It’s not that there aren’t plenty of wonderful walking venues to escape to outside the city, quite the contrary. But when time and inclination don’t permit, Barcelona’s city offers some beautiful spaces for those looking for a little bit of nature and a stretch of the legs. The rich light that bathes the city year-round only heightens the senses at these locals’ favourite spots:
For the athlete: La Carretera de les Aigűes
La Carretera de les Aigűes © 360 Running Barcelona
Often used as a running route and forgotten by walkers, a stroll up the Carretera is a lung, and eye-opening experience. You never know, you might even be inspired to break into a run to get to the top. This location hovers just above the city, so it is very convenient to get to, but also provides an unspoilt (no fences, slightly scary) panoramic view of Barcelona. The sandy gravel surface winds around the perimeter, with the option of venturing into the woods on the edge of the Serra de Collserola Natural Park. Trainers advisable. www.barcelonaturisme.com
Mirabé Restaurant © Facebook
On the way down, pop into the splendid Mirabé restaurant for refreshments. Its elegance and high quality food are surprising considering it's such a tourist trap with its great views too. The bar is open until late, so finish your day with drinks on the balcony watching the city lights come on below you. www.mirabe.com
How to get there: La Carretera de les Aigűes stop is a 5-minute “funicular” (cliff railway) ride from the Avinguda Tibidabo stop of the metro which is on the FGC-operated line L7, and easily accessible by taxi from the same area where plenty await to whisk the moto-less upwards.
For the aesthete: Jardines del Palacio de Pedralbes
Jardines del Palacio de Pedralbes © Panoramico
You won’t find many tourists here, as it’s at the edge of the obvious heart of the city up and over in Les Corts. And yet this park is only just off Diagonal, a main street for shopping, hotels, major corporations, and university and hospital buildings. The gardens ooze serenity, thanks to soft-on-the-eye feminine sculpture at the gated entrance and pools of water. There is a regal air to this space, since Pedralbes Royal Palace is tucked behind, formerly the residence of the Spanish royal family when they visited the Catalan capital.
See if you can spot two Gaudí statements among the palms, cypress trees, magnolias, pines and eucalyptus; one is a parabolic pergola covered by climbing plants and the other a Hercules fountain, with a dragon's head for good neo-Gothic measure. To give you an idea of this park’s likeness to a secret garden, this Gaudí fountain was long camouflaged by vegetation and only discovered in 1984.
How to get there: Literally, stumble out of the metro stop of Palau Reial (line 3). Cross the road depending on the exit you took.
For the adventurous: Parc del Laberint d´Horta
Parc del Laberint d´Horta
Discover the quintessential finca (Spanish country estate) at these historical gardens with the Marqués de Llupià. Described as a “garden-museum”, this park offers a playful labyrinth and many different horticultural flavours beyond. Italian, French and Catalan gardeners each made their mark and as such there is a domestic garden, a romantic garden, various water features and sculptures to be stumbled upon. You have to pay to enter but many say this is the most beautiful of Barcelona’s gardens, so do invest the time and money. It closes at 8pm in the summer, and an hour earlier in winter (Nov-March).
How to get there: Take a taxi for this one. It’s about half an hour from the centre.
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For the strong of legs: Castell de Montjuic
Castell de Montjuic, source Flickr/MARIA ROSA FERRE ✿
Montjuic’s castle can be conquered via many means: taxi, bus from plaza España (the 150), road bike and foot. If you’re game for the latter, just be prepared for some generous upwards inclines (and take a map or your smartphone as the signs to the castle could be clearer).
En route to this fabulous castle at the top, there is so much to see just this side of the immense Montjuic park, from the Olympic stadium to the little hidden “Font del Gat” restaurant with its orange-treed entrance. Once you make it to the castle, be sure to sneak round the back where you can get a unique vantage point of the comings and goings of Barcelona’s industrial port. www.bcn.cat
For the Gaudí lover: Park Gűell
"Gaudí is nothing if not fun, and in this large expanse you get to enjoy his sense of humour in the open air, in this stylised expanse situated with a natural park. It's a public area with a sectioned-off fee-paying area which is not necessary to witness (unless you adore mosaics) to get a
good sense of the whole." Two Hansel and Gretel-esque buildings with white icing roofs form an imposing entrance to the park, located on Carmel Hill just above the Gràcia district and as such offering fantastic views over Barcelona.
Park Gűell, courtesy of www.facebook.com/ParkGuellOficial
Visiting at sunset is an excellent plan. You’ll feel like a pilgrim hiking up to the imposing cross, the park’s highest point, which offers silencing views of Barcelona and her bay. Down on the main terrace, look out for the long bench in the form of a sea serpent.
The park, which exudes motifs pertaining to Catalan nationalism, religious mysticism, ancient poetry, and the generally enigmatic, was conceived with Gaudi’s fellow Catholic friend Eusebio Güell, first Count of Güell and Catalan entrepreneur. The story goes that Gaudí once said to Güell, "Sometimes I think we are the only people who like this architecture”, to which he got the reply, "I don't like your architecture, I respect it.” www.capdesetmana.bcn.cat
How to get there: There are three entrances. Vallcarca is the closest metro stop (line 3) from which it is a 15-minute walk. A taxi is an easy option and will take 10 minutes from the centre.