A green oasis in the heart of the town, Parc de la Ciutadella is one of the finest parks you will find in Barcelona. Dotted with historic landmarks, statues and fountains, it is as much a tourist attraction as it is an entertainment area and a venue for outdoor fun. Home to Barcelona Zoo and to an artificial lake where you can hire a boat and row, Parc de la Ciutadella is a must visit if you are traveling to Barcelona with kids.
Parc de la Ciutadella’s History
Barcelona’s “green lung” has strong connections with the city’s history. Standing on the grounds of a former military citadel erected upon Felipe V’s order at the end of the 18th century, Parc de la Ciutadella made its appearance on Barcelona’s urban landscape in 1872, when the city was going through a period of extensive industrial development.
Josep Fontseré was in charge of Parc de la Ciutadella’s original design, but the park’s appearance was changed on several occasions – for Universal Exhibition of 1888 as well as to accommodate Barcelona Zoo.Just as over one thousand houses of the La Ribera district had been pulled down to make space for the much loathed fortress, the latter was demolished in 1869 under General Prim’s order for the area to be turned into a public park.
Gardens are for the city as lungs are for the human body.
The Building of the Catalan Parliament
Only three of the building that once formed a star-shaped defensive fortress are still standing nowadays in Barcelona’s Parc de la Ciutadella, and one of them (the former arsenal) is home to the Catalan Parliament.
If you are interested in taking a tour of the building (available for free, but only in Spanish and Catalan), you should visit the park on Saturdays or Sundays.
The most interesting stops of the tour are the Stairway of Honour and the chain of halls leading to the semicircular auditorium where Catalan Parliament’s sessions are held. At the heart of the garden situated right in front of the Parliament’s building, you can admire Distress – the statue of a heartbroken woman.
Parc de la Ciutadella’s Statues
It is not without reason that Parc de la Ciutadella was declared in 1951 an artistic historical monument. This green area is a very pleasant open air museum and its statues and sculptures make the great landmarks both for art lovers and for the kids.
Walking down Parc de la Ciutadella’s alleys you will feel like going some of the most important pages of Barcelona’s art history. Among the most notable are General Prim’s equestrian statue signed by Frederic Marès), Marià Aguiló’s marble bust who bears Eusebi Arnau’s signature, a bronze nude statue by Josep Clarà, and a marble one by Josep Llimona. Your little ones will certainly remember the statue standing at the entrance of Barcelona Zoo – The Woman with the Umbrella.
Other notable statues are Despair embodying a sad woman who seems to be floating above an artificial pond and the Mammoth erected in the honor of the fortress’s destruction.
The Monumental Cascada
One of Parc de la Ciutadella’s most popular landmarks, the waterfall or the cascada is located in the proximity of Passeig de Pujades park entrance.
The artist Josep Fontseré signed this project, assisted by the young Antoni Gaudí. Many Catalan sculptors contributed with their works.
The Birth of Venus, the winged lions and Aurora’s chariot are some of the most famous statues surrounding the waterfall .
Climb the steps and make your way to the small temple from where you can get a panoramic view over the park.
In the same area of the park you can hire a boat and row on an artificial lake.
Parc de la Ciutadella’s Castle
Situated in the area of the park known as Passeig de Picasso, Castell dels Tres Dragons is a notable landmark erected on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1888, just like many other buildings in Parc de la Ciutadella. Featuring a medieval appearance, the Castle of the Three Dragons was designed by one of Gaudi’s forerunners (Domènech i Montaner) and it was for a long time home to the Zoology Museum that has recently closed its doors.
In the same are, you will find two structures – the Hivernacle made up of two greenhouses connected between them by a vaulted glass roof and the Umbracle used as a pavilion during the Universal Exhibition and nowadays home to a palm house).