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In 1984 UNESCO declared Barcelona’s Park Güell a World Heritage Site. It is one of the most impressive Gaudí projects in the city, and well worth the extra effort it takes to get up to the park from the city center.
A visit to the park takes planning and the better part of a day. Here are a few tips to help beat the crowds and make your experience a good one.
The park has an interesting history and was commissioned by Eusebi Güell (pronounced Goo-eh) in 1900. He and Gaudí envisioned a gated community for Barcelona’s rich movers and shakers. In 1900 the park was in the countryside, away from the hustle and noise of busy Barcelona. These days the park is within the city limits, though it isn’t centrally located. There were to be 60 houses in Eusebi Güell’s gated community, in addition to a large square, market area and other services needed to sustain the population.
However, Barcelona’s elite were not interested in Eusebi Güell’s plan, and only two of the 60 houses were built. WWI and the lack of interest saw the project abandoned in 1914, and eventually in 1922 the city turned the land into a public park. Until recently it was a functioning public park, with no entrance fees. However, now tourists have to pay €7 to get in, a price that does not include entrance into Gaudí House Museum, where the architect lived from 1906 until 1925. For those that like to plan ahead, you can even buy tickets online.
Hitting the park in the morning has a few advantages. One is that there are fewer people obstructing your photographs with Gaudí’s famous dragon fountain, and another is that it starts getting hot around 1 PM in Barcelona, especially from May to October. Wandering around in the afternoon sun in Park Güell in July or August could be a miserable trip due to the temperatures and lines. During low-season the park will be less crowded, and heatstroke won’t be much of an issue. For more information, see the opening times throughout the year.
There are few restaurant and cafe options in the park, but what is on offer is expensive. Plan ahead and bring a bottle of water, a couple sandwiches from your local bakery and some fruit from La Boqueria Market. Have a picnic on the beautiful Undulating Bench overlooking the city.
The park is enormous and set on a hillside that can be difficult to navigate without the proper footwear. You’ll be walking a lot and huffing and puffing uphill. Wear sneakers or shoes that aren’t going to kill your feet. Some of the pathways are made of dirt, so also use footwear you don’t mind getting dusty.
See tip one. It gets hot, especially in the summer. The last time I visited I got a sunburn, and it was May. There are shaded areas, but to explore the park fully, you’ll be trekking under the bright Mediterranean sunshine. Be prepared.
Many websites recommend taking the Metro to Lesseps and then walking up to the park. It’s an option, but it is not the fastest way, and it requires a lot of uphill hiking. If you’re fit and want some exercise, this is the route for you. If you want a quicker route, then take the bus 24 or 32 which will drop you off right by the park’s gates. When you leave the park, the walk to the Lesseps Metro stop, the green line, is not so bad because it’s all downhill. See more information on getting to the park and check out the Metro and bus schedules.
Some of the trails to the back of the park, away from the main attractions such as the courtyard, houses, entrance, dragon and marketplace, can be desolate and thieves have been spotted lurking in the bushes. Keep an eye out. It’s not dangerous to wander the park’s trails, but make sure you have your purse and camera across your chest and are aware of who and what is going on around you.
The extra €5.50 you’ll have to cough up to get into the Gaudí House Museum is worth it. Between the general park entrance and the museum entrance you’re looking at about €12. It’s a treat to tour around the house, nicknamed the ‘pink tower’, to see where the architect and his family lived from 1906 until 1925. Touring the house also offers an idea of what Gaudí and Güell had planned for the 60 proposed houses that were never constructed. When Gaudí left the ‘pink tower’ he moved to La Sagrada Família and lived on site until he was run over by a tram in 1926.
Finally, not everyone has to pay to get into the park. When the city decided to start charging visitors, locals were not happy. After all, many neighbors had been using the park for years as a green space to jog and walk Fido. Locals from the districts adjoining Park Güell (El Coll, Vallcarca-Penitents, La Salut, El Carmel and Can Baró) have free entry to the park all year. If you live in La Barceloneta, then you’re out of luck!
Plan, pack a lunch, and catch the bus for a morning at this must-see destination. There is nothing else quite like it in the world, and the vistas overlooking the city and Mediterranean are spectacular on a clear day. Enjoy one of the most unique parks in the world!