One does not have to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy city views from an elevated perch – there are various ways, both easy and challenging, to ascend to a summit – to feel like an aviator and enjoy a splendid surrounding view. A city’s skyline can be one of its defining features – something that not only inspires a general sense of awe, but also reveals a little (or a lot) about both the character and history of the metropolis.
Barcelona, being a Mediterranean conurbation, is in the fortunate bracket of those rare cities that its various viewpoints offer just about everything. Not only is the sea itself a splendid expanse of water, but nestled in and around the cityscape are the rolling hills of Collserola and Vallvidrera. In fact, one of the most iconic spires in the mid-distance to the north is the old monastery of Tibidabo, which sparkles at night and offers the public, visitors and locals alike, regional opportunities to enjoy the Amusement park and tours of the religious institution.
In ranking any viewpoint as the optimum, one has to take into account ease of access, cost of journey and visual scope. And, more often than not, these 3 aspects can never quite converge perfectly. But we here at Exploring Barcelona Tours have isolated our TOP THREE viewpoints of the city, and even if you can only manage to go to one, it is a worthy few hours’ endeavour. Bear in mind that we have eliminated any viewpoint that requires a cost of entrance (thus, sights such as Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia and Basilica Santa Maria del Pi have been, in this case, excluded).
One of the most famous misnomers in the city, the view offered atop the hillside in the Carmel district of the north city does not actually feature any ‘bunkers.’ During the Fascist bombing(s) of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, much of the city’s denizens did actually scramble towards safety in purposefully constructed bunkers, but most of these were underground. This hillside did contain mounted artillery and anti-aircraft weaponry, and the relics of some are still to be found. The misnomer aside, the viewpoint up here is simply stunning, and usually relatively quiet.
Easiest mode of access:
Metro L4: Stop at Alfons X (then 20 minute walk)
Bus 119: Stop at Maria Lavernia (then 5 mins walk)
We debated including this one, as much controversy has surrounded this 4-star hotel since its construction in 2005. Located on the Rambla del Raval, it sticks out like a sore thumb in a district of the inner-city that prides itself against resisting all kinds of gentrification (for more on this, check out the description of our Raval Rebel Art: Barcelona’s Counterculture tour). And yes, the lobby and the building itself do exude a sense of the outlandish; HOWEVER, the bar at the top is free for everyone to visit (unless closed for cleaning or a private event). In fact, it is not strictly required to buy a drink at the bar – and they do cost quite a bit – but the venue is rotund, meaning that the view from the top is panoramic. And that is AWESOME, because one can walk around leisurely and look in every direction, from an approximate height of 60 meters.
Easiest mode of Access: Metro L2 (Sant Antoni) – 10 minute walk
NOTE: Many have compared this view to that atop the Columbus column, and it is quite similar, with the added bonus of skipping lines, no entry fee and more elbow room. Oh, and it offers resource to refreshments and alcohol, should they be desired!
Anything is hard to beat the panoramic view offered by the Barceló Raval, but for us, Montjuic just about pips it. In fact, Montjuic (translated as ‘the Jewish Mountain’) is so vast that there are various different viewpoints, but the most stunning is certainly at the pinnacle of the castle. Elevating it to top spot is a consideration of the amazing history that was played out through the centuries on this very site – the castle itself was the defence point of the infamous Siege of Barcelona in 1714 as the Spanish and French troops loyal to Philip V mercilessly pounded the Catalans into submission over 9 months. It also proved to be the location of the execution of Catalan President, Manuel Lluis Companys, an unrepentant Independista in October 1939, when he refused to bow to the Fascist rule of Francisco Franco and was shot by firing squad (for more information on both events, see the description of our Long Live Catalonia – Independence or Unity? Tour).
Easiest mode of Access: Metro and Bus combined (combinable journey) Metro Espanya (L3, L2 and L5) then Bus 150 (to Montjuic Castle)
NOTE: Many information sights will suggest that the best way to go to the summit of Montjuic is to take the Funicular de Montjuic from Metro Parallel (L2) but don’t be fooled by this, the Funicular is quite crowded, only operates seasonally and the passenger incurs an additional cost outside of a regular travel ticket.