Barcelona Maritime Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Barcelona Maritime Museum

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Discover Catalonia's naval history at the Barcelona Maritime Museum.

Peta Stamper

26 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Barcelona Maritime Museum

The Barcelona Maritime Museum provides a fascinating journey through Catalan maritime history, and in 1976, the medieval shipyard where the museum is housed was declared a Cultural Site of National Interest.

Barcelona Maritime Museum history

The Maritime Museum of Barcelona was opened in 2014 in the Barcelona Royal Shipyard or Drassanes Reials de Barcelona. Construction on the Drassanes Reials de Barcelona began in the 13th century under the reign of Peter III of Aragon. At this time, Peter was at war over Sicily, requiring a military shipyard to build the galleys of the Aragonese Armada. The building was designed in the Gothic style, with four towers, and was built in two stages between 1283 and 1390.

During the rule of Alfonso V of Aragon in the 15th century, the shipyard was at the height of its use, with  twelve galleys were built simultaneously in 1423. In 1571 the royal galley ‘Real’ of John of Austria, half brother to King Philip II of Spain, was built at Barcelona. This flagship of the Battle of Lepanto led the Holy League defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The shipyard heightened Catalan naval supremacy within the Mediterranean, holding up to thirty galleys in the vaults.

During the 18th century, shipbuilding was moved to a Cartegena, and after the War of Spanish Succession the site became barracks for the Spanish Army: repairing, building and storing artillery. In 1935, the shipyard was given to Barcelona city who decided the adapt it into a museum, which opened in 1941. Excavations in 2012 discovered a late 16th century building had been constructed on top of the medieval dockyard, giving the building its modern structure. Restoration was finished in 2013.

Barcelona Maritime Museum today

The restored shipyard gives the Barcelona Maritime Museum over 10,000 square metres of exhibition area today. The permanent exhibition, ‘Catalonia Overseas’ tells the story of three centuries of Catalan naval activity, and the ‘7 Ships 7 Stories’ display brings this history to life through seven characters embarking on shipping ventures at different times.

Be sure to also visit the impressive replica of John of Austria’s flagship, a masterpiece of red and golden facade looming over the museum, highlights the shipyard’s original function.

Getting to the Barcelona Maritime Museum

On foot, the museum is easy locate on the southern edge of the old town and at the end of the Rambla. The closest metro station to the museum is Drassanes – the Catalan word for shipyard – on the L3 line.