Barcelona is an amazing city, full of well-known sights and famous architecture. Many bloggers have written at length about these things, so I initially struggled when I was trying to decide how best to describe my time there. It took me some time before I realized that one of my favourite places of Barcelona was one that I hadn’t read about in my go-to blogs, but rather had only caught glimpses of through other means: Mount Tibidabo.
View of Tibidabo from Barcelona
This isn’t to say that Tibidabo is unknown, so much as it’s not often what you see in the usual ‘5 days in Barcelona’ articles. But trust me, I had 5 days in Barcelona, and it’s worth spending an afternoon going up the mountain.
I first came to find out about Tibidabo through one of my favourite movies, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I swear, I probably watched that movie a half dozen times in anticipation of my trip to Spain. The movie is a love song to Barcelona, so everything looks beautiful, but the old-fashioned amusement park always stuck out in my mind. When we first started booking our trip, it was thinking of this movie that made me do a bit more research and decide that we had to stray from the Gothic Quarter and make our way up the mountain. It was only after my trip there that a friend reminded me of the unique power that Tibidabo had, according to Joey from Friends.
Halfway up the mountain, we stopped in a beautiful grove of trees
Tibidabo is the watchman over Barcelona, sitting in the outskirts of the city in the Serra de Collserola park. The voyage up to the top of Tibidabo is at least half of the fun. Unless you have a car at your disposal (which you can’t use to get all the way to the top), you’ll have to use a few different modes of transportation to make your way up. From the Gothic Quarter at Plaça de Catalunya, you can take the FGC train to the Avignuda Tibidabo. From here, the options vary. Depending on the day, you can take either a bus or a tram (the Tramvia Blau) up from the Avignuda to the Plaça del Doctor Andreu. From here, it’s a funicular ride up to the top of the mountain.
A gentleman’s walking club?
Alternately, if you have the time, you can do what my husband and I decided to do. Getting off the train at Avignuda Tibidabo, surrounded by Modernista mansions, gorgeous weather, and the promise of a heart pumping climb, we decided to walk to the top. No directions needed, really, so long as you remember to keep climbing up. Cue what was probably one of the prettiest hours of my life.
When you first set off from the train station, you’re in a predominantly residential area full of, like I said, mansions. It’s a walk back in time, transporting you back to the early 1900s when many of the homes were built. As you climb, you’ll come across charming schools and leafy parks, eventually making your way to the Plaça del Doctor Andreu. Here, if you’ve had enough of climbing, you can hop the funicular and be at the top in a few minutes. However, if you’re ready for more, and can make it from the Plaça to where the gravel trails start and the traffic ends, I promise you stunning scenery, epic views of Barcelona, and a rewarding calf workout. All told, the walk to the top took about an hour. Maybe longer, factoring in the constant stops to take pictures and marvel at the cyclists powering their way up through sheer determination.
A well-earned view from the top
Arriving at the top, you’re greeted by an interesting dichotomy: the Tibidabo Amusement Park set right up against the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor. Both were conceived in roughly the same period, the late 1800 – early 1900s, making the amusement park one of the oldest amusement parks in the world that is still operational. It has definitely maintained that 1900s charm, with a carousel, ferris wheel, and a little red aeroplane ride. We decided against going on the rides, but took full advantage of the photo-op.
The infamous red aeroplane
The church is equally, albeit completely differently, as impressive. At first glance, it actually looks like two churches built on top of one another, but in fact, the ‘bottom church’ is a crypt. Crowning the church is a magnificent statue of Jesus. The upper level of the church is the highest point for you to take photos of the city below. And believe me, the panorama view you get from there, 512m up in the air looking over the coastline, is the best view you’ll have of Barcelona, period.
Ferris wheel of the amusement park, complete with epic view
Alas, there was no crying woman bathing in a lake (see Friends reference), but it was still pretty magical. Where is the most magical place you’ve been?