A guide to Barcelona's best hikes

A street with green trees cutting through a city.

With mountain trails and ancient castles, Barcelona offers much more than the city and beach

By Katie Jennings   Friday 21 June, 2019

With its beaches, back streets and scalable mountains, Barcelona is a city that begs to be explored on foot. Whether you fancy working up a sweat or you’re simply in the mood for a seaside saunter, there are plenty of routes to choose from.
Looking up at an unusual building.
Best for City Strolling: Diagonal to Drassanes
Approx. 40 mins 
This easy urban amble will take you past many of Barcelona’s most memorable sights, making it a perfect introduction to the Catalan capital. Begin at Diagonal Metro station, heading downtown on the Passeig de Gràcia. This wide promenade – favoured residence of Barcelona’s elite bourgeoisie during the city’s belle époque – evokes Paris’s Champs-Élysées and is now home to high-end hotels, exclusive stores and iconic modernist buildings. Stroll southwards, eyes peeled for Gaudí masterpieces as you go – spot La Pedrera on your left and Casa Batlló on your right. Cross Plaça de Catalunya and continue down Las Ramblas, diving into La Boqueria food market as you pass. Finish just past Drassanes station at the Columbus monument, where you can take the lift inside the column to enjoy a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. 

Best for Beachtime: W Hotel to Parc del Fòrum
Approx. 1 hour 15 mins
Barcelona’s beaches are where you’ll see the city at its most carefree. Offering everything from volleyball to chic bars and chiringuitos, the seafront atmosphere feels a world away from the city centre. The sail of the W Hotel makes a good starting point for a stroll, but rather than immediately heading along the main beach boardwalk, head up the steps behind the hotel to explore the brand new Nou Passeig del Trencaones – a spectacular walkway extending into the sea. Make your way back to the beach for endless people-watching possibilities, then around the Port Olímpic to reach Playa Nova Icària, from which point the sands become far less crowded. Venture as far as you fancy, perhaps passing each of the seven beaches and making it all the way to Parc del Fòrum. Hop on the Metro here if you don’t fancy the walk back into town. 
A person riding a horse with trees and a white tower in the background.
Best for Culture: Montjuic
Approx. 2 hours 
From world-class galleries to ancient castles, countless cultural gems can be found around Montjuic mountain. Take the scenic route to the top, beginning in the peaceful Jardines del Teatro Griego, notable for their open-air Greek theatre. Follow the leafy archways and elegant stairs into the Jardins de Laribal until you reach the Miró Foundation – its shimmering white walls are as beautiful as the art within them. Next, head left along Avinguda Miramar, turning off into the Jardins de Joan Brossa. Enter the gardens through the main entrance at Plaza de Dante and wiggle your way up to Montjuic Castle, a 17th-century fortress that is now home to a military museum. Descend towards the Olympic Stadium, centrepiece of the 1992 games, which transformed Barcelona by creating its sandy beach and regenerating what are today the city’s hippest neighbourhoods. Finish at the MNAC – Catalonia’s national art museum, housed in the jaw-dropping Montjuic Palace. 
A road snaking around a corner on a hill with a city and the sea in the background.
Best for Views: Carretera de les Aigües
Approx. 1 hour
For vistas that sometimes stretch all the way to Mallorca, head to the Carretera de les Aigües, a pine-fringed paradise for walkers, runners and cyclists. Snaking around Barcelona’s Collserola mountains, the 9.5km track offers a different, bird’s-eye perspective from every turn and has become a favourite weekend haunt for locals seeking a peaceful retreat from the city. The best place to start is from the Pla dels Maduixers car park. The trail is wide and flat throughout, and can be followed for as long or as little as you like, before taking one of the many offshoot paths, downhill back into town. 

A view looking down from a hill onto a fairground, a city and the sea.
Best for a Workout: Tibidabo
Approx. 1 hour 45 mins
For a puff-inducing hike through some of the city’s prettiest countryside, head to Tibidabo, the tallest peak of the Collserola mountain range. Begin at the Tibidabo Funicular (Plaça del Doctor Andreu) and take the trail leading up on your left. Turn right at the animal sanctuary, continuing up a set of steep steps before making a left turn onto the main track. From here, follow Carretera de Vallvidrera to make your own way to the summit by following the clear signage. If in doubt, head towards the ever-present form of the peak’s neo-Gothic church, the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, which presides over the city from 1,680ft and makes an excellent pit-stop once you reach the top. Follow the same route down and reward yourself with a cocktail at restaurant Mirablau (located opposite the funicular), whose panoramic city views are best enjoyed at sunset.
An ornate building on the side of a mountain.
Best for a Daytrip: Montserrat
From 30 mins to 4 hours (plus 1 hour if ascending on foot) 
An hour’s train ride from Barcelona, the distinct, gnarled fingers of the Montserrat mountains pull visitors from miles around to hike its lofty peaks and worship at its Benedictine Monastery, home to the sacred shrine of the Black Madonna. For those feeling energetic, skip the cable car to the top, and do the sweaty climb on foot. Once you’ve completed your ascent, choose from numerous clearly indicated hikes, ranging from half-hour strolls to four-hour adventures. The most thrilling route takes you to the mountain’s highest point of Sant Jeroni, standing at 1,722ft. The sweeping views en route are magical and on clear days you’ll be able to glimpse Barcelona in the distance. 

Images from top courtesy of: Shutterstock; Tyler Henry; Bruno Martins; Getty; Getty; Sebastian Pichler
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