Talk to anyone about Barcelona's parks and gardens, and you'll usually hear the marvels about the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Park Güell in the north of the city, or perhaps La Cuitadella, Barcelona's garden which also houses the city zoo. Or maybe they'll tell you about Montjüic Mountain with its massive 2000 hectares to explore. Granted, these are all fantastic places to visit and definitely should be on anyone's agenda if visiting the city for the first time, but what about steering clear of the crowds?
Fortunately, there are some great little hideaways that many tourists will never find, and are only frequented by the locals whenever they have the chance, which is usually always the weekend. This means that if you've visiting Barcelona mid-week, you can often have your own little private oasis in the city, all to yourself. Take Montjüic, for example. As mentioned, many tourists make the trip over to the Jewish Mount but mainly to take the cable car ride up to the old castle and admire the view. Why not escape to the botanical gardens, which are almost always quiet and a great place for a picnic. Or head into the undergrowth towards El font del Gat park the cat's fountain, so called as the fountain was said to be discovered by a cat! These two little gems are a great way to escape the crowds, and relax in what seems like another city altogether.
Staying within the city, there are many smaller parks and plaças which give respite on a busy working day, such as Truro Park in northern Barcelona, close to the financial district of the city and a welcome lunch spot for those working here. Slightly out of the way, but well worth the trip is the fantastic Horta Labyrinth. Set in a cypress garden and designed in 1791, the scenic gardens are well worth the small entrance fee (a couple of euros), and are a complete escape from the busy city. The north-eastern neighbourhood of Horta (literally in Catalan meaning market garden) also houses Barcelona's third oldest park, Parc del Guinardo, another huge space well used by locals to relax and get to grips with nature.
Even further north, but surely a place to mingle purely with the locals is the Park of Crue de Coll, complete with a swimming lake an excellent place to escape the crowds of Barceloneta's busy beaches in the summer, for example. And what about if you can't make it down to the beach, or hate the sand? Well, the biggest neighbourhood in Barcelona is a grid-like extension made up of square blocks, and known as Eixample. And within the busy streets of Eixample is what the locals call the Eixample beach open from June to September. Each city block is literally a square with an empty middle patio - some of which are converted into factories, car parks, etc. Well, in north eastern Eixample lies the Old Water Factory, which was a treatment plant for the city's water board. The space is a great place for young families, with a shallow pool, plenty of sand to play in, and also facilities to change, toilets, etc. and plenty of shade from the palm trees, too.