You might also hear this park called Escorxador, for the old slaughterhouse that stood here until it was demolished in 1979 to provide some much-needed parkland. Though there's not loads of grassy areas, there are plenty of places to picnic among the palms and pines. And since there's so much space, you're sure to find just the spot where you've got a bit of privacy – perfect for couples or small groups. There’s also a good playground for small kids.
You'll find the small picnic area as you enter on the left, a bit tucked away but boasting a large rose garden with climbing roses and beautifully perfumed bushes that are full of flowers in the spring. May is the best time to go, to hang out with friends or pick some roses – thorns and all. At the start of May, the Rosaleda (Rose Garden) holds the International Competition of New Roses in Barcelona. To make a new rose, you have to cross two varieties together, kind of like a mom and a dad would do.
A great place for whole family, this park is something of an urban forest that connects Barcelona with Collserola. It’s made up of 17 hectares of forest that used to be two rural farms. Make your way to the picnic area at the highest part of the park to eat under the welcoming shade of a carob tree and get a magnificent view while you're at it. If you're not in the mood for bringing your own food, there’s a bar where you can get roasted chickens and other dishes to take away. For the kids, there’s a steam train and ponies to ride. Next to the park you can take a dip in the public pools at Can Caralleu.
Of all the parks currently operating in the city, this was the first one specifically designed to be a public park, and it's also home to the Barcelona Zoo and a lake where you can rent paddle boats. Though it's an extremely popular weekend destinations, you can still try to find a patch of your own among the dog-walkers and bongo players to picnic, sunbathe, practise the guitar or hula hoop... Fans of botany are happy among the foliage, and recently it's become the best place to try to spot the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottus), a type of bird that mocks other bird songs, made popular thanks to the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy.
This park has three claims to fame: first, the 'Elogi de l’Aigua' ('In Praise of Water'), a colossal structure by Eduardo Chillida, suspended by steel cables anchored to stones from the old Coll quarry; the second is a large pond that functions as a shallow public pool in summer; and the third, a small square you have to hike up to where you’ll find tables, benches, a fountain and a beautiful view of Barcelona that makes the walk up worth it.
In 1791, the Desvalls family, owners of this marvellously leafy estate, hired Italian architect Domenico Bagutti to design scenic gardens set around a cypress maze, with a romantic stream and a waterfall. The mansion may be gone (replaced with a 19th-century Arabic-influenced building), but the gardens are remarkably intact, shaded in the summer by oaks, laurels and an ancient sequoia. Best of all, the maze, an ingenious puzzle that intrigues those brave enough to try it, is also still in use. Nearby stone tables provide a handy picnic site. On paying days, last entry is one hour before sunset.
It's an easy trip to this park using the red line (L1) on the metro (get off at Trinitat Vella). There is a huge, clean picnic area with barbecues, tables, benches, and a semicircular canal, a parade of poplar trees and olive trees in perfect formation, an impressive Roman frieze sculpture of 15 stampeding horses running in a meadow – 'Cavalls desbocats' ('Runaway horses'), by Josep Ros) – and more than 60 gardens that are cultivated by the retirees in the area.
This park, with 17.7 hectares of land, was designed by the Arriola & Fiol architects and is the second largest park in the city (the first is Collserola). There are many hidden surprises, like the largest concentration of palm trees in Barcelona (130 specimens of 20 different species), the old Dosrius aqueduct, a natural spring that shoots water up, and a big stretch of lawn. You can eat at the picnic tables near a wooded area. The afternoon light illuminates quite a romantic scene.
Are your friends from uni coming to visit Barcelona for a few days? Amaze them with the wow factor of this park that goes beyond its modernist icons like the salamander made of broken glass and tiles or the 86 columns in the hypostyle hall. You might find this outdoor space designed by Antoni Gaudí overrun with tourists and not a free picnic table in sight, but with a little luck you’ll be able to say that you had a picnic at one of UNESCO’s World Heritages sites. Just keep in mind that while you can find a nice picnic spot at no cost, not all the areas of the park are free anymore.
You can get a fantastic two-for-one deal around lunchtime at Palau Robert. First you can visit the exhibitions inside, where they've hosted outstanding photography and other art shows. They've also got a space for concerts and a tourist information office inside the building. Next, just walk into the gardens, find a shady tree, park it and picnic. The price for the whole afternoon out? Absolutely free.