Parc de la Ciutadella, the second largest park in the city, was begun in 1871 and was the site for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Over the years various statues have been added, both traditional and modern. The park also has a small lake with open boats for rent, and the wonderful cascading Font de la Cascada, which is a French-style fountain designed jointly by Fontsere and Gaudi.
This is at the southern end of the park and takes you through well manicured gardens and walkways. The building of the Parliament Palace is the old arsenal of the Citadel. Built by order of Philip V to ensure the dominance of Barcelona, in 1716 and lasted until 1748. It was led by the Belgian military engineer Próspero de Verboom. It was never used to defend the city of Barcelona against an army. Instead, it turned out to be of great use to repress the Catalan people. Today only the arsenal remains, as well as the governor's palace and the chapel. 1889 the Barcelona City Council agreed to convert the old arsenal of the Citadel into a royal palace. And by 1932, the City Council ceded the palace so that it could become the seat of the Parliament. Then in January 1939, troops of general Franco entered Barcelona and the Parliament Palace became a barracks.
You get to see this if you visit Barcelona in the winter. For Europeans and North Americans, this leafless avenue of trees in Parc de la Ciutadella may not seem so unusual.
But for someone coming from Israel, where most of the trees keep their leaves all year round, or shed them for a very short period and grow new leaves practically overnight, I just had to get a picture of this skeletal-looking line-up. To me, the gnarled knobs and strange angles of the tree branches reminded me of something Gaudi might have cooked up.
Maybe it's just me, but I even saw something Gaudiesque in the displays of speckled, tenacled octopuses sitting on the counters in the open bars and restaurants we passed as we walked the streets of Barcelona...
When you are walking around in this great park, you suddenly stumble across this big and beautiful lake. It's really amazing to find something like this in the middle of the city, and it is one great surprises that Barcelona has in store for you. You can even rent rowboats and explore the lake.
La Ciutadella (which means citadel or fortress), was ordered to be built as a fortress to house about 8,000 troops by Felipe V in 1714. The land was ceded back to the city for conversion to a public park in 1869 and it emerged as a park for the 1888 World Exposition.
Interesting buildings remain from its military past, and from its glorious time as the Exposition showground. Some of these are the Museu de Zoologia, Hivernacle, Museu de Geologia, and the Umbracle. Also quite beautiful is the Cascada fountain (see separate tips on some of these).
But the most remarkable aspect of the park is its refreshing tranquility. It is a realy city park, full of skateboarders, footballers, and toddlers with their mommies. One can even rent boats on the lake or a bicycle for a stroll through the park. It is constantly tendend by municipal gardeners. It is verdant and a soothing place to walk in all seasons.
Along one of the paths near the Cascada is a statue of a big Wooly Mammoth built life-size. It's definitely worth looking at just to understand how great these creatures were and also, if you're traveling with kids, they will love it.
Located just south of the big lake in Parc de la Cuitadella is the Plaça d'Armes. Here one finds a serene oval formal garden which was designed by the French landscape Architect J.C.N. Forestier. The statue in the small lake is "El Desconosol", one of Catalan sculptor Josep Llimona's most highly regarded pieces (I personally didn't think much of it). However, the Plaça d'Armes is certainly worth seeing.
The Museum of Zoology is located in a building on the northwest corner of the Parc de la Ciutadella. It was designed by Domènech i Montaner and named the Castle of the Three Dragons. It was one of the first "modernista" projects in Barcelona. Its collections of zoological specimens and impressive skeletons are well housed amid the 19th century marble and polished floors. There is a fee to get in.
I can't imagine how beautiful this park is in the summer and spring months. All of the flowers were dead for our visit, but the palm and orange trees still gave it a Mediterranean feel. The park is surrounded by attractions such as the zoo, Museu de Zoologia, Museu de Geologia, and the Museu d'Art Modern. We did not visit these, but they do all have their own entrance fees. We ate lunch at a little food stand near the south entrance to the park where we paid too much money for salami sandwiches. There were tables behind the stand for customers where we ate our lunch.
Just outside the entrance are facilities to rent bicycles and surreys (what I call four-seated buggies with a cover), however some of these vehicles can't acually come into the main areas of the park. While strolling along the park's paths, we heard some music being played so we followed it. We ended up in a little square where a band was playing and groups of people of all ages were dancing a strange circle dance (we later found out it was the sardana, a Catalan dance of brotherhood). We watched the dancers for a while and then climbed to the top of the fountain just behind us. Our guidebook simply refers to it as the "ornamental cascade," but it is MAGNIFICENT! Gaudi helped design it and it was based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome. We could have spent hours staring at the carved statues and water. Another feature of the park is a lake which is used as both a place to rent boats and also as a home for thousands of birds and ducks! It was like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." I still don't know how those people on the boats didn't get pooped on!
The Cascada is one of Barcelona's most remarkable sites. The monumental fountain and artificial lake, located in the grounds of the Parc de la Ciutadella, were designed by Fontseré in 1875. Both the cascade and the lake were intended to camouflage a huge water deposit in teh central section of the waterfall, which can be reached by two flanking symmetrical stairways. From the top the view of the park is very nice.
Curiously, Gaudí worked on this project as a young architectural student. Something of a landmark and meeting place, its plaza in front of it, is often used for concerts, shows or fairs. At least according to the street vendor we bought some water from.
Also special are all the water fowl that hang out about the cascade and the lake. They're always fun to see.
This building, located in the middle of the park near the boating lake, is the Catalan parliement. Also in the park are a few museums and the Barcelona zoo - once home to Barcelona's unofficial mascot, Snowflake the albino Gorilla.
A beautiful relaxing place to escape the city heat & crowds for a while. The park has a boating lake, zoo, geological museum & a tropical greenhouse. It is also the home of the Parlament de Catalunya. My highlight was the Cascade Fountain, winged horses, cherubs & serpants are set amid the jets of water & mossy waterfall.
Once used as a cafe/restaurant during the Universal Exhibition, this imagined medieval buidling was designed by Domenech i Montaner. It was also known as the Castell dels Tres Dragons. It has animal exhibits and even some prehistoric ones as well. The animals are all stuffed and more models than the real thing. Those animals are actually at the zoo at the farthest end of the Park. The museum is open from 10am.
Perfect restbite from the city.
A large area with some funky modern art exhibited within the grounds. It is a peaceful place. Great place to take kids to let off a bit of steam.
There is a boating lake and you can hire rowing boats by the half hour.
Look out for the parroquets
Apparently there used to be a fort here but in 1869 the government allowed its demolition.
Parc de la Ciutadella has a rather ominous history - conceived as a way to refortify Barcelona whilst punishing its denizens, an entire neighborhood was demolished to make way for the military site, and the Catalans were relocated to slum housing in the hastily constructed Barceloneta neighborhood.
Leaving THAT aside, the Park is now one of the crown jewels of the city. The Catalan Parliament is headquartered in the far side of the Park, just alongside the zoo(sometimes a fitting analogy), while a stroll through the other end reveals glens, stately promenades, a duck pond with rowboats, ping pong tables, a natural history museum, and one of Gaudi's earliest works - a regal, gold-plated fountain. However, what is best about Parc de la Ciutadella, is that this is arguably THE city park of Barcelona. It's where young couples lounge in the grass, nannies push the prams, and locals take each other on in vicious games of table tennis. Whereas Parc Guell is overrun with tourists and has a rather disney-like atmosphere, Citadel Park is a true crossroads of the city, and a jewel that is often overlooked the the casual tourist. It's quite magical.