Barcelona Park Güell: Gaudí's brief was to emulate the English garden cities so admired by his patron Eusebi Güell (which is the reason for the unusual spelling of 'park'): to lay out a self-contained suburb for the wealthy, but also to design the public areas.
The original plan for Barcelona Park Güell was for the plots to be sold off and the properties themselves subsequently designed by other architects. The idea never took off - perhaps because it was too far from the city, perhaps because it was too radical - and the Güell family donated the park to the city in 1922.
Barcelona's Park Güell is a real fairy-tale place; the fantastical exuberance of Gaudí's imagination is breathtaking. The visitor was previously welcomed by two life-sized mechanical gazelles - a typically bizarre religious reference by Gaudí to medieval Hebrew love poetry - although these were unfortunately destroyed in the Civil War.
The two gatehouses of Barcelona Park Güell that do still remain were based on designs the architect made earlier for the opera Hänsel and Gretel, one of them featuring a red and white mushroom for a roof. From here, walk up a splendid staircase flanked by multicoloured battlements, past the iconic mosaic lizard sculpture, to what would have been the main marketplace. Here, 100 palm-shaped pillars hold up a roof, reminiscent of the hypostyle hall at Luxor.
On top of this structure in Barcelona Park Güell is the esplanade, a circular concourse surrounded by undulating benches in the form of a sea-serpent decorated with shattered tiles - a technique called 'trencadís', which was actually perfected by Gaudí's overshadowed but talented assistant Josep Maria Jujol.
The Barcelona's Park Güell itself, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is magical, with twisted stone columns supporting curving colonnades or merging with the natural structure of the hillside. The park's peak is marked by a large cross and offers an amazing panorama of Barcelona and the sea beyond. Gaudí lived for a time in one of the two houses built on the site (which was, in fact, designed by his student Berenguer). It has since become the Casa-Museu Gaudí; guided tours, of which some are in English, are available.
Barcelona Park Güell Address
Transport Metro Lesseps/bus 24, 25 .
Telephone 93 219 38 11
Open Park 10am-sunset daily. Museum Apr-Sept 10am-7.45pm daily. Oct-Mar 10am-5.45pm daily.
Admission Park free. Museum €4; €3 reductions; free under-9s.