalet:
This fortress overlooking the city has a long history closely linked to the city and has played a role in some of its darkest moments. Not only are there guided tours of areas usually closed to the public (like the dungeons) but you can also enjoy contemporary art exhibits, food trucks and music from 7 pm to 1 am. It takes a little longer to get to than some of the other places, so you might like to take in some of the views in the beautiful gardens close by. Among other exhibits, there is a Lost Memory 1936-1975 – showcasing the work of the photographer Miquel Gonzàlez. This includes 40 photographs of Spain where the photographer captures lost memories of the Civil War.
Fundació Joan Miró
The exceptional white modern Mediterranean structure holds a great collection of Miró’s work. The artist was alive at the time of the construction and had a say in its design. You’ll be admiring the architecture alongside contemporary art.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
This magnificent palace was built in 1929 for the international exhibition and has fabulous night time views of the city. Its Romanesque mural collection is recognized as one of the best in Europe. The Gothic Art section also packs a great punch. Modern collections can be found on the upper floor. For this special evening, there will be a marching band, a live concert by local singer Monique Makon and even a detective game for the young ones. If Art is your thing, we recommend the temporary exhibition showing the works of 15th-century master Bartolomé Bermejo. Admission is free from 7 pm to 1 am.
If nature is on your agenda, head towards Barcelona’s Botanical Gardens. With the theme “All the Mediterraneans in the world”, they offer guided visits (don’t forget to bring a torch!) with several turns from 9 pm to 12 am. May 18th is also full moon so there will be astronomical observations of the moon with musical accompaniment.
One of the best art centres in the city, head over there and enjoy an array of activities. There are exhibitions including Max Beckmann and Alexander “The Great”, animation short films (7.30 pm & 9.30 pm) and a concert of Jazz standards with Gerard Nieto Reunion Three.
From l’Eixample to Gràcia:
Fundació Antoni Tàpies
Tàpies was a controversial artist that isn’t to everyone’s taste. He is famous for using other materials rather than oil paint on his canvases. The collection is housed in a building by Domènech I Montaner, one of the earlier works in Catalan Art Nouveau period. I like how Tàpies has heightened the building by placing a contrasting stylised sculpture of a cloud and chair on top. Take a look and see what you think.
Nothing is missing in Barcelona, not even a museum dedicated to the world of ancient Egypt. There is a free entrance to the permanent collection, including over 1,000 pieces but, if this is not enough, you can also visit the very interesting temporary exhibition about the discovery of Tutankhamon’s tomb.
Museu del Modernisme de Barcelona
Have a peek at the under-appreciated Catalan Art Nouveau Museum. It houses a superb collection of Art furniture and other decorative elements and it is not so large that it will wear you out.
From the Gothic Quarter to the sea:
Museu Etnològic i de Cultures del Món
Travel through cultures from Asia, the Americas, Africa and Oceania at one of Barcelona’s newest additions. If you stop to marvel at all the pieces, you’ll be there all night, so I’d recommend focusing your visit to the regions that really interest you. This year among other exhibits there is “Ifni. The African mile of the Catalans”, an examination of the history of a small wild Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco.
Museu Frederic Marès
This is an enchanting museum which houses an artist’s lifetime collection of objects. Greek stone sculptures to wooden virgins reside in this old palace which has a beautiful original courtyard. Don’t miss the top two floors which display anything from naked lady pipes to weird walking sticks to vintage comic strips to elegant Art Nouveau jewellery.
CCCB – Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
This Art centre is right in the heart of the Raval district and it houses the World Press Photo annually. This is a great opportunity to see some of the best images from last year’s top press photographers. If that doesn’t float your boat, you have “Poetry Slam Barcelona”, a poetry contest from 9 pm to 11 pm.
From El Raval to the port:
La Virreina Image Centre
Housed in an 18th-century palace in the middle of la Rambla, this centre offers regular exhibitions and activities. In 2019 the highlight is the exhibition “People of the 20th century” by German photographer August Sander, a social portrait of the everyday German citizens from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Museu Marítim de Barcelona
An old shipbuilding yard now turned museum, gives a fun and interesting view of maritime life in Barcelona. From the everyday routine of sailors to actual ships on show as well as temporary exhibitions, this space is large enough to house them all. To the side of this building (on Paral·lel street) is the best surviving part of Barcelona’s defensive medieval wall. You can visit the exhibits from 7 pm to 1 am and, in addition, you can enjoy the music of the l’Escola de Músics with an orchestra of more than 100 musicians.
Museu D’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
This modern building really suits the array of modern contemporary works that pass through its concrete corridors. Check it out if you are into the modern art scene. There are a variety of activities, including an exhibition of Christian Marclay plus the artist-musician himself performing at the museum.
Filmoteca de Catalunya
I love the minimal design of this great cinema where you can catch world films in original version. For this evening they are treating people to some Charley Chaplin, a 1911 version of Pinocchio and the 1934 classic Mutiny on the Bounty! Whatever you choose I would arrive early to get a spot.
Santa Coloma – Badalona – Sant Adrià – Fòrum – Glòries – Sant Andreu:
Museu Blau (Natural History Museum)
Always a hit with the young ones (and the not so young), this modern building houses a permanent collection interpreting the Earth today as well as different temporary exhibitions, from photography to nutrition.
Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (Disseny Hub building at Glòries)
This is an impressive structure built to re-house the city’s ceramics, decorative arts and textile works. There is a selection of different exhibitions to choose from as well as the permanent collections.
Horta – Sant Gervasi – Pedralbes – Esplugues – Cornellà:
Santa Maria de Pedralbes Royal Monastery
Founded in 1937, this is the hidden jewel of the Catalan Gothic style. The church, monastery and gardens are open for a free visit this night but, if you want to dig deeper, there will be 45 minute guided tours to get a glimpse of monastic life in medieval times.
Museu FC Barcelona (Camp Nou)
For all you football fans out there, come visit the stadium’s museum of the most famous football team in the world. Not into the sport myself, however, I am quite impressed by the scale and proud exhibits of this club.
That sums up my recommendations for the evening so go out, have fun and take part in that special cultural night during the spring in Barcelona. Don’t forget also that most public museums are free on Sundays and that our daily Barcelona Free Walking Tours will be running as usual, twice a day. If you are here for more days you can also check our tips for things to do in Barcelona in May.
Post originally published on May 2014. Updated on May 2019
Main photograph by Jordi Payà
The museums are also free on the 18th all day.
Ann Marie Brannigan says
The actual International Museum Day is on Sunday 18th so the museums will be free that day. Thanks for the extra info lincasanova.
I reallycannot believe i missed it!!! What a shame!,,,
Ann Marie Brannigan says
You have to leave something for the next visit 😉
Hello Anne Marie.Thank you for your suggestions,I just ask a few questions concerning the Day of museum:Sunday 17 or monday 18? According to official website it will be 17?Could you give me a website link confirming that it is on monday 18?
Will be some museums like the picasso one packed of crowd?
And concerning the free tour,do you have a Spanish one or even catalan?
Ann Marie Brannigan says
The International Museum Day is on the 18th but, being a Monday, the free entrance will the on the 17th (Sunday). That is where the confusion arose and it is all fixed now.
The most popular museums (Picasso, for example) will definitely be packed on the 17th but there are other amazing museums in the city that deserve a visit, like the MNAC or the City History Museums, and where there will be no waiting in line.
Our scheduled free walking tours (Gaudí and Old City) are only in English. We don’t offer free tours in Spanish or Catalan but you can see the timetable of the English ones under “Our Tours” on the main menu.
Ann Marie Brannigan says
Just an update: some of the museums that close on Monday (like the Picasso Museum, for example) will have a free entrance on Sunday 17th while with some of the others, the free entrance will be on Monday 18th. My advice is to check with each individual place. Enjoy a cultural day everyone!
Gaudi House Museum - Casa Vicens says
Thanks Ann Marie for sharing this info, we are agree with you: The Night of the Museums is amazing, every people in city goes out to enjoy until next day! See you next time.
Ann Marie Brannigan says
It is definitely one of my favourite nights in the city. There is such a nice vibe about it.