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Getaway to Reus: Modernisme galore and a city of shopping

Casa Navàs, the Institut Pere Mata and the Gaudí Centre are just three of the places you’ll visit during this trip

Written by
Xavier Amat

In the birthplace of Antoni Gaudí you'll see some exceptional buildings, both inside and out, created by Domènech i Montaner and other architects of the time. The shopping areas are among the other main attractions of this lovely Costa Daurada town, where you’ll also take the time to stop for a vermouth.

Afternoon day 1: The Modernisme Route

After Barcelona, Reus is the Catalan city with the most modernista buildings. And some of the most emblematic can be found around the city centre, making them easy to visit on foot, by following the signposted itinerary (Ruta del Modernisme) and looking out for the included buildings that are identified with a plaque. Collect a leaflet with all the details from the Tourist Office, situated in Plaça del Mercadal. In fact, this square is an excellent place to start your tour, as it’s where you’ll find the magnificent Casa Navàs, a work of genius by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Admire it from the outside now, but tomorrow morning you’ll get to know it from the inside as well, on a guided tour that you have to reserve in advance at the same Tourist Office. One place you can go into today is the material shop on the ground floor, also designed by Domènech i Montaner and which retains its original furniture and the commercial spirit of the early 20th century.

Next take C/Monterols, which has two houses by the architect Pere Caselles (the most prolific of the modernista era in Reus), and a little further on, in the Raval de Santa Anna, you can see side-by-side Casa Serra by Joan Rubió, and Casa Marco by Pere Domènech. On C/Llovera, there are four impressive modernista buildings, three of which are by Caselles, and the other by José Subietas. Caselles is also the man behind Casa Ramon Vendrell on C/Ample, and Casa Sardà and the Prat de la Riba schools, found on the avenue of the same name as the latter (after the first president of the Catalan Mancomunitat). Once past the schools, take a left on to Passeig de Sunyer, where there are two important industrial buildings: the Enologica station (another Caselles construction) and, practically just behind it, the old slaughterhouse, a joint creation of Caselles and Francesc Borràs that is nowadays a municipal library.

Now take C/Sant Joan, which features a significant number of inclusions on the Ruta del Modernisme, including the Anti-tuberculosis Clinic, a work by Gaudí’s disciple and collaborator Joan Rubió i Bellver, that is separated from the road by a small garden. There are also two important works by Domènech i Montaner: Casa Rull and Casa Gasull. Casa Rull, dating from 1900, was the first private commission that Domènech i Montaner received in Reus following his arrival in the city to construct the Institut Pere Mata. Casa Gasull was built by the olive oil entrepreneur Felix Gasull in 1911, and marked the arrival of the Noucentisme style in Reus. In Plaça de Prim, take the Raval de Jesús, which will bring you to the splendid Casa Munné and, to the left, Casa Iglésias, both Caselles creations. You’ll end up back in Plaça del Mercadal, but you can extend the tour slightly by visiting Raval de Sant Pere, where you’ll find Casa Homdedéu and Casa Anguera. Finally, return once more to Mercadal via C/Galanes, coming out next to Casa Piñol.

This route is a way to discover not only local modernista buildings but also other noteworthy points in Reus, such as the popular Plaça Prim, with its sculpture of the eponymous militaryman and politician who hailed from the town, the historic Fortuny theatre, and some of the most notable shopping streets in town. Various places (such as the shop on the ground floor of Casa Navàs described above) have preserved their early charm: good examples of this are the Cereria Salvadó (a candle shop on Plaça del Castell) and El Barato (on Plaça de Sant Pere).

Morning day 2: Casa Navàs and the markets

If today’s Saturday and you’ve signed up in advance, you can visit the inside of Casa Navàs, one of the most spectacular modernista houses in Europe. Located on a corner of Plaça del Mercadal, the interior reflects the high social standing of businessman Joaquim Navàs, who commissioned Domènech i Montaner to design the building. Ceramics, windows, sgraffito and mosaics combine to produce a beautiful home, enhanced by the modernista furniture of Gaspar Homar.

Once your visit is complete, take a walk around the central market of Reus, on C/Sardà i Cailà, open since 1949 but completely remodelled at the start of the 1990s and now a place to buy a wide variety of quality local products. At the market you’ll find, among other items, Siurana olive oil (DOP, or Protected Designation of Origin), Reus hazelnuts (DO, Designation of Origin) and excellent local wines (DO). It’s also worth checking out the outdoor stalls around the exterior of the market, a lively area where you can find just about anything and everything to buy.

Before heading for lunch, you should stop somewhere for a ‘Reus vermouth’, the typical drink of the city. We suggest La Ferreteria (Plaça de la Farinera), El Cafè de Reus (C/Metge Fortuny, with a terrace on Plaça del Mercadal) or Casa Coder (Plaça Mercadal), as they all occupy the premises of historical businesses and have kept some of the original decoration.

Afternoon day 2: The Pere Mata Institute

Another building whose interior is worth exploring is the Domènech i Montaner–designed Institut Pere Mata, a psychiatric hospital. To get there, you’ll have to head around 2 kilometres out of the town centre (there’s a free car park at the institute). The Pavelló dels Distinguits, the most luxurious section that was aimed at wealthy patients, is open for tours every Saturday from noon to 2pm, and later from 4pm to 6pm, while from June to September it’s also possible to visit from Monday to Saturday from 11am to 1pm, and from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

A forerunner of Barcelona’s Hospital de Sant Pau, the Pere Mata psychiatric institute is composed of various pavillions just like the hospital in the Catalan capital. The man behind it was Doctor Emili Briansó, and the building works started in 1898. You’ll love the richly detailed exterior of the Pavelló dels Distingits, which includes ceramic panels and sculptured elements on both façades. Inside, Domènech i Montaner was able to call on some of the most important names of the time to design a range of features, from the Roman mosaics on the floor of the foyer and the dining room to the windows, parquet flooring in the billiard room, mural in the noble rooms, lamps, and the ceiling above the staircase. Today you’ll find all this in a perfect state of conservation, as well as original furniture in the bedrooms and waiting rooms – all in all, an excellent example of extravagant and elegant decoration that also has a functional purpose.

Once back in the city, you should visit the Vermouth Museum in C/Vallroquetes, which opened its doors at the start of 2015 in a modernista building. Inside it has over 1,400 bottles and 300 posters from around the world related to the drink. You can also do a tasting of Reus vermouth and, if you like, stay to have supper in its restaurant.

Morning day 3: Antoni Gaudí study centre

Head once more to Plaça del Mercadal, which is where you’ll find the Reus Gaudí Centre, dedicated to in-depth exploration of the work of the architect. Antoni Gaudí spent the first 16 years of his life in Reus, before heading to Barcelona, where he carried out the majority of his work. This modern and groundbreaking educational centre brings him to life.

Your visit starts on the uppermost floor with a spectacular three-way audiovisual presentation, which you follow on turning stools; when this comes to an end, a door opens onto the world of Gaudí, with a selection of huge models that reproduce some of the most well-known elements of his buildings. There are also interactive exhibits and an area where you can discover some of the architect’s great enigmas. In addition, the Reus Gaudí Centre has recently opened a new exhibition space on its first floor: ‘Gaudí and Modernisme in Reus’, dedicated to Lluís Domènech i Montaner and the city’s modernista heritage. Highlights there include an audiovisual presentation with indoor mapping effects that transport visitors from the Europe of the Art Nouveau period to the work of Domènech i Montaner in the city of Reus.

For lunch the Gaudí Centre has a restaurant on the top-floor terrace from which the views of the square and the city’s bell tower are fantastic.

Day 3 afternoon: The childhood streets of the genius

Although Gaudí didn’t construct any buildings in Reus, there are many elements of his life there that are well-known – for instance, where he lived for the first few years of his life (No. 4, C/Sant Vicenç), the church where he was baptised (the priory of Sant Pere), the school where he studied and the sanctuary where he went various times on a pilgrimage (the sanctuary of Misericòrdia). The Gaudí Route (Ruta Gaudí) will take you to all these places and more, and it's also a good way to conclude your visit to the city. One special feature is the bronze sculpture entitled ‘Gaudí nen’ (‘The boy Gaudí’), by Artur Aldomà, which has become a popular spot for taking selfies.

And now your packed trip to Reus is coming to an end. Want to leave with a good taste in your mouth? Did you like the vermouth? Is someone else driving? Head back to C/Vicenç where you’ll find the former Rofes vermouth factory. Today it’s a restaurant, but they still serve Vermut Rofes there.


Cultural venues

Gaudí Centre Reus
  • Museums
  • History

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.

Pere Mata Institute
  • Attractions

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

Reus Museum
  • Museums
  • Art and design

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.

Mas Iglesias Centre for the Image
  • Museums

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.

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