Everything about Gaudi’s Artigas Gardens
JARDINS ARTIGAS, A MINI PARK GUELL IN THE MOUNTAINS
When you think about Gaudi sites, you think mostly of Barcelona city. Of course, that’s where the architect’s masterpieces are. But there’s also hidden gems located in local villages off the beaten path, and the Jardins Artigas are one of them that mostly only locals know about. If you are a Gaudi fan, or have been to Barcelona enough times to want to explore the countryside off the beaten path, keep reading!
Some historical background about the Jardins Artigas
The Count Eusebi Guell, Gaudi’s best friend and most important patron, founded in 1901 one of the first concrete factories in Spain. It was located in Castellar de N’hug, a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees. Two years later, the Count asked Gaudi to build a residence for the engineers and high rank professionals working on the nearby coal mines that provided energy for the concrete factory furnaces. Gaudi travelled there to visit the area where the residence had to be built, and he stayed for two nights at the house of a friend of the Count, the local industrialist Joan Artigas, in the nearby town of La Pobla de Lillet.
During Gaudi’s stay, Mr. Artigas expressed his desire of having a garden along the Llobregat river that passed behind their factory, and as a token of gratitude, Gaudi drew a sketch for them. However he didn’t stay to direct the works. Instead he sent a couple of the masons working for him in Park Guell to perform the job (mainly the grotto by the entrance). The rest was built by a local building firm following Gaudi’s plans.
Similitudes with Park Guell (Barcelona)
Antoni Gaudi worked in the project of Park Guell between 1900-1914, and it was also a project commissioned by the Count Guell. Water is a central element in both gardens, but in Park Guell it plays a more timid role, hidden in the drainage system inside the columns of the Hypostile Room, and only gently surfacing in the fountains of the main staircase. Instead, in the Artigas Gardens everything revolves around the white waters of the Llobregat river, with bridges, balconies and view points overlooking it.
Gaudi also uses rough blocks of stone to cover some structures of Park Guell (like the viaducts and some balustrades), but while in Park Guell the colorful mosaics steal the show, in Jardins Artigas he allows nature to bring in the color of the surrounding greenery. In both cases, though, his goal is to integrate his architecture into the nature.
Decadence and recovery
Towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, in 1939, textile factory owned by the Artigas family was destroyed in a fire, and eventually the family moved to Barcelona in the 1950’s. That’s when the Artigas Gardens were abandoned and forgotten due to its difficult access, and to the fact that by then the Gaudi works and the Modernism style in general had gone out of fashion and people weren’t interested on them anymore.
In 1971, a Catalan journalist named R. Bonamusa met a retired mason that had worked in the construction of the Artigas Gardens as a young man. It was this man who confirmed that Gaudi had indeed designed the project even if he didn’t direct the works in person. But it would be until a few years later, when the Catedra Gaudi (a university institution specialized in Gaudi architecture) started a serious research about it from a doctoral thesis of one of their students. In 1992 the gardens were restored and eventually open to the public.
Visiting the Artigas Gardens
Getting there and other logistics
The Jardins Artigas are located in the outskirts of La Pobla de Lillet, a Catalan town at the foot of the Pyrenees, some 130km / 80 miles from Barcelona. You can drive there in just over 1.5 hours via the C-16 road. Avoid the C-17 because even if the distance is similar, the last half an hour is a nightmare of winding mountain roads likely to get you carsick (beautiful landscape, though!).
Public transportation is not a good choice: there’s no train taking you there, and no direct buses either. Your only option is to take the Alsa Bus to Berga departing from Barcelona Nord station, then switching to another Alsa Bus to La Pobla de Lillet. The frequency is very low and you might not be able to make it on the same day, having to stay overnight either in La Pobla de Lillet or Berga. Another option is to use a carpool service such as Blablacar. Or for the most stylish and informative way to visit, you might want to consider our private tour of Colonia Guell and Jardins Artigas.
In any case, from La Pobla de Lillet departs a narrow road to the Artigas Gardens. It’s some 15 minutes walk from the village, or you can take the little tourist train that runs during the high season, or if you are driving, there’s a parking lot before reaching the gardens and just after crossing a metal bridge, and from there it’s a 5 minutes walk to the Jardins Artigas entrance.
IMPORTANT: The Artigas Gardens are NOT adapted for wheelchairs or strollers, and the visit involves several short flights of steps.
Magnesium Oxide Fountain
It’s a type of construction that was also used in Park Guell, which Gaudi was building simultaneously in Barcelona, and it incorporates catenarian arches, a Gaudi signature construction element. From there, a set of steps lead to the fountain, topped by a sculpture of a Lion – Mark the Evangelist, according to the Catholic tradition. Just like the rest of the sculptures in the garden, they are reproductions by the artist Ramon Millet added as part of the restoration works.
The Bridge and the Pergola
A bit further away, an artificial waterfall refreshes the atmosphere. It used to be topped by the Angel of Mathew the Evangelist, but that’s the only sculpture that wasn’t redone during the restoration works.
The Picnic spot and the Arched bridge
At the entrance of the bridge stand two sculptures of a man and a woman, doubling as flowerpots. Once at the other side of the river the path will continue, lined up with exotic plants sent by Gaudi from Park Guell, until you reach the exit.
Other things to do in near Gaudi's Artigas Gardens
- Visit the Museum of Cement, Count Guell’s old factory, which closed in 1975 and is not a very educational museum, reachable by the same tourist train that stops over the Artigas Gardens.
- See the Xalet Catllaras, designed by Gaudi. Although only from outside, because it’s currently being restored after being used for years as a kids Summer camp facility.
- Take an easy hike to the Fonts del Llobregat, a world of mountain waterfalls where starts on of the most important rivers in Catalonia.
Will you be visiting the Jardins Artigas while you are in Barcelona?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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