Barcelona’s Parks: More than Guell
Your guide to greenery and gardens in the Catalan capital
By Jessica Bowler
Mazes, mammoths, boating lakes, fountains, zoos, terraces and a touch of Gaudi’s magic vision… Barcelona’s parks have a lot going for them.
For those that take the time to visit them (and in doing so resist the ever-present allure of the city’s sands), Barcelona’s wonderful and diverse parks are usually a highlight of their trip to the Catalan capital. Whether you’re hoping to find a bit of calm in the busy city centre, enjoy a picnic with some friends, or let your kids have a run-around to let some steam off, there are a variety of green spaces close at hand, each with its unique charms and attributes.
The most famous parks are the centrally-located Parc de la Ciutadella, which also houses the city’s zoological gardens, and of course Park Guell, Gaudi’s masterpiece of landscape gardening… but the city also has quite a few lesser-known green spaces that are well worth seeing as well, especially if you want to do something a little different, and a bit less touristy.
Keep reading for our subjective guide to the great and the good…
Our Favourite Parks & Gardens
Today, the Parc de la Ciutadella is a lovely large open space providing some much-needed greenery in the heart of Barcelona. But it wasn’t always like this – it used to be a Bourbon citadel, which is where the park gets its name from. This is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and for good reason. You can visit a selection of beautiful buildings, like the grand Arc de Triomf, the modernist marvel the Castell de Tres Dragons, and the Cascada fountain by Josep Fontsere. The student who helped Fontsere create the impressive fountain was Antoni Gaudi (who ended up becoming just a little more well-known than his teacher). For history and politics buffs, you can stop by the Catalan Parliament too. There are also plenty of activities for children at the Parc de la Ciutadella. You can take them out boating on the small lake, play in the shadow of a massive wooly mammoth statue, and visit the animals at the Barcelona Zoo. Of course, you don’t have to visit any of the attractions to have a nice time at the park. The Parc de la Ciutadella is also a great spot for a picnic with friends, or perhaps a cheeky siesta to break up a long day of sightseeing.
Passeig de Picasso, 21
Park Guell is undoubtedly the most famous of Barcelona’s parks. Even visitors who haven’t researched the city much may have seen a photo of the famous Gaudi designed ceramic sculptures in the park. The park was designed to be a calm retreat for Barcelona residents. Today, it’s known all around the world for its colourful ceramics and spectacular views of the city. One thing to keep in mind when visiting Park Guell: although it often appears on lists of free things to do in Barcelona, the park is unfortunately no longer free. It’s divided into the Monumental Zone, which includes Gaudi’s terrace and decorations, and the free access area. You must buy a ticket to access the Monumental Zone. They can be purchased up to three months before your visit on the park’s website, or at the park itself. Because they limit the number of visitors to 400 every half hour, we’d suggest getting your ticket online ahead of time if you have your heart set on visiting Park Guell. You can do that and check the opening times on the official website, which we list below. If you don’t fancy forking out the 7 or 8 euros fee, you can still visit the free access zone at no charge, and there are lots of pretty trails to hike up to the top of the hilly park (even if there are no Gaudi sculptures in sight).
This concrete leisure complex isn’t the most traditional kind of park, but it’s worth paying a visit to check out some of Barcelona’s most interesting recent architecture. The Forum Building is referred to as a ‘floating blue cheesecake’ designed by Herzog and De Meuron. You can also check out the solar-panelled Esplanade, a bathing area, and a bunch of skateboarders showing off their latest tricks. For music fans, the Parc del Forum is a great place to enjoy some outdoor concerts. The biggest concert put on here is Barcelona’s famous Primavera Sound Music Festival held in the springtime.
Pl. del Forum 1
Rather than just one park, Montjuic is really a collection of lots of smaller attractions all grouped together on a hillside overlooking the sea. You could spend an entire day wandering around Montjuic’s offerings, which include the Olympic Stadium, the MNAC art museum, the Joan Miro museum, the Magic Fountain, the Montjuic Castle, and lots of gardens. You can take the funicular railway or a cable car up to the top of the hill and work your way down through the park. Nearly every one of the gardens here features a stunning view of either the Mediterranean coastline or the city.
The best botanical gardens to be found in Barcelona are at Montjuic, the expansive park covering a hillside on the southern side of the city. The Jardi Botanic of Barcelona displays a range of plants from all over the world, with a focus on plants from Mediterranean climate regions. It’s home to one of the largest herbaria in all of Catalonia. In addition to its impressive collection of plant life, you’ll also be able to get some pretty spectacular views of Barcelona from the Botanical Gardens, as they’re up high on the mountain. But don’t just stick to the views – there are 87 exhibition units to be seen at these gardens.
The Cervantes Park is named for Spain’s most famous author, Miguel de Cervantes. It’s located in the rather fancy Pedralbes neighborhood, so it’s no surprise that this park is very well groomed. The most outstanding feature of the park is its spectacular rose gardens. There are over 10,000 rose bushes here, which cover an area of 4 hectares and includes 245 different kinds of roses. Follow the trails to see a collection of roses from all around the world. The best time to go to the Parc de Cervantes is from April to November, when the roses are in bloom. The park closes at sunset, which depends on the season, ranging from 6 p.m. in the short winter months to 9 p.m. in the summer.
If you’re looking for a romantic date spot in Barcelona, then look no further than the Parc del Laberint d’Horta – the labyrinth park of the Horta district. This sprawling garden park is nestled up high in the hills of Barcelona, so it’s a bit off the beaten tourist trail. Luckily, it’s also right next to metro stop Mundet on Line 3, the green line. Although it’s a park today, it used to be an estate belonging to the wealthy Desvalls family. Today, you can visit the neoclassical garden from the 18th century and the romantic garden from the 19th century. Don’t miss the key feature of the park – it’s labyrinth, or rather, hedge maze. You may have actually seen the maze before if you’ve seen the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, as it features in one of the movie’s scenes. Admission to the Parc del Laberint costs a little over €2, but you can go for free on Wednesdays and Sundays.
About the Author
Jessica was born in England and grew up in California before moving to Seville to study Spanish. She now lives here in Barcelona, where she works in communications, studies for her masters and still finds time to update her award-winning blog Barcelona Blonde – as well as being a regular contributor to Barcelona Life!