My final day in Barcelona was spent metro-hopping from park to park. From the best known parks to the ones you’ve never heard of, I did my best to visit as many as possible. I’ll start with the better known ones, so if you’re only interested in the hidden gems, feel free to skip down a couple paragraphs.
The first park I visited is one of the most famous parks in Barcelona, Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s known as one of the most luscious, green parks in Barcelona, but that was not the case in my experience. Dirt paths lead toward the center of the park. Sunbathers doze on the patches of grass off to the side. There are some trees, but most of the park is quite exposed. Large crowds of people stand by to watch performers dance. A number of couples are sitting down to have picnics. It isn’t exactly tranquil, but everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. At the heart of the park is the famous fountain designed by Josep Fontserè and Antoni Gaudi. It’s an impressive sight with its glittering gold statues and formidable winged lions.
Nearby Parc de la Ciutadella is the Arc de Triomf. Although not a park itself, if you visit the area you have to stop by. I was warned beforehand not to be distracted by the gymnastics performances that take place there because it’s a hotspot for pickpockets. I didn’t have any trouble, but keep that in mind.
I always knew I wanted to visit Park Güell, a park with numerous buildings and structures designed by Barcelona’s beloved Antoni Gaudi. Seriously, Gaudi seems to be the darling of the city. Nearly every major attraction is related to him in some way. But Park Güell is, unfortunately, one of the few attractions I visited that I cannot recommend. I found myself swept up in a dense sea of people and found it nearly impossible to get away. It was simply overcrowded to the extreme. To enter any of the buildings, you have to buy tickets. But the lines to do so were so incredibly long – think Disneyland lines – that it wouldn’t have seemed worthwhile even if entry was free. I really, really, really suggest skipping Park Güell altogether. Visit La Pedrera and La Sagrada Familia* instead; they have excellent museums that offer much more insight into Gaudi’s work than you will find at Park Güell.
*Be sure to buy tickets for La Pedrera and La Sagrada Familia online ahead of time to skip the long lines.
Thankfully, my park expedition improved after the Park Güell disappointment. I took the metro to Les Corts, an area I hadn’t had a chance to see yet. It was in Les Corts that I discovered the beautiful Palau Reial de Pedralbes. Nestled in a tranquil garden, the cheerful, yellow palace is a quiet haven away from tourists and busy city life. The surrounding gardens have lovely fountains and green parakeets that are surprisingly fearless. It’s heavily shaded so it would be the perfect place to spend a warm afternoon.
After relaxing for a while at Palau Reial de Pedralbes, I went on to Parc de Cervantes. This seemed to be a spot popular with locals. Plenty of families gathered to enjoy picnics while their children played in the gardens. For those who think Parc de la Ciutadella is green, they ought to visit Parc de Cervantes.
Since I’ve already written about Parc de Montjuïc, I’ll just mention it briefly. Its stunning gardens are a must-see, but avoid the cemetery at all costs! If you’ve read my earlier post, you know what I’m talking about.