Park Güell: Gaudi’s Whimsical Wonderland

As a kid, I was often caught up in the fantasies of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and my favourite, The Magic Faraway Tree. Twenty years later, I revisit these sensations at Park Güell.

Enchanting Park Guell

Park Güell is located on a hill in Barcelona, above Gracia, with a panoramic view over the city and sea. Artist Anton Gaudi designed plans for this space, originally commissioned as a privately financed suburb, in his Catalan style, which embraced mythology, history, and liturgy. The urban development project never eventuated; in 1923, it was turned into this park.

A gingerbread gatehouse

Gaudi modeled Park Güell on a nineteenth-century fairground: stone walls, fringed with pinnacles, are covered in mosaic tiles; the entrance combines white topped roofs with tall chimneys and windows outlined in patterned tile.

Second gingerbread gatehouse

Barcelona myth tells of Gaudi parsimoniously ordering his workmen to scavenge broken tiles from nearby building sites on their way to work. There were also reports of the workmen taking delivery of carefully transported Venetian tiles and smashing them in front of the horrified delivery man.” *

Ornate Mosaic Ceiling

Mosaic Detail

Gaudi’s design feels like a chapter from Choose Your Own Adventure. You may choose to climb a ceremonial staircase guarded by a dragon fashioned from tiny shards of tile; or meander along a pathway leading you to an outdoor hallway flanked by stone columns supporting the walkway above. Palm trees, bougainvillea, and stone sculptures serve as decoration.

Stone Columns and Palms

All paths lead back to the main plaza, the focal point of the park designed for social gatherings. A writhing serpent sculpture slithers along the plaza’s perimeter. Here you can enjoy a glass of sangria and look upon the park, Barcelona, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Fabulous Barcelona

Park Güell is a space unlike any place I have seen. Spending an afternoon here was as close as I’ve ever get to living in a fairytale.

Guell’s Emblem

Park Güell is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. It was designed in Gaudi’s singular Catalan style, where his “deliberate programme mixed classical myth, Catalan history, Catholic liturgy and the memory of martyrdom into something completely unique.” * This program was reflective of historical gardens in Renaissance Italy as well as Gaudi’s other works, the Nativity façade of La Sagrada Familia and the crypt at Colonia Güell.

Gaudi lived in a home here from 1906 to 1926. The Gaudi Museum (Casa Museu Gaudi) since 1963, it may be visited today for a fee and contains original works by Gaudi. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.

Casa Museu Gaudi

* Gaudi. A Biography by Gijs Van Hensbergen

32 thoughts on “Park Güell: Gaudi’s Whimsical Wonderland

  1. I had not thought of Park Grüell as being in Alice in Wonderland or Charlie’s Chocolate Factory but it’s so true. It’s a fun place to be and the White Rabbit popping up would definately complete the picture!

    • Thanks you! Ever since I returned from Barcelona, I have grown to love it more and more through memories, photo’s and reading up on Gaudi. I would love to see the photos of your trip when you go.

  2. Awwww how I love his work!!! I was absolutely my happiest to be able to wander around in that park. It was always my dream to go there and you should have seen my smile when I got there 😀 Thanks for the pictures! They are beautiful! I took so many pictures of Barcelona and something happened to my memory card, so I don’t have a single picture from my trip 😦 It still hurts to think about it… 🙂

    • I am so sorry about your photos – you’re such a good photographer! However, Barcelona will be there and perhaps when you go next, there will be more to photograph (esp. of La Sagrada Familia) so you may be better for it 🙂 You have great memories and in the end – that’s what really counts! Thank you for reading the post. I wish I had a DSLR with me when I went!!

  3. I’ve been waiting for this post! Thank you so much for sharing. Great historical tidbits. If only I could have seen the delivery man’s face when workers smashed the glass. ha! that would have been a riot!

    • It was fun to relive the memory, so I am happy it may have helped with your upcoming trip. That story is funny -to see these perfect Venetian tiles being smashed. I wonder what the Italians must think of Gaudi…!You may enjoy this from my Fodor’s guidebook: ” Surrealist Salvador Dali was filled with ‘unforgettable anguish’ as he strolled among the uncanny architectural forms of the park…” You’re going to see it for yourself so looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it. Tips: you can get the double decker bus there – it is a short uphill climb; be prepared to stay there for a few hours (you can buy some food and drinks there); Gaudi’s museum can be visited for a fee. But the park is FREE! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Thank you very much Marina for your interesting post! You were able to make me fly to Barcelona with my mind! I visited Park Guell and I agree with all you have told so well. You’re right. It’s a wonderful place, as your nice pics are telling us. Funny place but also mysterious place. I think Gaudi had the incredible gift to give shapes and forms to our dreams and to our uncosciuos. Thank you to remind us that earth could be a better place if leaded by artists! And I’m glad that you wrote this beutiful post in the circumstance of the great show in Rome about Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia.

    • Roberto – thank you so much for your comment! With Gaudi, I feel that he is an artist that tried, tested and experimented with different methods even when it went against tradition. What he has left are magnificent masterpieces that I cannot seem to compare with any other buildings I have seen, in real life and in pictures. I am looking forward to seeing your post on the exhibit at the Vatican 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing these great images and narratives, Marina! I have a great interest in travel (especially to UNESCO Heritage Sites) and also to Spain (where I’ve never been). Your blog entry makes me feel like I’m there.

    • Thank you for reading the post! I hope that you may visit Spain so that you can look forward to ticking off a few boxes on the UNESCO Heritage List. I have a few more Gaudi sites to see in Barcelona myself. I am so grateful for your compliment – it is fun reliving travel trips as memories and photos are what we have left, as well as the feeling that we had whilst there!

  6. Hi Marina, I never been to Barcelona (I will some day I hope), but I felt the same way – like a kid in a fantasy world – when I was in Sintra, Portugal. It’s a small town near Lisbon knew mostly by its 19th century Romantic architecture and landscapes. If you’re curious you can look for Pena National Palace and Quinta da Regaleira on the internet 😉

    • Thank you! I actually have a company that I named Mosaic Media (inspired by the beautiful interior mosaics of St Issac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia). I’ll take a look at the link you included!

  7. You have taken us on a trip through this magical wonderland and I have now added it to my must- see list. Beautiful, descriptive, smart storytelling!

  8. Lovely photos! When I was there, it felt surreal. Didn’t you feel like you stepped into Dr. Suess’ world? That’s the only thing I could think of when I was wandering through the Park.

    • I didn’t think of Dr Seuss – and that’s so cool that you drew the parallel! I felt more like it was an inedible magical garden – a combination of feelings and sights that reminded me of the books that I mentioned in the post. The gingerbread looking houses could even be associated with The Brothers Grimm: Hansel and Gretel!

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