A funicular is a type of railway which ascends a steep slope by means of counter-balanced cars being connected by cable; the weight of the descending car on the cable pulls the ascending car up the slope. Being a city bounded by mountains, Barcelona has 3 historic and dramatic funicular railways which represent a fine way to view the city and a vital transport link to its mountain neighbourhoods.
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Tibidabo and Monjuic – leisure funiculars
The first funicular railway to be built in Barcelona (and indeed in Spain) was that of Tibidabo (pictured left), connecting the Plaça del Dr Andreu with the summit of the mountain. Dr Salvador Andreu i Grau (a pharmacist and entrepreneur from whom the Plaça takes its name) had a plan to connect the city of Barcelona with the mountain-top through the building of the funicular, tramway (Tramvia Blau) and amusement park. The funicular, which was designed by engineer Bonaventura Roig, rises a total of 275m with a track length of 1130m . It was opened in 1901, at the same time as the amusement park was being developed. It consists of a single track with a passing loop in the middle, where the cars meet and swap tracks. The railway underwent a complete overhaul in 1958, and was renovated once again in 2007. Today, it is still the most dramatic way to visit the mountain: as you rise up the slope, extensive views of Barcelona and the sea beyond are revealed. The funicular is not part of Barcelona’s integrated transport system, so a separate ticket must be purchased for €7.70 return. If combined with entry to the amusement park, the rate is discounted to €4.10. You can also buy a Tibidabo Classic ticket from the Barcelona Tourist agency which, for €11 includes a ride on the Tramvia Blau, funicular and one ride in the park.
The Montjuïc funicular was opened in 1928 in order to provide access to the hill-top in time for the 1929 International Exhibition. Like the Tibidabo funicular, it is a single track with a passing loop. It has a total track length of 758m and a rise of 76m. The railway was reconstructed in 1992 in order to cope with increased traffic from the Olympic games, and today it is owned and operated by TMB. A journey on the funicular is included in any integrated travel ticket (the lower station is located in Paral·lel), and you can continue to the summit of the hill as part of the same fare on the 150 bus.
Vallvidrera – the commuter funicular
This railway was opened in 1906 in order to link the Balmes line (running from Plaça Catalunya to the Vallès region) to the residential area of Vallvidrera on the Collserola mountain ridge. It has a length of 736.6m with a 165m rise. Since its opening it has provided a vital commuter link between Vallvidrera and the city of Barcelona, enabling this hillside neighbourhood to grow and flourish. It has been owned by the government-run FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) since 1979, and was rebuilt and upgraded in 1998, with modern cars being added. There are trains every 6 minutes on weekdays, and the total journey time from base to summit is less than 3 minutes. It is not as popular with tourists as Tibidabo and Montjuïc, but should not be overlooked by leisure travelers as it provides delightful views and access to many walking and cycling routes around the Collserola nature park. Its base station is Peu del Funicular, reached by taking any of the ‘S’ services from the FGC station at Plaça Catalunya). It is within zone 1 of the integrated fare system. From Vallvidrera summit it is around a 1km walk to Tibidabo, so it is easily possible to travel by one funicular up and the other down, if you are keen to explore the Collserola ridge and experience these stunning mountain railways.