One of the main attractions in Barcelona
, the entire Park Güell is a work of art, created by genius architect Antonio Gaudí. Deserving special attention is the Sala Hispóstila with its 86 imposing columns, as well as the mythological dragon at the main staircase, the undulating bench of pieces of broken ceramic called trencadís, the frenzied pavilions at the entrance, and the stone viaducts that mimic the surrounding nature perfectly. Above it all, stands a tower topped with Gaudí’s characteristic four–branched cross.
The highlight of this park is its eponymous maze
. Home to numerous gardens and pavilions, Horta Labyrinth will delight the visitors with its many different routes, statues, and exuberant greenery. These gardens were created at the end of the 18th
century by a Catalan aristocrat on a piece of his ancestral property. Designed in the Italian and French romantic styles, the gardens underwent extensive renovation and improvement by the family until the Barcelona city government acquired the grounds and opened them to the public in 1969.
For decades, the original urban park of Barcelona was the only green space in the city, and has thus remained its most popular. Designed in 1870 by Josep Fontsere, the idea was to transform the facilities at the site of the military citadel built by Philip V at the end of the War of Spanish Succession into public gardens to house the first Universal Exposition. About half of the park’s 60 hectares is home to the city zoo. The remainder of the park holds many scenic romantic paths around its lake and avenues that enable visitors to admire the park’s foliage. The park’s centerpiece is the Cascada, a triumphal fountain built in 1881, complete with a pair of crab statues that salute the goddess Venus and the gleaming Quadriga de l’Aurora.
University of Valencia Botanical Gardens
The flagship university of Spain’s third largest city brings an academic style to its botanical gardens. The park dates back to 1802 when Vicente Lorente, its director, planted squares of foliage based on Carl Linneus’s plant classification. The park has been rebuilt several times, following destruction during the Spanish Civil War and the great flood in Valencia in 1957. Today, the restored grounds house an impressive watchtower, a rock garden, and impressive woods, but still retain its philosophy. Continuing its biological classification origin and purpose, the botanical gardens also house an aquarium, an aviary, several diverse greenhouses, and areas dedicated to aquatic plants and succulents.
Built next to an aristocratic mansion, the Monforte Gardens are the best–tended and loveliest gardens in Valencia. Dating back to the 1860s and 1970s, these neoclassical orchards can be differentiated into three sections—the Old Parterre with clipped hedges of spindle trees and abundant statuary on pedestals, the New Parterre with hedges of cypress and myrtle around the patio of water jets, and the natural woodland forest with numerous paths and trails to stroll in. Monforte completes its postcard of green beauty with a rose garden and a gallery of hanging plants.
One of the five distinct areas of Santiago Calatrava–designed City of Arts and Sciences, the Umbracle is a tree–lined garden that doubles as a panoramic zone, offering magnificent views of the surrounding buildings, lakes, walkways, and landscapes. Boasting vegetation characteristic of Valencia’s nearly perfect Mediterranean climate, the Umbracle also houses a collection of contemporary sculptures by internationally acknowledged artists in the Art Promenade, as well as the Garden of Astronomy, an open–access area that offers astronomy–related elements and activities.