There are not many cities in Europe quite like Barcelona. From its cultural diversity to its rich history, every street has its own story to share. So much so, that the city has a museum that is spread out all over the city, in an attempt to tell the story of Barcelona. As years have passed, the city’s landscape has changed to the requirements of modern life. Yet, what lies underneath your feet and dotted in and around the modern skyscrapers, tell the story of its past. Whereas some cities leave their history behind them as they develop, Barcelona did it differently. Instead, allowing its history to thrive alongside modernising methods, something that we are very grateful for. Come and discover with us, as we shed light on the museum of history of Barcelona (MUHBA).
Origins of the museum of the history of Barcelona
After the success of Barcelona’s second world exposition in 1929, there was interest in starting up a museum to recognise the history of Barcelona. By chance, in 1931, Via Laietana was scheduled to be opened, in an attempt to grow the city centre and harbour growth. However, this move meant that the gothic palace of Casa Padellàs would have to be moved to Plaça del Rei or face being demolished. Padellàs would have to be painstakingly taken apart, brick by brick, and moved over to its new location. In the process, it became clear that the palace lied on the remnants of the Roman city of Barcino! Immediately after this discovery, excavation started and the whole quarter of the city would be discovered. The idea of the MUHBA was born.
After excavation was completed, the MUHBA was opened in 1943, after the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 had halted any research. With the Casa Padellàs acting as an entrance and exhibition of medieval and modern Barcelona. With the main attraction of the museum in these early days being the mass underground workings of Barcino. The first visitors, after seeing such well preserved remains, were inspired to find more artifacts in the city. This would lead to the discovery of the amazing Temple of Augustus and the Roman funeral way of Vila de Madrid square, which were found in 1954. Once discoveries like these were made, they were tied to the MUHBA as a way to spread out the exhibition for many to come and visit.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, some changes were made to the MUHBA. With new discoveries being added as sights for the museum, and the Casa Padellàs becoming the home to temporary exhibitions for the visitors to enjoy. In addition to this, the MUHBA saw the remnants be remodeled and protected, as well as having new findings to Roman life in Barcelona added to their information.
Top 5 MUHBA sites over Barcelona
MUHBA Plaça del Rei
The most important of all sites has to be this. Not only as it is situated in between 2 medieval palaces in the Plaça del Rei and Casa Padellàs, but for the underground of Barcino that it reveals. A settlement that transports you back to the times of the Romans, when descending in the elevator, the scene is set, and you go to Roman street level. This amazing find shows you many amazing building remnants for you to admire, such as wineries (as seen below), an old sewers works, housing, a row of shops and an altar. This whole experience allows you to get as close as is possible to Roman life in Ancient Barcelona. It is spine tingling and truly captures the imagination every time you visit.
Temple of Augustus
Second up is the Temple of Augustus. Built in honour of Emperor Augustus, who lived from 63BC until 14AD. The original temple was located on Tàber Hill, currently in Carrer del Paradís number 10, some 2,000 years ago. Nowadays, after forming part of the MUHBA since 1954, these Roman pillars that remain stand tall for the public to admire, as they did back in the days of Barcelona.
Roman funeral way
Found in Vila de Madrid square, there is an outdoor exhibition that is located slightly underground. Here, where what used to be a road into the Roman city of Barcino, was once a burial place. Today, there are the well preserved gravestones of those who were laid to rest here, somewhere between 1-3 Century AD. This is another gem of Ciutat Vella, where history comes to life in a very human way. The way in which these artifacts were preserved show the great care taken for them. You can spend a lot of time here soaking in the history of what is in front of you.
The Door of the Sea and the Dockside Thermal Baths
It is well-known how much the Romans enjoyed life’s luxuries, namely with the use of hot springs to make thermal baths. These were enjoyed by all, as a way to socialise and look after oneself. One of the best preserved thermal baths was found near the sea, just out of the city centre of Barcelona. Dating back to between 1-2 Century AD, these thermal baths were built for the locals to enjoy. They show the social side of this part of history and make for an interesting place to visit.
MUHBA El Call
Finally, we are looking at the MUHBA El Call. Another site of the museum, tells all about life in the Jewish quarter in the city during the medieval period. With some amazing relics, this gives an interesting insight to life in Barcelona during the middle ages. Found in the house of a former veil-weaver, this museum enables us to learn about how pivotal the Jewish community was at the time and how their cultural legacy has lived on for the benefit of the Catalan Capital.
As there are more than 15 sites that compromise the MUHBA, feel free to learn about all the other sites on their website.