When in Barcelona, it is inevitable that the name of the famous architect Gaudi comes up. And why not? Some of the most iconic attractions in this city are his creations, foremost being the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia (which, incidentally, is not yet finished! Target completion is during 2026, the centenary of Gaudi's death).
First, a bit of info on Antoni Gaudi. As a student, he showed tons of promise, leading one of his professors to remark that he was "either a genius or a madman". His first public commission was designing lamp posts at Placa Reial, which proved to be successful. Unfortunately, he got into a dispute with the city council over the sum he was to be paid.
His private commissions (notably for rich textile industrialist Eusebi Guell) were critically acclaimed, yet invariably marked by massive cost overruns.
Gaudi was a person of contrasts. He was hard to deal with, being a loner AND a perfectionist. Yet he was also profoundly religious, and gave all his money to the church. He devoted the last years of his life totally to the construction of the Sagrada Familia. He died tragically - struck by a tram one evening, and expiring in a hospital a few days later.
One of his worthiest creations was Parc Guell, a total flop of a real estate development (think of it as an exclusive private subdivision), but teeming with his genius.
"Parc Guell was envisioned by his friend and patron, Eusebi Guell, to be an utopian retreat far away from the hub hub of the city, construction started in 1900. However, due to World War I and the resulting crisis, work ground to a halt in 1914. At this point, only two of the planned sixty houses had been built.
Eventually, Parc Guell was used for parties and conferences, until it was acquired by the Barcelona City Council and transformed into a public park in 1922. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984." [Source: Antoni Gaudi: His Works in Barcelona]
Check out the details on these windows:
Here's a close-up of the bevy of ceramic tiles:
From the main entrance of the park, and right up the staircase is this dragon fountain, an irresistable photo-op for most tourists:
Then we have what was supposed to be the Market Hall for residents, with the ceramic artwork on the ceiling:
How's this for a closer look of the artwork? ;-D
And the piece de resistance. These undulating, sensuous multi-colored benches, with their vibrant mosaic tiles, are truly marvelous! Under the right weather conditions, one can sit here all day, admiring the view of the city below (well, if not for the hordes of other tourists taking photos!)
Also worth a visit to is the Gaudi House-Museum, where the architect (with his father and niece) lived from 1906 to 1926. This house was actually the 'model unit' for Parc Guell, although i don't think Gaudi did any sales-pitching to prospective buyers at that time! ;-D
Here's this lovely female performer, playing a Coldplay tune on her violin, right outside the museum.
A visit to Barcelona is not complete without seeing at least one of Gaudi's works. I heartily recommend the Sagrada Familia (book in advance online to avoid two-hour queues during peak season, and make sure your ticket includes a ride up to one of the towers); Parc Guell; and even taking in a FREE Gaudi walking tour for an overview of his other works - Runner Bean Tours is a very good choice.
Parc Guell is a EUR10 taxi ride away from the Las Ramblas area, taking approximately 30 minutes. Please check their official website for opening hours, ticket prices and other info.