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 2018 it will take part all around the city on May 19th, from 7 pm until 1 am.
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 lively 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 thought were some of the more interesting things on offer from 2018 Night of the Museums programme (Spanish or Catalan only). You can also download a handy map of the 80 locations and activities on each so you don’t miss anything.
- From Montjuïc to l’Hospitalet:
- From l’Eixample to Gràcia:
- From the Gothic Quarter to the sea:
- From El Raval to the port:
- Santa Coloma – Badalona – Sant Adrià – Fòrum – Glòries – Sant Andreu:
- Horta – Sant Gervasi – Pedralbes – Esplugues – Cornellà:
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 but you can also enjoy contemporary art exhibits, food trucks and music from 7pm to 1am. 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. Amongst 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 the 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. This year for this special evening “At the doors of the Renaissance” allows you to discover what a day in the life of a well off 15th century merchant from Barcelona was like! There is also a temporary William Morris exhibition. Admission is free from 7pm to 1am.
If nature is on your agenda, head towards Barcelona’s Botanical Gardens. With the theme “Lights and shadows”, they offer guided visits (don’t forget to bring a torch!) and a collective musical performance by the artist in residence. Several turns from 9pm to 12am.
One of the best art centres in the city, head over there and enjoy an array of activities. There are exhibitions including Disney, the Art of Telling Stories, Bafta 2017 short films (7.20pm & 9.30pm) and a concert of Brazilian music with Ganza (9pm, 10pm and 11pm).
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 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. On May 19th, there will be a series of dramatised readings by students from Escola Superior d’Art Dramàtic Eòlia.
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. In addition there is “The black light. Secret traditions in art since the 50s: Occultism, magic, esotericism and mysticism” – an exhibition analyzing the influence secret traditions have played on art since the fifties. If that doesn’t float your boat you have “Poetry Slam Barcelona” – a poetry contest. From 9pm to 11pm.
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 2018 they are in collaboration with El Graner Centre de creació del cos i el moviment, hosting the performance art piece “Adorno” (Ornament). This was created by members of the art collective Vértebro. It is one of the events surrounding the exhibition Machines for living. Flamenco and Architecture in the Occupation and Vacating of Spaces. This looks at flamenco, architecture, urban development and the inhabiting of a space. There are 3 shows of 25 minutes each: 7.30pm, 9.30pm and 11.30pm.
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 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 medieval defensive wall. You can visit the exhibits from 7pm to 1am 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 experimental comic workshops, concerts, performances and a DJ from 4pm until 1am.
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 some museums will have a free entrance on Friday 18th as part of the International Museum Day programme and 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 1st 2014. Updated on May 8th 2018
Main photograph by Jordi Payà