Park Guell: A visitors’ guide to Barcelona’s most spectacular park
Park Guell, Barcelona’s most spectacular park is, like the Sagrada Familia, on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Based behind the trendy, touristed streets of Gracia, kissing the fringes of Barcelona’s working-class neighborhood El Carmel, this stunning park is another of Antoni Gaudi’s extravagant architectural achievements. A massive draw year-round, Park Guell boasts some fantastic examples of the famed Catalan architect’s work and some of the best views of the Barcelona.
A Brief History
Eusebi Guell, the esteemed Spanish entrepreneur for whom the park is named after, bought a plot of land on what was known then as “Bald Mountain.” Guell held an affinity for English landscape gardening and envisioned a development that would incorporate a similar aesthetic.
Eventually, it was decided that the land would host a housing project to serve wealthy Barcelonins who wished to escape the hustle and bustle and pollution of the busy city. To see the project through Guell hired Gaudi with whom he shared a close professional and personal relationship.
Gaudi had grand designs for the project many of which he set about completing. However, when the development failed to secure investors, and the money fell through, the project had to be abandoned.
Guadi bought one of the few properties that had been completed on the land and moved in with his family (ironically, the home he lived in he did not design) until his death in 1926. Shortly thereafter, the park was opened to the public and has been visited by millions since.
What is there to see?
It is important to know that Park Guell has two areas to visit. The “Free Access Zone” is free of charge, and makes for a wonderful stroll through a beautiful wooded area. However, to see the bulk of Gaudi’s work you have to head into the “Monumental Zone.” Tickets are necessary for this part of the park.
Walking through the front gates of the Park you will be greeted by Gaudi’s dragon or “El Drac” in Catalan. This multicolored, mosaiced beast is perched between the eponymous staircase and usually mobbed by hundreds of tourists desperate to get a snap with it.
If you continue past the dragon and ascend his staircase, you find yourself in the Hypostyle Room. This was designed by Gaudi to serve as a covered market for the would-be residents of the housing development and consists of 86 columns that hold up a tiled ceiling formed from many small domes.
Placa de la Natura
Undoubtedly the most iconic part of Gaudi’s Park Guell is the Placa de la Natura. Again, the original purpose of this part of the park was to serve as a large open-air performance space where shows could be put on. It’s marked by the impressive, beautifully tiled bench that runs the length of the far end of its border. From here, you too, get some of the best views of Barcelona.
The Austria Gardens
The Austria Gardens, which derive their name from the trees generously donated by the country of Austria, were used, when the park was acquired by the municipality, as a tree nursery. This part of the park has a different aesthetic than the rest, boasts more fantastic views and is where you can find the Gaudi House Museum.
Gaudi House Museum
This house was designed by Francesc Berenguer I Mestres in 1904. It was to serve as a prototype for the 60 developments that would follow. However, when the project fell through, Gaudi bought it and moved in with his family. He lived here until his death in 1926. Inside, you will find furniture he designed and other memorabilia.
Visiting Park Guell
Park Guell is open all year round. However, hours do vary depending on what time of year it is. You can expect longer hours over the course of the summer and shorter hours in the winter months.
The park can only admit 400 people at any one time. You are allocated a timeslot within a 30-minute window. If you miss this window, you will be denied entry and will have to buy another ticket. You can book tickets online and up to 3 months in advance.
Allow yourself a decent amount of time to explore the park in its entirety. For quieter times during peak season, visit earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.
There is a cafe in the Monumental Zone, and restaurants in the surrounding areas, but expect inflated prices.