Barcelona has some lovely outdoor spaces and its beautiful Mediterranean climate allows some very special tropical and subtropical plants to grow there. I’ve visited the gardens of Montjuïc – the hill that forms part of the city’s southern edge – over several years. Some of them are outstanding and I love to go back there.
Montjuïc is a fascinating place. It is of course topped by an old castle and has been an important site for the defence of the city and its harbour. Now it has over 20 gardens, built at different times and for different reasons. Montjuïc also includes the remnants of a 1929 International Exposition and the 1992 Olympics . There is the National Catalan Art Museum as the hill descends toward Plaça Espanya and, on the very far side, there is one of Barcelona’s main cemeteries which shows the incredible architectural extravagance of the nineteenth century Catalonians!
The mountain also boasts two cable cars. One can take you out across the harbour to Barcelonetta and another which can take you from the Parc de Montjuïc metro station to the summit and the castle. There are other museums, art galleries and even a public swimming pool – so plenty for holiday makers.
Barcelona’s City Council has defined a “botanical journey” through the gardens of Montjuïc. There is a pdf file available and there are many green signs around and about with maps and explanations. These figure across the city and all its points of interest, but I find them less than helpful because every notice (and the pdf) is written only in Catalan. I’ve photographed most notices on Montjuïc and got Google to translate them. Some give useful background information which I’ve used here, but the overall tone is detailed and a little bit pompous. So if you want to get the best, follow this website!
To see all the gardens can be an exhausting process for a single day if you take as much interest in plants as I do, especially in the heat of the summer. But you can do it if you start in the cool of the morning. In my opinion, the highlights are the Gardens of Mossèn Costa and Llobera and the Gardens of Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer. Unless you’ve seen both you can’t say you’ve done the gardens of Montjuïc!
There are really two places to start. First is the Plaça de la Carbonera, at the bottom of Avinguda del Parallel and very close to the bottom of Las Ramblas (nearest metro station is Parallel, on Lines 2 and 3). Second is the Parc de Montjuïc metro station, which is connected by a “funicular” to the Parallel metro station. You can take this on your metro ticket or simply walk up from Avinguda del Parallel – it’s a ten to 15 minute minute walk uphill for the energetic.
The Barcelona City Council provides the following useful map. It splits the botanical journey into six parts, denoted by the brightly coloured areas. Starting point one, Plaça de la Carbonera, is coloured dark green, from here you can gradually walk up the hill.
This is the way the City of Barcelona plans it. However you can do it in reverse by beginning at starting point two, the Parc de Montjuïc metro station. This is not labelled on the map, but it is one of the grey buildings just to the left of the swimming pool (Piscines de Montjuïc) on the opposite side of the road. From here you have a short uphill walk to the top of the Gardens of Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer which is coloured deep pink. I recommend it because it is an easy downhill walk all the way and I think you will appreciate more the great views across the city.
The map gives you the line to follow, but of course you will want to explore a little more than this. I reckon it is at least about 10,000 steps, that’s 7.6km or nearly 5 miles. It’s enough for a day, but you could split it over a couple of days, also visiting the Botanic Gardens – which are not far from the top of the Gardens of Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer – or the Castell de Montjuïc. You can also use the cable cars to make your trip easier.
So this is what I’m going to tell you about in my recommended reverse order. There’s a separate blog for each:
- Gardens of Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer: A lovely water garden
- The Gardens of Joan Brossa: A wooded walk with views across Barcelona
- Miramar Gardens and the Poble Sec viewpoint: Formal gardens with a viewing point across the city
- Gardens of Mossèn Costa and Llobera: A spectacular cactus, succulent and subtropical garden with views across the port
- Walter Benjamin Gardens and the Porta de Montjuïc: Urban spaces with some interesting trees.
Enjoy your botanical journey!