Frederic Marès Museum, sculptures and a bizarre collection of stuff


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Frederic Marès Museum

Right behind the Barcelona Cathedral is the Museu Frederic Marès, one of the most significant sculpture museums in Spain. It’s also a fascinating museum of collections of everyday objects and a treasure trove of Spain’s past. The ground floor features a magnificent collection of Christian sculptures and relics from the Romanesque, Gothic, and medieval times throughout Spain. The upper floors display a grand collection of quotidian items from the 15th to the 19th century. The Frederic Marès Museum is housed in the former Royal Place of the Counts, which possesses a splendid courtyard garden. 

Who was Frederic Marès?

Frederic Marès was a Catalan sculptor, teacher, and historian. Above all, he was a fanatical collector. Mr. Marès was born in 1893 in Portbou, a province of Girona, Spain. He moved to Barcelona with his family when he was 10 years old, and he later worked with a famous art nouveau sculptor, Eusebi Arnau. He first started to collect items as a child, and later discovered auctions and antiques in Paris when he was 18. Marès acquired more items and grew his collection, storing them in his sculpture workshop. In 1944, he donated his collections to the city of Barcelona and had an exhibition at the City History Archive. The Frederic Marès Museum was born two years later in 1946. In 1991, Frederic Marès died at the old age of 98.

Get in the Frederic Marès Museum for free – with the Barcelona Card!

What’s the museum like?

This museum holds an eclectic collection of stuff that Frederic Marès hoarded collected throughout his life. As I browsed the displays of huge quantities of pocket watches or scissors, I wondered: Where did he store his stuff before he could keep it in a workshop? Did his childhood bedroom look like an episode of Hoarders? Was Marès diagnosed with an obsessive disorder?

Nevertheless, the museum was bizarre but fascinating. Expect to spend at least 1.5 hours here, studying the abundance of beautiful objects this man amassed in his lifetime. 

The ground floor of the museum has an impressive collection of ancient sculptures dating back to 3 AD until the 14th century. One part of the Romanesque sculptures features monumental architecture, such as a relief carved of marble, like “The Appearance of Jesus to his Disciples at Sea”, which was preserved from a Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, Spain. The other part of the Romanesque period features sculptures from the interiors of churches. Many include the Virgin holding the Baby Jesus and crucifixes.

Polychrome wood carvings of the Virgin Mary and Baby at the Mares Museum Barcelona
A row of ancient wood carvings of Mary holding Baby Jesus

The Gabinet del Col·leccionista, or the Collectors’ Cabinet, is a collection of 17 rooms of everyday objects, mostly from the 19th century. Over tens of thousands of objects will give you an insight into the Spanish bourgeoisie lifestyle. This showcase of handcrafted items gives you an appreciation of the details poured into many of these articles, including, painted ceramic vessels for Holy Water or a pair of etched scissors.

Scissors at the Frederic Mares, Barcelona
A man can’t have too many pairs of scissors, I guess

One of the rooms is the Sala Femenina, or the Ladies’ Quarter, which highlights Marès’ appreciation for women’s daily items, like fans, jewelry, and clothing. The Marès collection shows how the French style influenced the Spanish woman’s appearance. Parasols, brooches, and gloves were feminine adornments that were used to make a woman proclaim her high social status.

Fans at the Frederic Mares museum
Handcrafted fans for ladies to flaunt their wealth

Another room that stood out to me is the Sala Masculina, or Gentlemen’s Quarter, where you can view the accessories of the high-class man. Beautiful cufflinks, wooden and ivory canes, decorative pocket watches, and handcrafted pipes are some of the accessories that adorned the 19th-century upper-class man.

tobacco pipes at Museu Frederic Mares
The lost art of carved pipes

On the third floor is the Sala de les Diversions, which exhibits a cornucopia of toys, gramophones, old bicycles, stoic-looking dolls, and theatres.

The courtyard

The courtyard, called the Verger of the Royal Palace, is a beautiful patio of orange trees and a decorative fountain. During the festivities of Corpus Christi (60 days before Easter Sunday), a strange tradition takes place, the “L’ou com balla”, where an egg “dances” on the top of the fountain.

During the summer, the courtyard area becomes the Café d’Estiu, where a small food and drink stand opens up, and guests can relax and have a drink or snack at some tables.

Café d'Estiu Frederic Mares

Museum Tips

– If you get tired easily or have mobility issues, you can also grab one of the foldable chairs if you need to rest between visiting rooms
– Lockers are also available
– It’s recommended to buy your tickets online first
– The Museum is 10 steps from the Plaça del Rei and the Barcelona Cathedral

Is the Frederic Marès Museum worth visiting?

On a first visit to Barcelona, I would say no. The objects in the museum are not really “quintessential Barcelona”. I would prioritize seeing the Gaudí buildings first. However, one of my friends, a first-time visitor, loves art museums found this one to be on the must-see list. The artistic value of the sculptures is incredible. And the collections are engaging! If you go with kids, they will enjoy seeing the vintage toys.

More info

Museu Frederic Marès (Google map)
Plaça de Sant Iu, 5, 08002 Barcelona

General ticket price: 4,20€
Reduced ticket (over 65, etc.): 2,40€
Admission is free after 3pm on Sundays
Telephone number:  932 563 500

Opening hours
Tuesday to Saturday, de 10:00 am to 7:00; Sundays and holidays, from 11:00 am a 8:00 pm; Monday, closed

How to arrive
Metro: L4 (Jaume I stop); Bus: V15, V17 y 45

Get in the Frederic Marès Museum for free – with the Barcelona Card!

Have you ever been to the Frederic Marès Museum? Was it worth visiting? Let me know in the comments!

By Justine Ancheta

California native, churro aficionado, and mom of 3, Justine Ancheta writes fervently about Barcelona and Spain. Since 2008, she's been eating burnt onions (calçots) and tripping on cobblestones in the Gothic Quarter. She shares tips on popular attractions, exposes offbeat non-touristy spots, and gives insight on exploring Barcelona with kids. Her next Catalan culture challenge: top level of a human castle (castellers).

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