Museu National D'Art de Catalunya is the greatest classic art museum in Barcelona. If you have time for one museum tour, head there. If you do not know much about art, but always wanted to, this is a place to start. Even though MNAC is decidedly Catalan вЂ“ with works of various Catalan artists and Catalan art pieces dominating the scene and their Spanish and international counterparts making only an occasional appearance, - it is still a great place to start admiring European art tradition. If you always wanted to understand the intricacies of subtle genre changes, wanted to see works of different art periods, MNAC will welcome you with open arms.
The collection is arranged in such a way that it allows visitors to fully appreciate the evolution of art history: from Romanesque art to Gothic art, from Renaissance to Baroque and all the way to Modern art. With a collection that extensive, the understanding of how art progresses comes rather naturally, and you would be hard-pressed not to enjoy the feeling of being a connoisseur. The Modernist section will be of particular interest to admirers of the Catalan version of Art Nouveau: some works of the giants of the Modern are exhibited there, including furniture pieces by Antoni GaudГ, sculptures by Josep Llimona, and paintings by Ramon Casas.
MNAC may seem overwhelming at first, thanks in part to its exuberant exterior. The museum is housed in Palau Nacional, the National Palace, whose grandeur dominates the scene around PlaГ§a Espanya and the north-eastern side of the MontjuГЇc hill. However, four main collections (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, Modern art) plus the Drawings room and the Numismatics collection can all be explored in one half-day excursion that would also leave time for pondering some of the well-known works (affectionately called вЂњmasterpiecesвЂќ here) in the collection. The great atrium of the palace is called the Oval Hall, or the Oval room, and it is currently undergoing renovations, but is well worth a look. There are no exhibitions in this part of the palace, except for the entrance into the captivating Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, which features contributions from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.
MNAC is rather easy to navigate. Free brochures in various languages, including English, are distributed in the entrance hall and at the information stations on the second floor. The brochure is a fold-out floor plan of the museum that also indicates the locations of the masterpieces housed in MNAC. You must show your ticket every time you enter a given collection, but admission to all parts of MNAC is incorporated into the ticket price. It also means that you may wander around the entrance hall and venture into the atrium free of charge. Photography with no flash is permitted everywhere.