Park Guell is on everyone’s absolute must see list, but be prepared to know what you will be seeing.
Count Eusebl Guell owned a large parcel of land on Carmel Hill overlooking all of Barcelona to the Mediterranean Sea. In the early 1900’s, he wanted to create a 60-lot luxury housing development. He hired a young architect he met at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878. That architect, who created some of the most visited sites in Barcelona, Antoni Gaudi, ended up creating a park that local people and tourists have enjoyed for nearly 100 years.
The Park is best seen in three parts, the monumental zone, the Gaudi house and the natural park area.
The monumental zone is very small. It contains two small Gaudi looking houses, but it appears neither were designed by Gaudi. There is a staircase as well as a central plaza and its Gaudi under-pinnings. This is described below. Not much else. This area used to be free to the public, but there was some vandalism so now there is a 7 euro fee per person for that portion and a limit of 10,000 people per day. You need to get tickets in advance with a specific time.
They don’t tell you that the view areas, most of the park, including some Gaudi details, continue to be open to the public free of charge. And, since the park towers above the fee-based “monumental area”, you can see most of it from above. The Gaudi house, not designed by him, but a spec house built for the failed real estate development, was lived in it by him and his family (and containing some furniture he designed) and is open to the public and is privately owned and operated as a separate fee-based business.
The free part contains most of the park area and the ancient aqueduct built in typical Gaudi fashion. We also saw numerous large neon green parakeets in palm trees and the highest spot with three ancient crosses that have to be accessed by a steep curved staircase. Perhaps the ultimate benefit of the park are the views of Barcelona, best to be seen later in the day when you aren’t looking directly at the sun. When we were there on Thursday morning, a videographer was there filming the scene even against the sun.
From the website for the park:
“Here he shaped nature into colonnades, archways and covered galleries with well-camouflaged artificial structures.
It’s a playground for the mind: visual jokes, like columns that simulate palm-tree trunks, rubble-surfaced arches that grow out of the ground, quilts of ceramic tiles.
The centrepiece is the intended covered market, a majestic forest of fluted columns. Its roof forms a vast terrace with a view of the city. It’s surrounded by an undulating continuous bench, the back of which forms a balustrade, its entire surface encrusted with ceramic shards of all colours, some randomly arranged, some in patterns. The seat is unusually comfortable for a stone bench: Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit in soft plaster to record the correct anatomical curve – foreshadowing the science of ergonomics by half a century.”