For me, Barcelona is easily ranked in my Top 3 Cities so far. This morning, I was thinking about some of my favorite places in all my travels and what about those cities or towns made me love it. I will admit, there is plenty of the world left for me to see with new eyes but so far, Barcelona is highly ranked.
If you’re into architecture even just slightly, you’ll be able to appreciate the many astounding offerings the city has available. Today, we’re going to focus on architect/artist Antonio Gaudí’s Park Guell because, really, it deserves its own post.
If you’ve been there, I wager that you can easily agree with me on this. If you’ve never been to Barcelona, this is one of those “Things to Do in Barcelona.” Believe me, it’s on everyone’s Top 10 for a reason.
Now, before my trip to Barcelona several years ago, I didn’t really see anyone offering any information or photos of the park that didn’t involve the benches and the lizard (others call it the salamander; officially, it’s “El Drac“). Although I really like the benches and the lizard, there is definitely more to appreciate. I am grateful I went.
Arriving at Park Guell
I woke up only slightly interested in going to this Catalan park. I knew there were going to be pretty mosaics but besides a leisurely stroll, I couldn’t understand why everyone was all about Park Guell. Sure, it’s on the Unesco World Heritage list but how worth it will a park actually be?
Getting off the charter bus, our feet created a wave of soft crunching sounds as we walked from the pebbled lot to the entrance. I noticed people in wheelchairs taking a different route to get in.
As it turns out, people who are fully bound to wheelchairs can only really access the top level and the bottom area where the grand staircase is located. If you have a few people with endurance for tons of stairs everywhere, you could experience the second level but I still wouldn’t recommend it.
Park Guell: The Mood Changer
However, my mind was more concerned about the fact that I could feel my hair beginning its own journey into massive puffiness. This, of course, made me annoyed and a bit insecure about my appearance. I was just sure people were going to point and stare at what had to be an unkempt mess.
Luckily, I made it through the entrance unscathed and without a single glare from a fellow tourist. That’s when I saw my first hint of something more – an enormously tall stone walkway. It was intriguing. It made me want to explore further. All of the sudden, I no longer gave two flips about my unruly puff of hair.
Along with the intrigue of the unusual structure laid out before me, this lovely musician plucked out a dreamy tune to place my mind in a more calm state. I quietly thanked her for her work.
From Residential Development Flop to International Attraction
When groundwork began on Park Guell, it was originally intended to be a subdivision for the wealthier citizens of Barcelona. There was proper thought put into making this area livable and inviting to potential home buyers.
Unfortunately for Eusebi Guell and Antonio Gaudí, the extravagant artistic residential development fell through on Carmel Hill. Perhaps it was too far away from the active city life. Possibly, there weren’t enough shops available nearby. Maybe they were concerned about having a stable water supply so far up the steep hills. For all I know, Guell didn’t hire the best PR and Marketing agency.
Gaudi’s Show Home
Shortly after passing by the musician that helped me calm myself, we found a whimsical pink house. As it turns out, it was the original show house, aiming to entice people to buy a hillside home. Due to the ill-fated residential venture, Gaudí purchased his first and only house – where he lived alone for 20 years. Now, the salmon-colored house is the Gaudí House Museum and its visitors can tour the house to see how the famed architect lived.
Happily, for us, Gaudí and his team took special care on creating the public spaces prior to focusing on creating houses on the designated triangular plots. He designed water systems from the highest places of the 40 acres downward. It’s similar to the ancient Roman aqueducts. Throughout the park, you can spot interesting ways he managed to make plumbing aesthetically pleasing.
Following along with the tour guide, we made our way to those slithering benches of the public square everyone focuses on when they return home with their stories to tell. I finally saw and understood the over-promotion of this area.
Although you can’t really tell from the above photo, any traveler can get spectacular views and photo ops of the rest of the sprawling city below near the sea. Fortunately, there is ample space to craft your next best photo and make all your friends and family members back home jealous.
I’m a bit
nosey curious about things, so of course, I had to know what I would be seeing below us. Clearly, heights don’t really bother me too much since I took it upon myself to look over the edge of the benches. Hey – don’t roll your eyes! It’s not three standard hotel floors, okay?
Apparently, there’s quite a bit more to be seen. However, we weren’t entirely ready to go directly below the public square with the slithering mosaic benches.
Not going to lie about it, I really enjoyed going under the stone trees. They were unusual and provided a nice break for my eyes from the brightly colored mosaic tiling of the benches. Well, that and it was 10 AM with sweltering heat temps already in the 90°F range by this point.
Barcelona, we could have really used a bit more breezes from the seaside. Just throwing it out there for next time I come for a visit.
You can find many musicians throughout the park. I got lucky seeing the man in the photo above. This unusual instrument, the Hang, was developed in 2000 CE and is a rare find. Each pitched percussion instrument is handcrafted and can cost up to $3,500.
Unfortunately for percussionists, the creators of the Hang stopped production on them in December 2013. PanArt is still providing other new instruments but unfortunately, you won’t find many of these out and about.
Remember me telling you how moody I was in the beginning? Well, this man enhanced the park’s surroundings with his warm and nearly ethereal tappings upon this Hang. If I had realized just how truly rare they are, I would have taken video to share such exquisite sounds. Since I was silly and didn’t, this guy can give you a great idea of what I heard. Talk about wanting to keep a person exploring!
We made our way down the stone stairs to the second level. I really enjoyed the contrasts found throughout the park, such as the mosaic benches above on the almost-medieval styled platform holding it in the air (as seen in the photo above).
Not that I would wish for rain or anything, but I am still curious as to how well the drain spouts within the animal mouths work for the platform? I mean, it’s been over a hundred years.
It seemed that no matter where a person went within Park Guell, music was always nearby with the many talented artists providing free music. Most were showcasing their CDs for sale.
Seriously, this park has a knack for getting you into a more joyful mood. At the very least, your blood pressure will level out and you’ll be calm again. Worked like a charm on me!
To our right at the end of the stairs was the Ocean Wave walkway (well, that’s how I describe it). However, others know it as the “Laundry Portico” since that’s this section’s official name.
I kind of like the snakes on the stone “tree trunks” near the laundress. It’s almost as if they’re curious as to what you think you’re doing at their home. Or maybe they like sniffing you as you walk by. Okay, see, that’s why people think snakes are creepy.
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The Hypostyle Room
Slinking away from stone snakes and ocean waves, we come to my favorite area in the park: the Hypostyle Room.
As a way to sell the residential plots, the hypostyle room is designed to be an open air market of sorts for the new residents of the hillside subdivision. It’s located immediately under the public square and meandering benches.
The eighty-six columns are almost 20 feet high and just over 5 feet in diameter. Needless to say, I couldn’t pack in all that glorious work into one photo. I decided to make a mini-collage. You’re welcome.
See? Isn’t it just spectacular? To me, the hypostyle room is aesthetically dreamy and well thought out by its designer. Those big beautiful discs represent the seasons.
I didn’t include two of the season discs in my photos but yes, there are four. In addition, there are 14 smaller discs near the seasonal ones. These smaller discs symbolize the lunar cycles within the seasons. I am also very fond of the octopus tentacles, which I included in the second photo on the left within the collage. It’s strange but adorable.
Onwards to the Grand Staircase!
The first level entrance is where you’ll find the extraordinary steps of Park Guell. The staircase boasts four levels of steps before you find yourself back up to the hypostyle room.
Consequently, if you are completely wheelchair bound, don’t expect to see much of the second level. Even the greatest strength and endurance trainers would have problems getting wheelchairs up that many stairs.
The good news is, that if you find yourself “stuck” on the main entrance level, there are plenty of things to see. You can pay about €6 to tour the Gaudí House Museum. The “Gingerbread House” with the small cross is now a gift shop.
If you’re interested, here is the official website for buying tickets to the house. I took the liberty and linked you on the proper page to immediately buy. Don’t worry, I’m not getting a commission for this. I just like to make things easy for my awesome readers (that’s you, by the way)!
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