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Walking

We're avid walkers and regularly drag our children around for 2-3 hour walks. This seemed to be an unusual activity for Spain intially and finding a range of good walks was more difficult than you'd think, but signposting has improved enormously.

Even if it's a bit harder, there some very good walks around with very good views. GR92 along the coast is at times simply magical.  Closer to Barcelona there are good walks with broad paths around the Tibidabo area (the amusement park on the top of the hills at the back of the city and in Vallvidrera which are good country and forest parks - take the FGC from Placa Catalunya. In the hills tends to be fine, but the walk down from the Carrer de Aigues back into the city can be very tricky.

We've also walked near the city in the area around Molin de Rei, Val de Hebron and Horta districts near the city where the walking tends to be variable and more of a challenge. Further afield, the national parks have more walks, better maps and better signposting.

We would definitely recommend walking maps (try the map shop Altair on Grand Via to find a complete selection of maps). However, some caution is needed as you can't trust that a nice round trip which is marked on a map will actually be passable - particularly dotted lines even on GR walks. We've regularly found ourselves going along a marked footpath only to find it peters out, or is very heavily overgrown, or turns very steep with lots of rocks, scree and cactus.

In addition sometimes, even following the larger paths and using a map, we've found it difficult to determine the exact path point on the map - it often seems that the map can be up to 50m off for the location of the path or crossroads. Signposting seems to be improving, but can be very difficult to spot turnings otherwise.

Away from BCN

The best paths we've found actually run along the coast. These have been absolutely breathtaking, particularly on the Costa Brava (even Blanes to Lloret is fabulous once you are outside the towns), and down towards the Ebra delta. We have also walked in La Selva (St Coloma near Girona) and found that this was better walking, although round trips are still difficult. We would also go to Montseny and have just tried Parc de Garraf from Bigues which had great views.

We did try the Pyrenees at La Molina (a vast, scenic ski resort accessible by train from BCN), but at the time we thought walkers were poorly catered for. There were some paths available, but little for those looking for 3-4 hour circular walks, or walks to a public transport spot where you can walk back. We believe there are good long distance walks, but these medium circular walks are more difficult. The contrast would be with Switzerland where you have good routes marked almost everywhere and walking in the mountains is a familiar family summer activity.

There are books with paths and walks such as Sortides amb Familia and the Diputacio Barcelona Guia d'itineraris per la Xarxa de Parcs Naturals. Unfortunately the Guia doesn't seem to have many round-trip walks. You would need transport at both ends, and many seem to start in the middle of nowhere. As we've lived in Spain, the maps and walking has definitely improved. Note that autumn, winter and spring are walking seasons - it really does get too hot in summer.

Do Spanish people hike?

Talking to people in Spain, it seemed initially walking wasn't a thing people in the city did so much and they weren't surprised that we couldn't find walks, almost as surprised as the fact that we want to walk 12-16km with our children. However, there are TV programmes about walks and hikes, particularly in the hillier areas and places 40-50km from the city. The Costa Brava has spectacular walking available (see our later blog www.costabravaliving.com).

The terrain around Barcelona is typically a little dry and rockier and more difficult - particular where there have been water torrents that gouge out and remove existing paths. Better walking is available into the hills of Montseny or up towards Girona and the more northern coasts.

If you do plan on a longer walk, it's essential to take water - probably around a litre per person for each 5-6km. Good shoes are also recommended.


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