Around 1km north of Gràcia, the Unesco-listed Park Güell is where Antoni Gaudí turned his hand and imagination to landscape gardening. It’s a surreal, enchanting place where the great Modernista's passion for natural forms really took flight and the artificial almost seems more natural than the natural.
The park is extremely popular, and access to the central area is limited to 400 people every half-hour – book ahead online. The rest of the park is free and can be visited without booking.
Park Güell was created in 1900, when Count Eusebi Güell bought a tree-covered hillside (then outside Barcelona) and hired Gaudí to create a miniature city of houses for the wealthy in landscaped grounds. The project was a commercial flop and was abandoned in 1914 – but not before Gaudí had created 3km of roads and walks, steps, a plaza and two gatehouses in his inimitable manner. The idea was based on the English 'garden cities', much admired by Güell, hence the spelling of 'Park'. In 1922 the city bought the estate for use as a public park.
Much of the park is still wooded, but it’s laced with pathways. The best views are from the cross-topped Turó de les Tres Creus (Turó del Calvari) in the southwest corner.
Arriving via the park's main eastern entrance, you'll reach a broad open space, the Plaça de la Natura, whose centrepiece is the Banc de Trencadís, completed in 1914. Curving sinuously around the perimeter, this multicoloured tiled bench was designed by one of Gaudí’s closest colleagues, architect Josep Maria Jujol (1879–1949). To the west of the square extends the Pòrtic de la Bugadera (the Laundry Room Portico), a gallery where the twisted stonework columns and roof give the effect of a cloister beneath tree roots – a motif repeated in several places in the park.
With Gaudí, however, there is always more than meets the eye. The giant Plaça de la Natura was designed as a kind of catchment area for rainwater washing down the hillside. The water is filtered through a layer of stone and sand, and drains down through the columns below to an underground cistern.
Beneath the square, steps guarded by a much-photographed mosaic dragon/lizard lead to the Sala Hipóstila (the Doric Temple). This forest of 86 stone columns – some leaning like mighty trees bent by the weight of time – was originally intended as a market, with its tiled ceilings and Catalan vaults. On the east side of the Sala Hipóstila are the lavender-scented Jardins d'Àustria.
Just inside the park's (southern) Carrer d’Olot entrance, which sits below the Sala Hipóstila and is immediately recognisable by the two Hansel-and-Gretel gatehouses, stands the Casa del Guarda. This typically curvaceous former porter’s home hosts a display on Gaudí’s building methods and the history of the park. There are superb views from the top floor (and often long queues to get in).
The spired rosy-pink house over by the eastern entrance is the Casa-Museu Gaudí, where Gaudí lived for most of his last 20 years (1906–26). It contains furniture designed by him (including items that were once at home in La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Casa Calvet and Colonia Güell) and other memorabilia. The house was built in 1904 by Francesc Berenguer i Mestres as a prototype for the 60 or so houses that were originally planned here.
One-hour guided tours in multiple languages take place year-round and cost €12 (plus park admission); pre-book online. Private guided tours cost €45 per person (plus admission; minimum two people).
The Bus Güell shuttle (15 minutes; included in pre-bought tickets) was introduced in 2019, zipping visitors from Alfons X metro stop (línia 4) to the park's eastern entrance on Carretera del Carmel. Arriving by this route, you'll enter the restricted area from the top, at the Plaça de la Natura.
Alternatively, it's a 20-minute walk from Lesseps or Vallcarca metro stops; the uphill trek is eased by escalators. Buses H6 and D40 stop on Travessera de Dalt, 10 minutes' walk south of the park via Avinguda del Santuari de Sant Josep de la Muntaya (with escalators). Bus V19 stops at the eastern entrance.