Balancing museum time while traveling can be deceptively difficult; spend too much time in galleries and you risk missing the surrounding city, but skip the museums entirely and you could lose a rare chance to see world-class art.

This is the story of when I made the latter mistake.

It was July of 2012, and Laura and I were visiting Spain for the first time. It was a whirlwind trip; we had originally planned to visit Brazil but couldn’t get there flying standby, so we decided at the airport to visit Spain instead. As a result we had done literally zero preparation.

We flew into Madrid, then bought a kind of mini Eurail pass that let us travel around Spain for a couple of weeks. After a few days, we ended up in Barcelona.

Barcelona has plenty to do, but one of the popular secondary sites is the Fundació Joan Miró, which is a museum dedicated to the work of surrealist painter Joan Miró (as well as others).

A painting by Mirò
A painting by Mirò

Miró happens to be one of my favorite painters, so after arriving in Barcelona we headed over to the museum.


We arrived at the end of a long, hot day that included many miles of walking. Atop the hill where the museum is located we checked out soaring views of the surrounding city —Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia dominates the skyline — then sat down to take a break in the shade.

While sitting in the shade, we noticed that there were several tour buses converging on the museum. We also discovered that admission was 11 euros. (That is the cost now; it could have been a bit cheaper three years ago, I don’t remember.) That’s not a lot of money, but we had budgeted for a trip to Brazil, not Europe, so we were already struggling to keep costs down.

And so, while sitting in the shade just across the street from the Miró museum, we decided to not actually go inside.

Me, sitting in the shade near the museum.
Me, sitting in the shade near the museum.

That decision saved us 22-ish euros, and we had both seen Miró paintings in other museums, so at the time it seemed like the right decision.

But in retrospect I regret not going in. Today, three years later, 22 euros seems quite a bit less consequential than it did then, and now I’ve never been inside a museum dedicated to one of my favorite artists. Who knows, maybe I’ll never visit it. In any case, the experience emphasized to me the importance, and difficulty, of choosing what to do while traveling.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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