Tibidabo mountain is in the city of Barcelona and forms part of the Collserola mountain range as well as being its highest point (512m). 17km long and 6 km wide, the mountain range sits between the rivers Besòs and Llobregat and forms part of the Catalan Coastal Range. Collserola is a wonderful natural setting made up of a large forested area of some ten million trees inhabited by a large variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and so on.
However, this immense area, considered today to be one of the largest natural urban parks in the world, hasn't always been as popular with those who live in Barcelona. One of the main reasons for this was how remote and hard to reach it was. This meant that up to the end of the 19th century it was an area only frequented by day-trippers, shepherds and a few inhabitants who 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 III of Aragon described it as one of the limits of the city. During Medieval times it was known as Puig de l’Àliga (Mount Eagle), but it wasn't until the 16th century when the monks of St Jeronimo's monastery gave it its current name: Tibidabo - a name taken from the gospel of St Matthew and made up of the words ‘tibi' and ‘dabo' which in Latin mean "I'll give you".
Building the Tibidabo Amusement Park
In 1886 the first solid construction was built at the top of the mountain, consisting of a small chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Two years later, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition, the final stretch of the road up to Tibidabo was constructed, and an Arabic-style pavilion was built to accommodate Queen Maria Cristina during her visit to Barcelona. However, the definitive drive to urbanise Tibidabo came about in 1899 and was driven forward by Salvador Andreu i Grau - an intuitive and entrepreneurial pharmacist who wanted to bring the mountain to Barcelona once and for all with the building of a tram, a funicular railway and a large amusement park.
On the 20 February 1899, the company El Tibidabo Limited was set up by celebrities of the time including Ròmul Bosch i Alsina, Romà Macayà, Francesc Simón, Teodor Roviralta and Salvador Andreu himself. The land that was acquired covered an area that went from the present-day Sant Gervasi Boulevard up to the summit of the Tibidabo Amusement Park. Among the many projects worthy of mention were the urbanisation of the lower part, with the creation of a garden city and wide avenue running through it, and a tram and funicular railway to transport people to the top of Tibidabo where the amusement park would be built.
Work started in 1900 and thus began the metamorphosis of the mountain, which would go on to become a popular tourist attraction. On 29 October 1901, the avenue, tram and funicular railway were opened (the railway being the work of engineer Bonaventura Roig and the first of its kind in Spain).
It received an enthusiastic response from the people of Barcelona; for the first time, they could reach the top of the mountain quickly and in comfort and enjoy the amazing views of the city, which until then had been almost unseen. Although the first visitors to the park were mainly the well-off, the Amusement Park steadily grew in popularity and soon the first rides, events and shows appeared along with cafes and restaurants.