Barcelona is a place of infinite variety; and its parks and open spaces illustrate this perfectly. From the Parc de Montjuïc – built on a former rubbish tip – to the Park Ciutadella – the site of one of the most hated places in Catalan history – and on to Park Labyrinth in the grounds of a stately mansion, the city has an abundance of places for you to breathe in some clean, fresh air.
Ciutadella is, for many, the jewel in this lustrous crown. Situated right next to the Zoo, this favourite Barcelona park was constructed on the site of a military fortress that for years had symbolised Madrid’s dominance over Barcelona. It was a wonderfully ironic decision, in the 1860s, to demolish the fortress cum prison and replace it with open spaces, shady corners, flower-decked paths, lakes and 2 museums. You can enter the Park Ciutadella via the Arc de Triomf, constructed for the 1888 Great Exhibition, but even that does not prepare you for probably the park’s most spectacular sight, the Cascada, or fountain, near the lake. Although Gaudí was only a young apprentice working on this awesome display of statues, rocks and cascading water, his influence on the project can still be easily discerned.
The two museums, Zoological and Geological, will be of interest to those of you interested in these fields, but the real glory of the park is wandering around this truly beautiful place and feeling good about yourself. Watch out for the giant elephant sculpture, though.
If you want to enjoy a healthy jog or cycle ride in a Barcelona park, the one to head for is Park Collsera – the nearest Metro being Montbau. This is an enormous space – no fewer than 19,750 acres of it – in the hills of Zona Alta. With picnic areas, snack bars, medieval ruins and old houses, Park Collsera is an ideal place to get rid of some cobwebs or calories from the night before.
Also near Montbau Metro station is Park Labyrinth, constructed in 1791 and, again, on several different levels. There are many intriguing sculptures to be found in the park and in the summer there is a full programme of open-air classical music concerts.
More formal ‘garden’ lovers will delight in the gardens known as Jardins del Palau Reial de Pedralbes. This is a much more classically designed park, with geometrical garden areas and some stunning displays of flowers and elegant trees. The nearest Metro is Palau Real.
Finally, that park on a rubbish dump is the Jardí Botànic de Barcelona – the Botanical Gardens. This is a magical place, full of plants and strange trees from all over the world – and with the added benefit of being located on Montjuïc, so you’re never far away from an impressive view.
The knowledgeable amongst you will spot that I haven’t mentioned the Gaudí designed and built Park Güell. That’s mainly because most people will know something about it already but, if you don’t, then you can find a separate page devoted to this rather special modernista corner of the city.