Tibidabo mountain is part of the Collserola range of hills and its highest point is 512m. The hills make up part of the Catalan Coastal Range and is 17kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide and is located between the river Besos to the north and the Llobregat to the south. Collserola is a wonderful natural paradise made up of a large forested area of some ten million trees inhabited by a large variety of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Yet, this large area, considered today as one of the largest urban parks in the world hasn't always been as highly popular and easy to visit by those who lived nearby. One of the main reasons was that it seemed far away and was hard to get to. This meant that up to the end of the 19th century it was an area only frequented by day-trippers, herders and those few inhabitants that had built houses there.
To find the first mention of the mountain in relation to Barcelona we have to go back to 1283 when King Peter II described it as one of the city limits. During Medieval times it was known as Mount Aguila (Eagle), but it wasn't until the 16th century when the residents of Saint Jeronimo's monastery gave it its current name of Tibidabo, a name taken from the gospel of Saint Matthew and made up of the words ‘tibi' and ‘dabo' which in Latin mean "I'll give you." This is one of the curiosities about Barcelona.
Building the Park
In 1886 the first solid construction was built at the top of the mountain. It was a small chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Two years later, the final stretch of the road up to Tibidabo was built for the Universal Exhibition. An Arab style hall was built as accommodation for Queen Maria Cristina during her visit to Barcelona. Yet, the definitive drive to urbanise Tibidabo came about in 1899 and was inspired by Salvador Andreu i Grau, an intuitive and entrepreneurial pharmacist who succeeded in bringing the mountain to Barcelona once and for all with the building of a tram, a funicular railway and a large amusement park.
On the 20th February 1899 Tibidabo Ltd was set up by celebrities of the time including Ròmul Bosch i Alsina, Romà Macayà, Francesc Simón, Teodor Roviralta and Salvador Andreu himself. The lands that were bought covered an area that went from the present day Sant Gervasi Boulevard to the summit of Tibidabo. And among the many projects, the urbanization of the lower part stands out with its ‘garden city' design and wide avenue running through it, and a tram and funicular railway that transports people to the top of Tibidabo with its amusement park.
Work started halfway through 1900 and this was to be the metamorphosis of the mountain in Barcelona, which became a popular tourist attraction later on. On the 29th October 1901, the opening took place of the avenue, tram and funicular railway (the first of its kind in Spain and created by the engineer Bonaventura Roig).
It received an enthusiastic response from the Barcelona inhabitants; this was the first time that they could go to the top of the mountain quickly and in comfort and enjoy an amazing, and up to then, almost unseen view of the city. If the first visitors to the park were the well-off, but little by little the park grew in popularity. Soon the first amusements, rides, events and shows appeared followed by cafes and restaurants.