Barcelona Museums and Galleries
Museu del Disseny de Barcelona
Pl. de les Glòries Catalanes, Eixample
Completed in 2014 and located in a neo-Brutalist building affectionately nicknamed "The Stapler," Barcelona's new design museum brought 4 local design archives under one roof, making it pretty expansive as it goes for design collections. With its vast holdings in textiles, product design, and printed materials through the centuries, it provides a perfect entrance-level survey into the world of design, though it's the small though thoughtful permanent exhibition on Catalan product design that wins our vote with over 80 years' worth of locally-made design.
El Born Cultural Center
12 Plaça Comercial, Born
The Born neighborhood has a bit of an artistic reputation, so it's really no surprise that when it came time to remodel their market, they re-imagined it as a historic and cultural center. The new project was first unveiled in 2013, corresponding with the tricentennial of the Siege of Barcelona—a hugely important date to Catalans, as it represents the end of the War of Spanish Succession and the last time Catalonia was independent from Spain. The market itself is a historic structure, as it was the first Spanish market to be built in the iron-framed, French market style, but an excavation beneath the old floor reveals ruins that date back to medieval times. A permanent exhibition explores life in the city in the early 1700s, and is a great way to dip a toe into the city's complicated and fascinating history. You can also check their website for lectures, music performances, and temporary art exhibitions.
345 Carrer de Pere IV, Poblenou
While this arts studio and co-working space doesn't necessarily function as a gallery—they have one gallery night a month and otherwise you have to book to tour the space—it's definitely one of the best places to understand the contemporary art scene in Barcelona as it's where the freshest work is coming out of. The ever-evolving display of graffiti on the walls outside alone is worth the trip.
99 Carrer de Pujades, Poblenou
More than a gallery, this is a hub of cultural activity with a studio workspace for artists in the back. With a constant stream of evening events from art sales, to openings, to food and drink tastings, this a hotspot for young artists and a great place to discover young talent.
Museu Can Framis
Carrer de Roc Boronat, Poblenou
It's hard not to get lured in by Catalan culture when in Barcelona, and for those who want to go a little deeper there's the Can Framis which shows some of the greatest local contemporary artists from the last 60 years. The real draw here, though, is the building itself and its surrounding green spaces by local Catalan (of course) architect Jordi Badia. There's something incredibly serene about the hulking, semi-industrial space in this quiet old neighborhood.
6-8 Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, Sants-Montjuïc
CaixaBank is Spain's largest bank, and its foundation, La Caixa, is one of the largest in the world. CaixaForum, their signature cultural program, exists in every major Spanish city (and a few smaller cities as well), offering cultural programs such as art exhibitions, live music, kids programs, film screenings, and more. The Barcelona iteration, housed in a renovated textile factory, is one of the largest in the country.
Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc, Sants-Montjuïc
Seminal 20th-century artist Joan Miró was born in Barcelona in 1893, but he was most influenced by the years he spent outside Barcelona, in Mont-roig (a small Catalan town), Majorca, Paris, Japan, and New York. You can see some of Miró's work in the States (sculptures in Chicago and Houston, paintings at MoMa) but seeing such a comprehensive edit of his art at Fundació Joan Miró, a space created by Miró himself in 1975, is a whole different experience. In addition to the museum's Miró collection, other artists from the 20th- and 21st-centuries are occasionally featured in varied temporary exhibitions.
Fundació Antoni Tàpies
255 Carrer d'Aragó, Dreta de l'Eixample
The collection at Fundació Antoni Tàpies may be a little esoteric for non-art buffs, but it's certainly a legit, if less mainstream museum experience. The bulk of the Fundació is comprised of works by Antoni Tàpies, a distinguished painter and Barcelona native who passed away in 2012. Tàpies's diverse body of work touches everything from the abstract, to Surrealism, sculptures, tactile object works made of a combination of unlikely materials, and his textured, layered "matter paintings." The museum, which Tàpies founded in 1984 (and opened in 1990), sits in an old publishing house that was originally constructed in 1880—and many architectural details have been preserved. (For example, the shelves in the Fundació library are the original shelves from the publishing warehouse.)
15-23 Carrer Montcada, Sant Pere
The downside to going to the Picasso museum in Barcelona is you're likely to run into a line. (Although you can purchase tickets online to cut down on waiting time.) But for Picasso and art lovers, the museum affords a unique look at the artist's early work, which makes sense given that Picasso spent his formative years here in Barcelona. The museum setting itself also feels special—Museu Picasso is housed in five Catalan-gothic palaces with central courtyards and open-air staircases that date back to the 13th- to 15th-centuries.