Gaudí’s Lesser-Known Attractions Merit Attention

Although Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece undoubtedly is La Sagrada Família, Barcelona’s best-known architect left indelible marks throughout his hometown.

Park Güell, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are three more examples of Gaudí’s imitable style, each of which attract millions of visitors each year. But you can also see lampposts he designed while you walk along La Rambla and Plaça Reial plaza.

Park Güell a whimsical jewel

Designed as a mountainous retreat for wealthy Barcelona homeowners, Park Güell was a bust as a housing development. The property was purchased by the city in 1922 and turned into a public park. Despite the crowds (Park Güell attracts nearly 4 million visitors a year), the attraction is worth a visit.

Timed tickets allow only 300 people to enter every 30 minutes, but visitors tend to wander throughout the park taking selfies and pictures of each other, leading to bottlenecks. These bottlenecks can be frustrating, but there’s always a side path you can take to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Upon seeing Gaudí’s work, one can’t escape comparisons to Dr. Seuss, with the undulating railings and benches, supports that look like angled tree trunks with expanding roots and buildings that seem to come straight from fantasy novels.

Three kilometers of trails, several buildings and a proposed marketplace for Park Güell were developed before the project was abandoned. From the main entrance, you encounter twin houses and the porter’s lodge without a straight line to be seen. Twin staircases converge on a landing guarded by a colorful lizard.

Further up you’ll discover the marketplace, a welcome respite from a hot day as you wander among the 88 oddly angled stone columns supporting a massive roof. Off to one side, tree roots appear to hold up a covered walkway. Look carefully, and you’ll see a washerwoman carved into one of the columns. Reaching the top of the enclosed park you’ll find a viewing platform with a curvaceous bench running along its edge where visitors line up for photographs. From there you’ll get a great overview of the park, the city in the middle distance and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.

Even more to see

Outside the park itself you’ll find Casa-Museu Gaudí, where the architect lived for the two decades preceding his death. The museum also features furniture that he designed. The surrounding park is tree-lined and very hilly, but it provides more city views and a respite from the worst of the crowds.

Casa Batlló is a residential building in the L’Eixample district that Gaudí redeveloped during the same period as Park Güell. The façade recalls Saint George and the Dragon, a motif that repeats in the interior and on the roof. I defy you to find a straight line in a window, door or hallway. Residents would have felt they were living in a fantasy world as they opened oddly shaped doors with raised designs and walked along hallways that felt more like narrow tunnels.

After La Sagrada Família and Park Güell, though, Casa Batlló was a bit of the letdown. If we hadn’t already seen the other attractions, we would have been more impressed. It doesn’t help that the same number (if not more) people cram into this residential building as explore a 13,000-seat basilica each year. And it cost more to visit Casa Batlló than the other attractions. Kinda like charging the sardine to be put in the can, I say.

La PedreraLa Pedrera, designed by Gaudí as an office/apartment block, was similarly expensive, so we took pictures of the façade and went about our day.