If you take a taxi in Barcelona, the points of reference are clear: the river Besòs in the North, the river Llobregat in the South, the sea to the East, and the mountain to the West. They’re all natural points, but finding nature in the city might be harder than you think.
GARDENS OF LABERINTO DE HORTA (Horta-Guinardó)
Chema Peral (32) - Illustrator
Chema lives in Vilanova i la Geltrú, a town next to Barcelona. When he was small, his sister kept telling him that she wanted to go to a hedge maze in the city. “I used to think this labyrinth didn’t exist. Years later I finally went, and getting lost in there is truly a magical thing.” Located on the former estate of a wealthy family, next to the Collserola ridge, the park has an 18th-century neoclassical garden and a 19th-century romantic garden.
PARC DEL GUINARDÓ (Horta-Guinardó)
Geneviève Saracho (31) - Copyeditor and baker
“Barcelona is a noisy place—cars honking, people yelling, reggaeton blasting from open windows, the propane salesmen tapping their metal tanks as they walk the streets. But every other day, I run up to Guinardó park.” Geneviève especially enjoys the lower parts of this natural park, since they are usually empty. The landscape changes during the year, from the tall wild flowers of the spring to the dry and gold of summer and fall. “From the top, I can see the whole city all the way out to sea, and it seems peaceful and small. The park is my favorite place in the city, a quiet refuge I slip into, where I can look at the city but don't have to listen to it.”
TORRE DE LES AIGÜES (Eixample)
Carlos Carbonell (34) - Coder and artist
Carlos lives in Eixample (Catalan for 'expansion'), a district of Barcelona constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries between the old city and what used to be small towns surrounding Barcelona. The main feature of Eixample is the strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues. “Nowadays it’s hard to find a natural space in this neighbourhood. But this is one of them: there’s a tiny swimming pool and sometimes I come here during the summer.”
THE STAIRS OF MONTJUIC
JARDINS DE MOSSÈN CINTO VERDAGUER (Montjuic)
Sara Banal (31) - Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner and Moira (2)
Montjuic is the natural lung of the city. It's home to a bewildering diversity of flowers and trees, and Sara is lucky to live very near to it. “Unlike other parks in the city, I can relax here without thinking that someone’s going to steal my things.” In the summer months the park next door celebrates the Brunch in the Park on Sundays. “This electronic music festival creates a huge contrast between the nice family atmosphere and the not so nice drunk and hangover atmosphere.”
PARC DE LES AIGÜES (Baix Guinardó)
Lara Cano (31) - Spanish language teacher and Pauline Roggero (24) - CRM executive
Lara used to live around the Baix Guinardó area when she was young, and now she’s back. Since her family couldn’t afford to go on holiday, she used to come here every weekend with her brother. “I’m having fun again in this park. I come here with Pauline and we play petanca (petanques)," a French sport that she also used to play when she was young. "Now it’s a bond between us.”
PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA (Ciutat Vella)
Niu Junjing (18) - Student
For decades following its creation in the mid-19th century for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona, Parc de la Ciutadella was the city's only green space. “I like coming here because it’s a park, there’s no specific reason.” On the weekends, the park is overcrowded. “I don’t like the fact that you have to be really careful not to lie down next to some dog poo." The grounds of the biggest city park include the Parliament of Catalonia, a small lake, some museums, a large fountain and the city zoo.
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ELO VÁZQUEZ (34) is a photographer and Spanish teacher from Sevilla (Spain). She lives in Barcelona with her Icelandic husband.