Barcelona's "green lung", Parc de la Ciutadella is a popular weekend venue located in the heart of the city. The locals come here to have a stroll in this beautiful garden, to row on its lake, or to spend a family fun day at Barcelona Zoo. Parc de la Ciutadella also attracts an important number of tourists as this historic park is home to several interesting landmarks.
The Catalan Parliament Building
The whole area's history goes back to the 18th century. In 1714, the city was conquered by King Philip V's troupes. Under the Spanish ruler's orders, a whole district (La Ribera) was demolished, and the largest defensive fortress in Europe was erected. Only three of the star-shaped citadel's buildings are still standing: the former chapel (currently used as a military church), the Governor's palace (home to a secondary school), and the arsenal (nowadays the headquarters of the Catalan Parliament).
The building is open to the public solely on Saturdays from 10 AM to 7 PM, on Sundays and holidays (except January 1st, May 1st, December 25th and 26th) from 10 AM to 2 PM. The Catalan Parliament is also closed in August. The entrance is free of charge.
Other notable buildings
Castell dels Tres Dragons
Probably the most impressive of all is Castell dels Tres Dragons, designed by one of Gaudi's forerunners. This early example of the Modernista architectural style, which made Barcelona famous worldwide, is home to the Zoology Museum. An interesting neoclassical building houses the natural history collections of Martorell Museum. In the museums' proximity, you will find the Hivernacle (a structure made up of 2 greenhouses connected by a vaulted glass roof) and the Umbracle (one of the Universal Exhibition's pavilions currently used as a palm house).
Ciutadella Park Fountain
More commonly known as the Cascada, this popular landmark facing Parc de la Ciutadella's lake is a fountain inaugurated in 1881. Its design bears Josep Fontsére's signature, and it is said that the artist found his inspiration in the Roman Trevi Fountain.
Although the young Gaudi (an architecture student at that time) brought his contribution to the project, the Cascada did not initially have any adorning elements. They were added 7 years later, on the occasion of the Universal Exposition. Today you can admire a whole range of mythical figures. Winged lions surround the fountain. In its centre a statue of Venus lies on a clam, and above it stands Aurora in her wrought-iron chariot.
Mammoth Sculpture in Parc de la Ciutadella
Parc de la Ciutadella's alleys are dotted with statues, and most of them are connected with the garden's history. The kid's favourite seems to be a stone mammoth. It was erected in General Prim's memory for his contribution to the fortress' destruction. A mysterious lady carrying a black umbrella stands at the entrance of Barcelona Zoo. Despair - another notable statue rising from a pond – embodies a sad woman lying on a block of stone.