My decision to go to Park Güell was kind of spur-of-the-moment. I was originally planning on pairing it with a visit to La Sagrada Familia so that I could have a whole Gaudi-themed day, but I wasn’t sure what other attractions would be open on a Sunday evening and I wanted to do something with that time. Park Güell closes at 9:30 PM and it was almost 5 PM when I was at the hostel, so I knew that I would still have time to check it out.
The main reason why I wanted to go to Park Güell in the first place was not because I was interested in Gaudi, though I learned to really love his art and architectural style. Oddly enough, I wanted to go because of Animal Crossing. In the game, there is a character called Gulliver who gives you furniture that includes some based on real-world attractions. One of the items that I’ve gotten has been a staple furniture piece in my Animal Crossing: New Leaf house — a sculpture called Gaudi’s Lizard. It was my mission to see the real sculpture and take a picture with it.
There isn’t really a metro station that takes you directly to the park, so I still had to walk maybe ten or fifteen minutes from the Lesseps station. The park is on a hill, but the side I entered from thankfully had escalators. Tickets are €8 (~$8.52 USD), but you are also paying for a specific timed entry slot since only up to 400 visitors are allowed entry every 30 minutes. The park actually used to be free up until October 2013. I lined up at the ticket booth and learned that the next available time for entry was between 7 PM and 7:30 PM. It was around 5:45 PM, so I would have a little over an hour to kill before I was let in. You can definitely buy tickets online so you don’t have to wait around, and buying online gives you a €1 discount, but I wanted an actual ticket stub and not just a printout.
The ticket allows you to enter the monumental zone, but there are other areas of the park that are free to explore. There are some picnic areas and a lot of vendors who laid out blankets of various knick-knacks like magnets and scarves. I found a little nook area that was where the creative folks made their base. There was a musician and a couple caricature artists, but the most impressive was this woman who specialized in making silhouette portraits in under 2 minutes. Well, I think she generally took just a little more than two minutes, but the profiles that she made were really good and she attracted the biggest crowd there. It was the first time I saw anything like it.
As it got closer to 7 PM, I lined up at one of the park’s four designated entrances. I already had a game plan and chose the entrance closest to Gaudí’s Lizard so that I could go straight there while there was still a good amount of light out. Once the hour hit, we were let inside and it didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for.
Gaudí’s Lizard is popularly known as El Drac, but it is actually a depiction of a salamander and not a lizard or a dragon. The statue is covered in a mosaic pattern that I love and it also acts as a fountain, with water pouring out of the salamander’s mouth. I was really excited to see the statue in real life and even ended up coming home with a mini-replica to put at my desk. Mission accomplished!
With that out of the way, I just decided to explore the rest of the park as the sky started to get darker and darker. Time for some history! Construction on Park Güell began in 1900 and was opened in 1926, after a brief period in which work was halted. Catalan entrepreneur Eusebi Güell commissioned Antoni Gaudí to build an estate for well-off families, with the houses devoted to residential use only and built on relatively small plots of land. Gaudí planned to model the buildings after British residential estates, which is why the word “park” in Park Güell is spelled with a “K” instead of the Spanish or Catalan “C”. The project ultimately never moved to the house construction phase of the plan, though there are two porter’s lodges that stand at the main entrance gate that was originally built to receive visitors to the estate. They now house a museum and the park’s gift shop.
The park features a Hypostyle Room, which contains eighty-six striated columns that are inspired by the Doric style but also go against the traditional rules of classical composition. The room was intended to be used as a marketplace (among other things) for the estate and there are three open spaces where you would expect columns to stand.
To the left of the Hypostyle Room is the Portico of the Washerwoman, which features several buttresses. All of them seem pretty typical except for one that randomly depicts a figure that is known as the Washerwoman. Unconventionality is a large trait in Gaudí’s style.
Moving up the stairs, you can reach the Teatre Grec, or Nature Theatre, which lies above the Hypostyle Room. This area was meant to hold open-air shows and festivals and it has great views of the park and the city.
Once the sky got dark, the park got dark too as I don’t remember there being a lot of lights installed to help visitors see very well at night. I left to head back to my hostel and noticed a couple references to revolution on the way including messages that read “LA VIDA DE HOY EN DÍA ES UNA MENTIRA, VIVIRLA ES UN HIPOCRESÍA” (“life today is a lie, to live it is a hypocrisy” in Spanish) and “MORT A L’ESTAT” (“death in the state” in Catalan). There is a history of political tension in Barcelona that is really interesting to learn more about, but I think that will eventually be a focus of a separate post in the future.
I really loved visiting Park Güell and it kind of reminded me of a world designed by Dr. Seuss. Next time I’m in Barcelona, I would love to stop by during the day to see a different view of the park and visit my friend El Drac once again. For now, my little desk ornament will have to do.