Green is not the color of Barcelona—or at least it’s not the color you’d think of to describe the city. That doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have great parks. It’s just that from 1992 onward (and after the Olympic games). The capital of Catalonia decided it wanted to go blue (meaning that locals decided to pay more attention to the sea). The parks of Barcelona are the mirror of nature in the city.
The city itself doesn’t have any large green central spaces; however, if you take a ten-minute subway ride in any direction, and you’ll find things are very different. The outer neighborhoods of the city are home to some lovingly maintained parks; where you’ll see beautifully manicured gardens, statuary, and thousands of local runners taking advantage of pathways beneath hundred-years old trees.
The parks of Barcelona may be less famous than the legendary gardens in Paris, Berlin, London, and Madrid. But the city is dotted with lovely open spaces, ornamented by landmark buildings, traversed by walking paths, and crowned by viewpoints poised high above the city streets; all perfect for an evening stroll. The largest of Barcelona’s parks sit along the waterfront or are found at the northwest edge of the city; where the landscape turns mountainous.
1. Parc de la Ciutadella (Ciutadella Park)
What is it?
The most popular parks of Barcelona is on the site of the former citadel; close to the sea and next to the Born neighborhood. At over 17 hectares, Ciutadella (which means ‘citadel’ in Catalan, by the way, giving you a hint as to its history) is the biggest parks of Barcelona. Think of it as the city’s central park. Parc de la Ciutadella is the lungs of downtown Barcelona. A favorite meeting point where locals and travelers gather with friends, eat al fresco takeaway lunches; and listen to the live music which is always being performed somewhere in the park.
The mist from fountains cools the air, trees shade the pathways, and in the mornings, the park’s pathways are filled with runners, yogis, and walkers taking advantage of the moderate temperatures.
It’s where the Barcelona Zoo is, but if that’s not your thing, you can rent a boat to row on the lake, take a walk or jog around the plentiful paths, spot the woolly mammoth or admire the massive fountain that a young Antoni Gaudí had a hand in creating. Maybe you’ll come across a group of swing dancers or circus performers, or even a local fair or festival. Or just spread out a blanket for a picnic or a siesta and feel the city all around you.
Despite the loss of the citadel, you can still find some buildings from Philip V’s time in the park, like the king’s former arsenal, now the Parlament de Catalunya. One of the most renowned zoological parks in Europe; where the white gorilla Floquet de Neu (Snowflake) lived for 39 years.
In the northern corner of the park is the Cascada Fountain, Two sets of steps flank the waterfall, culminating in an ornate temple-like monument, which is crowned by a gilded sculpture of Aurora riding four horses. The fountain features many stone sculptures as well; including a rearing Pegasus, flower-bearing cherubs, a golden phoenix, a griffin, and a central sculpture of the birth of Venus. Visitors can get excellent views from the top.
Where is it located?
At the end of Passeig de Lluís Companys, between the neighborhoods of Born and Poblenou.
2. Parc Güell
Best park for Gaudí fans
What is it?
This is one of the most popular masterpieces and parks of Barcelona Created by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí between 1900 and 1914, it has been a protected UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984. Park Güell covers over 17 hectares, making it one of the biggest architectural works in southern Europe. The grounds contain many dramatic architectural elements; together they comprise one of the largest works of architecture in the south of Europe. The colors, shapes, and materials used in their construction still amaze today.
The ‘monumental zone’ is the biggest draw. In an effort to keep ever-growing crowds to a manageable size, a €10 fee has been charged to visitors since 2013 to get into these areas, where you can see the main works by Gaudí. That said, it’s free to go in and walk around in the natural areas; where you could still spend a happy couple of hours. And you can also get a glimpse of some of the architect’s works; as well as enjoy breathtaking views of Barcelona from the mountains to the Mediterranean. The park also boasts a Gaudí house/museum, which charges yet another entrance fee.
Where is it located?
Access the park for free through the door on the right of the main entrance on Olot Street.
3. Parc del Laberint d’Horta
Best park for getting lost
What is it?
This uptown parks of Barcelona boasts scenic gardens set around a cypress maze designed by Italian architect Domenico Bagutti in 1791. At the heart of the garden is perhaps the most perfect labyrinth in Spain. A 750-square-meter maze of geometric pathways, bound by immaculately trimmed cypress trees. At the center of the maze is a small fountain and a statue of Eros, the Greek God of Love. After conquering the mysteries of the maze, explore the surrounding 18th- and 19th-century gardens. And admire the medieval Torre Sobirana, the remains of a 14th-century palace.
Go for the labyrinth that gives the park its name (don’t worry, it’s not a twin of the one in ‘The Shining’). Stay for the lovely ponds, stream and waterfall, footbridges and paths; and plenty of amazing trees that just invite you to take a few calming deep breaths. It’s a nice place for reading, walking, or just relaxing; before going back to the noise and hubbub of the city.
There are numerous temple-like pavilions throughout the park, many of which provide views of the labyrinth and park from above. In each of these and throughout the park. Tourists will find statues of Greek figures, including Theseus and the nine muses. At the back of the park, there is an elevated neoclassical pavilion and pond, from which tourists can enjoy the best views of Barcelona.
There is a small fee to enter this public park. But if you’d rather not spend a couple of euros, go on Sunday or Wednesday when it’s free.
4. Parc Turó de la Peira
What is it?
It was founded at the beginning of the 20th century and has the widest collection of plants and flowers in the city. This park up in the Nou Barris neighborhood features paths; that is laid out to take you up to the 140-meter heights to admire all you see below you. There are picnic areas, open spaces to kick or throw a ball around, and children’s playgrounds. There are also designated areas for bocce ball, table tennis, basketball, volleyball, and football.
It’s strategically placed on a hill from which you’ll be able to find a scenic overlook of Barcelona’s northwestern neighborhoods. If you’re dying to take a picture of the city skyline. While getting a bit away from the center of town, this is your destination. Tourists can reach the top via a gradual winding path; or opt for the shorter but more strenuous option of a stone staircase. The park covers a total of eight hectares and offers a range of sporting facilities; from bocce and table tennis to volleyball and soccer. If you want a peaceful stroll among beautiful gardens, this is the right place to come.
5. Jardins del Palau de Pedralbes
Best park for garden lovers
What is it?
This gorgeous natural space is located in one of the city’s most genteel neighborhoods: Pedralbes. This is the “noble” part of Barcelona; and you can tell from the quality of the materials used to build this park. The most majestic of Barcelona’s parks and gardens are located within the walls of the Royal Palace of Pedralbes. The official residence of the Royal Spanish Family from 1919 and 1931. The palace was later transformed into the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean; so it’s not open to the public today, but the imperial gardens are completely free to roam.
With the elegant topiary and colorful planted beds, the park is noteworthy for its collection of towering cedar trees; from Himalayan species to cedars from Japan and Morocco. There are plenty of extraordinary architectural and sculptural elements too; including the Hercules Fountain, designed by Antoni Gaudí, which spouts water through the mouth of a stylized steel dragon.
The gardens are also known for cultural and music events, the most popular being the Festival de Pedralbes. Which takes place every summer, attracting a wide variety of internationally renowned musicians and performing artists.
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