Montjuïc rises abruptly 626 feet above the sea right below. This hill, probably a pre-historic settlement, holds today many cultural, sports and leisure facilities. Before the Romans founded Barcino, at the top of Montjuic there was an Iberian village. Its name might come from the Roman Mons Jovis (Jupiter mountain), though others say the name comes from the medieval jewish cementery there was on its slopes.
For centuries, Montjuïc was the site of a lighthouse and watch tower due to its priviledged location over the sea. It was also the place where Barcelona citizens went when they wanted to get away from the hectic city life and have a day "in the country". Two main events have modelled the hill's urbanism: the 1929 Universal Exhibition and the 1992 Olimpic Games. For the 1929 Exhibition several monumental buildings were put up, among which the Palau Nacional, today National Museum of Art of Catalunya (MNAC) and the two towers at the plaça de Espanya, which highlight the entrance to the Maria Cristina avenue, at the end of which is the Magic Fountain, where at weekends, you can see its colour lighting and music performance in the evening. The area today houses the Barcelona International Fair.
Not far from the fountain is the Mies van der Rohe pavillion which is an exact replica of 1929 Exhibition German one: a small beautiful structure created with glass, stone, steel and onix. The famous Barcelona Chair was designed for this pavillion and today there are thousands all over the world.
Up the Avinguda del Marqués de Comillas we get to the Poble Espanyol, also built for the 1929 Exhibition: it consists of 117 replicas of representative buildings of the different architectural styles in Spain.
The 1992 Olympic Games is the other event that has left a mark on Montjuïc. The so-called Olímpic Ring, up the hill, groups several olimpic facilities: the Palau d'Esports Sant Jordi, by Arata Isozaki, the communications tower by Santiago Calatrava, and the Stadium where the opening and closure ceremonies were held. You can get there by car, bus -Tourist bus, 50 or 61 from plaça de Espanya-, or walk up the escalators departing from Maria Cristina avenue, up to the Palau Nacional and further up to the Olimpic Ring.
Another way to go up the hill is taking the Montjuïc Funicular Railway, that leaves from the Avenida del Paralelo and carries you up to the Avenida Miramar, just in front of the station of Montjuïc's Cable Car. This one, drops you on the top of the hill, where Montjuic castle is.
Nor far from the Montjuic's cable car station, at the Avenida de Miramar, is the Fundació Joan Miró, a delightful building by the architect Sert, which shows works by the Mallorca artist and interesting temporary exhibitions. On the other side of the avenida Miramar is the plaça de L'Armada, an excellent viewpoint from where to see Barcelona, the port and the north coastline. This plaça is also the departure point for the Harbours's Cable Car (Trasbordador aereo del puerto), which carries you over the harbour from Montjuïc to the Barceloneta beaches enjoying magnificent views.
On the hill there are some interesting gardens: the Mossen Cinto Verdager gardens, right by Montjuic's Cable car station, specially beautiful in springtime when the flowers are at its best, and the botanic gardens Costa i Llobera, one of the best cactus gardens in Europe, on the steep seafront side of the hill.
On the very top of the hill is the Montjüic castle, a military fort built in the 17th century, which houses today a military museum. The site, which has witnessed dramatic executions, is today a peaceful spot, a place to relax and breathe some marine air. Montjuïc's Cable Car gets there.