Spring and summer getaway to Reus

The cultural and commercial powerhouse of southern Catalonia



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The Costa Daurada has been a breeding ground for artists and geniuses like Antoni Gaudí, and on this getaway we'll be following in his footsteps around the streets that he knew during his childhood and as a young man. Reus has always been synonymous with dynamism. The town's theatres offer a stable programme of high quality productions, it has avant-garde art spaces like the Gaudí Centre, it has museums with interesting collections and exhibitions, and its streets are full of modernista style buildings and tributes to its most illustrious sons. At the same time, you only have to stroll around Plaça del Mercadal to get an idea of the airs of commerce that exist here, along with a varied selection of great restaurants. In the next few hours we'll be getting a taste of the best that the capital of the Baix Camp region has to offer.

Morning day 1: Of markets and modernism

We'll begin our trip by visiting the markets of Reus, where you'll find plenty of fresh, high-quality products. So, if you have to do some cooking during your stay, you can always call in at these two municipal markets and have a lot of fresh food to choose from.

In Carrer de Sardà i Cailà, in the so called vuit comercial, you'll find the Central Market, which dates from 1949 and was thoroughly refurbished in the 1990s. It's open from Monday to Saturday and has 127 stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Mercat del Carrilet, in Carretera de Salou in the south east of the city, is also open every day of the week except Sunday. It has 88 stalls to choose among. Between these two food markets, there's a street market with up to 200 stalls selling clothes, shoes, accessories and kitchen implements. It's held in the surroundings of the Central Market on Saturdays and Mondays and near Mercat del Carrilet every Wednesday.

When we've done our shopping, we can head for the heart of Reus, the beautiful Plaça del Mercadal. Among the attractive buildings here, Casa Navàs stands out as one of the most beautiful and elegant modernista style constructions, not only in Reus, but in the whole of Catalonia. Standing on the corner of Carrer de Jesús, its was designed for Joaquim Navàs by Lluís Domènech i Montaner between 1901 and 1907 as a ground floor textile business space, which is still operational today, with living quarters on the first floor that reflected the high social status of its owner. Despite the damage caused by the bombing of the city in 1938, we can still admire its façade and visit its interior (visits take place on Saturday mornings and require pre-booking at the Tourist Information Office) to explore its magnificent decoration, with modernista -style ceramics, mosaics, engravings and stained glass, along with furniture by Gaspar Homar.

Afternoon day 1: The Pavilion of the Distinguished

If you liked your morning visit to Casa Navàs, you'll be pleased to know that we have another treat in store for you this afternoon. To see it you'll have to head some two kilometres out of the town centre to the Pere Mata psychiatric institute. The style of the buildings here will be familiar to you if you've seen Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona. Like its counterpart, the institute is laid out as a complex of different pavilions designed in the modernista style by Domènech i Montaner. The construction project was the initiative of Doctor Emili Briansó, who saw the need for Reus to have its own facilities for treating mentally ill patients. Work was begun in 1898 and the first pavilions were opened only two years later. Nowadays only a part of the hospital is operational and one of the pavilions, number six, known as the "Pavilion of the Distinguished" is open for visits and hosts cultural events. Don't miss it if you go to Reus.

The Pavilion of the Distinguished is very beautiful. Its exterior is richer than the other pavilions, with ceramic panels and sculptures on both façades. But it's when you pass through the door that you take a leap back in time to be surrounded by modernista-style splendour. The pavilion was designed to house patients with high purchasing power and they enjoyed all kinds of amenities. Domenech recruited other big designer names of the moment to design everything from the Roman mosaics in the lobby and the dining room to the stained glass windows, the parquet floor in the billiard room, the murals in the main rooms, the lamps and the ceilings of the staircase. Today all of this is perfectly preserved, including the original furniture in the bedrooms and halls. Here splendour and elegance are married to functionality, as is so often the case with modernista design.

We've kept some time at the end of the afternoon for some shopping. We've already mentioned the fact that Reus is a commercial powerhouse, so let's head back to the town centre for a relaxing stroll around its pedestrianised streets to browse around in some of its 600 establishments, some of them with big brand names and others with a long tradition in the town. Some of the most emblematic and historical establishments are Cereria Salvadó, Queralt tailor shop, el Barato, and the previously-mentioned Casa Navàs.

Morning day 2: Tributes to Gaudí and Tapiró

This morning we'll return to Plaça del Mercadal to visit another building that stands out, but for its contemporary, rather than modernista design. We're talking about the Gaudí Centre Reus. The renowned architect was baptized in the capital of the Baix Camp and lived there until he went to study architecture in Barcelona in 1870, so everybody in Reus considers him to be one of the town's distinguished sons. But even though Reus has many modernista style buildings, none of them are by Gaudi. So this interpretation center serves to vindicate and highlight his local roots. We will never know now whether Gaudi would ever have designed a building like this, but it is clearly an innovative design. The visit starts on the top floor with a spectacular three-way audiovisual presentation that you follow on revolving stools. Then the imaginative world of Gaudí is opened up before you, with a handful of gigantic models reproducing some of his most famous buildings, together with interactive spaces that delve into some of his great enigmas. It's quite an experience and a great way to learn more about the work of one of the best known architects in the world.

We can also use tht morning to see an interesting temporary exhibition at the Reus Museum. It's a tribute to Josep Tapiró i Baró, who was born in Reus in 1836 and died in Tangiers in 1913 (last year being the centenary of his death). His fate was the opposite of that of many artists, since he was fairly well-known in life but has been largely forgotten since. The exhibition contains 64 of his paintings and occupies the ground floor of the museum. In fact, the exhibition is divided into two stages: in the first, from the 5th of April to the 31st of May, paintings dating from his days in Rome are on display. At the time of writing these lines, we have been able to visit this first part of the exhibition and see how his vivid, realistic water colour painting style brings to life the colours and details of his subjects, especially in portraits like Berber Bride (1883).

Don't miss the chance to go up to the first floor of the museum to see the Salvador Vilaseca collection of archaeological finds, all of which come from excavations in the Baix Camp and Priorat regions.

And now perhaps we deserve to sit down for a good vermouth. Vermouth is a typical product of Reus, appreciated throughout the country for its quality. It was in the capital of the Baix Camp where it was first developed in the late nineteenth century, and there came to be more than thirty houses manufacturing fifty different brands of vermouth, a unique case in the world. Today on any Reus terrace you can enjoy a good "vermouth from Reus", either red or white, accompanied by the typical and equally good local hazelnuts.

Afternoon day 2: Beyond Domènech i Montaner

We have already seen two excellent designs by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, but Reus has plenty other examples of the modernista style. The best way of exploring these buildings is by following the Modernisme Route, which is laid out on various leaflets available from the Tourist Information Office. Every building on the root has a plaque indicating the name of the building, its architect (with an absolute predominance of Pere Caselles), and its year of construction.

The starting point is Plaça del Mercadal, and the previously mentioned Casa Navàs. From here, take Carrer de Monterols, where you'll find two houses designed by Pere Caselles, and then turn right into Raval de Santa Anna, where, after walking a few metres, you'll come across Casa Serra by Joan Rubió on one side of the street and Casa Marco by Pere Domènech on the other. Go back up the same street and turn right into Carrer de Llovera, where four examples of modernista architecture are grouped together, three by Caselles and one by José Subietas. Caselles also designed Casa Ramon Vendrell in Carrer Ample, and Casa Sardà and the Prat de la Riba schoolhouse, which can both be found in Avinguda Prat de la Riba. After passing the schoolhouse, turn left into Passeig de Sunyer and walk to the Enological Station, which was also designed by Caselles, and, practically right behind it, the slaughterhouse, which was designed by Caselles and Francesc Borràs. We'll now look for Carrer de Sant Joan which, like Carrer de Llovera, is crammed with modernista-style buildings, including Casa Gasull and the Antituberculosis Dispensary, separated from the street by a small garden. You'll also see Casa Rull, built in 1900, which was the first private commission (by the notary Pere Rull) carried out by Domènech i Montaner in Reus after arriving in the city to build the Pere Mata Institute. In Plaça Prim, we'll take Raval de Jesús until we reach Casa Munné, and heading right, Casa Iglésias, both of which were designed by Caselles. We'll find ourselves back in Plaça del Mercadal, but we can prolong our itinerary if we walk down Raval de Sant Pere, where we'll find Casa Homdedéu and Casa Anguera. Head back to Plaça del Mercadal via Carrer de Galanes where you'll emerge next to Casa Piñol.

If you have time and want to explore more, you can follow the Gaudí Route. Even though Gaudí didn't leave any work behind in Reus, this itinerary takes us to the exterior of the house where he lived as a child at number 4 Carrer de Sant Vicenç, the Church of Sant Pere, where he was baptised, and the Santuary of Misericòrdia, where Gaudí went a number of times as a pilgrim. Near the first of these places, you'll find an especially attractive bronze sculpture by Artur Aldomà depicting Gaudí as a child.



Cultural venues

Gaudí Centre Reus

Although he designed no building in Reus, the architect Antoni Gaudí is a constant presence in the city. Located in the bustling Plaça del Mercadal, this centre uses the latest technology and spectacular scale models to explore his life and works, making a visit here a complete experience for the senses.

  1. Plaça del Mercadal, 3, (Reus)
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Pere Mata Institute

Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, this psychiatric hospital, considered to be one of the jewels of European Modernisme, is located about 10 minutes drive from the centre of Reus. The magnificent “Pavilion of the Distinguished” is the only part of the ensemble that is open to visits and cultural events, and preserves all of its spectacular original decor (stained glass, ceramics, mosaics, furniture ...). The guided tour is free and lasts approximately 40 minutes

  1. Carretera de l'Institut Pere Mata, 1, (Reus)
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Reus Museum

The ground floor of this museum hosts temporary exhibitions. Until the end of May you can see an extensive sample of the work of painter Josep Tapiró. On the upper floor there is a permanent collection of archaeological exhibits with pieces from prehistory to modern times.

  1. Raval de Santa Anna, 59, (Reus)
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Mas Iglesias Centre for the Image

This centre is dedicated to the preservation, study and dissemination of the documental and artistic patrimony of the image. Since 2007 it has organized the international Memorimage Festival.

  1. C/ Jaume Vidal i Alcover, 6, (Reus)
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