The neighbourhood of Horta was a municipality in its own right until it was annexed by the City of Barcelona in 1897 and is one of my favourite parts of the city.
The part closest to the city centre is quite built up but still retains a village atmosphere and on the other side of the Ronda de Dalt, the other half stretches up the green Collserola Hills until the borcer with Cerdanyola del Vallès.
The first historical reference to Horta dates from 965 when the valley is mentioned in the donation of land that belonged to the curch of Sant Miquel in Barcelona.
Amongst the noble military and ecclesiastical families that owned property in the area the Horta family are mentioned in 1034 and it appears that it was this family that established the parish of Sant Joan d'Orta, which dates from 1095, and the church of the same name, consecrated in 1260.
The development of the area between the 15th century and the late 19th century is closely related to the abundance of water, which made the construction of so many laundries possible.
At the beginning of the 20th century, virtually all of Barcelona's clothes were washed in the Horta area.
Today, the neighbourhood remains centred around the Plaça d'Eivissa and much is designed on a grid system similar to the Eixample but consisting of low rise detached houses.
There is also another important nucleus of activity where Carrer d'Horta meets Carrer Tajo close to the main metro station.
The area's most famous
attraction is the wonderful Parc del Laberint, which is based around a
maze built in 1794 on land belonging to the Marquis of Alfarràs and is
the oldest surviving park in Barcelona.
It is a magnificent example of a neoclassical 18th garden and the maze was designed as an Enlightenment puzzle celebrating the form of love.
As Michael Jacobs states in his Between Hopes and Memories: Spanish Journey (1994), the laberinth 'gives visitors the opportunity to participate more actively in the game of love, a challenge that is taken too literally by some of today's more eager couples, who use the hedges as convenient screens to hide activities associated with love's more physical forms.'
The gardens were acquired by the Ajuntament in 1967 and opened as a park in 1970, and a number of later restorations have been necessary to maintain conditions for the delicate maze, water details and other ornamentation.
Close to the park, you'll find the Velodrom d'Horta, which was built to host cycling events for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, and right up in the hills is the masia Can Cortada, parts of which date back to the 11th century but was extended in the 16th and 18th centuries.
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