Although many tourists visit Tibidabo, few bother to explore the enormous woodland area on the Collserola massif. This is a pity, because there are cycleways, riding trails, and paths that provide a welcome change from pounding hot city streets. There is a visitor centre revealing the unusual mixture of Mediterranean and North European fauna and flora found in the park (including wild boars and genets). The trails are generally well-laid out and signposted. Rather than going into detail, I have placed a link to the park authority below. Note that Tibidabo is fairly close to the visitor centre [Address: Carretera de l'Esglesia, 92, Tel: 932 803 552] and a good jumping-off point for many of these walks.
However, one path you would do well to avoid is the Cami de Sant Iscle. That is because Uralita, a company making asbestos cement, dumped industrial quantities of fibre waste along this track back in the 1970s. It seemed like a good idea to the local council at the time - a durable substrate and free! Many of the locals cycle and walk along this track, blissfully unaware of the deadly legacy and the asbestos fibres released as they churn the sandy surface. As a well-informed tourist, this is one health hazard you can save yourself. After all, you want the city to have a place in your heart, not leave a shadow on your lungs.
Those staying in the old quarter of the city and anywhere near demolition work should also watch out - asbestos cement roof water tanks and piping are commonly ripped out with no concern at all for public safety. Unfortunately, environmental concern and standards in Spain still lag far behind most of Northern Europe.
If you visit the park in the autumn/winter months, check the hunting season. The locals are gun crazy and are allowed to shoot boar in the park. More than one hiker has been blasted by trigger-happy yokels.
Take these basic precautions and you should have a pleasant day out. Put enough water and food in your rucksack and a map of the paths.
This park is a massive park, a little way down from the Placa d'Espanya. It has football pitches and sporting areas, and then an elevated section with a small lake and this huge statue by the Catalan artist Joan Miro.
The sculpture is called Woman and Bird (Dona i Ocell in Catalan) and is pretty typical of Miro. This is not my favourite Miro creation. Paris has a much better one in La Defense (see my Paris pages for this). If you like Joan Miro, then his Foundation (Art Gallery in Montjuic, Barcelona is a must see).
Use Metro Tarragona.
Watch nature show off on a quiet Sunday morning - visit one of Barcelona's many little parks, this one was Turo Park just off Avenue Diagonal. It was unusual for us Northern Europeans to experience parks in February with leafy trees - some flowers & butterflies. The park is quite large and unlike most parks in the U.K. there was even a seperate area reserved for dogs and their owners, where the dogs can run free. The park was surrounded by local housing and seemed very popular with families, the Kids all seemed to be happy walking around with their parents clutching a brightly coloured balloon. Turo Park also has a little cafe selling drinks and snacks, but more importantly, plenty of benches are provided for your relaxation.
This triumphal arch marks the entrance to the city from the Parc de la Ciutadella and was built for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Created in the Mudejar style, the red brick glows in the sunlight, showcasing the allegorical sculptures on the frieze. It certainly makes a pleasant gateway to home with your weekend shopping!
The district of Barcelona l'Eixample begins from the Catalonia square and includes the big site of that refers to as heart of modern Barcelona. The idea of architect Ildefons Serd-i-Sunier consisted in the creation of garden city on the basis of squares of the streets crossed perpendicularly, with internal spaces in each district, intended that their inhabitants could spend there leisure-times.
Slightly outside of the touristy center of the city that orbits Las Ramblas and Placa Catalunya is a neighborhood called Gracia. Take the Green Line north to Fontana and get off to experience some real Catalan culture and avoid the toursits you are bound to see and English you are bound to speak in some of the better known parts of the city. Gracia has a small-town feel, and you will struggle to find one street performer or tourist gift shop. Stroll down c/ Verdi and grab some food and a movie, or head over to Placa del Sol for some real Barcelona nightlife. Dotted with cafes and bars, the Placa is devoid of tourism, and maybe even a little intimidating for an obvious American like myself, but well worth the effort once you're there. Once night, some friends and I met a flamenco singer in the back of a bar, exchanged some broken Castellano, and ended up outside after the bar closed, our new friend singing along and flamenco dancing on an old wooden box while my italian friend played the guitar on a nearby rooftop. It was surreal, and far from our typical nights at L'Ovella Negra and Port Olympico. So to get what you've always imagined bohemian, European travel to be, get off the beaten path and trek into Gracia. You never know what you might find.
Walking up Las Ramblas from the sea front, Plaça Reial can be found through an alleyway on your right hand side, about one third of the way up Barcelona's most famous street. This is a quite place to take a pause from the chaos of Las Rambla, I enjoyed the small fountain, the nice Gaudi's streetlamps and the exotic athmosphere that palms gave.
This palace was formed out of the Finca Guell summer estate and was intended as a summer residence for the Spanish Royal family. They hardly stayed here but its a nice place to wander round the grounds, have a picnic etc. There are two museums in the palace now - one for ceramics and the other for decorative arts.
On the edge of the estate you can also see the Pavellons de la Finca Guell. Gaudi designed these gatehouses to the Guell estate. well worth a look
If you like parks this is one I think you'd like to visit. It's the ideal place to take a rest and even a picnic. If you have visited Palau Pedralbes or Pabellons Güell you can go to this place which isn't far from them.
Go along Av Diagona until you are in Francesc Macià square. From there there is Av Pau Casals. Take this street, keep walking and in a cuople of minutes you get t this park, named by the way Turó Parc)
Monet would had enjoyed this place and sure he'd had painted the water lilies in the ponds there.
If you want to relax, listen to some great music, have a few beers (and maybe a few other goodies...), you should really check out the Parc de Ciutadella on Sunday afternoons. It's a very laid-back place where younger people (not too young - mostly 20 - 30 year olds) hang around just being mellow and enjoying the afternoon. It's a good bit hippyish/artsy, and oftentimes vendors are selling homemade crafts and homemade foods, in addition to the Moroccan immigrants selling you cerveza for $1 euro (not a bad buy). If you want to enjoy the city but not really do anything, or need to nurse that nasty hangover, this is the place for you.
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