MUHBA Plaça del Rei
This was the first nucleus of the MUHBA, and opened to the public in 1943. The remains within it range from items from Roman Barcino in the 1st century BC to the Barcelona of the 13th century A.D.and to the early Middle Ages. Visitors to this underground area can walk along the streets of Roman Barcelona, past the city wall; they can look around a laundry from the 2nd century A.D. and see the remains of the city's first Christian community, as well as other spaces. This site also features some important medieval buildings, such as Palau Reial, the Chapel of Santa Àgata and Saló del Tinell, in addition to the Gothic mansion of Casa Padellàs, originally located in another part of the city. The latter building is now used for temporary exhibitions on modern and contemporary Barcelona.
Visiting MUHBA Plaça del Rei
A visit to the Monumental Site of Plaça del Rei involves a journey through an area stretching over 4,000 m2, much of which is located beneath the actual square. In addition to revealing Roman Barcelona's urban structure, the remains also allow the visitor to take a close look at the commercial life of the city, some of its craft production centres, and everyday life of Barcelona's first Christian community.
As well as the underground area, MUHBA Plaça del Rei includes the buildings that make up the old Palau Comtal, later renamed Palau Reial. They are fascinating examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and they were also important sites for the expansion of Barcelona in mediaeval times.
Llibret de sala
Guide to the centre
Map of the Monumental Site
Laundry and dyeing workshop
In the 2nd century A.D., Barcino had a workshop district. It was located very near one of the city's main streets: Cardo maximus, where Plaça del Rei now stands. In the underground area beneath the square, a laundry workshop (fullonica) has been conserved, together with another that specialised in dyeing clothes (tinctoria). Visitors can see the sinks the dyers used to wash and rinse the clothes, as well as the different sinks for dyeing. By analysing this area, archaeologists have uncovered new data about how the Romans washed and dyed their clothing.
Fish salting and garum factory
The remains of a fish-salting factory (cetaria) dated to the 3rd century A.D., containing the rooms where the salted fish was washed, sliced and stored. In factories such as these, they produced garum, a sauce made from fish viscera mixed with other ingredients such as vinegar and oil. It appears that Barcino's garum came to enjoy a certain renown. As with the laundry and dyeing workshop, research carried out here has enabled archaeologists to discover some of the ingredients of this sauce, which is mentioned in several classical texts.
Next to the garum factory, an important wine-producing installation has been conserved and dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. The dolias (vats) here must have been large enough to store up to 10,000 litres of wine. The remains of fleshy fruits, yeast, honey and cinnamon found here have enabled researchers to reconstruct the winemaking process in Roman times.
Barcino Episcopal complex
This site, dated to a period between the 4th and the 7th centuries A.D., helps to explain the history of the city's first Christian community. Notable features include the baptistery, where the city's first Christians were baptised, the Episcopal palace, and the remains of a church with a floor plan in the shape of a cross, and its own cemetery. This site, which is one of the best conserved in the entire Iberian peninsula, would have stretched over up to a quarter of the fortified city.
Barcelona in the early Middle Ages
The 11th century Palau Comtal, which was three floors high and built onto the Roman wall, has a hall with Romanesque vaulting on its ground floor. In addition to the barrel vaults, part of the facade has been conserved, which features twinned and triple windows. Recently, the new permanent collection dedicated to the Barcelona of the early Middle Ages has opened in this space. It includes more than 200 items that help to bring the visitor closer to the everyday and the political and social life of that time.
Chapel of Santa Àgata
Construction began on the building in 1302, during the reign of Jaume II and Blanca d’Anjou, and possibly under the supervision of master builder Bertran de Riquer. It is not by chance that the chapel was dedicated to a saint from Catania: before he rose to the throne of Catalonia and Aragon, Jaume II was King of Sicily. Much of the chapel is built onto the Roman wall. It has one single nave, lined with polychrome wood, and features the magnificent altar of the epiphany, one of the most brilliant painted works of the time, by the painter Jaume Huguet. The building was closed for worship in 1835, and in 1866 became the first building to be recognised as a national monument. Between 1877 and 1932, it became the Museu Provincial d’Antiguitats (Provincial Antiquities Museum).
Saló del Tinell
Inaugurated in 1370. The building was commissioned by Pere III, el Cerimoniós (the Ceremonious), and was constructed by the architect Guillem Carbonell. The hall is spectacular in size: 33 metres long, 18 metres wide and 12 metres high. In the 16th century the space was converted into the Reial Audiència (Royal Court) and the seat of the Inquisition. In the 18th century it became a monastery, after part of the Palau Reial was ceded to the nuns of the Benedictine monastery of Santa Clara in 1718, which had been severely damaged during the War of Succession and was finally demolished to build the Citadel. Its imposing Gothic structure was rediscovered and restored after the nuns were forced to leave the monastery during the turbulent period at the beginning of the Civil War of 1936-39. Despite the buttresses that helped to sustain the weight of the vaulting, iron strips had to be added to support the structure, in the final decades of the 20th century.
A fine example of a Gothic mansion, featuring a courtyard that includes an access stairway to the first floor along a gallery, and which is dated to the late 15th century. Initially located on Carrer Mercaders, it was later moved to Plaça del Rei (1930-1931), owing to the building works to construct Via Laietana. The transportation of the building to Plaça del Rei was also part of the plans to monumentalise the new square, Plaça de Ramon Berenguer III (just behind it, on the side of Carrer de la Tapineria). This square, which was created when the new road was opened up, connected the Via Laietana with the oldest part of Barcelona, as part of an operation to reinforce the historic-artistic nature of the religious and political heart of the city by promoting it as a “Barri gòtic” (Gothic district). The excavations carried out to build its foundations resulted in the discovery of an amazing collection of Roman remains in the ground beneath Plaça del Rei.
Tuesday to Saturday, open from 10:00 to 19:00; Sunday 10:00 to 20:00. Closed Mondays.
Closed: 1 January, 1 May, 24 June and 25 December.
Tickets include access to all MUHBA centres
Standard ticket: 7 €
Groups of over 10 people: 5 €
Concessions: 5 € for people under 29, over 65, and holders of Barcelona library cards, targeta rosa reduïda, large family cards and single-parent family cards.
Entrance without charge: children under 16, holders of targeta rosa gratuïta and Barcelona Card, members of ICOM and Catalan Museologist Association, tourist guides, accredited journalists, assistants for disabled people and secondary school teachers, 'Gaudir +' promotion. Entrance free to all on the first Sunday of the month; all other Sundays free after 15:00.
Metro: Jaume I (L4)
Bus: 120, V17 and 45
Barcelona Tourist Bus: south route (red)