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A Brief History of Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA)

Updated: Jan 17

What is the Museu d’Història de Barcelona?


The Museu d’Història de Barcelona also know as MUHBA, or The Museum of the History of Barcelona in English, is an ever-changing museum that allows you to stroll through 2,000 years of Barcelona’s history.

Inside the museum of the history of barcelona

JosepBC, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Museu d’Història de Barcelona History


The Idea of the Museum

The idea of setting up a museum dedicated to the history of the city dates back to the International Exhibition of 1888. Over centuries, the city council had amassed a vast collection of objects related to Barcelona's history, which they stored in the former Museum of Art and Archaeology located in the old military arsenal (now home to the Parliament of Catalonia).


These holdings were eventually curated by archivist and historian Agustí Duran i Sanpere and displayed during Barcelona’s second International Exhibition in 1929. For the first time, they could be seen not merely as a collection of singular objects, but rather as constituent parts of a coherent narrative about the history of the Catalonian capital.


Inauguration and Development

The Museu d'Història de Barcelona was inaugurated after the Spanish Civil War in 1943 and Durán i Sanpere named as its first director.


he exhibits were initially based around the displays he had organised for the 1929 International Exhibition. However, he stated that he found the museum's inauguration too hasty and asked for more time to investigate the outstanding artistic and archaeological treasures at his disposal.


As a result, it has often been argued that the museum did not reach its full potential until the early 1960s.


Location and Features

The main site is located inside the Casa Padellàs, a 16th-century Gothic-style merchant’s palace. In the early 1930s, the building was relocated, stone by stone, from Carrer dels Mercaders (some 200 metres north of here), following the creation of a new major thoroughfare, the Via Laietana.


Preparatory works for the road unearthed numerous remains from the ancient Roman city of Barcino. This discovery sparked interest among the general public in learning more about the city's history.


Exhibits and Evolution

In 1961, a concrete roof was erected over the 4,000-square-metre Roman and Visigothic remains, allowing visitors to see one of the first iterations of Barcelona dating back to the 1st century BC.


Down at this level you can walk the Roman streets, stopping off at a laundry, dying workshop, and a factory that produced garum, a fermented fish sauce that was the ketchup of the ancient world.


Over the years, the museum has incorporated other areas uncovered in archaeological excavations. These include the Temple of Augustus, the Roman Funeral Way (a road lined by tombs) incorporated into the Plaça de la Vila de Madrid, and the remains of a Roman villa found in the Plaça d’Antoni Maura.


Since the 1970s, however, the museum has strengthened its interest in contemporary Barcelona and incorporated new heritage centres throughout the city’s neighbourhoods.


Discover Barcelona's Rich History

The museum’s most remarkable feature remains the archaeological excavation under the Plaça del Rei, but other exhibits too, detailing Barcelona in the Middle Ages, are bound to give you a good sense of the city’s rich history.


There are many ways to fall in love with a city: for instance, choosing to embrace its culture, getting to know its people or indulging in its food and drink. Wandering the halls of this spectacular museum allows you to journey from the city’s origins in pre-history all the way to its 13th-century form, directly engaging with the city's past.


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