In this guest post from Beth Davidson, we explore the fantastical Gaudi world of Barcelona, from the fairytale atmosphere of Parc Guell to the fantastical architecture of La Sagrada Familia
Before I went to Barcelona, I had certain expectations stemming from what I had been told from friends and family and experiences I had had in other parts of Spain with their colonial architecture and typically Spanish landscapes.
When I landed, however, it was like I had stepped into the pages of a colourful children’s book or a highly descriptive fantasy world; the bubble of Barcelona. From Gaudi’s impressive buildings to the street performers that lined La Rambla, there is something awe-inspiring at every twist and turn. It felt like my eyes had been opened for the first time to a place so colourful and new yet so historic and cultural at the same time.
The place that emanated this theme the most was Parc Guell, with its quirky Hansel and Gretel like architecture, winding paths, and lively buskers. Walking through this natural haven offered a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city that was visible from atop the hill, and even the crowds couldn’t diminish the magical atmosphere that swathed the urban park.
Whilst it is a hugely popular attraction, there were still nooks and crannies here and there that offered much needed seclusion. I could have spent hours just meandering amongst the vibrant tropical plants, stopping every now and again to marvel at the cute buildings that popped up.
It wasn’t just the park itself that instilled a storybook vibe, but the journey there too. Entering through the top means a lengthy trawl up an aggressively steep hill or the much more comfortable option of taking the outdoor – yes, outdoor – escalators.
As I rose higher and higher past quaint ice-cream shops and rustic houses, it felt as if I was ascending to a different world. When I reached the top, my feelings were confirmed as I was greeted by spectacular views across the city; the Sagrada Familia a toy version of itself in the distance. I was like a giant looking over the city that never sleeps.
Inside the park I made my way to the bottom, the scenery around me getting more and more fantastical the lower I went. The lower section is where you will find the hub of visitors swarming around Gaudi’s work; the topsy-turvy tunnel, the seating area shaped like a sea-dragon, the bubbly white steps leading down to the edge of the park. On either side of the exit sit two beautifully designed buildings that look as if they have been copied from a Dr. Seuss book and pasted into the centre of Barcelona; the perfect way to leave the dream-like world of Parc Guell.
La Sagrada Familia
Gaudi’s handprints are all over Barcelona and this is one of the reasons for its fantasy feel; he didn’t believe in straight lines so everything has a higgledy-piggledy exterior like psychedelic versions of their normal forms.
La Sagrada Familia is no exception. Queuing to get inside was an experience in itself – not a particularly pleasant experience in the midday Autumn heat. But, when you’re standing next to a building as magnificent as this, it is hard to be annoyed.
The exterior is an amalgamation of architectural aspects that in theory shouldn’t work well together, but in fact complement each other superbly. This mix of old and new, elaborate and sleek serves to impart a dream-like state over the building – one that doesn’t disappear upon entering.
Inside, the vibrant stained glass windows and smooth, glossy columns felt like yet another world; like a bubble inside a bubble. The elaborate, intricate details that adorn the exterior do not prepare you for the highly modern – albeit still unfinished – interior. It was almost as if two worlds had collided within the same building.
It isn’t just Gaudi that has characterised Barcelona as a page from a children’s book. The evidence is everywhere, including the highly touristic La Rambla. Walking down the wide boulevard is like entering into a comical theatre display with costumed performers providing entertainment against a backdrop of tapas food and souvenir shops.
The streets of Barcelona are at once a stage, a museum, and an art gallery with a dash of fantasy provided by the eclectic architecture, architecture which I can’t wait to go back and see. After all, everyone needs to escape now and again!
Author Bio: Ever since she can remember, Beth Davidson has had a fascination with art, design and travel. After being bitten by the travel bug, she has been to numerous countries spanning three continents and is particularly interested in the way a places’ art can teach us more about its culture and history. Find out more about Beth and her interests at her World Art and Travel Blog.
More things to enjoy in Barcelona
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