Love seeking out a city’s green spaces? You’re in luck! Barcelona has no shortage of picture-perfect parks, including the elegant Parc de la Ciutadella.
Tucked away between El Born and El Poblenou, it’s a beautiful destination for those who fancy a stroll after exploring the many monuments in Barcelona’s historic city centre. What’s more, the lush grounds of Parc de la Ciutadella boast many attractions, from a natural history museum to the handsome Catalonian Parliament building!
Here’s how to make the most of this outdoor oasis that’s nestled at the heart of Spain’s second city.
Getting to Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella sits right next door to El Born and on the former site of Barcelona’s ancient Citadel. It’s straightforward to reach, whether you choose to arrive on foot from nearby neighbourhoods like the Gothic Quarter or use public transport.
Want to save yourself a bit of time? Make the most of Barcelona’s efficient public transport system by catching a bus, tram or metro to Parc de la Ciutadella. The park’s main metro stop is Ciutadella Vila Olímpica, served by line 4 (yellow). Line 4 is one of the city’s major metro lines and gives you direct access to the park from key places like Passeig de Gràcia.
Alternatively, you could take line 1 (red) to Marina or Arc de Triomf and walk south for a few minutes to the park. There are several tram stops along the northeast edge of the park. What’s more, you’ll find Parc de la Ciutadella is next door to Barcelona-França. It’s one of the city’s two major train stations with trains departing and arriving regularly from locations across Spain.
Planning to reach Parc de la Ciutadella by tram, metro or bus? In that case, you’ll be able to buy tickets on the official TMB website, on the TMB app or at any metro station. Single tickets start at €2.40, while a ten-journey travel card costs €11.35.
What to see at Parc de la Ciutadella
You could while away an hour or two exploring Parc de la Ciutadella’s formal gardens or lounging around by its idyllic boating lake. If you’re keen to spend more time in the lush park, why not check out one of the following attractions?
The mammoth Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella is at the very top of the park, close to the Passeig de Pujades entrance. The huge two-tier fountain was designed by Josep Fontsére in 1881 with help from Antoni Gaudí, a young architecture student at the time.
The fountain is thought to have been inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, dripping in classical architectural features. Keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful statue of Venus. There are also sculptures of other mythical figures, including Neptune and Aurora.
Castle of the Three Dragons
This stunning structure is in the west corner of Ciutadella Park. Called the Castell dels Tres Dragons in Spanish, it was built in 1888 to look like a castle, thanks to its striking towers and turrets.
The building was originally designed by celebrated Spanish architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner to be used as a restaurant during the 1888 Universal Exposition. It’s a brilliant example of the more Modernist style of architecture that was beginning to sweep its way across the city.
You’ll notice the building’s design echoes traditional Moorish castles, too, giving the structure a distinct old-meets-new aesthetic.
In 1920, the Castle of the Three Dragons became Barcelona’s Zoological Museum. Why not pop in to explore its excellent exhibits and research labs?
Parlament de Catalunya
Another unmissable landmark is the Catalonian Parliament which sits at the heart of the park. The building looks more like a mansion than a government office. No surprise, since it was once used as a royal palace!
The magnificent structure dates to the early 1700s. It was once where armour and weapons were stored in the park’s fortress. Over the centuries, it’s had many different uses – from weapons store to royal palace. It became the seat of Catalonia’s parliament in 1932 before being used as a military barracks during the Spanish Civil War. It housed the Museu d’Art Modern (Museum of Modern Art) until 2004.
Want to go inside this stately building? It’s possible to visit the Parlament de Catalunya on a 45-minute guided tour. These take place throughout the year and are free, although you’ll need to book your slot in advance via the official website.
The city’s zoo takes up almost half of the park, and it’s a must-see for any animal lover. Barcelona Zoo first opened in 1892 and is now home to over 5,000 extraordinary creatures. There are around 400 different species to see, from primates and red pandas to beautiful bottlenose dolphins.
Barcelona Zoo is divided into several sections that reflect different types of global habitats. These vary from the leafy Gorilla House (previously home to the world’s only known albino gorilla!) to The Farm, where you’ll find native breeds like the Catalan donkey.
Umbracle del Parc de la Ciutadella
Head south from the Castle of the Three Dragons, and you’ll come across this picture-perfect glasshouse. The Umbracle was also built for the 1888 Universal Exposition and is now the proud home of dozens of verdant tropical plants. Step inside its balmy interiors to admire beautiful botanicals sourced from around the globe.
This small yet intriguing natural history museum is lodged inside a majestic neoclassical building next door to the Umbracle del Parc de la Ciutadella. Its exhibits mainly cover geology, but upcoming exhibitions will include a massive skeleton of Barcelona Zoo’s first-ever elephant.
Parc de la Ciutadella history and facts
Before it became one of the city’s most serene public spaces, Parc de la Ciutadella played an essential role in the founding of Barcelona.
A mighty fortress
Before Parc de la Ciutadella was a park for Barcelona’s residents and visitors, it was the site of one of the city’s most important buildings.
The Ciutadella – a five-pointed fortress – was built around 1714 during the War of the Spanish Succession. It was the brainchild of Phillip V, and its primary purpose was to deter the Catalans from rebelling. At the time, it was the most enormous fortress in Europe and had space to house around 8,000 people!
By 1841, the Ciutadella was no longer needed and largely hated by Barcelona’s residents. The council tried to tear it down, but it was later restored when Spain came under the rule of Maria Christina.
A few years later, the decision was taken to destroy the fortress once and for all. Most of the structure was bombarded from nearby Montjuïc, while the rest (besides the former arsenal) was demolished in 1869. The same year, the land was gifted to the city and transformed into a public park.
Creating Parc de la Ciutadella
The park was designed and landscaped by Josep Fontsére, a celebrated architect. He also created the Cascada Fountain with help from a young Gaudí.
In 1888, the park was on the global stage after hosting Barcelona’s Universal Exposition. Many beautiful buildings were built in preparation, including the Castle of the Three Dragons, the Umbracle and the Museu Martorell.
Just before the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, the former arsenal of the Ciutadella – one of the oldest buildings in the park – became the Catalonian Parliament.
When the war began, many of the structures within the park were damaged during the fighting. They had to either be torn down or heavily refurbished.
Parc de la Ciutadella
The park has now been one of Barcelona’s best-loved green spaces for over 150 years! In fact, it was the first-ever public park in the city and kept that title for many years after it opened.
Today, it’s a fantastic place to relish the great outdoors, especially during the warmer months. The park is also brimming with wonderful cultural attractions and surrounded by streets featuring some of the best dining and drinking spots in Barcelona’s Old City.
Restaurant, bars and facilities at Parc de la Ciutadella
If you get hungry wandering around Parc de la Ciutadella, the park plays host to several excellent eateries. You’ll also spot plenty more on the outskirts, especially in the El Born district.
Got your heart set on visiting Barcelona Zoo? La Dama is its primary dining destination and a good pick for a quick bite or an ice-cold drink. It’s a family-friendly, self-service restaurant with numerous light meals on offer, from sandwiches and burgers to bowls of tasty pasta.
There’s no shortage of mouth-watering eateries dotted around the edge of the park. This includes Bubar, a popular tapas bar on Carrer de Wellington. Book a table for lunch or dinner and prepare to treat your tastebuds with succulent meat dishes, tasty veggie morsels and an excellent selection of wines.
CEM Parc de la Ciutadella
Not just a place to be at one with nature, Parc de la Ciutadella is also home to the CEM sports centre. The main attraction is its rooftop swimming pool. You’ll also be able to attend exercise classes or relax in the centre’s hammam and sauna.
Next door is the Born Skateplaza, where you can watch local teens do jumps and tricks on their skateboards – or even have a go yourself.
Parc de la Ciutadella opening times and tickets
Craving a bit of fresh air? A stroll in the natural surroundings of Parc de la Ciutadella should definitely be on your agenda!
The park itself is open seven days a week between 10:00 and 22:30. When it comes to its individual attractions, they all have different hours of operation. Check the official websites for Barcelona Zoo and the Parlament de Catalunya for their particular opening times.
The main park area is free to enter, although you must pay to go into Barcelona Zoo. Tickets for the zoo can be bought online.
Zoo ticket prices
Adults (16 and over)
Children (3 to 13)
Kids (under 3)
Prices correct as of February 2022
Travelling to Barcelona by train?
You can easily reach Barcelona by train from within Spain, as well as other major European cities, thanks to the many high-speed rail connections available.
If you're already in Spain and heading into Barcelona, Renfe trains offer high-speed routes from Valencia to Barcelona (2h 40m), Alicante to Barcelona (4h 25m), Malaga to Barcelona (5h 32m) and Seville to Barcelona (5h 37m). Some of the most popular international train routes include Paris to Barcelona (6h 40m), Amsterdam to Barcelona (13h 17m), and Toulouse to Barcelona (3h 51m).
Need more information about travelling to Barcelona by train? Check out our expert guide to trains to Barcelona.