Barcelona, the vibrant, sun-kissed city by the sea is famous for its architectural marvels, bustling markets and lively beach culture. It’s also got an impressive collection of parks and public gardens that provide a green oasis amidst the urban jungle. These parks aren’t merely grassy expanses; they’re brimming with art installations, museums, fountains and spectacular viewpoints.
So if you’re yearning for a peaceful retreat or simply want to explore Barcelona beyond its usual tourist trail, these well-loved parks are your perfect sanctuary. Whether you fancy a leisurely stroll, a picnic with family or engaging in sports activities – there’s something for everyone in these tranquil havens.
The story of public gardens in Barcelona
Barcelona wasn’t always a city bursting with green spaces. In fact, it’s a relatively recent development.
Barcelona’s story of urban greening really started to take shape in the 19th century. Suddenly, industrialisation was booming and there was an urgent need for recreational spaces where workers could unwind after a long day at the factory. After all, the unwashed masses needed to relax so they could stay fit enough to put in more days at work. That’s when Ildefons Cerdà, architect extraordinaire and urban planner stepped in. He conceived Eixample district with its wide streets and square blocks incorporating plenty of space for parks.
Fast forward to 1888, when Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition and seized this opportunity to create more green spaces. One such gem is Parc de la Ciutadella which was transformed from a despised fortress into a sprawling green haven featuring museums, lakes and even a zoo!
Incredibly enough though, it wasn’t until 1992 when Barcelona truly embraced its green potential. As host city for Summer Olympics that year, numerous transformations were made including creation of several new parks like Montjuïc Park.
The best parks in Barcelona
Ready for a breath of fresh air? Barcelona’s green spaces won’t disappoint. Let’s dive into some of the city’s finest parks where you can relax, unwind, and soak up the ambience.
Parc Güell is one spot that springs to mind immediately when you think about parks in Barcelona. It’s not just a park, it’s an iconic representation of Gaudi’s artistic genius. With its vibrant mosaics and stunning views over the city, it’ll be hard not to fall in love with this place.
The park was started in 1900 as a commission for the private gardens of a house owned by the Güell family. However, even during Gaudi’s lifetime the park was being used for civic events and the main square often hosted traditional Catalan sardana dances. It officially became a public park in 1926 and was declared a UNESCO world Heritage Site in 1984.
Address: Calle d’Olot, Barcelona, 08024
Open: 29th March to 3rd May 09:30 until 20:00, 4th May to 6th September 09:30 until 21:30, 7th September to 24th October 09:30 until 20:00, 25th October to 28th March 09:30 until 18:15
Nearest station: Lesseps – L3
☀️ Save time & money, buy your Parc Güell entry tickets now
Parc de la Ciutadella
Way back in the eighteenth century, King Philip V built a huge military settlement on the outskirts of Barcelona, in order to keep the people of Catalunya under control. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the natives were a bit less restless, so the fort was pulled down and the grand Parc de la Ciutadella was built on the site.
The layout was changed to accommodate the Universal Exposition of 1888 and again a few years later to establish the zoo. Today the zoo is one of Europe’s most important in terms of conservation and research.
Today, the park is known as the green lung of Barcelona. It’s still home to the zoo, along with several museums and even houses the Catalan Parliament. You can go boating on the lake, explore the gardens, admire the majestic “Cascada” fountain (partly designed by a young Gaudi when he was still a student), or simply relax and enjoy the greenery. However you pass your time, there’s certainly plenty to see and do.
Address: Passeig de Picasso 21, Barcelona, 08003
Nearest station: Arc de Triomf: L1, Ciutadella Vila Olímpica: L4 &T4
Parc del Laberint d’Horta
For something offbeat, head over to Parc del Laberint d’Horta. As its name suggests, it features a fascinating maze made from perfectly manicured hedges. Apart from finding your way out of this labyrinthine puzzle, you can also explore beautiful neoclassical gardens peppered with mythological sculptures.
Like other parks in Barcelona, Parc del Laberint d’Horta began its life as a private garden, belonging to the Desvalls family. Work on the gardens started around the same time that King Philip was building his fort. Originally designed with an Italian influence, the family modified the design over the years and added sections to it. In 1967, the family handed the park over the city of Barcelona.
Today, it is a popular place to visit, not only because people love to explore the maze but also because the gardens themselves are so beautiful and tranquil.
Address: Passeig dels Castanyers 1, Barcelona, 08035
Open: April to October: Monday to Sunday 10:00 until 20:00, November to March: 10:00 until 18:00
Nearest station: Mundet – L3
Parc de Montjuic
If peace and quiet are what you’re after, then Parc de Montjuic is worth exploring. It offers panoramic views over Barcelona while being far enough away from the bustling city centre for some tranquillity.
If you were to sum up Parc de Montjuic in one word, it would probably be ‘vast’. The park covers almost an entire hill and contains some of Barcelona’s most popular visitor attractions.
The park starts at the legendary Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, then goes up hill and wraps around the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. It’s probably the steepest part of the climb, but worth it for the view. The climb is a good excuse to sit on the terrace in front of the museum and enjoy a caña of cold cerveza as you admire the view of the city.
Suitably refreshed, you can carry on up the hill to the Olympic Stadium, taking in the various gardens along the way. Also on the mountain are a fort, a few museums, one of Barcelona’s biggest indoor concert venues, a funicular and a cable car. So, there’s plenty to keep you occupied and definitely more than one day’s worth of exploration to take it all in.
Address: Plaça de Carles Buïgas, Barcelona, 08038
Nearest station: Espanya – L1, L8 & L11
Parc de Collserola
Lastly but by no means least is Parc de Collserola. Here you get miles upon miles of natural beauty where hiking trails weave through dense woodland offering a break from urban life. The 8,000 hectares of the parkland are not only beautiful to walk through but also play an important role in maintaining the air quality of the city.
There are plenty of trails, some of which are well worn while others are a little more than a dirt track though the forest. There’s a vast range of plant life, due to the location and playout of the land. Diversity of plant life means there’s plenty of variety of animal life too.
There’s a load of birdlife as well as a few hundred other species, including squirrels, foxes and the occasional wild boar. (No bears though, you have to go to Cantabria to see those in the woods). Parc de Collserola is definitely a must do if you’re into hiking and nature.
Address: Carretera de l’Església 92, Barcelona, 08017
Nearest station: Peu de Funicular – S1
There you go!
So there we have it – five superb parks that offer everything from art and history to nature walks. Each has its unique charm so why not make space in your itinerary for these wonderful outdoor havens during your time in Barcelona?
Andy has loved to travel since he was young. Over the years his love of exploration has taken him far and wide, but some of his favourite places are in Europe… with Barcelona and Berlin being right up there. He loves tucking into local delicacies and getting stuck into a cooking class to learn how to make them, believing that a great way to get under the skin of a place is through its food.