AROUND THE HILL OF TIBIDABO IN BARCELONA
Nature sets strong limits to the size of Barcelona. In the bottom, the Mediterranean sea. To the sides, two water streams: the Llobregat and Besos rivers. And at the top the Collserola range with its highest peak: the Tibidabo Mountain.
It is said that the name of the hill has a biblical origin. When Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, the devil came to tempt him. He took him to a high mountain and offered him everything he could see from there if Jesus would worship him. In latin “I will give to you” is Tibi Dabo. And of course in Barcelona we like to think that the devil took Jesus precisely to our mountain.
The mountain today rises up to 512 meters (1,680 ft) and it belongs to the natural park of Collserola. In the mountain gather recreational spaces, as well as city services, an imposing church and Mediterranean forests that configure a green lung for the metropolis. Today we want to share with you want you can do there.
These are the top things to do in the Tibidabo Hill
The Tibidabo Church of the Holy Heart
Is it a castle? Is it a cathedral? No, its a basilica! Technically a there’s only one cathedral per city: the headquarters of the Bishop. A basilica is a church that at some point a pope has rewarded with the special title of “Basilica”. In any case, the silhouette of the Basilica del Sagrat Cor del Tibidabo catches the attention of people looking at the mountain. From the distance, it looks like an old magnificent construction.
The truth is that it’s not that old (not hundreds of years old, at least). In 1886 a neo-gothic hermitage was built in the place by a group of Catholic led by the local Salesian community. The ideas was to prevent the construction of a hotel-casino in that same point – you know, because it’d be a place for sin. In 1903 the hermitage started being replaced by the current building, first with the construction of the lower part (the crypt), then the main building on top – finished in 1951.
The access to the church is free, and there’s a small fee to take the elevator that gets you to the rooftop. From there a few steps up more will take you to the feet of the large sculpture of Jesus that reminds of the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The views from there on clear days are spectacular: you get to see all of Barcelona, down to the airport and beyond, as well as the Collserola forests and the valley in the other side. On very clear days, you might also be able to see Montserrat, the Montseny range… and maybe even the Pyrenees!
The Tibidabo Amusement Park
The Collserola Tower
This tower at the top of Tibidabo is a telecommunications antenna built in 1991 to support the increased demand of radio and tv signal expected for the Barcelona Olympics on the next year. It was designed by the architect Sir Norman Foster, and locals didn’t like it at all at first. It looked like a syringe, not like the sleek one Santiago Calatrava built for phone signal in the Montjuic Hill. Anyway people have now grown accustomed to it.
The tower itself measures 288.4 m (946.19 ft), but considering the height where it’s built, its top reaches 713 meters over the level of the sea (2339 feet). It’s not however the highest viewpoint in Tibidabo: the public platform of the Collserola tower is located at 540m (1772 ft), and that’s 35m (115 ft) less than the balcony at the feet of the Jesus statue of the Basilica of the Holy Heart.
The Astronomic Observatory Fabra
The end of the 1800’s is a time known for the effervescence of the modernism, its art and architecture. But it’s not so widely known that there was also a dawn of scientist research. And in Barcelona it led to the creation of an observatory at the top of the Tibidabo mountain.
Officially inaugurated in 1904, it serves 3 sections: Astronomy, Meteorology and Seismology. They run tours of the facility every Sunday morning (except Christmas, Easter and August), night star gazing sessions and even outdoor dinners paired with a science talk, a tour of the premises and astronomy watching using one of the oldest and largest telescopes in Europe.
The Spa of the Gran Hotel La Florida
Dr. Andreu was a businessmen of the early 1900’s famous for the cough pills that were named after him. But among other things, he was also a land developer (his community along Avinguda Tibidabo was one of the reason Park Guell wasn’t successful). And his dream was to open the best hotel in the city. In 1924 the opening of the stylish Gran Hotel La Florida meant making his dream come true.
Unfortunately, as a business it was going to have many ups and downs. It became a military hospital during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. It reopened in 1950 to attract celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway or the princess Fabiola of Belgium, but it eventually went out of business in 1979. Its finally come-back was in 2001 after a thoughtful restoration.
AND BONUS! Don't have time for two hills?
Should you go to Tibidabo or Montjuic?
The Montjuic mountain is the other hill of Barcelona, located by the Mediterranean Sea and reaching 178 meters of height (583 ft). And while the views from the top cover less extension of land, and it doesn’t have an amusement park (there was one between 1966-1998, though), for most visitors Montjuic offers more advantages.
Getting there is an obvious one: the green and red metro lines take you to its foot, and from there it’s easy to walk up or use escalators to explore it. There’s also a funicular taking you half way to the top. There’s museums (MNAC, Miro, Archaeology, Ethnology…), there’s the 1992 sport facilities, there’s gardens and viewpoints. There’s even a castle and two cable cars. Lots of things to do without wasting time traveling there and back.
In the other hand, being much higher up, Tibidabo gets covered by clouds more often than Montjuic. And that means that on cold and cloudy days, the weather in Montjuic stays milder and more comfortable.
So my recommendation is to save Tibidabo for a sunny day, after you’ve already done your city must-sees or if it’s not your first time to Barcelona, or if you have a strong will of visiting a particular Tibidabo site.
HOW TO REACH TIBIDABO
- By car or taxi. It’s half an hour drive from the city center. There’s two roads taking there, one via Vallvidrera and the other via the winding road of l’Arrabassada.
- By shuttle bus. When the amusement park is open, there’s the Tibibus shuttle bus departing Plaça Catalunya every 30 minutes.
- By suburban bus. Mon-Fri there’s the A6 bus departing from 55, Riera de Cassoles (close to Lesseps L3 subway station) towards Sant Cugat. The stop at “Cruïlla Tibidabo” is some 20 minutes walk from the Tibidabo sites.
- Train-funicular-bus. Take the S1 and S2 FGC trains departing from Plaça Catalunya to Peu del Funicular. Switch to the Funicular de Vallvidrera in the same station (no extra fee) and ride to Vallvidrera Superior. Around the corner you’ll find the stop of the 111 bus that will spare you the 30 minutes walk to the sites.
- Blue tram + Funicular del Tibidabo. For the moment, this is unfortunately not an option… Both services have been discontinued for renovation works. The 196 Bus covers the itinerary of the Blue Tram from Plaça Kennedy (Av. Tibidabo station on L7 of the FGC departing from Plaça Catalunya). But until the new “Cuca de Llum” funicular is inaugurated, I’m afraid that from the stop on Eduard Fontsere st, the only option from there is a hike uphill.
- Hike to Tibidabo. From the Eduard Fontsere bus stop, there’s a quite easy path that more or less follows the funicular track by its left hand side. It’ll take you 20-30 minutes to reach the Marisa restaurant, where the path dies. And that’s already very close to the Basilica. Googlemaps doesn’t seem to know about this path, though: it takes you on a longer detour. But if you put the satellite view you’ll see that the path I’m talking about is pretty visible. You can’t get lost.
- Want a longer hike? Rather than taking the 196 all the way up, get off on the Ronda de Dalt stop (or even better, walk Av. Tibidabo up!). Walk left via Isaac Newton st. until you find the submarine sculpture. From there, enter the Parc de Teodor Roviralta and cross it heading uphill. As you exit it on Av. Tibidabo, you’ll see to the right the entrance to Parc de la Font del Racó. The park paths going up and right will take you to the funicular station where the hike mentioned above starts.
Is visiting the Tibidabo mountain part of your Barcelona plans?
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