The Hidden Secrets of Barcelona

Without a doubt Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and therefore a city with a fairly well-beaten track. After all, who doesn’t know someone who has visited Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia or has traipsed down ‘La Rambla’ where the national language seems to be anything but Spanish? As someone who lived there for a couple of years, it always pains me to see people visit one of the most enchanting cities in Europe and leave again without realising just what it has to offer. With that in mind, here are a few places hidden from view that truly capture the spirit of the city…

Parc del Laberint d’Horta (The Labyrinth Park)
Tucked away up in the hills that frame Barcelona, the Labyrinth Park is the forgotten gem in the city’s crown. Situated within five minutes walk from the Mundet metro station (L3), the gardens that make up the park reveal some spectacular scenery: a looping canal that threads through the park, waterfalls, spectacular greenery, and, of course, the labyrinth itself. Situated in the heart of the park, the beautifully presented hedge maze leads to a statue of Eros. Getting to that is easy; finding your way out is considerably more challenging…
The park is open from 10am-7pm for most of the year and costs €2,17 to enter. Opening times are later in the summer.

Hospital De St. Pau
Granted, a hospital is not the first place that you might think of when looking for spectacular locations to visit. However, this is one hospital you really should end up at. The buildings that make up the old hospital, along with the Palau de la Música de Catalunya in the Born, have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The highlight of the grounds has to be the immaculately preserved entrance, with its Christian-influenced murals and the stairs framing a sweeping arc around an ornate fountain. The best part is that it is connected to the Sagrada Familia by way of the Avinguda de Gaudí, which is a short ‘rambla’ full of cafés and bars.
The hospital is open to the public all year round, and is free to enter. It can be accessed from the Hospital de St Pau metro station (L5).

Monestir de Pedralbes
The Pedralbes Monastery is about as far off the beaten track as you can get in Barcelona. A twenty minute walk from Maria Christina Metro station, the houses slowly get larger and further apart until you stumble upon a huge monastical building (actually used as a convent) that dominates one side of a tranquil plaza. Upon entering the monastery, you find yourself in a rather Zen-like garden, surrounded on all sides by the impressive three-tier monastery. Visitors are provided with the opportunity to look through certain rooms that used to make up the convent, and walk down the eerie silence of the corridors with their ornate sculptures and murals along the walls. If you’re looking for a spot of peaceful reflection in the bustle of Barcelona, this is where you will find it.
The monastery is open from 10am-2pm all year round. It costs €5,50 but is free on the first Sunday of every month.

Cementiri de Montjuic (City of the Dead)
The idea of visiting a cemetery in your free time for larks and giggles does, admittedly, border on the macabre. Yet this is no ordinary cemetery. Hidden in the shadow of Montjuic hill, it requires some forward planning should you decide to visit. The bus drops you off at the lower gates and you quickly find yourself in a set of paths with tombs, temples and (I kid you not) high rise graves which create a bizarre, yet wonderfully unreal setting. It sounds weird, and it is. But I guarantee that it is an experience you will never forget.
The 21 bus goes from Avinguda Parel.lel every 15 minutes 7 days a week.

Ben McCabe

One Comment
  • Raymond Ellstad
    23 May 2011 at 16:39
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    A number of years ago my wife and I, via a taxi, visited the Cementiri de Montjuic. We were quite enjoying ourselves and taking photos when up sped two policemen who demanded our film. They told us it was against the law to take pictures in a cemetary in Spain. Several days later we went to the police station and got our negatives back and a set of prints with the offending images and negatives removed. We were charged for the processing. It was a most disconcerting ‘adventure’ that revealed what a police state Spain can be. Don’t get me wrong, we love Barcelona and have been there 4 times and counting. This experience was rather revealing however.

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