Barcelona’s Montjuic Castle

If you have half a day and wanted a full view of Barcelona, Montjuic Castle would be a good choice and easiest to go to from La Rambla.

A Cursed Castle

Thanks to its raised altitude, the hill was chosen as the site for the Castell de Montjuic fortification, which far from protecting the city in fact bombed it during the 1842 insurrection when Barcelona rose up against the Spanish government in Madrid.

The garrison continued to be a sinister symbol on high for the rest of the century and beyond, serving as a political prison and even a place of execution for dissidents such as Catalan nationalist Lluis Companys who was killed there in 1940 by Franco’s men.

The aforementioned fortress is not top of any Catalan’s list of favourite buildings, owing to its partisan history, however it’s fun to walk or take the cable car up to the top of the hill and explore the former military garrison. As well as checking out the parade ground and watchtower, these days you can also delve into its dungeons. Meanwhile the views over Barcelona’s commercial port are spectacular. 

Getting There

Montjuic Funicular is a one track, one train system, that shuttles tourists and locals up from Paral-lel metro station, towards many of the cultural treasures awaiting on the leafy slopes of this wonderful hill. If you’ve already ridden the metro to Paral-lel you can ride the funicular as an extension to your metro journey, at no additional cost.

After taking the Funicular half way up the hill, the Teleferic de Montjuic Cable Car will finish the job, hoisting you up the slope right up to the Montjuic Castle. From this side of the mountain you can look over the whole city, as well as down over Barcelona’s sprawling commercial port. Plus, of course, you visit the castle.

Montjuic Castel / Castell de Montjuic

In the mid-18th century the military engineer Juan Martín Cermeño was responsible for the remodelling of the enclosure as it had been significantly damaged during the War of the Spanish Succession, which took place from 1701 to 1714. Montjuïc Castle has been used to both defend Barcelona and to bombard it at various times of its history. In the late 19th century the building started to be used as a prison.

In 1940 Lluís Companys, the President of the Government of Catalonia, was executed by firing squad there and in 1963 Franco opened a Military Museum within its confines that was not definitively closed until 2009. Now Montjuïc Castle is owned by Barcelona City Council.

The entrance bridge and the facade: Cermeño designed them in 1751 as part of the defensive improvements.The style of the access bridge is neoclassical. Its two columns welcome visitors to the castle.

The bastions: Montjuïc Castle has four bulwarks, two on the main wall and two others inside. These structures jutting out from the wall served to protect the fortification.

The parade ground: in the highest part of the castle is the parade ground. Around it are the essential rooms for the life and management of the fortress. 

The terrace and the watchtower: from the parade ground you will arrive to the terrace.

This is the highest part of the compound. From here you have a panoramic view of the city of Barcelona.   

The sea-facing wall: this is a 155-metre-long wall that faces the sea. From here you have an impressive view of the Port of Barcelona.

The moat: also built by Cermeño. Today, it’s a beautiful landscaped area where many activities take place.

The hornwork and the ravelin: located between the first and second level is the hornwork, a series of defensive structures. The ravelin is the main element of the hornwork. It is located in the middle of the moat.

The seaward and landward lunettes: they were extensions of the bulwark and served to increase the security of the castle. 

The covered way: this is the pathway that surrounds the fortification. In the past, it was the front line of defence as it kept the enemy infantry at bay. 

A Dark History : The Santa Elena Moat

During the Civil War, from 1936 to 1938, Montjuic Castle was occupied by the Committee of Antifascist Militias. In view of the fact that modern warfare had rendered it obsolete and ineffective as a fortification, it was used to hold prisoners from the Francoist side, counting insurgents from the armed forces, members of right wing parties, and religious collaborators with the Movimiento. Some of these prisoners also lived out their last days in the Castle; 248 were executed in the Santa Elena Moat.

As soon as the national army occupied the Castle in January 1939, the Santa Elena Moat was made into a place of remembrance dedicated to “the heroes and martyrs of the Glorious National Movement” (“A los héroes y mártires del Glorioso Movimiento Nacional”). Shortly thereafter, a proper shrine was built to honour those “who have fallen for God and for Spain” (“A los Caídos por Dios y por España”).

Visited Aug 2018

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