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Running routes: Horta-Guinardo
Horta-Guinardo: Six kilometres, the hills are alive!
I’m fond of seeing city attractions while running. I combine a focus on my body with a focus on my location, a mixture that animates me and heightens my perception. This run through Horta-Guinardó tours some of the city's most intricate examples of Catalan Modernisme architecture. You'll begin at Sagrada Familia, jog up a hill and through the small and elegant Parc de les Aiguës (pay attention to the artful graffiti that decorates the park's perimeters), scoot around the wilder frontier of Parc del Guinardó, skirt past Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, also famous for the Palau de la Música Catalana) and finish back at the infamous cathedral.
The real treasures lie in the district's largest park. I stumbled upon Parc del Guinardó a few weeks back while running through some westerly city parks. Guinardó brought me a nostalgic satisfaction for my hometown runs in the US. Clean clear air, soft dirt trails and–gasp!–pine trees and cedars! I’m from Wisconsin, a state where evergreens fill parks and streets like the palms do here, and I’m overjoyed to return to the familiar soft feather feeling underfoot while cruising across pine needles, the faint sap scent, the tinnier sound of wind as it rustles through conifers… Lest these details fail to entice you, I can also report that Guinardó has, on certain clear days, impressive views of the Pyrenees, the ocean and the city.
The city first acquired the land for Guinardó in 1910 when there was little city building in the territory. Guinardó is not difficult to find, but could easily be overlooked by non-Horta dwellers. It’s uphill and rather unassuming, couched by a groomed garden pathway that deceives the twisty and wild aspect of its interior. The park maintains a historic garden, as well as a myriad of trees: carobs, cypresses, cedars, mimosas, holm oaks and some 2,000 pines fill the park's 16 hectares.
Though I tried to map a clear Guinardó route, I found the task basically impossible. Though the paths are officially mapped by the city, they loop and double back, link unexpectedly and don’t necessarily follow a map-able logic. So that you can be sure and get a full loop around the park, I am suggesting that you follow the signs that give street names. I've made indications on the maps and in my written instructions.
Guinardó feels more like a hiking trail than any other city park I’ve seen in the city proper (Parc Collserola fans will be particularly fond of this park). That said, it's not so big that you’ll feel overwhelmed if you get a bit lost. If you do, head downhill and follow the lime green park signs that say ‘Zona Historica’ (the fountain-rich and well-groomed garden portion of Guinardó I mentioned earlier). You’ll need to end up there anyhow to find your way back to the Sagrada Familia. But, take your time, if you don't mind. It may be good to forget your place in such a place.
o Breathtaking city, ocean and mountain views
o Woods in the city
o Inspiring architectural monuments
o Confusing pathways
o Intense hillclimb from Parc de les Aiguës up to Parc del Guinardó
o Run through Avinguda Gaudí, AKA expect heavy tourist traffic in the warm months