Early 2008 saw the (partial) re-opening of one of Barcelona’s top attractions – Palau Güell, or the Güell Palace. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and if you happen to pass down Las Ramblas for a stroll, then it's well worth a look!
Around two thirds of the way down of the city's most famous street Las Ramblas, on Nou de la Rambla Street is one of Barcelona’s most visited attractions – Palau Güell. This wonderful edifice was designed by Antoni Gaudi and was his first work, and the only project which he actually completed and has not been altered or touched since.
Eusebi Güell was a politician and religious man who shared many views on life with Gaudi, and he commissioned the Palace to be built as his downtown home away from the hights of Pedralbes where he normally lived. With Gaudi as the main architect, work started in 1886 and took approximately 4 years to complete, using the finest materials available at the time and stretching the boundaries of architectural form and style.
The result is a marvel among the modern-day neighbours of supermarkets and fast food joints, and was home to the Güell family until 1936 – when the Spanish civil war started.
During the Spanish civil war, the Palace was confiscated and used as a military barracks, and when it was returned to Güell’s daughter it was in such a poor state that she decided to hand it over to the Barcelona council. Renovation work started in 1992 – co-inciding with the Olympic Games in Barcelona – and has continued at a steady pace until now. Early 2008 saw the re-opening of the façade, the basement (originally used as a stable and pantry) and the entrance hall (including the gift shop).
In 1984, UNESCO declared the Palau Güell as a World Heritage Site (one of 9 that Barcelona boasts, and not the only one also by the hand of Gaudi) and the free entrance makes Palau Güell one of the most visited attractions to the city. The son of ironmongers, Gaudi used wrought iron to great effect in many of his works (La Pedrera to name but one) and this can also be seen with Palau Güell, with the striking entrance with decorative vines and snakes.
One of the most breathtaking aspects to the building is the rooftop, comprising of 20 decorated chimneys and offering an amazing view around Barcelona. Before the recent renovations stared, guided tours would take you through the entrance, into the basement, along some of the apartment rooms and up onto the rooftop. The guides are real fonts of knowledge and have extensive information about the building and its origins as well as the materials used. Let's hope the complete renovations will not take too much longer in nearing completion, so as to be able to enjoy one of the best free sights that Barcelona has to offer.
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