Overflowing with largely centenarian vegetation and very rich in plant species, the Parc de la Ciutadella contains a large diversity of features which make it especially valuable. The monumental waterfall, the buildings constructed in the second half of the nineteenth century and today converted into museums, the lake where visitors can row boats and the paths and numerous sculptures in the park are but a few examples. The Barcelona zoo also stands in the grounds of the Park.
Built during the second half of the nineteenth century, this park is one of the main reference points of the green areas in Barcelona. For many years it was the only park in the city, and the first of those that exist today which was specifically designed as a public park.
In the Parc de la Ciutadella there are endless possibilities for enjoyment. This has made it one of the areas with most entertainment and cultural activities on offer in Barcelona. It has large grass areas and wide pathways, and there are benches for relaxing and reading, and lawn parterres frequented -both in the winter and the summer- by young people enjoying the sun. It is also a popular place for walking or cycling.
The Parc de la Ciutadella has an eclectic design, with one part made up of more sinuous and natural lines next to another with a more classical design and regular geometrical areas. The landscape arrangement stands out for its large monumental fountain, a lake for rowing small boats and a music stand. All together, it makes for a park of great beauty.
Another important part of the park is the Plaça d'Armes. Designed in 1916 by the French engineer and landscape artist J.C.N. Forestier, it is situated in front of the Parlament. It is the most well-conserved landscaped area in the park. It consists of a rectangular area with an elliptical pond in the centre, surrounded by regularly trimmed cypress trees and parterres with shrubs, among which stand rose trees. There are pine and orange trees and, lining the borders of the square there is a double row of short plane trees. It is a well-designed and serene place ideal for sitting and contemplating the harmony of the area, and it is an excellent example of garden landscaping.
The path of the Linden trees
This path runs from the main entrance of Parc de la Ciutadella and follows a splendid route which begins at Pg. de Sant Joan, continues along Pg. de Lluís Companys -topped by the magnificent Arc de Triomf- and opens the gates of the park just in front of the monument to Rius i Taulet. This is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Barcelona.
Next to the double row of linden trees, continuing along the path to the equestrian sculpture of General Prim, there are wide parterres with trimmed shrubs where tall palm trees stand out. On one side, next to the entrance to the park, we can find pavilions which remain from the time of the inauguration of the park and the 1888 Universal Exhibition.
A large population of birds lives in this park, with a census which registers over 100 different species. There is a large colony of storks, which is the largest in Catalonia. These elegant and majestic birds can be seen flying around the park. La Ciutadella is, therefore, a favourite place for birdwatchers.
The Parc de la Ciutadella is rich in plant species, with numerous specimens which have the added value of age, which were planted at the end of the nineteenth century. It is also considered to be an open air museum due to the large number of sculptures it contains. The park is also described as an arboretum thanks to the over one hundred species that grow here.
There is an abundance of linden trees (Tilia X europaea and Tilia tomentosa and Tilia X euchlora), magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), the white poplar (Populus alba and Populus alba "Pyramidalis") and plane trees (Platanus X hispanica). The European hackberrys, (Celtis australis) are the main feature of Aribau square and the area next to the lake, where we can find an exceptional specimen. Next to the Umbracle there are princess trees (Paulownia tormentosa) and Prodocarpus neriifolius, and next to the Mammoth stand the sacred Ginkgo trees (Ginkgo biloba).
Other tree species present in the park are the acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia), cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa and Cupressus sempervirens ), the Australian pine (Casuarina cunnighamiana), the ombu tree (Phytolacca dioica) and the horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). The three specimens of bald cypress in the lake (Taxodium distichum) stand out for their exotic appearance.
Also outstanding for their name as well as for their size and age are the Canary palms (Phoenix canariensis), the data palms (Phoenix dactylifera) and the yuccas (Yucca elephatipes), and for their rarity, the blue Mexican palm (Brahea armata). Among the shrub species, there are large specimens of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), tamarix gallica (Tamarix gallica) and oleander (Nerium oleander), as well as large areas with beautifully trimmed pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira) and Japanese spindle tree (Euonymus japonicus).
In Parc de la Ciutadella there are several specimens included in the Barcelona Catalogue of Trees of Local Interest: a silk tree from Constantinople (Albizia julibrissin), an osage orange tree from Louisiana (Maclura pomifera), an Australian river oak (Casuarina cunninghamiana), a specimen of Quercus polymorpha planted at the end of the nineteenth century, and the bald cypress standing in the lake, planted during the first decades of the 20th century.
Art and architecture
The park, which in 1951 was declared an artistic historical monument, is considered to be an open air museum for the number and quality of its sculptures. There are works by Frederic Marès (the equestrian statue of General Prim), Eusebi Arnau (marble bust of Marià Aguiló), Josep Clarà (bronze nude dedicated to the Catalan Volunteers of 1914), Josep Llimona (female nude in marble El desconsol), Pau Gargallo (marble bust of Lleó Fontoba), Manuel Fuxà (marble busts of Milà i Fontanals, Victor Balaguer and Joaquim Vayreda, and bronze figure of Bonaventura Carles Aribau) and Eduard B Alentorn (group in marble La Cigonya i la Guineu), among other sculptors.
Due to its popularity, we should mention two sculptures: La dama del paraigües, (The woman with the umbrella) by Joan Roig Soler, which for many years was one of the symbols of Barcelona and which crowns an ornamental fountain designed by Josep Fontseré, and a stone Mammoth, the first and only of the reproductions in natural size of extinct animals that, in 1907, the board of Natural Sciences planned to install in the park.
The Monumental waterfall
This waterfall was designed by Josep Fontseré in 1875, and inaugurated in 1881. Fontseré was helped by a young Antoni Gaudí, to whom the rocks of the waterfall and some decorative motifs are attributed. On either side there are steps to gain access to a type of small temple which provides a wonderful view of the park.
The waterfall is decorated with many sculptural features by Catalan artists from the end of the nineteenth century, and installed after its inauguration. The central element is the Birth of Venus (Naixement de Venus), by Venanci Vallmitjana, and at the top, crowning the group is La quadriga de l'Aurora, by Rossend Nobas, the artist also of four groups of djinns, two fauns and the figure of Eros. Beneath, four griffins modelled by Rafael Atché, protect the figure of Venus.
Some buildings remain from the old military citadel built in 1715. These are the military chapel, the work of Pròsper Verboom (1728), the Governor's palace, seat of the Institut Escola during the Second Republic and today a high school, and the arsenal building, now the headquarters of the Parliament of Catalonia.
The other buildings in the park were built during the last third of the nineteenth century. The first was the neoclassic style Martorell Museum of Geology, designed in 1879 by Antoni Rovira i Trias and integrated into the design of the park, designed by Josep Fontseré, in 1982.
Of the buildings constructed for the Universal Exhibition in 1888, the restaurant remains. It is a brick building, crowned by turrets, the work of Domènech i Muntaner and belongs to the first era of modernism in Barcelona. It was popularly known as the Castells dels Tres Dragons, and since 1934 it has been the headquarters of the Barcelona Zoological Museum.
Also designed for the Universal Exhibition in 1888 was the Umbracle, a singular construction designed by Josep Fontseré (1883) from brick, iron and wooden beams which provides shade to subtropical species, and the Greenhouse, a construction of iron and glass designed by Josep Amargós in 1884.
This park is strongly connected with the history of Barcelona. It is situated in the grounds where Felipe V, after the surrender of the city on 11th September 1714 and winning the War of Succession in 1715, built a great military citadel to control the city. In order to obtain the necessary ground, it was necessary to demolish the walls on the extreme north-west of the city together with 1,262 houses in the district of la Ribera.
Almost one century and a half after, in 1869, and with the aim of obtaining the support of the industrial bourgeoisie in Barcelona, General Prim -whose equestrian statue can be seen in the park- handed over the citadel to the city of Barcelona on the condition that the grounds were to be destined to a public park. The military fort was pulled down by volunteer brigades.
The recovery of this land permitted the creation of a large green area which was very necessary in the increasingly overcrowded Barcelona during the time of the industrial development. It was necessary to create areas where people could "breathe", which was very well defined in the slogan for the project by Josep Fontseré: "Gardens are for the city as lungs are for the human body", a criteria that today seems evident, but at the end of the nineteenth century was not so clear.
The original design of the park, by Josep Fontseré in 1872, was modified to hold the Universal Exhibition in 1888 and later, to install the Barcelona Zoo, one of the most important in Europe and which occupied half the surface area of the grounds.
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