Rafel Royes Lopez
A hidden jewel
...the Parc Guinardo is an overlooked rustic gem in the middle of Barcelona.
On February 24th, in the Plaça Nen de la Rutlla, Barcelona celebrated the inauguration of the reformed Parc del Guinardó with a three-piece band in clown-face, free cake with chocolate and various activities for children. As a man on stilts animated the crowd to a klezmer version of ‘Oh, Susanna’, a very few climbed the terraces along the cascading Islamic fountain, which dates back to 1739. And fewer still wandered up the winding paths through the eucalyptus forest to the mountain peak.
Slightly smaller than Parc Güell, the Parc del Guinardó is an overlooked rustic jewel in the midst of Barcelona. Conspicuously absent in the city’s collection of pamphlets that advertise the various green retreats dotting the city map, the park has long been ignored by the Ajuntament’s Parcs i Jardins department. Over many years, it fell into neglect as pathways deteriorated into a labyrinth of muddy trails due to the failure of dying flora to contain the erosion.
But after an eight-month, €1.1 million renovation, Parc del Guinardó has returned to the glory of its original conception. Purchased by the city council in 1910, and opened to the public in 1918, the park was designed by Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, a landscaper of international fame who—as Commissioner of Gardens for the city of Paris—also designed the Champs de Mars below the Eiffel Tower.
Centered in the neighbourhood of Horta-Guinardó, between Parc Güell and Parc del Turó de la Peira, it covers nearly 16 hectares. On any given day, visitors will find only a handful of hikers—most of whom are nearby residents. Far away from the din at the foot of the mountain, Josep Pima walked his dog in the Plaza de Media Luna. “This place is precious. If you go further up, to the cannon batteries, you will find the greatest view in all of Barcelona.”
In the direction he indicated, at the top of the mountain, there is a two-road neighbourhood reminiscent of a tiny, isolated pueblo. Impervious to the occasional visitor, children play in the streets and old folks chat by their doors. Dogs sleep on the pavement. At first, it seemed that Pima had been mistaken, but hidden at the end of Carrer Marìá Lavèrnia is a broken path of mottled stone, brick and cement, which leads up to the ruins of an anti-aircraft battery, a stark and rare remnant of Barcelona’s struggle during the Civil War. At over 250 metres, its altitude lies between that of Montjuïc and Tibidabo, clearly an ideal location for such an installation. No other point in the city can offer a 360-degree view, much less so expansive. In the shadows of the battery are rusted chain-link chicken coops, abandoned when post-War shanties were eventually cleared.
The coastal view stretches from Premià del Mar down to Garraf, the honeycombed boxes of city blocks sprawling from one end to the other. Ships dwindle into imperceptible dots in the glistening blue Mediterranean, which reaches 30 kilometres out to the horizon. Inland, the entire range of the Collserola spreads in an impressive panorama, as the peaks of La Mola and El Brull, a deceptive 50 kilometres away, rise behind them.
Wind rustles across the ears, roosters crow in the distance and dogs howl in response through the gentle, ocean-like whooshes of traffic carried on the breeze from faraway Ronda de Dalt. At once unpretentious and breathtaking, the site is oddly liberating, a hidden getaway in plain view of the entire city. And it is not found in tourist guides.
First published May 2007. Update August 2010:
To get to the park, take the number 28 bus from Plaça de Catalunya to the highest area of the park. Get off at the last stop: Carrer de la Gran Vista - Plaça de la Mitja Lluna and follow the road round to the back of the park. There's also now a children's play area and a bar. Accesible 24 hours a day vi Plaça del Nen de la Rutlla, Carrer de Garriga i Roca and Carrer de Florència.