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Jardins de Mossèn Costa i Llobera

A prickly place

Cacti in the garden

The steep southeastern slope of Montjuïc overlooking the business end of Barcelona's port is sheltered from the winds and enjoys a special sunny microclimate, with temperatures on the average 2-3 degrees warmer than the rest of the city. It is especially conducive to exotic plants. Earlier plantations, however, were mostly ripped out during the Civil War and replaced with the anti-air defenses.

In the late 1960s, over 800 species of succulents from around the world were planted in 3.6 hectares, in what is considered one of top collections in the Mediterranean (in 1986, the New York Times even called it one of the ten best gardens in the world)—a Manhattan of towering cacti, interspersed with exotic specimens that look as if they have dropped in from another planet; some of the exotic trees that survived the Civil War are hundreds of years old.

The gardens are named after a 19th- and early 20th-century contemporary of Jacint Verdaguer, like him a priest (mossèn in Catalan) and poet, and onetime winner of the Jocs Florals.

The Lacemaker by Viladomat

After a long period of neglect (and two bad frosts) the gardens were renovated and reopened in 2011. Statues share space with the succulents, including the famous Lacemaker is by Josep Viladomat. It's one of the loneliest places in Barcelona, although often noisy because of the port and highway just below.

Practical Info Practical Info icon

entrance: Plaça de l’Armada or Carretera de Miramar

metro: none close by, but it's a short walk from the Port Cable car station on Montjuïc and only ten minutes by foot from the Columbus monument. Or take Bus 150 from the Plaça d'Espanya.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Leonora Enking, Jaume Meneses