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Urban hiking in Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola, Barcelona

January 12, 2024

Barcelona is best known to many for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and art and culture. But there's another part of the city to explore for those who crave nature, movement and stunning views of landmarks like the Sagrada de Familia, Park Güell and Mirador Torre Glòries.

Funicular del Tibidabo: our starting point

There is a saying in Barcelona that wherever you want to go, it takes 20 minutes. The same goes for public transport or by taking your car. We would like to agree to this saying. From our hotel, centrally located along the Gran Via, it's a short walk to Plaça de Catalunya where we board the commuter train to Avenida Tibidabo. From there we take the bus a few stops to the Funicular del Tibidabo.

Should we add that Spaniards are talkative? On the bus, there are more people than us who have their sights set on a shorter or longer trip into the Serra de Collserola National Park and who are happy to ask questions about our plans, equipment, share local tips and laugh at a confused driver who has stopped in the middle of an intersection. In typical unbroken Spanish fashion.

Directions from the centre of Barcelona
Read more about public transport in Barcelona

Ready to discover!

At the valley station of the Funicular del Tibidabo, we wave goodbye to our newfound talkative Spanish acquaintances as they stroll towards the funicular railway for a slightly more comfortable transport up to the Parc d'atraccions Tibidabo amusement park, which shares space at the top with the church and basilica Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. We feel the thrill of discovering this perhaps strange combination - fun and spirituality.

But whilst the choice of the funicular is there, we choose the shorter, but hilly hike in the August heat where the thermometer stands at 31 degrees. Shoes are laced, water bottles and snacks are reviewed. Have we missed putting sunscreen on our necks? We turn on our GPS watches and start the hike by immediately going straight up a steep passage that speeds up our breathing.

“Share the road”

After only a few minutes we reach a first plateau and junction where we join a wider path/trail shared by hikers, runners, and gravel cyclists. The phrase "share the road" is important to remember as we start looking upwards with the help of our FATMAP trail that Sebastian has created.

In the park, signs with numbers on trails, pictures of Ferris wheels pointing to the amusement park, and colour markings on rocks and trees help to guide us on our way. Compared to Sweden and other countries we've walked in; however, the markings are not entirely consistent or evenly recurring. On a few occasions we stand there like two genuinely confused tourists scratching the back of our sweaty heads and wondering which way is correct - the FATMAPs or the sign that have markings in three different directions?

However, we believe getting lost is part of the whole experience, so with the sun shining, a view appearing below us and the higher we go, we can easily conclude - up we go!

We can also follow the tracks of the cable car and stop a local for directions as this hike is so close to the city with a clear destination - the amusement park.

Views and cooling breezes

Barcelona sprawls from the foot of the Parc de Collserola down to the Mediterranean Sea. The paths we follow only scratch the surface of all the trails the park has to offer. But for us, it's a perfect half-day excursion to combine with subsequent swimming and tapas along one of the city's beaches. And as we reach higher ground and with it some shade, we realise that the cooling breezes have a great way of cooling us down as well. We gladly trade these contrasts for the hustle and bustle of the city.

Landmarks on our way to the top

After half an hour or so of further wandering among pine trees, along short stretches of road where road cyclists whizz past, and a curious installation of a gym in a glass dome overlooking the whole city (you have to see it to understand it - only in Barcelona!), we see the astronomical and metrological Observatori Fabra beginning to loom up on our right-hand side among the hills. Shortly after that, we see the Torre de Collserola, the huge telecommunications mast built for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

It is as if we are walking through a part of the city's history even up here with these landmarks. We point, stop to google for more info about what we see, and write down questions about everything we encounter and feel the need to follow up on with our friends who call Barcelona their hometown. Being curious is just as good as getting lost sometimes. You never know what you might experience or learn...

Where did all these people come from?

After following the road for a short distance and sharply turning upwards just below Torres de Collserola, we can both hear the happy howling from the amusement park and sense the spires of the huge church. We are once again in a steeper segment of the hike, but now we can see the goal ahead as well as more curious hikers, cyclists, and motorists. It's almost like the feeling of a riot at a race. With just a few steps we pass a car park, a large entrance with ticket sales and lots of narrow and wide paths where more and more people join.

It's a total contrast to the forest and the trail we walked alone just a few minutes ago, where only the wind in the trees, crickets and our own breathing could be heard. But these are the contrasts of discovering new places. To move in a few moments between different contexts and conditions.

Barcelona's own miniature Disney Land

We take a few last steps up a curved staircase and right away find ourselves in an open space, like a square with a touristy lunch restaurant on our left, the atmospheric amusement park with Ferris wheels, model planes, roller coasters, candy stands and carousels on our right.

But right in front of us, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor rises and takes our breath away. It is one of the most impressive buildings in Barcelona and we require a moment to take in all the architectural beauty. It has been an important place for pilgrims and visitors for over 100 years.

The temple's location high up on a peak gives you a great view of Barcelona, and you'll appreciate the panoramic view of the city. It's hard to describe the feeling of standing on top of Mount Tibidabo with the wind in your hair and looking out over this magnificent city.

The walk from the valley station of the Funicular del Tibidabo to the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor is a memorable experience that combines nature, culture and spirituality. It is a chance to explore a different side of Barcelona and discover the city from a different perspective. So next time you visit Barcelona, take the time to head up to Mount Tibidabo and let yourself be enchanted by this wonderful hike.

If you want to have a cool drink with great views after your hike, we recommend El Balconet.

Take the train back from La Floresta

We hope you enjoy your trip and that we have inspired you to explore more of Barcelona!

P.S. We quality tested the funicular down. The ride took less than 20 minutes. D.S.

Additional tips for when you are in Barcelona

If you're in Barcelona for a Sunday and want to join the local tradition of taking long and late family dinners, make sure to book a table well in advance at La Venta - an experience in art deco interiors and Spanish delights right at the valley station of Funicular del Tibidab

Packing recommendations:

  • Double water bottles - one filled with water and one with rehydration solution.

  • Snacks like fruits, nuts and bars.

  • Sunscreen - at least factor 30 and apply it 30 minutes before you start hiking. Good rule of thumb.

  • Sunglasses and cap or sun hat.

  • Comfortable, lightweight hiking shoes.

  • Thin layers of breathable clothing.

  • Mobile phone with FATMAP link downloaded so you can access it if the internet connection is shaky.

  • Swimwear and a travel towel so that you can head to the beach straight away!

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