The history of Park Güell begins in 1900, when the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell y Bacigalupi bought 17 hectares of land on the outskirts of Barcelona. The entrepreneur and philanthropist dreamed of creating a garden city like the ones that were in vogue in England in the 19th century. Guell divided the area into 62 plots, which he intended to sell as mansions. The industrialist commissioned the chief architect of the time, Antonio Gaudi, to design the infrastructure of the garden.
Despite the ambitious plans, the business project proved unsuccessful: the inhabitants of Barcelona bought only two plots, one of them by Gaudi himself. The rich people were not attracted to the idea of living on the outskirts, and the rest of us could not afford to buy land in the future garden city.
Work on the park began in 1901: workers reinforced the hills, paved access roads, built walls and entrance pavilions. Several houses (one of them served as a model for potential buyers) and a colonnade were erected on the sold plots, as well as the famous bench on the square-terrace. Antoni Gaudi supervised the construction, and he instructed the workers to collect broken glass, crockery, and shards of decorative tiles, which he used to decorate the span and staircase to the terrace. In 1906, one of the houses was acquired by Gaudi, another became the residence of Güell and the third one was occupied by Gaudi's friend, the lawyer M. Trias y Domenec. All the houses have survived to this day: Gaudi's house now houses his museum, Guell's house is the municipal school, and Trias y Domenech's house is still inhabited by his descendants.
The central entrance to the park is adorned by two houses: the right one was supposed to house the administration of the park city, and the left one was intended for the gatekeeper. The main staircase leads to the "Hall of a Hundred Columns" - this square with 86 Doric columns was originally intended to be a market place for local residents, but now because of good acoustics it is fancied by musicians. Above it is a long shop in the form of a sea serpent. Descending from the square is a staircase, at the end of which is a sculpture of a salamander. From the main square of the park, a network of paths runs up to Gaudí's stone walkways, called "Bird's Nests" because of their appearance.
After his death, Gaudí's family turned over the management of the garden to the City Hall of Barcelona: maintaining the park was a costly affair. In 1962, the park was recognized as an artistic monument, and in 1984 it was included, along with all Gaudí's other buildings, in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Entrance to the park was free until 2013. Now the entrance fee is 8 euros. Tickets can be purchased online. The entrance fee has its own advantages: the number of visitors has become much less. While previously the average park attendance was 10 million people a year (it was literally impossible to get through there), with the introduction of tickets it dropped almost fivefold.
What not to miss in Güell Park:
Gaudi House Museum.
Built in 1904 as a sample house for sale. The architect ended up living here for a full 25 years. The museum was opened in 1963 by the Society of Friends of Gaudi. Here you can learn about the biography of the master, see his drawings, as well as samples of furniture created by Gaudi, in particular interior furnishings from the Balho and Mila houses. A ticket to the museum must be purchased separately and costs 5.5 euros.
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