Barcelona’s back garden –the vast and varied Horta-Guinardó.

Vibe on the street: quiet, suburban, family-friendly, day-to-day Barcelona normality.
Famous for: the Modernista Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, some former Olympic venues, some very scenic settings (Parc del Carmel, Parc del Guinardó, Parc del Laberint d’Horta) and the odd vertiginous street.
Barcelona’s back garden –the vast and varied Horta-Guinardó.
  • The Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (Hospital of the Holy Cross and Sant Paul) is a Modernista masterpiece in the south of the district, and one you should definitely make some time for. Designed by Catalan architext Lluis Domènech I Montaner, the complex is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was a fully functioning hospital until 2009, when much-needed renovation work started on the site. You can get free access to its grounds in the meantime, and there are also guided tours several times a morning in a choice of European languages.

    Sitting just above the streets of Horta is an area called the Vall d’Hebron. If you have some time to spare, you might like to visit the 19th-century Palauet de les Heures, which sits majestically at the foot of the Collserola hills. Now used as a university building, it resembles a French chateau on the hillside. It would be worth a visit for its gardens alone, with their intricately landscaped terraces and impressive collection of plant and tree species. Public transport stops at the Passeig de la Vall d’Hebron, but you can take a free bus that goes right around the university grounds and will drop you off there.

    A perfect place to park yourself

    Near to the Mundet metro station, the Parc del Laberint d’Horta is a real find in an area that isn’t exactly short on scenic highlights. Dating back to the 18th century, it’s one of the oldest and most established parks in the city, comprising both gardens and a museum. The romantic design and grounds have stood the test of time very well. An intriguing maze of cypress bushes awaits you at the centre, and if you successfully manage to navigate the topiary, you’ll be rewarded by a pool and a statue of Eros himself. There are also a dedicated picnic place and kids’ play area just by the museum. Make sure you call in to see Horta’s own Velodrome, which was used to host the track cycling events of the 1992 Olympic Games.

    Occupying a much larger area of ground is the lush Parc del Guinardó, which also boasts its fair share of cypress trees. Fringed by woodland, the main part of the park is a mixture of landscaped leafy corners and delicate water features, making it an ideal place to relax as well as take in some sweeping views across the city.

    Eating out

    If you need to feed the hungry hordes, head to Carrer del Tajo, where you’ll find Sant Fost. A rustic, down-to-earth Catalan kitchen, it serves up Mediterranean dishes at reasonable prices, in a very family-friendly setting. Their cod done with honey (bacalao con miel) is one of our particular favourites. Just a few streets north, close to the Plaça Eivissa, is Can Xus. Their speciality is anything that can be roasted over hot coals, although the menu is quite varied. Slightly higher prices here do seem justified by the quality of the food and friendliness of the service. Elsewhere, right on the edge of the Parc del Carmel, is the Mesón Restaurante Delicias. The waiters are helpful, the portions of tapas are massive and there’s a sunny terrace where you can scoff on your squid rings. The queue outside is testament to its popularity.

    After dark

    As you’ve probably gathered by now, Horta-Guinardó isn’t exactly known for its nightlife. There are a few bars and clubs dotted around, but you’d do better to plan in advance where you’re going to go, to save you wandering round on the look-out. An absolute highlight if you’re into cocktails is Torre Rosa, whose head bartender is the recipient of numerous cocktail awards. The setting is equally memorable – a hundred-year-old Indian house, with a garden terrace that is idyllic in the summer. If you feel the need to shimmy on down, an excellent bar is Samba Brasil, close the metro station of Horta. Cocktails are expertly concocted by the bar staff here, and the caipirinhas get a particularly good name. Water features and tropical plants complete the atmosphere. Nearby you can also find the memorably named Louise Se Va Nit. Done up in the style of a Madrid concert hall, this is a rock venue through and through, and often plays host to concerts from independent rock bands.

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