We spent our final day in Barcelona visiting Park Güell. The property was originally conceived as a residential suburban development intended for sixty single-family homes in a park-like setting by wealthy businessman Eusebi Güell, a friend and patron of Gaudi’s. Construction took place from 1900-1914, but it was an unsuccessful venture and only one house was built, designed by Francesc Berenguer i Mestres, which Gaudi later lived in. After the failure of the plots to sell, the city took ownership and the property was opened to the public as a park in 1923. Set on a hill at the northern edge of Barcelona in the Gràcia district, it boasts amazing views of the city all the way out to the Mediterranean Sea.
Great way to spend a school outing
When we first arrived on a gorgeous, sunny day all we could see was hordes of tourists. As we tried to make our way up the grand staircase, with its famous water feature where visitors are greeted by a mosaic tile lizard, we had some initial doubts that we’d be successful getting through. We finally pushed our way up and found ourselves standing in the shade of another forest of columns that form what was to be a covered outdoor market for residents. Several groups of school children were sitting on the ground, staring up at the ceiling and drawing their interpretations of the fantastical forms. Up some more stairs we made it to the grand terrace with its famous serpentine mosaic benches, where the best views of the city can be found.
Once past the grand terrace it’s easy to escape the mob of tourists and take a leisurely stroll, stopping in the shade under the trees to listen to guitarist Mariano Olivera, one of several talented musicians playing in the park. Along the way we discover Gaudi’s architectural surprises scattered throughout the park like Easter eggs. As we strolled through the park we found ourselves on a path that leads through a colonnade of catenary arches that appear carved out of the hillside. We walked on top of the viaduct with its “bird’s nest” planters and came across benches that seemed to grow out of the earth to form a place to sit, rest, and have an intimate conversation while gazing out over the city beyond. While Gaudi’s buildings typically evoke nature in their man-made elements, at Park Güell the man-made elements appear to have been summoned out of the very hillside that the park is built upon.
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