I am a poor tourist. When I went to Barcelona a few months ago, I did not visit the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell or Casa Milà. I did not book tickets in advance and I did not want to wait in line to purchase them. In addition, I do not really like crowds and crowded places, and in the end, I preferred to go hiking on the trails of the Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola rather than visit one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.
But as Gaudí is the darling of Barcelona, I admit that I felt a little bad to visit the city without seeing one of the works of the Catalan architect. In the end, I decided to visit Palau Güell, one of Gaudí’s first major works, before leaving Barcelona.
Antoni Gaudí was a Catalan architect known for his modernist style. At the beginning of his career, his works were noticed by Eusebi Güell, a rich industrialist from Barcelona, who became his patron and commissioned him various projects.
Among these, the Palau Güell, which was to serve as a family residence for Güell. Built between 1886 and 1891, the palace is located on a street adjacent to La Rambla and Gaudí had to deal with limited space right in downtown Barcelona. He therefore introduced new concepts of space and light, making the Palau Güell a residence like none other.
The interior of the Palau Güell is dark and somewhat austere, but the wealth of detail in each room is impressive. The central hall, around which the residence is built, is simply breathtaking. Four stories high, it is dominated by a parabolic dome where small openings allow light to enter and are used for ventilation.
The effect is striking, it almost feels like standing under a starry sky …
Although the Palau Güell was one of Gaudí’s first major works, you can already see what will eventually make the architect famous worldwide: an attention to detail, the integration of multiple decorative elements, the use of special techniques such as woodwork, ceramics and glassware and the use of particular geometric surfaces, often inspired by nature.
The Güell family lived in the residence for 20 years, before moving to the famous Park Güell. The residence has been preserved as is and in 1984 the Palau Güell was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list along with other architectural works by Gaudí.
The visit is done with the help of an audio guide (available in several languages). The audio guide is particularly useful because there are so many details in each room that some could easily go unnoticed. I do not know much about architecture, so the visit was highly informative.
All that ends with what is undoubtedly the highlight of the visit: the rooftop of the palace, which boasts 20 chimneys typical of Gaudí’s style. I was lucky, I was able to walk almost alone between these large colorful chimneys while the sun was setting slowly on Barcelona.
Another plus for me: there was no queue at the entrance at the time of my visit and the entrance ticket is half the price of the ticket for Casa Milà or Casa Batlló. A nice way for me to explore the world of Gaudí without having to face hordes of tourists!