For visitors to Barcelona, it's an excellent way to get your bearings when you arrive. For locals, it tends to be almost the opposite: a way of withdrawing and reflecting on a place you know very well. Either way, enjoying views of the Catalan capital from a high place is a very common hobby in a city that also offers many opportunities to do so. Thanks to its orography, as well as the existence of numerous skyscrapers, it is not at all difficult to find spaces where you can see the city from above.
There are dozens of miradors - lookout points - in Barcelona, but, as with everything, some are more popular than others. Viewpoints over the city that have become well-known in recent years include the Turó de la Rovira anti-aircraft gun emplacements - usually known incorrectly as the Carmel bunkers - and the top floor of the Arenas shopping mall at Plaça Espanya, which you can walk right round to get a 360 degree perspective. Common spots on the tourist circuit are Tibidabo, with its amusement park and access by funicular railway, or the steps of the MNAC museum on Montjuïc, which offers many other attractions to visitors as well as the view. But there are also viewpoints that are impressive enough and unknown enough to make a long list of alternative places from which to look down on Barcelona. Most of the ten here are fully open to the general public, although there's one where you may have to scramble a little, a couple are only open on special occasions, and for just one, you have to pay. Links go to Google Maps.
The viewing platform dedicated to Catalan writer and feminist Maria Aurèlia Capmany is located in the most central place in the city, in the Barcelona city council's complex. Nestled in the Gothic Quarter, and therefore with close-up views of the oldest part of the city, it has a rather peculiar history, as the viewpoint that crowns the council's Novíssim building is the product of a serious legal irregularity. When this part of the city administration headquarters was built, between 1962 and 1969, four more floors were built than allowed by the council's own planning regulations. This made it rather difficult for the city council to set an example, but finally, in 2001, the upper four floors were removed, and at the same time a new mirador was created on the roof. It is not accessible on a regular basis, but it is at times included in the circuits of visits possible during city open days. It is the tallest building in Plaça de Sant Miquel.
Like its neighbour, the municipal look-out point of Maria Aurèlia Capmany, the Rei Martí viewpoint is not open to the public, although for some time it was part of the regular visit to the Barcelona History Museum (MUHBA). In addition, it was constructed some time after the lifetime of the king who gives it its name, as Martin the Humane died in 1410 and the tower was built in 1555. It is speculated that the name refers to an earlier tower, one which was a contemporary of Martí l'Humà. With its five floors it may not be very tall, but it gave enought height for what it was required to do: act as a watchtower over the city, and, above the towers of the walls, the exterior, especially the coast. You will find it in the Plaça del Rei.
In the case of the Montjuïc viewpoints, the classics are the view from the MNAC, the views of the port from the Camí de Ronda del Castell and the Mirador de l’Alcalde with its monument to the Catalan dance, the Sardana. However, beyond the castle is the Mirador del Migdia, oriented, as its name - "midday" - suggests, to the south. This allows a good view of the entire Llobregat delta, the beaches to Castelldefels, the airport and the entire urban conurbation of the part of Barcelona beyond Montjuïc and Hospitalet de Llobregat. To get there, all you have to do is go up Carrer del Molí or go straight on along the path around the castle.
To look slightly downward at the famous viewpoint of the Turó de la Rovira gun emplacements, you only have to climb to the top of Carmel, which is the highest turó - or hill - in Barcelona. Of course, climbing it is not as easy or as smooth as climbing la Rovira, nor does it have the historical component of the old barracks district of Els Canons, but once up there is no overcrowding and no queuing to take a selfie. Much wilder than the neighbouring hill it also allows a 360 degree view - and on a clear day in winter, you can even see the snow on the distant Pyrenees. There are several routes to access it, but the most common is the one that starts at the Jardins de Joan Ponce and ust goes up and up. You can also reach the top from the end of Carrer Font-Rúbia.
Going down from the top of Carmel or going up from Park Güell or simply accessing it along the Camí de Can Mora, in the Coll district, you reach the Joan Sales lookout point, named in honour of the author of the historical novel (and movie) 'Uncertain Glory'. It is just above Park Güell, so it is not uncommon to see foreign visitors taking pictures in all directions during times of high tourist influx. However, only the most daring or the most aimless arrive, because it is well outside the classic Park Guëll circuit. In any case, the view, like all of them, is worth it.
Back again: although the classic reference when talking about anti-aircraft gun emplacements in Barcelona is always Turó de la Rovira, you can also visit the old sites that still remain away over to the west in Sant Pere Màrtir, on the Collserola massif, close to Esplugues de Llobregat. Only the foundations of the emplacements remain, just below the telecommunications tower, but the view over the part of Barcelona that flows into the Llobregat and the Baix Llobregat region is one of the best in Collserola. To get there, you can go along the Carretera de les Aigües to the Mirador dels Xiprers and start climbing to the top, or go around the Ciutat Diagonal Tennis club and access it from the other side of the mountain.
This park located at the foot of the Collserola range is, in fact, the rooftop of the large TMB garage in Horta. When the bus-park was built, the architects took advantage of the enormous roof area to turn it into a landscaped space occupying 20,000 square metres. As it is a 'prefabricated' park, it is practically flat and looks over Barcelona from just above the Ronda de Dalt to reveal a panorama that includes the three Besòs chimneys as well as the Tres Turons (Barcelona's three central hills, Rovira, Carmel and Creueta de Coll). It is accessed via the road from Horta to Cerdanyola, turning left at the first roundabout after passing the Ronda de Dalt.
The best place to enjoy the elevated views of Barcelona overlooking the Besòs -with the exception of the Sierra de la Marina, already in Santa Coloma de Gramenet. From this viewpoint, the view extends from Montcada i Reixac to the Tres Turons, including the entire lower section of the Besòs to the Mediterranean. And just above is the false castle of the Torre del Baró, a remnant of a frustrated urban development. It is also relatively accessible, with Roquetes metro station a quarter of an hour’s walk away. You can also access the lookout point from the neighbourhood of Canyelles, by the Carretera Alta de Roquetes.
The attraction of the Forat del Vent, located on the municipal border between Barcelona and Cerdanyola del Vallès, is that it allows very good views over Barcelona and the sea, but you need to do little more than an about-turn to see the whole of the Vallès counties opening up on the other side and discover that there is a world beyond Collserola. Colonized by cyclists at the weekends, the best way to get there - on foot - is by the Camí de Sant Llàtzer and then by the Carretera de les Aigües. Nearby is the Coll de la Ventosa, with a pedestrian bridge over the road leading to the Collserola cemetery.
The most recent addition to the list. In fact, until recently this view could only be enjoyed by the privileged users of the building in general, although was a visitable space within the Open House architecture circuit. In part, the success of those visits has meant that it is now open to the public - on payment, however. The building, constructed in the brutalist style, is a 70-metre-high, 22-storey skyscraper that stands out for its location, right at the connection between the Eixample and Ciutat Vella, in the square of the same name as the building. The viewing platform is located on the 20th floor and provides excellent views over the whole of Barcelona's main plain.