In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen’s love letter to the Catalan capital, there a scene in which a a sepia washed Scarlett Johanssen elegantly wanders through an aging theme park. She talks with an equally distinguished Javier Bardem as they eat candyfloss with the sprawl of Barcelona meeting the Mediterranean far below them. It is only a short scene but one that stood out for me. The actors look like movie stars from the golden age of cinema, with the quaint and picturesque location to match, and the whole scene left me with a sense of nostalgia for a place I had never visited.
That theme park is Tibidabo. Built in 1899 and opened to the public in 1905, it sits on it’s perch high above the city on the mountain of the same name. It is known to be one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. At 512 mentres tall it is the highest mountain in the Serra de Collserola and from almost anywhere in Barcelona you can make out the the Sagrat Cor church and it’s statue of Christ keeping watch over the city.
I jumped on an opportune moment to Visit the park. I had arrived at Park Guell to find snaking queues of tourists and decided that while I was in the north of the city, I would take my chance to head to Tibidabo instead.
After witnessing the hoards of tourists descending on Guadi’s masterpiece I was surprised to find the ticket office for Tibidabo was a relative ghost town. There were no queues and possibly only 5 other tourists that had decided that today was a perfect day to visit the fair. Within minutes of arriving I was aboard this archaic carriage, clinking and creaking my way up the mountainside.
At the top, the whole city of Barcelona opened up before me. I leaned against the railings on the parks edge, craning over to take in the whole of the Catalan capital. I could make out the cranes and scaffolding cocooning the Sagrada Familia, it’s towers just peeking out above their metal surround. A little further the twisting and cramped alleyways of the Gothic Quarter, the beach and the vast promenade that is Las Ramblas. From this height those landmarks may have been indiscernible, hidden behind the sprawl of the city, but they were there.
The park itself is spellbinding. The classic rides evoking a wistful and nostalgic feeling for a time I was born to late to see. Small children ran towards the hulking ferris wheel with unbridled joy, young couples walked hand in hand around the groaning attractions and families picnicked beneath the outstretched arms of the Christ statue. There is something blissful about this, seeing groups of friends meandering through the antique attractions, sharing laughs, jokes and bundles of deep fried churros. The whirling carousels, distorted fun house mirrors and clunky wheels make this place timeless – no one is too young nor too old to enjoy it’s charms.
I rode the Giradabo wheel high above the park just to get an even higher vantage point and drink in the spectacular vista. With my excitement for this magical place not yet sated, I hopped aboard the red aeroplane – Tibidabo’s most emblematic ride and history’s first flight simulator. The plane is noisily powered by it’s own propeller and swings outwards beyond the skywalk’s boundary to give the impression that you’re flying high above BCN.
For me, Tibidabo is an icon of Barcelona – An icon that is often overlooked in favour of it’s more famous counterparts such as La Sagrada Famila. It deserves to be on your itinerary as much as any of the other sights in this city, even if it is just to take in the sweeping panoramic views. You never know, you may get a good story out of it.
A tourist bus, T2A from Plaça Catalunya (the bus stop is located on the corner of Pl. Catalunya and Rbla. Catalunya, in front of Caja Madrid bank), runs from 10.15 am every day the Amusement Park is open. It leaves every 20 minutes and costs €3/person.
Another way up the mountain is to take the funicular, an old cable car that departs around half way up the mountain and stops within the park.
To get to the funicular station take either a bus (Bus 196) or the Tramvia Blau (a more expensive option at €5,50 a ride) from Plaza John F. Kennedy. It’s easy to reach the plaza via public transport using the V13 bus or taking the FGC (line L7) to “Av. Tibidabo”.
Funicular ticket (purchasing Park admission): €4,10 / Funicular ticket (without purchasing Park admission): €7,70.
The park consists of two sections; the Skywalk and the rest of the site. Entrance to the whole area can be pretty expensive and I personally wouldn’t say that it is worth the price of admission (hence why I didn’t visit) but the Skywalk is where you can ride the old fairground attractions and get a spectacular view.
Entrance to the Skywalk: 12.70€ (under 1.2m tall 7.80€, free to those under 90cm)
Entrance to the whole site: 28.50€ (under 1.2m tall 10.30€, free to those under 90cm)
Have you ever been to Tibidabo whilst in Barcelona? Leave me a comment below to let me know what you thought.
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