Barcelona is a city packed with surprises and hidden gems. Here are five places you really must see on your next visit to the city on a Renfe-SNCF en Coopération train service. Five places you've never seen before.
THE LABYRINTH PARK, HORTA
The Horta laberinth park
Although this is one of the city's biggest parks, it is largely unknown to tourists. The park takes its name from the maze of cypress trees located at the bottom end of the park. It was created in the late 18th century by a Catalan aristocrat, who decided to convert a former family estate. The maze was designed, built and planted by an Italian architect named Bagutti, and Devalet, a French landscape gardener. They also designed and installed the garden ornaments. In the mid-19th century, a Romantic-style extension was added. Will you be able to find your way out of the maze?
During hot summer days, a stroll among the thickets and streams provides welcome relief from the heat. The park houses more than 20 water features, including ponds, lakes and fountains. The park also features a waterfall, which is the ideal spot for a group or romantic photo. Come and experience the cool waters for yourself!
Refugi 307 - Wikimedia Commons - Pere Herrero (Museu d'Història de Barcelona)
If you want to learn more about the history of Barcelona, there's no better place to start than Refugi 307, an underground air-raid shelter with a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels. It remains one of the city's best-kept secrets. These shelters were built during the Spanish Civil War to provide protection against aerial bombardments from Franco's forces. Initially, the shelters were constructed in existing metro stations. However these soon became insufficient, and new shelters had to be dug into the ground. Two of these shelters remain open to visitors today. We suggest that you visit shelter no. 307 in the Poble Sec district, located between Passeig Montjuïc and Carrer Nou de la Rambla. The shelter features a small washroom, children's rooms and a medical room.
HOSPITAL DE SANT PAU
Hospital Sant Pau - Wikimedia Commons - Jesús Arpón
Although a familiar destination among locals seeking treatment for health issues, it has only recently been opened to public visitors. It is a stunning example of modernist architecture, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. It was officially listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997 and is generally considered one of the best examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the world. The hospital is a miniature city in its own right, with a series of streets, gardens and buildings. It covers a total area equivalent to nine blocks in the Eixample district.
The pavilions are surrounded by gardens and connected via a network of underground tunnels, measuring a total of 2 km in length. Domènech designed a truly innovative hospital, breaking the building up into a series of separate units, each bathed in sunlight and receiving plenty of fresh air. The result was a facility that offered a much healthier environment than the previous medieval hospital, benefiting both patients and staff alike.
PLAÇA SANT FELIP NERI
Sant Felip Neri - Wikimedia Commons - Maria Rosa Ferrer
Plaça Sant Felip Neri is a truly unique location in Barcelona. It is located in the city's Gothic district but off the tourist trail, giving it a secretive, contemplative character. It is a truly stunning place where time seems to stand still.
The square is surrounded by Spanish Renaissance-style houses. It is also the site of the former shoemakers’ and coppersmiths’ guilds. These buildings now house the city's footwear museum, where you can see examples of shoes worn by princesses and musketeers, boots, and even a shoe designed for the statue of Columbus, which holds the Guinness record for the world's largest. In the middle of the square stands a fountain with an octagonal base.
The walls of the church of San Felipe Neri still bear the scars of shrapnel from a bomb dropped by Franco's air force during the Spanish Civil War. In fact, the square stands on the very site that the bomb exploded on 30 January 1938, killing 42 people.
PARC DEL CENTRE DEL POBLENOU
Parc del Centre del Poblenou - Wikimedia Commons - Christine Zenino
Barcelona is home to yet another hidden gem: the park of light and shadow designed by famous architect Jean Nouvel. Its entrance is at no. 130 Avinguda Diagonal, in the Poble Nou district. The park is bathed in light of extraordinary quality. Its external walls are covered with Mediterranean vegetation, creating a haven of lush greenery in the heart of the district. It's the perfect place to relax in the shade of the willows after a stroll through the city. If you're visiting with children, the park really is the icing on the cake – children can play in the huts located in the centre of the park. Fun and relaxation for the whole family, guaranteed.