Barcelona's Top Five Small Museums

by deaniewrites

Discover five smaller and lesser-known museums in Barcelona worth visiting.

They may not have the prestige of the Picasso museum, or the extensive collection of the Museu National d’Art de Catalunya, but Barcelona has many smaller and lesser-known museums worth visiting. This collection of museums spans all of history, with art, artifacts and insight into what makes Barcelona such a great city to visit. Here are five museums to visit:

(1) The Barcelona history museum, with its extensive Roman ruins and medieval chapel
(2) the Frederic Mares museum, with its displays of a lifetime of collecting from one of Barcelona's top sculptors
(3) The Chocolate museum, with its combination of history, artistry, and mastery of chocolate on display
(4) Tapies Foundation, with its ever-changing exhibits of Barcelona's greatest 20th century artist
(5) The Egyptian Museum, with its ancient artifacts and educational displays.

Museu d'Historia de Barcelona

Barcelona History Museum

Archaeology buffs should flock to the main location of this museum, which has one of the largest underground excavations of Roman ruins in the world.  After displays showing the history of Roman Barcelona, the elevator takes you downstairs to the archaeological subsoil.  Following the audio guide, you get not only the physical descriptions of the ruins themselves, but also a guide to how people lived in the ancient Roman city of Barcino, and onward, with excavations of buildings up to the 14th century.

Above ground is the Palau Reial, the former residence of the kings of Catalonia.  It has been turned into a museum, with artifacts from the excavations only being part of the story.  The museum’s exhibits trace Barcelona from Neolithic to modern times.

The museum also includes the gorgeous 15th century Chapel of Saint Agatha.  The highlight is the gothic altarpiece by Jaume Huguet.  Even otherwise empty, the rounded lines of the roof and the colorful stained glass windows show how majestic the chapel once was. 

Museu d'Historia de Barcelona

Excavations of Roman Barcino
Excavations of Roman Barcino
Pottery in the Museum
Pottery in the Museum
Chapel of Saint Agatha
Chapel of Saint Agatha
Altar of Saint Agatha's Chapel
Altar of Saint Agatha's Chapel

Museu Frederic Mares

Frederic Mares Museum

Catalan artist Frederic Mares was a sculptor by trade, but his true passion was collecting.  “I make sculptures to buy sculpture,” he once said, but sculpture wasn’t the only thing he collected.

The extensive sculpture part of his collection spans two floors, with pieces from ancient times to the Renaissance, including an impressive group of religious icons and statuary.  The remaining two floors house all of the other things he collected.  The Ladies’ Quarter includes clothing, calling cards, decorative fans, needlework, jewelry and many other things women would use in the 19th century.  Other collections include lighters, toy soldiers, photographs, coins, pipes, scissors, keys, and many other things. 

His collection, viewed as a whole, can actually be overwhelming, but taken step by step it is a unique insight into who Frederic Mares was.

Collections of the Frederic Mares Museum

Religious Statuary
Religious Statuary
Various Collections
Various Collections

Museu de la Xocolata

Museum of Chocolate

This one of Barcelona’s smallest museums is also it’s tastiest.  On the edge of the Gothic Quarter is the Museu de la Xocolata, or museum of chocolate.  Not only is the Museu one of the best chocolate shops in Barcelona, but the exhibits will tell you everything you wanted to know about chocolate but didn’t know to ask.

The museum starts off with displays on the history of chocolate.  From the cocoa bean’s humble beginning in South America, it became a valuable trading commodity, then a delicacy for the wealthy, before modern processing methods made chocolate a treat for the masses.  In the museum you can see examples of machinery used for processing cocoa into chocolate.

The next part of the museum is a sculpture gallery of chocolate.  In the hands of the right artist, anything can be made out of chocolate -- including miniature replicas of the lizard from Park Guell and the entire Sagrada Familia

Of course, no trip to a chocolate museum would be complete without picking up a bit of chocolate to go at the museum’s café and chocolate shop.

Fundacio Tapies

Antoni Tapies Foundation

Antoni Tapies has been called Barcelona’s greatest artist of the 20th century.  The largest collection of his work resides in the foundation that bears his name.

The stylistic delights begin with the building that houses the museum, a former publishing house designed by one of the greats of Modernisme architecture, Lluis Domenech i Montaner.  On top of the building is Cloud and Chair, a large abstract sculpture from Tapies.

Inside the museum, the exhibits change, showing off various collections and aspects of his work.  Recent exhibits have included Tapies:  From Within (June - November 2013), Tapies Collection #6 (November 2013 - February 2014) and Tapies Collection #7 (February - May 2014).  The changing collections at the museum mean that it’s never the same place twice, and modern art fans may want to visit on subsequent trips to Barcelona.

Works by Antoni Tapies

Antoni Tapies Foundation, Barcelona, Spain
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Museu Egipci de Barcelona

Barcelona's Egyptian Museum

In a city where many of the most notable sights are from recent history, this museum is a calm oasis of ancient artifacts in the Eixample neighborhood.  Right down the street from the Fundacio Tapies and the Mansana de la Discordia is Spain’s only Egyptian museum. 

The collection encompasses over 1000 items from Egypt, as well as a large reading library.  They also have temporary exhibits -- like this one with photos documenting the discovery and excavation of the tomb of king Tutankhamen.  They also have displays that expand on the artifacts, trying to show how they would have been incorporated in the Egyptian tombs thousands of years ago.

Displays from Barcelona's Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Mummy with X-Rays
Egyptian Mummy with X-Rays
Mummy with Historical Display
Mummy with Historical Display


Barcelona is a museum lover's delight, with art, architecture, and history on display in museums big and small.  By visiting museums that aren't in every guidebook's top ten list, travelers get a closer, more intimate view of Barcelona's culture.

Updated: 03/05/2014, deaniewrites
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DerdriuMarriner on 08/18/2022

Your images are all so clear regarding colors, lighting and shapes.

What type of camera do you use?

In particular, I like the way that I can read the hieroglyphics in the two Egyptian Museum-related images.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/11/2022

It intrigues me that Frederic Marès collected not only artworks but also daily-living objects, such as keys and pipes.

Is there an explanation anywhere as to why he sought the mundane and practical?

Those collections would be helpful in comparing how artists depicted accessories and clothing from the sculptor's lifetime and to dating images and objects.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/18/2022

In particular, I appreciate your referencing the Manzana de la Discordia (Catalan pun intended, for apple of discord and block of buildings of discord) by Modernista architects Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Enric Sagnier.

Which one is your favorite?

The interiors merit visits even as the exteriors seem like such an open-air museum experience, like La Plaça del Diamant (Diamond Square). Were you all able to fit Diamond Square into your visit?

DerdriuMarriner on 07/07/2022

Barcelona appears to protect its ancient through modern culture. Does Museu d'Historia de Barcelona have any information as to the controversial etymology of Barcelona and Barcino?

DerdriuMarriner on 05/09/2022

Revisiting your wizzley brought to mind something that I pondered way back with the first reading.

Does the chocolate museum share how artists, collectors, purchasers and sellers keep the chocolate sculptures looking attractive and pest-free?

DerdriuMarriner on 04/17/2017

DeanieWrites, I particulary like the continuous historical perspective above- and below-ground through the Barcelona History Museum and the elegant beauty of Saint Agatha's Chapel. Do you know what material is available in the reading library of Barcelona's Egyptian Museum?

Sheri_Oz on 03/04/2014

The history museum looks fascinating. I usually don't stay long in big cities when I go to new countries, but these sites look worth seeing.

ologsinquito on 03/04/2014

I'd love to see Barcelona someday. These museums look so interesting, especially the Museum of History.

Mira on 03/04/2014

Great page, Deanie! :) I love Barcelona, too, and spent 7-8 days there last time, but didn't get to see these museums. There's so much to see and experience in Barcelona!

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