Museu Maritim Barcelona Maritime Museum

If you came to Barcelona just for the football and modernist architecture, you are forgetting something very big and very blue. The city of Barcelona is quite litterally on the Mediterranean and has a port of some size to speak of. A lot of the wealth that Barcelona earned and is on display today came through this port; the heart of which is the Drassanes Reials or the Royal Shipyards. Just search for the grandest building in the locale and you would have found either the police, port authorities or the Museu Maritim. The history of Barcelona needs to be seen and felt through its relationship with the sea and the Museu Maritim offers the best opportunity to do so. It was declared to be a Historic and Artistic Monument in 1976.

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Maritime Museum in Barcelona

The Royal Shipyards date from 1283. After Barcelona united with the kingdom of Aragon in 1137, the city became a centre for the construction of ships for Aragon's navy, especially galleys. Ships kept coming out of Barcelona until the second half of the 17th century. The product must have been good, because it helped Aragon to grow in power and was the source of Magellan's convoy to circumnavigate the globe. When the sea lost its lustre for Barcelona, the army moved in and installed its artillery staff and depot at the shipyards until 1935 when the place was handed over to the city. For 2 years, it lay abandoned, but moves were already afoot to restore it, which became reality when the Museu Maritim was founded in 1937.

The entrance of the museum

Is this the oldest sub in the world? The XIII and XIVth Centuries were renowned for their Gothic architecture and we have a good and original illustration here with the naves and pillars. The shipyards were completed in stages by 1390 and then as with most buildings, new pieces are added, such as the Porxo Nou in 1415, which is a two-storey building located at the north corner and referred to as the Pere IV Building, and then the naves were extended in the XVIIIth Century to the side facing inland and currently known as the Comillas Hall. The Spanish civil war damaged part of the building and its public opening was delayed until 1941.

During the 1940s and 1950s, extra rooms were opened, namely the Capmany Hall devoted to sailing boats of the XVIII and XIXth Centuries and the Marques de Comillas Hall devoted to mechanically propelled ships. No self-respecting maritime museum would dare go without a few very good and historically important models of ships: Magellan's Santa Maria de la Victoria that completed the circumnavigation of the globe in 1522 and La Galeria Real of Don Juan of Austria, that featured in the Battle of Lepanto. Both are faithful to the originals, right down to the miniature carvings and paintings on the sides. And, in case you thought that medieval maritime ability did not extend under the sea, possibly the first submarine in history is here.

The collections come from the small beginnings of the Nautical Institute of the Mediterranean and include nautical instruments, sea paintings, and figureheads and of course maps, including one owned by the explorer Amerigo Vespucci. For the virtual reality-inclined visitors, the Sea Adventure exhibition is for you. The museum now occupies over 10,000 sqm and plans were developed to restore the shipyards and all other attached buildings to their full watery glory. The idea is to make the museum a centre of maritime culture and research. After swimming in maritime history, you might then amble over to the Rambla for some sangria and salute Columbus' statue on the way.

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Just outside the front there is this monument to Columbus

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