Designed at the end of the 18th century by Domenico Bagutti, an Italian engineer, the Parc del Laberint d’Horta is, first and foremost, an exercise in patience.
As Barcelona’s oldest gardens, it’s a fine example of artistic horticulture with a lengthy history to go with it. It was originally the brainchild of Joan Desvalls, the Marquis of Llupia and Alfarras, as an idyllic family retreat, and it remained that way until it was opened to the public in the 1970s.
Throughout the lush, manicured greens and amongst the pretty pops of flowers there is a sense that this garden has seen and experienced a lot since its conception.
Over time, the garden was expanded and improved to include bright flower beds, intimate squares tucked away in the labyrinth’s hidden corners, and a waterfall thrown in for good measure.
Under the supervision of Elies Rogent it blossomed into a luxurious place to escape the city crowds, and today it retains this sense of calm.
But even though the gardens have been primped and preened into the modern day, they still hark back to their neoclassical roots, with intricate designs and natural floral patterns.
In one spot you might stumble upon a hidden corner home to ornate sculptures and mythological figures. Around another corner you might find a tranquil seating spot or a vivacious display of flowers that look like a naturally growing mosaic of colors.
As well as neat lawns and a romantic woodland vibe, the park also plays host to a collection of picturesque attractions.
There’s the Torre Soberana, an old country house that dates back to the 14th century. Today it emanates an Arabic charm thanks to its renovation in the 19th century.
Elsewhere, an artificial lake and waterfalls transport you miles away from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona’s city centre.
For a split-second you can imagine you’re in the sparse countryside or, at the very least, somewhere where public transport doesn’t exist and technology is a thing of the future.
There’s a neoclassical pavilion, too, and a false cemetery that’s a surprising highlight. Inspired by the romantic designs of the 19th century, it presents a surreal, swooning vision of death.
But the piece a la resistance lies at the heart of it all.
The labyrinth maze, from which the park gets its name. In its center there’s a physical riddle that’s both fun and incredibly frustrating.
Lined with cypress trees and weaving this way and that to infinity (or so it seems), it’s the perfect place to get lost in another world (or lose anyone you’re with).
As well as being an ideal way to entertain kids for hours on end, the labyrinth also showcases an important side of Barcelona culture – the daily life of locals.
Here, young couples and elderly groups of friends meet up to chat, laugh, and hold hands, enjoying the freedom of the park.
Over the years, the Parc del Laberint d’Horta has hosted numerous parties and theatrical performances (you can probably picture the twinkling fairylights and the chink of champagne glasses right now), but today it serves as a museum-park. W
ith plenty of knickknacks from the 19th century to explore, and a crosshatch of pathways that lead to hidden gardens and tranquil spots, it’s well worth spending an afternoon or so getting lost in everything it has to offer.