When Count Eusebi Güell wanted to make a luxury housing development in the mountains to the north of Barcelona, he chose a neighborhood, called La Salut (The Health) where he thought the upper crust of Barcelona would flock for the views and to escape the smog of the industrial city.
Not one of the 60 triangular lots with English style gardens sold and only two houses were built. One was a home for Güell himself (he thought if the developer lived in the neighborhood it would add a certain cachet to it).
None of this matters, really, except to explain why Guëll teamed up with visionary architect Antoni Gaudí, who was by then already designing the Sagrada Familia basílica — the towering modernist 18 spired church just a short distance away below the hill. They joined forces to created a community park and gardens in hopes of enticing well-heeled home buyers from the city.
In the end only Guëll and Gaudí with his family inhabited the only two houses built there. But the fanciful park remains. And thousands of visitors trek up the hill daily to take in the art, architecture, and vistas.
Beginning in 1900, it took 14 years to build the rambling park and gardens. Güell provided the overall vision he had for the park (and the financial backing). Gaudí designed the elements while his assistants, Joan Raul and Josep Maria Jujol (also working on Sagrada Familia) looked after the details.
From the rocky outcropping above the city emerged a colorful, quirky splash of paths, flowers, mosaics, overlooks and covered areas. Whimsical buildings with wavy tiled roofs, stone staircases and mosaic window frames loom over the entrance.
A fountain in the middle, giving way to walk ways left or right — or perhaps up the stairs behind, lorded over by a multicolored tiled salamander called El Drac. Like any other fantastical place, it doesn’t matter which path you choose. They all lead to a beautiful place.
Most people head to the overlook where you can see all of Barcelona — all the way to the sea — below you. You can relax in the shade of palm trees here and enjoy birds, including Australian parrots which nest in the trees. The breeze is cooling and the view alone is worth the price of admission.
Above the architectural creations is a winding knot of paths that Gaudí had designed as entrances to the houses that were never built. Gardens and native plants fill this part of the park. For those who only want to see the natural beauty and stroll the quiet paths, there is no charge.
Gaudi’s house, in this area, is an additional charge. it is now a museum with many of his drawings, designs and personal effects.
The city of Barcelona parks department operates and maintains all parts of the park. There are some sections reserved only for residents of the surrounding neighborhood. The guard at that entrance will let you know that is not where you go in. There is no fee to visit only the gardens, which are open to anyone.
Transportation: From the center of the city, take the L3 Metro to the Vallcarca station. From here, they tell you it is a nine minute walk. What they don’t tell you is that it is a walk up hills so steep that there are handrails on the buildings. There are some stairs and escalators in the very steepest spots. There does not appear to be any bus that will bring you any closer, though you might find a taxi or ride share that could take you near to the entrance.
Hours: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm every day
Tickets: No need to purchase tickets ahead of time. Entrance to the Monumental Park is €10 each. Tickets for the Gaudí House museum are €5.50. Everything else is free.