The Weirdest Thing About Parc Guell

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For once, Mrs. Easy Hiker and I are in total agreement: the most striking change that Barcelona has undergone since we last visited the city a mere twenty years ago is the rise in the number of people with an apparent interest in the works of (the architect) Antoni Gaudí.

What is the Weirdest Thing about Parc Guell?

"Gaudi's Casa Batlló in Barcelona"

The Sagrada Familia was certainly a tourist attraction back in 1992, but I do not remember the queue stretching once around the block (I would never have gone in otherwise), and while people were already taking pictures of the Casa Batlló twenty years ago, they had to content themselves with outside views from the street level. Today, the whole place is a museum.

Even Casa Mila – parts of which, I believe, are still used as residential flats – is now swarming with visitors on balconies and rooftops.

"Gaudi's Casa Mila in Barcelona"

But we felt the contrast between 1992 and 2012 most starkly on our visit to Park Guell, a lovely public garden in the north of the city with ornamental features designed by Gaudí.

Based on our last visit – on a similarly sunny (and much warmer) weekend afternoon in February, when we had been virtually the only visitors – we had assumed that we would be able to stroll around the park in equally serene solitude.

"Entrance to Park Güell in Barcelona"

In fact, the place was packed like a fairground during the school holidays. In the twenty years since 1992, Gaudí had clearly evolved into a global industry – and had become perhaps the most famous, certainly the most popular “modern” architect in the world.

"This is not the weirdest thing about Parc Guell but it is looking like Disneyland"

In the midst of all this, Park Guell is still, I am happy to report, a pleasant and peaceful park, and away from the “core buildings” near the main entrance, you can even find some peace and quiet. I bet the cafeteria is also less full on a Tuesday morning.

"Park Güell in Barcelona"

There are great views over the city and plenty of things to distract and amuse you – the architecture is scurrilous, even by Gaudí’s standards. It’s certainly great to come here as part of a visit to Barcelona, but it’s probably even better when you are here on business or for a sports event, have a couple of hours to kill between meetings and events, looking for a place as far away from it all as possible, a place that helps you take your mind off the business agenda, for example, while also offering you a stone bench where you can simply read your newspaper under a wide, open sky.

In which case, however, I would strongly advise you to take a cab. Park Guell is fairly easy to reach by the Barcelona subway system (the “Metro”), but that will take a big chunk out of your time. (Allow 20 minutes each for your walk to and from the nearest station.)

"The Sagrada Familia seen from Park Güell in Barcelona"

There are several entrances to the park: we came from Metro Vallcarca and walked in through a side entrance, which meant that we had to travel for another 20 minutes to the core buildings (not a bad thing as such, all things considered, because this is an easy way of making sure that you see the outlying parts of the garden as well). The main entrance can be most conveniently reached from Metro Lesseps.

Either way, all you have to do is follow the signs. The park is located on top of a hill, but the steepest parts of the way up are equipped with escalators. (I don’t remember those from 1992 either.) This just goes to show that there are also advantages when something becomes a “global industry”.

"By the entrance from metro Lesseps of The Sagrada Familia is not the weirdest thing about Parc Guell in Barcelona"

Park Guell,  in its present form as a public garden, is very much an accident. Gaudí and his sponsor, the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Guell, intended to develop the area into a “residential park”, a gated community for well-off citizens in a comfortable distance away from the “dark Satanic mills” of which Barcelona may never have had as many as London but still enough to chase its wealthiest citizens off into the surrounding hills.

"Visitors to Park Güell in Barcelona reflected on a window of the ticketing office of the park"

Only one of the 60 lots sold, however, so what you can see today are the community buildings designed by Gaudí to attract punters but, in the event, appearing to scare them off more than anything else.

The only people who ever moved into the compound were Guell and Gaudí themselves. Gaudí acquired the show house in 1906 and lived here until his death in 1926.

"this is the weirdest thing about Parc Guell - Show house where Gaudi lived in Park Güell in Barcelona"

The fact that this house – now The “Gaudí Museum” and open for visits – was actually built and designed by another architect is, to me, the weirdest thing about Parc Guell.

Architecture in Barcelona, however, is more than Gaudi. Read it HERE.

35 comments to The Weirdest Thing About Parc Guell

  • What odd architecture and most definitely some of the weirdest I’ve seen in a while. I’ve always been a big fan of art that stood out from the norm. Antoni Gaudi did a great job doing this…thanks for the share!

  • And how is an “alternative” Barcelona which we imagine not to have Antoni Gaudí, Parc Guell, the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and so on?

  • So enticing, superb photos. I can´t wait to visit, not sure when I´ll get in the ten-ish hours drive though.

    Still dreaming.

  • It’s all the fault of the marketing people, Johanna, as well as the laziness of some travellers to find out more about their destinations outside the main attractions.

  • It’s kind of discouraging. There are so many lovely places in this world yet we all flock like lemmings to the “must sees”. Don’t get me wrong- I’m in the queue too and would go tomorrow if given the opportunity. I’m an early riser and that sometimes helps (after I’ve risked life and limb by separating the other half from his sleep)

    Liked your other Barcelona posts too.

  • You’ll get there, Andrea.

  • I can’t believe I’ve been to Barcelona 4 times and still haven’t visited Parc Guell. It has always been on my list of things to do but something has always come up. I know it’s often crowded but as they say, it’s touristy for a reason, it’s a fascinating place, as your photos show.

  • Absolutely loved Parc Guell on our visit to Barcelona. Hope to return soon…

  • You might be right about that, Linda, that Barcelona has become the “must visit city” all the more so after that Woody Allen film. Personally, I haven’t seen the movie. And yes, it’s good that we are the age we are that we’ve managed to experience great cities at our own pace. Thanks for dropping by.

  • I was there (for the first time, although I’ve been to Barcelona several times)in October of last year, late-ish in the day, and it wasn’t too bad. The negative was that the light was surprisingly bad for photos as the day waned. I think perhaps ¨”Vicki, Cristina, Barcelona” may have had something to do with its most recent upswing in popularity!

    I had that same kind of moment (disappointment? Sadness? Irritation?) in Tivoli, near Rome in 2004. The last time I’d been there was in 1967 – so can you imagine the difference???? All those gorgeous fountains and gardens almost to ourselves in ’67, and when we entered the gardens from the villa in ’05 I almost cried. My friend couldn’t understand my dismay as she hadn’t been before. I couldn’t even take photos! Who wants photos of two dozen tourists? I am, however, so glad that I am the age I am and had those quieter moments in places.

  • Gaudi’s architecture is bizarre and he chose to live in a simply designed one. Wonder what that tells us.

  • I was just there last week! We were there at about 9:45 on a Thur and it wasn’t too busy yet, but the following week I went to the Sagrada Familia and there were already more than 50 people in line at 9:05. I had no idea the Gaudi Museum was built by another architect as I didn’t go in, but that is strange, especially considering Gaudi’s authentic designs.

  • Thanks Michael,
    I know August is peak season but we don’t have too much choice about when we travel unfortunately.

  • Good luck with the crowd in Park Guell, Rob. You’ve been forewarned.

  • Great post, we are thinking of going to this part of the world in August.

  • Oh, you said it, Jade.

  • Thank god for the escalators because that hill is mad steep as well!

  • I’m afraid I have to agree with you on that, Ted.

  • Interesting perspective which reflects half of my point of view since I visited Barcelona in 1993. When I went there Parc Guell was practically deserted. We found out about it through the grapevine and at the time it seemed like one of those precious undiscovered travel tips. Now, as you pointed out in this post, everyone knows about it. I am sure internet and blogging have played their part in this transformation.

  • Yes, I agree with you, Simon, that they have packaged and marketed Barcelona so well. This, however, is a double edged sword, as they would say.

  • Now this is interesting, because I last visited Parc Guell 5 years ago and while there were people it was not overcrowded.

    Well… Barcelona and Spain overall did a tremendous job in promoting the country and this is probably one of the effect. I must say, however, that while I’m certainly glad that more visitors support the local economy, for sure I prefer being able to enjoy beautiful places in a more intimate fashion :-)

  • Oh, Angela, one day is too short for a city like Barcelona. Hope you can get back soon.

  • Lovely post, I went to Barcelona for only one day and couldn’t manage to visit Parc Guell, I can’t wait to go back and visit it!

  • Yes, there are still quiet spots, Jeremy, but not many as before.

  • Well, Shonda, many people think so too. Hope you enjoy your visit to Barcelona.

  • Thank you for sharing this post with me. The architecture design is beautiful. And I must say I am quite envious of your photos. Still and aspiration of mine to actually take some worthy photos. Barcelona is on our travel itinerary for 2012. Now I have some places to visit. Cheers.

  • Jeremy Branham

    I like Parc Guell. Gaudi definitely was interesting in terms of his architectural style. I remember learning a lot about the Parc and how it was supposed to be a community for the rich. Now it offers fabulous views of the city. While it can be crowded, I found it to be a lovely escape from the city (I just try and find places to avoid the crowds). :)

  • Julie, when we were there, some parts of it were still being prepared for the Olympics. Our two-year old son had the whole place then to play Indiana Jones. Not possible anymore.

  • Wow! I was there about 6 years ago and it was nothing like that! Park Guell even had a feeling of disrepair about it when we were there. But there is no doubt that Barcelona and Gaudi are synonymous – and incredible. It’s great that more people are inspired by his visionary work: your photos are wonderful. I wrote about Gaudi and Barcelona in my travel anthology here:

  • You’re absolutely right there, Gray. It could even get worse. We were there this time in winter and it was packed. I can’t bear to imagine how it would be in late spring or summer.

  • Wow, I didn’t realize that building was built and designed by someone else. Love it, though. I really envy you two that you were ever able to go here with no crowds. I don’t think that’s ever likely to happen again.

  • Right, Vera. That’s what every blogger wants – for readers to read to the end, n’est-ce pas?.

  • And what do you think of the weirdest thing about Park Guell, Alexa?

  • I had to read this post all the way through, because I thought “What a challenge to find the weirdest thing in a Gaudi-filled area!” Congratulations. You did it. Plain becomes weird.

  • Antoni Gaudi is a visionary. All these pictures show spectacular buildings and certainly raises the bar way high when it comes to art and architecture. Sagrada Familia and Park Guell are my two favorites.

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