In the spring of 2014, I visited Spain for the first time. I chose to fly to Barcelona for a weekend trip as I had has read a lot of this vibrant city, it’s culture and architecture and also it’s museums. On the day I reached, I had no fixed plan so I chose to take a public bus and go around the city and ended up near the National Museum of Art. As I was walking past it, I was drawn towards a beautiful gate and enquired about the place. I was told it is an open-air architectural museum. I bought a ticket and went in and was fascinated by what I saw. In this travel story, I am writing about my memories of that wonderful place, Poble Espanyol.
We normally think of a museum within a classic building with wonderful displays from throughout the world. And that is what my idea of a museum was until I visited this one with a totally different layout and design in Barcelona, Spain. Within the city this beautiful open-air architectural museum Poble Espanyol literally means Spanish Town.
Poble Espanyol is about 400 meters from the National Art Museum of Catalonia on the mountain of Montjuic. It was built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exposition, which ran between May 1929 and January 1930, to showcase Spanish architecture, culture and handicrafts.
The entire complex houses around 117 full size buildings from the various regions of the Iberian Peninsula. It has the vibes of a small township on its own with theatre, shops, restaurants, artisan workshops, church. There is also a museum of contemporary art in Poble Espanyol.
The creative idea behind Poble Espanyol was by Catalan architect Puig Cadafalch. The designers who gave shape to Puig’s idea were architects Francesc Folguera and Ramon Reventos, art critic Miquel Utrillo and painter Xavier Nogues.
The designers travelled to more than 1600 sites in Spain to study the regions, made notes and sketches, took hundreds of photos and collected samples to recreate the exact characteristics of the roads, buildings, squares, and crafts of those regions.
They created areas within Poble Espanyol representing fifteen regions of Spain. All the regions other than La Rioja and the Canary Islands are included in this complex. This is because when Poble Espanyol was designed, La Rioja was not a separate region within Spain. And the Canary Islands were left out because the designers did not have the funds to visit the islands and collect samples.
The exhibition was so successful that when the International Exposition finally closed, the City Council decided to preserve the entire area. It did fall into some despair but was renovated over the years and brought to its former glory. This recreation of Spanish regions includes the streets, squares, church and facades of the buildings.
Today Poble Espanyol holds various events like food festivals, concerts, flamenco shows and even private events. Within the workshops in this museum complex are various artisans who create items using glass, leather, ceramics and other metals. The shops sell all these handmade items and there are also local food produce and olive oil items which can be bought. There are also bars and restaurants serving Spanish cuisine from the different regions.
Within Poble Espanyol, the Fran Daurel Museum displays arts from contemporary Catalan artists and also has works of Picasso, Dali et al. It houses paintings, sculptures, ceramics and a sculpture garden.
The theatre in Poble Espanyol holds regular plays, dance and music shows. And the Tablao de Carmen is a popular flamenco theatre cum restaurant where the famous dancer Carmen Amaya once performed. The flamenco shows in Tablao de Carmen are supposed to be one of the best in Barcelona.
There are also activities for children every Sunday and various shows like Puppet shows, Nativity at Christmas time and other carnivals.
Once you enter and walk within this mini township area through the entrance gate, you are filled with awe at the beauty of the layout of the roads, the squares, the planters with flowers. It is as if you are walking within various Spanish districts without the traffic and enjoying a walk through Spanish Architecture. It is a wonderful place to visit in Barcelona and I would highly recommend it.
- You need a ticket to enter the museum complex which can be bought online or at the gate.
- Various activities are scheduled throughout the year .
- Theatre of other activity tickets can be bought as a combination with the entry ticket.
- You need at least half a day to enjoy this place.
- For more details please check out the Poble Espanyol website here https://www.poble-espanyol.com/en/
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