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If you get on your bike and cycle, you don’t have to go far to leave the city behind. Although Barcelona may seem like a concrete jungle at times, a variety of landscapes are all within pedalling reach.
We’ve put together some ideas to inspire your two-wheeled wanderings, with routes that take in beaches, mountains, wetlands and riversides. And there’s something for every level, from gentle flat rides to steep climbs through the hills.
The Llobregat Delta is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. This huge area of wetlands is located close to El Prat airport where the river Llobregat meets the sea, and it offers lovely scenery and flat, car-free cycling. The paths take you through pine forests, by shallow lagoons, marshes and wild, dune-lined sandy beaches. If you can ignore the frequent planes taking off overhead, you might even forget you’re just a stone’s throw from the city. There are a number of different routes you can follow around the delta, and if you take along some binoculars, you can give your legs a rest and enjoy a spot of birdwatching. Some 164 species of birds migrate to the delta every year and the area is known particularly for its aquatic birds, en route from Northern Europe to Africa. In the furthermost section of the delta, the Remolar Filipinas, there are a number of hides and towers from which visitors can watch the birds. Visit www.portadeldelta.cat for more information about the delta and details of the different cycling itineraries.
Head up the Maresme coast in search of clean, wide beaches. Between the coastal train track and the beach is a path which stretches all the way from Barcelona to Premià de Mar, some 16 kilometres north of the city.
If you don’t want to go quite that far, you can stop off at Ocata, which is 12 kilometres away and home to the area’s most impressive beach, an expanse of clean, golden sand. To get onto the beachside cycle path from Barcelona, cycle from the Fòrum to Badalona, passing through an industrial zone where the emblematic three chimneys of Sant Adrià del Besòs stand. From there, continue on to Badalona where the path starts near the train station. Take it at a leisurely pace, stopping off for some tapas and a caña at the chiringuitos dotted along the beach.
You’ll pass through several towns, and although they are now built up, these Maresme beach towns have pretty, old centres that are worth a visit. The path changes as you progress, and you’ll find yourself cycling on concrete, wooden boardwalks and, every now and again, a dirt track. Bear in mind that except for a few sections where there is a purpose built cycle lane, you’ll be sharing the path with pedestrians, and it can get quite busy at the weekend.
The Ronda Verda
The Ronda Verda is a circuit that forms two loops: one around the city and the other around the Besós area. Stretching 72 kilometres in total, it is divided into six sections—Collserola, Parc Fluvial del Besós, Serralada de Marina, seafront, Montjuïc and Llobregat. There’s no reason to go the whole distance: you can make up your own trip and join the circuit at any point and in either direction.
The sections vary hugely in difficulty. For some easy cycling, the Besós river bank is perfect. This area was regenerated in the late Nineties, and the rechristened Parc Fluvial del Besós now boasts a wide cycling path that runs alongside a lush lawn. If you want a gentle outing, enjoy the five kilometre riverside ride, then head back again. If you’re made of tougher stuff, you could try the section that runs through the Parque de la Serralada de Marina, the coastal range of mountains. There are lots of steep hills, but the rewards are many, as you pass by Iberian settlements, hilltop chapels, olive groves, monasteries and refreshing springs.
It will also take some pedal power to get onto the Collserola section, but once you’re there, it’s pretty flat. Cycling along the Carretera de les Aigües, enjoying fresh air and spectacular views, you’ll feel like you’re far away from home. At almost 10 kilometres long and 450 metres above the city, this flat trail offers spectacular views of Barcelona, and it’s a popular spot for local ramblers, runners and cyclists. A part of this section of the Ronda Verde still isn’t built, so double check the map on the website before you set off. The website www.rondaverda.cat has comprehensive information about the Ronda Verda in English. The Ronda Verda is well signposted with green signs.