We woke up much earlier today than yesterday – a surprising feat – because we wanted to go visit Montjuïc. Montjuïc is a hill located on the Western side of Barcelona, and its name literally means “Jew Mountain” in old Catalan. The area is well-known for housing the Olympic Stadium during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. To get to the top of the hill, there are a couple of options: a cable car for €5 round-trip, the bus, or walk. The hop-on-hop-off tourist buses also go up the hill. We were fortunate to have sunshine during our visit, so we opted to take a bus from Parallel up the hill and then take a leisurely walk down.
Our first top on the hill was Montjuïc Castle. The castle was originally built as a fortress, and at one point was taken by the French. In fact, the fortress was not officially given back to Barcelona until 2007. The castle itself is not very interesting, but if you go to the top you can see panoramic views of the entire city. We didn’t pay to go inside or visit the military museum.
When we came out of the castle, we saw men doing Morris dancing outside. The Morris dance is a type of English folk dance, and the men told us that they travel all around the world performing. The most common sort of Morris dance involves handkerchiefs and sticks. You’ll also notice that they wear lots of bells on their shins.
After the castle, we headed to the Joan Miró Foundation, a museum housing works by the Barcelona-born painter and sculptor. Before out visit to the Joan Miró Foundation, I had only been vaguely familiar with Joan Miró, meaning whatever I could remember from my days in my middle school art classes. But after the museum visit, I’m now an admirer of Miró’s works. No pictures are allowed inside. Admission is €7 for students and €11 for a regular ticket.
Joan Miró is famous for his claim to assassinate painting. Starting in the 1930s, he began to experiment with different mediums and techniques. One of the most memorable works in them museum from this exploration were his Burnt Canvases; they were disturbingly fascinating. I was also fascinated by Miró’s attempts to put a poem into a painting. Other thoughtfully simplistic paintings include “The lark’s wing encircled with golden blue rejoins the heart of the poppy sleeping on the diamond-studded meadow.”
On the rooftop, there is an exhibition of some of Miró’s scuptures. My favorite was this one, cutely titled Sir, Madam.
There are also temporary exhibitions in the museum, and the one that stood out amongst the two was titled “El Cruadro” de la Calleja. The artist explored the exploitation of faith by examining a rare case in the mid-20th century. La Calleja is an alley where multiple girls in San Sebastian de Garabandal, Cantabria experienced divine sightings of the Virgin Mary. Videos and pictures of these possessed girls were presented, and they were all haunting yet thought-provoking.
Leaving the Joan Miró Foundation, we opted to skip the Olympic Stadium and instead go straight to see the Greek Theater. The sheer size of the theater is impressive, and when someone stands in the middle, the acoustics are brilliant. Feel free to give a short performance of your own while standing in the front center of the stage. I recommend Hamlet.
When we reached the bottom of Montjuïc hill, we could feel that it was time for lunch. We chose to go to Restaurante Pollo Rico, which we read had cheap food and was frequented by locals. Pollo Rico is located off the main roads, and upon walking up to the store we could see why the restaurant was popular. Inside, there are racks of chicken just roasting, and the smell of chicken easily leaks to the streets.
There is counter-seating on the ground floor or table-seating on the second floor. Pollo Rico has lots of good specials: a menú del día, a take-away special, a menu del pollo, and more. If you ever want cheap paella, this is the place. They have paella for €4. We decided to both get the menú del pollo (€6). It comes with ½ chicken, fried potatoes, soup, bread, and a drink. The English menu that they gave us was not as comprehensive as the Spanish one, and also did not include any of the specials, so make sure to read all the offerings on the outside of the restaurant before going inside.
The soup had a very concentrated chicken flavor, and it was most likely made from the juices from the roasting chickens.
The ½ chicken came with a generous portion of fried potatoes, basically French fries. We thought it was amusing that my friend and I got two halves of the same chicken; she got the dark meat side while I got the white meat side. The chicken retained its moisture nicely through the roasting process. The crispy skin was very salty, but the potatoes were unsalted, which – I’m not sure whether on purpose or by accident – complemented each other. The chicken was seasoned very simply, only salt and pepper.
For dessert, we ordered the crema catalana, something native to the region. Crema catalana is similar to the French crème brulée. Unlike crème brulée, though, the Spanish custard is set by chilling. The crema was deliciously creamy, and the bitterness from the caramelized sugar on top paired well with the cold custard.
Service was a bit slow at Pollo Rico, mainly because the restaurant was so busy. Whenever we called for a waiter, though, they were quick to respond. We saw families and tourists alike eating here, making the place feel very down-to-earth. My friend loved Restaurante Pollo Rico, and claimed in the restaurant that it was her favorite place. Thirteen days and four cities later, this restaurant is still her favorite out of all the places we ate at in Spain. In fact, she thought I should have given the place at least a 9.5/10. That’s a pretty outstanding review.
After lunch, we went back to the Gothic neighborhood to visit the Museo Picasso. It’s free on Sunday after 5 PM, but there are timed tickets, so you still have to wait in line to get inside. We waited in line for over half an hour in the rain. Picasso is always a hit or a miss for me, and I didn’t particularly love any of the paintings in the museum. The admission was free, though, so it never hurts to take a look.
Next, we tried to go into the Barcelona Cathedral, but we were denied access. My friend was wearing shorts that day, which we forgot was a big violation for any place of worship. Disheartened, we sat outside the cathedral listening to two guitarists before deciding to go have some chocolate and churros.
We had dessert at Valor, a chain, because it was the only churro store that we found that was open. We ordered a small cup of hot chocolate with four churros (€4.55). There is also a large cup of hot chocolate with 6 churros option (€5.25). The chocolate was super thick and sweet, good for dipping the churros. The chocolate was good for dipping, but hard to eat afterwards. I say eat and not drink because the chocolate was that thick. We had to order bottled water because the chocolate was so sweet. The churros weren’t reminiscent of ones we were accustomed to in the United States but just as oily. Somehow, I felt that they were just average.
My friend also ordered a mochachino. She commented that it was not very good and that the ones we had in Vienna were much better.
The consistency of Valor’s chocolate was great, but a tad bit too sweet. Also, the prices were too high. But we were so full from the churros and chocolate that we ended up not eating a real dinner. A sugar coma came next.
Restaurante Pollo Rico
Calle Sant Pau, 31
08001 Barcelona, Spain
08002 Barcelona, Spain