Green is not the color of Barcelona—or at least it's not the color you’d think of to describe the city. That doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have great parks, it's just that from 1992 onward (and after the Olympic games) the capital of Catalonia decided it wanted to go blue (meaning that locals decided to pay more attention to the sea).
The city itself doesn't have any large green central spaces; however, if you take a ten-minute subway ride in any direction, and you’ll find things are very different. The outer neighborhoods of the city are home to some lovingly maintained parks, where you’ll see beautiful manicured gardens, statuary, and thousands of local runners taking advantage of pathways beneath hundred-years old trees. In fact, so many people are now enjoying such areas that Barcelona’s city council recently decided to protect the city's most famous park—the Parc Güell—by charging an entry fee.
Parc de la Ciutadella
This is probably the best-loved park for local joggers, so head here if you’re the sort of traveler who brings your running shoes with you. It’s set in the middle of El Born (the youngest neighborhood in town), and is both gorgeous and huge. Go there in the morning or early in the afternoon, because at night it’s very dark (safe, but still dark).
This is one of the most popular parks in the country. Created by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí between 1900 and 1914, it has been a protected UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984. The grounds contain many dramatic architectural elements; together they comprise one of the largest works of architecture in the south of Europe. The colors, shapes, and materials used in their construction still amazes today.
One of my favorite parks in the city is this one; it has both a beautiful maze and Barcelona’s oldest (18th-century) planned garden. The park is a sort of museum, and is so quiet that you can hear your own steps chasing you. It’s a nice place for reading, walking, or just relaxing before going back to the noise and hubbub of the city.
I strongly recommend a visit to this park, which was founded at the beginning of the 20th century and has the widest collection of plants and flowers in the city. At the entrance is a statue remembering Pau Casals, the legendary Catalan musician, and somehow the park evokes the quietness of Casal's music. If you want a peaceful stroll among beautiful gardens, this is the right place to come.
Jardins de Pedralbes
This gorgeous natural space is located in one of the city's most genteel neighborhoods: Pedralbes. This is the “noble” part of Barcelona and you can tell from the quality of the materials used to build this park. My favorite sections are the areas surrounding the graceful stone palace and the pond.