Personally, I love that Spain offers diverse climate, weather, and geography unique to each of its 17 autonomous regions. While Spain’s big cities embody the majority of popular tourist attractions, tucked away behind the hustle and bustle of the big cities are parks and hiking trails begging to be explored. Specifically, Barcelona’s best hiking opportunities offer something for everyone – from the exercise junkie to the average person looking for a change of scenery and some fresh air. Read ahead and do some research before your visit, because going the extra mile, literally, is often what it takes to successfully fulfill a visit to a new and exciting place.
Montserrat National Park
Take a day trip to Montserrat National Park and you’ll see parts of the Llobregat River and the pre-coastal mountain range, along with some incredible plant life. The site is home to over 1250 species of plants – mostly characteristic of tropical and Mediterranean shrubs, but also houses one of the nation’s most beautiful oak tree forests. You will also likely see various species of birds as well as geckos, wild goats, and more amazing wildlife. Embark on one of 5 different hiking trails that range in difficulty and length, or you can actually go above and beyond (literally) and climb the mountain if that’s more of your style.
Parque Natural del Montseny
Only 40 kilometres northeast of Barcelona sits Montseny Natural Park. This is another great hiking option when you want to take a day trip. The park is made up of the Montseny massif, a mountain range that was designated as a natural park in 1987 by the Government of Catalonia. The region is overflowing with nature and has many natural springs. With all of the natural springs, the Montseny is able to supply almost 50 percent of Spain’s bottled water! The park is excellent hiking territory. Through the mountain range pass three main hiking trails: the GR 5, the GR 3 and the GR 2. There are also smaller trails for those looking to walk and relax rather than undergo a true hiking experience.
You won’t regret witnessing the breath-taking views that Tibidabo has to offer. Out of Barcelona’s nine surrounding hills, Tibidabo is definitely the most popular. It is the tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola mountain range, reaching over 510 meters. There are several routes you can take to the top of the hill. Tibidabo is home to the Parc del Tibidabo, one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe, which opened in 1905. It is also home to the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, an exceptionally famous Roman Catholic church located on the summit of Tibidabo. The grand church can be seen all the way from Barcelona’s city center. Near the church, you will find the Torre de Collserola, a communications tower built in 1991 for the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona.
Parc del Garraf
Located about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona (but easy to reach by train or car), this scenic park sits near the Sitges coast, and offers a range of trails for hikers and cyclists alike. Take a guided tour through Parc del Garraf and you will trek through the dry, Mediterranean shrubland terrain to see the Plana Novella, a Buddhist monastery, as well as the Campdàsens, a private property housing ancient castle ruins that now are used as farmhouses. With this, you can even take yoga and meditation classes during your visit! The park is unique in that it boasts centuries of Tibetan history and architecture situated within nearly 30 km of sparse vegetation, caves, and limestone hills.
Vall de Núria
Hiking boots, comfy mountain attire, and a water bottle is all you need to bring as you hike through this gorgeous green valley. There are expeditions for beginners and those daring souls with more experience who want to hike to the summit of Nuria and back down the Eastern Catalan Pyrenees. Popular in the winter for snow sports, the site shows off a variety of trails that take tourists through Virtual Race Camí Vell 3.0, Three shelter’s crossing, and Refugis del Torb. Rich in history, the Vall de Núria can be explored in a relaxed day visit, or made into an extended tour of Catalan culture and nature. It even makes a great place to camp, but beware that the winter temperatures make visits less popular.
The Collserola Park
A little more lowkey than the other hiking spots mentioned, the largest metropolitan park in the world is located about 10 minutes from Barcelona’s city center and is used often by locals and families for hiking, cycling, birdwatching and even eating on the weekends (similar to El Retiro, it has a few small restaurants!). Eventually, it leads to the coastline provoking breathtaking views over the city. Through the grasslands and waterfalls you can see salamanders, turtles, lizards, snakes, eagles and more. A hike up the Vilana hill to see the Norman Foster Tower, built in 1992 for the Olympic games, is highly recommended.
Hike the beautiful coast of the Girona Pyrenees for an exceptionally pretty view. Costa Brava, meaning rugged coast, accurately describes the site, with its cliffs and coves that overlook the Mediterranean and the border of France. Camins de Ronda is a favorite coastal foot trail, leading hikers through fishing villages, white sand beaches, and isolated coves. Located north of Barcelona, the Costa Brava is certainly worth a visit, especially during the summer seasons. It is truly a gem and a staple of the Mediterranean landscape.