With half a dozen sparkling beaches nearby we can’t fault Barcelona for being short on urban green space.
But with the confines of Parc de la Ciutadella covering so many botanical bases who needs them?
The biggest of all parks in Barcelona is just minutes from anywhere and you won’t want to miss out on the fun – so here’s a list of things to do in Ciutadella Park.
How to Get There
You’ll find the park in the centre of the city just on the edge of the famous El Born District. It’s about five minutes walking distance from the Arc de Triomf (L1), Barceloneta (L4), and Ciutadella Vila Olímpica (L4) metro stations.
If you’re staying in the Gothic Quarter expect to walk about 15-20 minutes.
Address: Passeig de Picasso, 21, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.
Why You’ll Like Parc de la Ciutadella
- Barcelona’s biggest park – 280,000 m2 of urban green space.
- A breezy and relaxing alternative to the beach.
- A cool international vibe.
- Musicians playing eclectic stuff in every corner.
- Shady picnic spots.
- A place to have a nice walk or play sport.
Things to See
Parc de la Ciutadella Fountain
Loosely based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome, this massive structure in the north of the park was designed by Josep Fontsére with a little help from a young, unknown Antoni Gaudi.
Two enormous crab pincers serve as staircases to a podium featuring a sculpture of Venus on a clam shell. Climb them for a good view of the park and the surrounding pond.
Parc de la Ciutadella Zoo
With over 4,000 animals from 400 different species the animal-lover in you and especially your kids simply won’t be able to resist the Barcelona Zoo.
Deemed a small biodiversity reserve, the zoo boasts of faithfully reproducing the habitats of each animal living there. Highlights for the family at the Barcelona Zoo include the miniature railway, electric cars, and pony rides.
Tickets can be bought online from the official Barcelona Tourisme office by clicking the button below.
Buying tickets includes a dolphin show.
The Museum of Natural Science
Science lovers will take delight in the zoology and geology portions of the Barcelona Museum of Natural Science that are situated in Parc de la Ciutadella.
You’ll see the red brick building called the Castell dels Tres Dragons (the Castle of Three Dragons) from the park’s main entrance below Arc de Triomf. It was designed by local architect Lluís Doménech i Montaner and constructed for the 1888 World’s Fair.
Here you’ll find a ton of interesting exhibitions, the most popular being a whale skeleton.
Despair by Josep Llimona
In the pond at Plaça d’Armes you’ll find a stone sculpture of an inconsolable woman, reduced to her knees with her face covered by an untamed mane, her clasped hands the only sign of life – appropriately called ‘Despair’.
The contrast of such misery with the ideal female form was part and parcel of Catalan modernism, and Llimona exhibits that here with his 1903 5th International Art Exhibition award winner.
A Day at Parc de la Ciutadella
Once Barcelona weather heats up the parks in Barcelona really get going – and of all of them Parc de la Ciutadella becomes the classic meeting point for locals and travellers alike.
Here are a few of my favourite things to do in Parc de la Ciutadella:
Have a Picnic
With so much green space and tons of shade under the trees you can really make a day out of it. My suggestion is to load up on beer and wine, grab some Spanish cold cuts and cheese, and make your own little tapas lunch.
Caution: though I’ve never had problems myself I’ve heard of some people being asked by authorities to pour out their beers. Best bet is to pour them into plastic cups to avoid detection.
The nearest supermarket to Ciutadella Park is Condis at Calle Comerç 19.
Those with deeper pockets can head to some of Barcelona’s best restaurants for a take out lunch at legendary burger joints Bacoa (Avenida del Marquès de l’Argentera 1) or Pim Pam Burger (Carrer del Rec 18)
Yes, it hasn’t quite caught on in the Anglo sphere but what’s better than a late-afternoon drink and snacks?
It’s a super-standard Barcelona move to grab a bottle of wine or a couple of beers (or both!) and head for the park. For my readers I recommend getting a bottle of local Blanc Pescador (a semi-dry and light sparkling white) and chilling it in your hotel for the occasion.
Then arm yourselves with some classic Manchego cheese and a big chunk of chorizo and you’re set.
All that’s left to do is sip the afternoon away people-watching.
NOTE: drinking alcohol in public is technically illegal though you shouldn’t have any problems with police if you’re behaving in a civilized manner – just remember to pick up after yourselves!
Also, you’ll find tons of street beer sellers coming around with cans of chilled Estrella. Though I’ve bought many know that they’re stashed around the city in places of dubious cleanliness – proceed with caution! And don’t pay more than €1.00.
Go For a Boat Ride
Wait – going for a boat ride in a park!?
Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds this is actually one of the most popular activities at Parc de la Ciutadella since there’s actually a lake in the middle.
This is one of the more romantic things to do in Barcelona and great for couples on holiday though I’d recommend it for anybody looking for a unique Barcelona experience.
30 minutes rowing costs €6.00 for two people, €9.00 for three people, and €10.00 for four or five.
The lake is open for rowing from 10 am to dusk… don’t fall in!
Play Some Sports
Just grab a football, frisbee, or ping pong set from any of the nearby chinos (a type of discount store with everything under the sun) for less than €5.00 and head for the nearest open space!
You’ll find three ping pong tables at the entrance nearest the intersection of Passeig de Pujades and Carrer de Napols – just behind the monumental fountain.
Things to Do Nearby
Once you’ve re-charged the batteries you’ll be ready for any of Barcelona’s top attractions.
It’s not just the parks in Barcelona that are good for a walk – head to the nearby Born or Barceloneta districts for lively neighbourhoods full of shops, bars, restaurants, and just about everything.
A great thing to do if the sun is shining is to rent a bike and head for the seaside for a great ride along the Mediterranean.
You’ll also be about a ten minute walk from the famous Picasso Museum and its permanent exhibition of over 4,000 works of art from Spain’s most famous surrealist painter.
Another great option is to take a tour of the Catalan Music Palace. The 2,000 seat music hall is an explosion of colours and one of the greatest marks Catalan modernism has left on the city.
You shouldn’t miss taking in the Arc de Triomf – the welcoming gate to the 1888 World’s Fair.
Parc de la Ciutadella Hacks
- Get there before 10:00 am for maximum tranquility.
- Try and go mid-week for the smallest crowds.
- The kiosks selling drinks and snacks are double market price! Stock up beforehand.
- Walk up the right-hand stairs of the fountain for a great photo opportunity.
- Look for the florescent green cockatoos.
- Feel no pressure to tip the musicians unless you really enjoyed them.
- The people selling baked goods have likely included a special ingredient: marijuana.
- The one euro samosas sold by the Pakistani people are delicious and safe.
- You can find a list of park events here (link in Spanish).
Parc de la Ciutadella Opening Times
Keep in mind there is no entrance fee at any hour of the day unless you’re visiting separate attractions.
- 23 March to 22 September: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
- 23 September to 22 March: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
In 1714 King Philip V of Spain conquered Catalonia and built a citadel on the spot, forcing many local Catalans from their homes and eventually leading to the construction of nearby beach neighbourhood Barceloneta.
At the time the five-cornered fortress was the biggest in Europe and big enough to house 8,000 soldiers.
It immediately became a hated symbol of the central Spanish government and over time most of the buildings were destroyed as Spanish royal power diminished.
Because there were so few parks in Barcelona it was decided to turn it into the city’s first urban green space.
Parc de la Ciutadella was inaugurated in 1872.
Get at Me in the Comments Below
If I’ve missed out on something in my list of things to do in Parc de la Ciutadella make sure to hassle me in the comments below… any question you have about your Barcelona holiday will be answered promptly and thoughtfully.
Also don’t be afraid to join the Ciutadella Park discussion in my new Facebook group called I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, chat with fellow travelers, and more – anything goes!
And what do you say… how does Ciutadella stand up to other famous urban parks in the world?