The hospital Sant Pau in Barcelona is your window to art nouveau. The moment you enter the gate, you know you’re inside a place that would take you to bygone times. Nothing on the exterior that shows a clue that this was once a hospital. From the outside, the pointed spires and well-decorated walls and windows give you a Gothic feel but wait until you see its interior.
Where is it? I’m not really good at remembering addresses, but it’s less than 10 minutes walk from Sagrada de Familia. My google map led me there. If you ask a local who lives around Sagrada, there’s no way he won’t know. If you find a gas station at the corner and face it, follow the street on its left, lined with cafes. The closest subway/metro is Sant Pau or Dos de Main.
What is art nouveau?
Hospital Sant Pau in Barcelona is a breathtaking example of art nouveau architecture, with its delicate curves and intricate details. As far as I know, it’s simply a style of decorative art in architecture. Europe has a lot of these.
A Heritage Site
Due to its historical, artistic, and cultural significance, UNESCO declared the complex a heritage site. Designed by renowned Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the hospital was built between 1901 and 1930. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is considered one of the most important works of art nouveau in the world.
What’s inside? There are gardens and buildings that used to be hospitals. However, many of these structures weren’t open when I was there. The main building (the one you see at the entrance) was the only one where visitors were allowed to get in. The rest were closed or were under renovation. There was an exhibition in one of the buildings, but the doors were closed. Nowadays, it houses the Catalan Library.
One of the hospital’s most iconic features is the “Hall of Emperor Charlemagne,” a stunning dome-shaped space that was once the main entrance to the hospital. It is decorated with murals depicting the life of the famous ruler and is a true masterpiece of art nouveau design.
Look up and down
Whether you’re admiring its exterior or interior, the decorative details will leave you breathless. Scan every facade, dome, tile, wall, sculpture, frescoes, stained-glass window, door, and buttress. The incredible patterns all harmonize to create a space that could, perhaps, heal wounded patients.
Tour. They have tours but only at certain times of the day. Or do it on your own.
Inside Hospital Sant Pau, visitors can marvel at the incredible detail of the building’s architecture, from the intricate tile work to the stained glass windows and sculptures. The hospital’s central courtyard, the “Garden of Earthly Delights,” is a beautiful oasis replete with lush plants and fountains.
In addition to its stunning architecture, Hospital Sant Pau has an interesting, rich history. It was originally founded in 1401 as a hospital for the poor and, over the centuries, has evolved into a world-class medical center. Today, it is a center for research and innovation in the field of healthcare.
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WHERE TO STAY IN BARCELONA
I stayed in these two hostels in Barcelona: Urbany Hostel BCN Go and TOC Hostel Barcelona. I’d recommend both. They’re in a good location and very accessible to the metro. There are also shops and restaurants all around the area. However, when it comes to comfort and amenities, I’d prefer TOC Hostel because the rooms are spacious and the beds are sturdy. They have a nice cafe and a swimming pool, too!