Summer is the perfect time for a leisurely visit to one of Barcelona’s many parks and gardens. Whether you’re looking for a stroll with a significant other, an outing with friends, a walk with your pet or just a chance to spend some time with a book, here are our picks for the greenest, most pleasant and most culturally significant parks in Barcelona.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Incontrovertibly one of the city’s best parks today; it’s hard to believe that a few centuries ago this was the site of a grim fortress called the Citadel, its guns trained upon the obstinate Catalans who still refused to recognize their Castilian overlords. These days, the place is best known for the musicians unobtrusively occupying its bandstands, for its lake and its resident ducks, and for its inviting lawns. The parks also has ping pong tables available free of charge to all comers. Just don’t forget to bring your rackets and a ball!
Address: Passeig Picasso, 21, Metro Arc de Triomf
Admission and Hours: free of charge, open daily from 10 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Parque del Laberint de Horta
Set on the former estate of the aristocratic Desvalls family, this plot of land features the heaviest concentration of Greek gods and heroes in Barcelona. It’s also a good place to test just how well you really cope with a bit of stress… which may become an issue when after your fifth attempt you still can’t find your way out of the Horta’s famous hedge maze. But keep cool, you’ll figure it out — nobody, the park wardens tell us, has ever spent the night trapped inside this park, one of Barcelona’s oldest and finest. Not yet, anyway.
Address: Passeig dels Castanyers, 1, Metro Mundet
Admission and Hours: EUR 2.25, open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., free on Sundays and Wednesdays, open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Jardins de la Universitat de Barcelona
Goldfish and frogs make their homes in the small stone pools scattered about this shady garden, whose wrought iron park benches are very much in demand with the University students and professors, not to mention the local cats. It’s an idyllic scene. But the most important thing about this bucolic place are the eighty tree and plant species that grow here. As you stroll down the pathways, you can see an aloe tree the size of an elephant, several varieties of palm and even a South American ombú tree, its huge canopy providing refuge from the sun and from the insects, which give the ombú a wide berth.
Address: Diputació, 230, Metro Universitat
Admission and Hours: free of charge, open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parc del Centre del Poblenou
Since it opened in 2008, this park has remained entrenched in the list of Barcelona’s craziest and most avant-garde spots. It was designed by Jean Nouvel, the French architect who had built the fanciful Torre Agbar skyscraper. Boasting 55,000 square metres of carefully trimmed trees and shrubs, the park is a riot of whimsical lamps, benches, art installations and swallows painted on portholes in concrete walls. Don’t miss The Well of the World, a crater with a computer inside that you can use to connect with people at the farthest corners of the Earth.
Address: Av. Diagonal, 130, Metro Poblenou
Admission and Hours: free of charge, open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admit it — when you were a kid, did you collect pressed flowers or grow pea plants on the windowsill? Either way, you’ll be taken with the Barcelona Botanical Gardens. The place boasts thousands of rare plants from Australia, the Americas, Africa, Japan and other exotic locales, and all year round they fill the air with their scents and the sounds of rustling leaves and seeds dropping to the soil. Note the unusual landscape design, too. The alternating triangles of sun and shade created by architects Carles Ferrater and Josep Lluís Canosa never fail to impress architecture and landscape design buffs.
Address: Doctor Font i Quer, 2, Metro Espanya
Admission and Hours: EUR 3.50, open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., free on Sundays after 3 p.m.
Parc del Guinardó
Historians have split into two camps when it comes to the etymology of the name of this park, one of Barcelona’s largest and most verdant. Some think it’s related to foxes that were once found here, while others believe the name points to highwaymen who might have found you in a back alley… in any event, both are long since vanished. The park is now firmly in the possession of young mothers with their strollers, old ladies with their dogs, bicyclists and young couples. The last usually wind up at the top of the hill, near the Bunkers. This grim concrete structure, dating back to the Civil War, is actually the best panoramic lookout in all Barcelona, its killer view of the city spreading out beneath your feet.
Address: Garriga i Roca, 1–13, Metro Guinardó, Hospital de Sant Pau
Admission and Hours: free, open daily around the clock
Parc de Cervantes
Grab a copy of Don Quixote and let’s spend some quality time with it in a park named after one of Spain’s most famous writers. That is, if you can think about reading in a rose garden stretching ten full acres and filled with ten thousand rose bushes in two thousand different varieties, coming in every imaginable colour and blowing the visitors away with their scent. To catch your breath, go and enjoy the wonderful view of Barcelona from the semi-circular gazebo at the entrance to the rose garden from the Ronda de Dalt.
Address: Av Diagonal, 706, Metro Zona Universitària
Admission and Hours: free, open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jardins del teatre Grec
Come to this garden at the teatre Grec, built in 1929 for the universal Exhibition, and you’ll fi nd a sleepy little spot, the silence disturbed only by the bees buzzing among the roses, the gently bubbling fountain and the turtle doves cooing in the trees. When there’s concert in the amphitheater, though, it’s another story — the place becomes a riot of people and motion. the great stone bowl, with its perfect acoustics and breathtaking, dizzying views of the stage, forms a magnifi cent backdrop for photographs — you can tell your friends that you didn’t just visit Barcelona this summer, but Athens, too.
Address: Passeig de Santa Madrona, 38, Metro Espanya
Admission and hours: free, open daily from 10 a. m. to 9 p. m./10.30 p. m.
Parc de Carles I
Himalayan cypresses, grassy knolls and a peculiar something that gets even the laziest visitors to pull out their cameras: a six-meter high sculpture entitled El Culo, which, in Spanish, means “the buttocks.” And that what it looks like — the creation of the Basque artist Eduardo Úrculo is dedicated to Santiago roldán, then President of a government-sponsored holding company created to build the city’s Olympics infrastructure. One has to wonder what exactly roldán had to do to the sculptor to deserve this. The sculpture was a great hit with the locals, though, leading Úrculo to proclaim that Barcelona was the only city in the world where one could put up a monument to somebody’s rear end.
Address: Av. de Icària, 90, Metro Ciutadella — Vila Olímpica
Admission and hours: free, open daily around the clock.