For remarkable design and architecture there is always Parc Güel, but as it does tend to be heaving with visitors, I have to say that it is not my first choice as a place to chill out and seek quiet under a tree.
On the other end of town, at the newer end of Avinguda Diagonal, lies an oasis of calm and quirkiness called Parc del Centre del Poblenou. It’s not on many guidebooks, and I came across it riding my bike on the way to Forum. It’s designed by Jean Nouvel, who also made the imposing Agbar tower further up the road. The park is set over three city blocks, each section surrounded by tall walls covered in bougainvilleas, which I love when they flower. Once you enter, the purpose of the tall walls becomes clear as you plunge into the calm away from the street traffic.
The park has a series of playful structures and features, like the brushed steel balls dotted around which look like strange UFO droppings and the spiral path that takes you down to a crater-like sandpit. All manner of willow tree varieties can be seen and their gentle drooping branches add to the serene mood of the place – very Zen.
The park is a wonderful example of the type of world-class civic design Barcelona attracts and that historically has always been encouraged. I come here a lot with my son; he loves to play here while I read the paper under a tree.