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Granja Martí-Codolar
© Maria DiasGranja Martí-Codolar

Secret Barcelona parks and gardens

Discover these little oases in Barcelona where you can get a break from city life and give yourself over to Mother Nature

Manuel Pérez
Written by
Manuel Pérez

It's true we don't have a lot of green space in Barcelona, and you can even see it when you compare a map of the city to other European metropolises. That's why the spaces filled with vegetation that we do have are so precious, these parks and gardens that provide city dwellers with a respite from the world of concrete and make Barcelona more habitable for its residents. Come along as we give you access to these little lost (and found) green gems, hidden right in the middle of the Catalan capital.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Sants - Montjuïc

Barcelona isn't a land of palaces. Spain’s regal and merchant elite preferred to built their opulent abodes further afield. Despite this, there are a handful of not-so-humble homes within the city proper.

During the 1929 International Exposition, Barcelona constructed a new royal residence on Montjüic (apparently Pedralbes wasn’t good enough). The result was Palauet Albéniz, which is surrounded by some lovely gardens that bear the name of the poet Joan Maragall.

The gardens were originally designed by Forestier, and you can see his typical French style in the central fountain, the ‘broderie’ flower beds, the voluptuous sculptures, and a few other surprises, among them the small bamboo forest on the northern slope, and the view of the city from the east.

Feel like royalty in these gardens any Saturday, Sunday or bank holiday, from 10am to 3pm.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Sants - Montjuïc

What differentiates a French garden from an English one? Leave behind rationalizing symmetry, domesticated nature and imposed order and, just a few metres from Palauet Albéniz, the Versailles of Montjuïc, you'll find another hidden jewel, the Historical Botanical Garden.

As in other parts of Montjuïc, a former quarry is the origin of this singular green space. Nearly tucked into the mountain, this typical English garden, one of the few examples in the city, is the height of romanticism, where nature spreads out across the landscape with reckless abandon, blocking out the sun in places. The abundance of exotic plants points to the scientific origin of the space. The seven-decades-old giant ash tree will leave you speechless.

Want more? On the other side of the park you’ll find a typical farmhouse, where volunteers help to organize activities for the public.

A good option in the heat of the summer, as it's always 2ºC cooler here.

  • Attractions
  • Ciutat Vella

As you turn the pages of the books by Catalan novelist Mercè Rodoreda, you can almost smell floral fragrances, filled as they are with plant-based metaphors. Her affection for plant life earned Rodoreda two gardens in her name. The first is near her native Sant Gervasi.

The second is practically unknown, it's one of the few examples of a hanging garden in Barcelona, and you can find it in the Institut d’Estudis Catalans. Once inside, you'll see samples of the author’s favourite plants and flowers, the protagonists of her literature: camellias, wisteria, jasmine, mimosas, water lilies… and each is accompanied by a plaque with a description.

If you can resist the garden’s floral allure, look back toward the clock above the entry gate – a reminder that time moves on beyond the borders of this tranquil Eden.

Guided tours: informació

  • Hotels
  • B&Bs
  • Horta - Guinardó

Meanwhile, up near Collserola, your work is cut out for you to find this space. We rang the doorbell and the gate opened onto a surprising landscape: to the right, a rationalist pavilion that's a residence and Salesian seminary, to the left a twisty early-19th-century neoclassical palace. In the centre stands the big secret: the Martí-Codolar family gardens are ripe with exotic species of plants, including a magnificent palm grove.

In the centre of the oasis lies a lake that's home to turtles – the last vestiges of a time when elephants and other wild animals ran free in the area until they were moved, and became the start of the collection of the Barcelona Zoo.

Following the path among the statues of satyrs and nymphs, under the lime trees and beside the blackberry bushes, you’ll arrive at the monument commemorating the visit of the so-called Felon King, Ferdinand VII. Yes, he left his mark here as well.

Visit with advance booking only:

Jardins del Palau de les Heures
  • Attractions
  • Montbau

A little more than a 15-minute walk from the Martí-Codolar gardens, and very close to another green landmark, the Parc del Laberint d'Horta, another surprise is waiting for you that looks like it's out of a Three Muskateers film, the Palau de les Heures. Enter the Mundet Campus, go up a couple of steep streets, and you're there.

After Josep Gallart i Forgas came back with his fortune made in the Americas, he used some of it to build this imposing late-19th-century chateau-style building, which also boasts three French-style terraces that face the midday sun. On every level there's a different geometric composition, flowerbeds, paths and ponds that sweep you off to a different time and place.

Since 1999 the gardens have been open to the public, redone in their original architectural layout, which was conceived by August Font. This is truly a piece of history tucked into the mountains for you to discover.

You can get into the palace, which is now a university, on weekdays.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • El Gòtic

You’re in the city centre, in the Old Town, maybe you've just been strolling along La Rambla and you’ve grown weary of the crowds for now. Don’t fret, because we’ve got a solution – a secret solution, in fact. Walk just a few paces past the Liceu and the Boqueria and you’ll find a Parcs i Jardins (Parks and Gardens) sign at the entryway to the Petit Palace Opera Garden hotel (take a moment to admire the neighbouring façade by Catalan architect Puig i Cadafalch). Walk through reception to discover the rich variety of flora, including magnolias, laurels and even some linden.

The garden provides you with plenty of benches where you can sit and listen to water bubbling from the fountains – practically the only noise around, as the garden is protected from the city bustle thanks to surrounding buildings. In the presence of such natural beauty, it's not hard to think about Mercè Rodoreda again, and recall her writing that what really matters in life are the things that don't seem important at all.

There's an entrance with a lift in C/Aroles.

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