Barcelona: Park Guëll
Barcelona’s iconic Park Guëll is a large public city park in Catalonia, Spain. The park’s buildings and gardens were designed by Antoni Gaudí, the most well-known architect of Catalan Modernism. The park was developed between 1900 and 1914 as a residential park and officially opened in 1926. It later became a municipal garden. Park Guëll has been an official World Heritage Site since 1984. It is generally considered to be one of Gaudí’s masterpieces. Unsurprisingly, Park Güell was the first stop during my visit to Barcelona!
The most eye-catching feature of the park is the main terrace. The wide terrace overlooks the Barcelona cityscape and Balearic sea in the distance. The terrace is characterised by a swiveling bench in the shape of a sea serpent, richly decorated with Gaudí’s renowned mosaic creations. The mosaic compositions contain many motifs of Catalan nationalism, religious mysticism, and ancient poetry. Access to the main terrace and following features requires a special entrance ticket. Be careful to avoid taking photos at a close distance from rowdy and hormonal school children. They were yelling Dutch swear words at me, not realising I understood every word. A bit silly really, I look very freckled and stereotypically Dutch.
The Sala Hipóstila or Hypostyle Hall supports the main terrace with its robust columns. You can reach the Sala Hipóstila by descending the steps on either sides of the terrace. A hypostyle hall was an important architectural feature in ancient Egypt where religious rituals would take place. The hall’s famous ceiling mosaic by Gaudí was being restored, so, unfortunately, I did not get to see it that day.
Gaudí’s mosaic work is a principal feature of the park. The central and most photographed piece is this multicoloured mosaic salamander, also known as ‘el drac’ (the dragon). It was vandalised in 2007 (poor schlump), but has since been restored to its former glory. The salamander also seems to double as a slobbering kind of fountain, as you may notice by the slight trickle of water. The salamander is located in front of the Sala Hipóstila and faces the main entrance. Sticking your hand in its moist mouth probably won’t hurt (much), but climbing the dragon is strictly forbidden! I witnessed how a feisty boy was nearly dragged away by one of the guards (jokes).
Gaudí House Museum
Park Güell was originally planned to be a housing development, but it was transformed into a municipal garden after only two houses were built and none were sold. Gaudí then decided to buy one of the houses himself and lived there until 1926. That house is now the Gaudí House Museum, which exhibits a collection of Gaudí’s furniture designs. If you happen to be a big Gaudí fan, give it a go! Otherwise, save yourself the time and money by strolling through the upper areas the park (it’s free).
The terrace, hypostyle hall, and salamander together form Park Güell’s recognisable face, as viewed from the main entrance. The main entrance, paradoxically, now only functions as an exit for the paying visitors of the park.
Park Güell is a very popular tourist destination, so I definitely advise you to visit the park early in the morning. The easiest way to reach the park is to take the subway, get off at Lesseps or Vallarca, and follow the signs. You will need to pay an entrance fee to see Gaudí’s most iconic works, like the main terrace, Sala Hipóstila, and salamander. The surrounding areas of the park are freely accessible and offer wonderful views of the city centre and sea shore. I took a few more photos, so you can view the full album on Flickr if you’d like. Speak to you soon!