Since we hadn't quite gotten enough Gaudi architecture after the Sagrada Familia we headed uptown to tour Park Guell. Park Guell was conceived as an exclusive luxury housing development by Count Eusebi Guell. The original plans included the building of country houses on a large stretch of undeveloped land on a hill overlooking the heart of Barcelona and far from its busy and smokey urban core. In 1900, Guell entrusted architect Antoni Gaudi, with whom he'd collaborated before, to spearhead the project of designing the Park. In the end, only two houses were built (one as a show house). When no interested buyers came forward after the completion of the show house, Gaudi moved in and lived in the Park from 1906 until his death in 1926. His house has now been converted into a museum in his honour. Although all the houses were never completed, we've been left with far more interesting and unique pieces of Gaudi architecture. The land originally intended for the exclusive upper-classes has become a public municipal Park full of monumental examples of Catalan modernism, art nouveau, and the iconic mosaics for which Barcelona is known.
The main entrance to the monumental area of the Park... always full of tourists!
The dragon on the Park's main staircase is one of Barcelona's iconic symbols; you could almost call him the city's mascot. People debate whether this creature is a dragon, a salamander, or some kind of lizard... but I like the idea of it being a dragon.
The ceiling of the Hippostyle Room at the top of the main staircase. The Hippostyle Room was originally intended as the marketplace for the estate's residents.
On the roof of the Hippostyle Room is the Nature Square. This open space was intended as a type of amphitheatre for live performances that could be enjoyed from surrounding balconies. Now the benches along its exterior walls showcase some beautiful mosaics and provide a brilliant photo-op.
The above photo was taken looking down onto the Park's main entrance from the Nature Square. In the distance you can see where the city begins to stretch toward the sea.
Just in front the mansion where Guell himself used to live is the Laundry Room Portico. Here Gaudi's man-made columns and arches appear to support the natural landscape. Guell's mansion had already been build when he acquired the land, and was converted into a school in 1931.
I wish I had a view like this outside my classroom window!
When this land became a municipal park, an area which had been allotted for residential homes was turned into a garden. Here you can sit and relax while enjoying the flowers and a view of the two homes which were built in Guell's lifetime. This is also a great spot to rest and take advantage of the Park's free WiFi. This area became known as the Austria Gardens after a donation of trees from Austria in 1977.
The monumental zone of the Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and receives so many visitors that they've implemented a policy of timed and ticketed entrance. If you're not interested in seeing any of the monuments, admission to the rest of the park is free and unlimited, but I think it would be a shame to skip the architectural experience.
Tickets are available at various entrances around the Park and can be purchased in advance online. Like every other major tourist attraction in Barcelona, the lines are long in the summer and advance tickets get you right in to see the action without having to wait. Make sure you pick up a map before heading in; they do a great job of highlighting the features of the monumental zone so you don't miss a thing!
General Admission: 7 euros (online) / 8 euros (in person)
For more info and tickets visit: http://www.parkguell.cat/en/