The Maritime Museum of Barcelona (Museu Marítim) is worth a visit if you’re in Barcelona, even if you’re not interested in ships. Then again, if you’re not in Barcelona, it’s probably not worth spending a lot of money to go there just to see the Maritime Museum. However, there are plenty of other, much better reasons to visit Barcelona.
Why go to the museum if you’re not interested in things maritime? The building that houses the Maritime Museum of Barcelona is handsome and historic. That’s why.
I said handsome because its beauty is understated rather than overpowering. I mean that in a good way. It impresses, without overwhelming.
Maritime Museum of Barcelona: Architectural artifact
The museum is housed the Barcelona Royal Shipyards, which was built in the thirteenth century. As you might imagine for a royal anything built back then, it’s a beautiful old building. There are parallel rows of high, arched ceilings. The wood ceilings rest above stone ribs sitting on stone pillars.
Inside, are models of ships from various periods. This includes two models of the same ship, the royal galley of Don John of Austria, a sixteenth century military leader under his half-brother, the King of Spain. One of the models is relatively small, but the other is life-size.
The other displays include both replicas and original boats. The original boats are all more modern than Don John’s royal galley, but they’re still not boats that that you would likely buy today unless you are a collector of somewhat, but not exceptionally old boats.
In addition to boats, ships and ship models, the exhibits include ship parts, old maps, naval paintings and naval sketches.
Fortunately for Anglophones, such as me, the Maritime Museum of Barcelona provides both Spanish and English descriptive and interpretive text with the displays. As far as I could see, unilingual speakers of other languages are out of luck. Then again, I didn’t spend any time looking for text in other languages.
In addition to describing the individual exhibits, the text also helps to tell the story of the history of maritime shipping in Barcelona.
I don’t know if this is a regular feature or a special deal, but when I was there my ticket to the Maritime Museum of Barcelona also allowed me to visit, at no extra charge, the schooner Santa Eulàlia. The schooner was docked in Barcelona’s harbour.
The Santa Eulàlia is allegedly one of the oldest sailing ships existing in the Mediterranean. If you’re in Barcelona and you want to visit the schooner Saturday morning (I didn’t) plan to pay extra and spend a few hours on board. On Saturday mornings the Santa Eulàliua goes out on a three-hour cruise for tourists.
Fans of the 1960s television show Gilligan’s Island might be nervous about three hour cruises. People who have never heard of Gilligan’s Island won’t get the reference. Pity.
Tall, but small ship
Going aboard the Santa Eulàlia while it’s docked is not nearly as exciting as it sounds. That is, assuming it sounds at least somewhat exciting to you.
It is a tall ship, but not a particularly large or exciting one. The ticket allows you walk around the schooner’s small deck. You can also go into a couple of small, dark rooms below deck. That’s about it.
If I hadn’t gone to the museum and only wanted to board the Santa Eulàlia I would have had to pay €3. If you’re faced with that charge, my recommendation is to save your money. In my opinion it’s not worth paying anything just to go aboard. The Saturday-morning cruise might be fun, but I wasn’t in Barcelona on a Saturday.