Offering exotic art nouveau sculpture and landscaping, stunning views across the city, a breath of fresh air and a sense of perspective, Park Güell is a must see if you are visiting Barcelona.
Gaudi’s original brief was for a garden city. His client, industrialist Eusebi Güell whom the park is named after, was an anglophile and admirer of the English garden city movement, and for this reason the English word Park was used in the name rather than its Catalan equivalent Parc.
The site at the time was next to the wealthy neighbourhood of La Salut (The Health) on the high ground at the back of Barcelona – in its day was much valued for the clean air and position above the factories and smoke choking the rest of the city. Sixty plots for luxury houses were planned and Count Eusebi Güell added to the prestige of the development by moving there in 1906 to live in Larrard House, an existing mansion. But the scheme never took off and in the end only two houses were built, neither of which was designed by Gaudí.
So the park was converted into a municipal garden. Park Güell is uniquely designed, the buildings flanking the entrance are classic Gaudi with fantastically shaped roofs with unusual pinnacles. These set the tone for the rest of the Park, where the focal point is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent, ordained in beautifully coloured mosaics.
At the Park’s highest point is a cross, from here there is a complete view of Barcelona and the sea beyond. The city lies at your feet in panorama, with the Sagrada Família, the Gothic Quarter and the Montjuïc area are all visible.
Park Güell can be reached by metro, city buses, or by commercial tourist buses. Entry is free, though Gaudí’s house, containing furniture that he designed, is not. A reduced entry fee is available with a combined ticket for the Park Güell and the Sagrada Família Church.