Spring and summer getaway to Baix Llobregat
Catalan modernism meets nature in a region that’s full of history
The modernista spirit of Baix Llobregat is one of the attractions of a region that preserves some extraordinary examples of a magical architectural period. The Colonia Güell and Crypt in Santa Coloma de Cervelló are the cherries on the cake, though the itinerary we propose also includes less well known, though equally interesting sites. The Delta del Llobregat natural park and El Bosc adventure park are other outdoor activities that invite us to make the most of the good weather and enjoy these privileged surroundings.
Afternoon day 1: Modernisme in Sant Feliu de Llobregat
Glazed ceramics, wrought iron, brickwork, Catalan vaults ... all the most important elements of Modernisme can be seen in more than 25 buildings in Sant Feliu de Llobregat through a comprehensive tour accessible to everyone. Thanks to the town's moderniste route, you can see the most iconic buildings of the Catalan architectural movement which changed the face of cities and towns around the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The town council schedules guided visits around the buildings that make up the modernisme route. On the third Sunday of every month, at midday, you can take part in guided visits by the association Arrels Locals, for which pre-booking is required. But if you prefer to make your own way around, you can consult the route on the municipal website and even download audioguides to the different points on the route.
The moderniste route begins at the station of Sant Feliu, which became one of the key points for the urban transformation that the city experienced with the implementation of the urban development plan, known as the pla de l'Eixample, initiated at the beginning of the 20th century with the aim of connecting the old town and the train station. From the square outside the station we can see a building with four apartments on one of the corners of Passeig Nadal designed by Joan Batllori which display the ornamental motifs with natural elements that are so characteristic of modernisme.
Another stop on the route is at the main building of La Unió Coral, an institution which was created in 1892 and commissioned the municipal architect Gabriel Borrell to build their headquarters in 1906. Located at Passeig Bertrand, 13, the building is an example of a moderate modernisme, though it has come to be considered one of the most important representatives of the architectural heritage of Sant Feliu.
The itinerary includes many other buildings, including Torre Francesc Folch and the Col·legi de Sant Miquel. It finishes at the town cemetery, which dates from the mid-19th century and includes the pantheon of the Bertrand family, which was possibly built at the end of the 19th century and incorporates neo-Egyptian and modernista influences.
The modernisme route includes a visit to Palau Falguera, which has an exhibition space and an audiovisual introduction to Modernisme that will help you to understand its importance as an artistic movement.
Morning day 2: Colònia Güell and its crypt: an indispensible visit
© Gonzalo Sanguinetti / Diputació de Barcelona
To immerse yourself in the spirit of modernisme and, at the same time, get an idea of what life was like in a Catalan factory town, you have to visit the Güell Crypt and Colony . Santa Coloma de Cervello conceals the daily life of a community that revolved around the textile factory owned by Eusebi Güell (1846-1918), an industrialist, politician and patron of the arts, with whom Antoni Gaudí maintained a prolific relationship. The factory began to be built in 1890; at that time, many industrial projects were built outside the cities to avoid social unrest. Industrial production was the main objective of these colonies, although Güell strove to improve the social conditions of his workers.
Visiting the colony means immersing yourself in the collective world of the workers and their families. The orderly layout of modernista-style buildings allows you to take a journey back in time to when the Güell family's factory was the centre of a small universe tailored to their business. It once occupied an area of six hectares of the complex, but nowadays part of it works as a business centre and is not open to visitors. It's worthwhile going inside the old cooperative, where you can see an exhibition on the life of the estate and the Güell crypt. The exhibition offers a broad vision of the living conditions of the daily life of the workers in Colònia Güell, through photographs and an audiovisual presentation.
The top floor is dedicated to the church that Antoni Gaudí designed, though only the crypt, was finished, and is now one of the site's main attractions. The price of the exhibition includes admission to the church, which was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2005. Work on the crypt began in 1908. It's considered to be the first building on which Gaudí began to apply his innovative ideas. The catenary arches and curved surfaces, used on the walls and porch are two important characteristics that, according to Gaudí, could have been a "monumental scale model of the Sagrada Familia" if the project has been completed.
A visit to the Colònia Güell has another attraction in Farmers' Market, where the area's farmers come to sell their produce every Saturday. The products on sale bear the seal of quality of the region's agricultural park.
Afternoon day 2: Scale models and adventures in the park
© Catalunya en Miniatura
If you still want to explore the architectural world of Gaudí, Catalonia in miniature is the ideal place to explore his legacy, not only in Catalonia, but also in a number of cities in Spain. The venue is outdoors and contains scale models of a number of iconic sites around the country, ranging from the port of Barcelona to Tibidabo, the monastery of Poblet, Camp Nou and the aqueduct in Tarragona. There are many examples of Gaudís work, including the Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Parc Güell, Casa Botines in León and El Capricho in Cantabria. You can use the miniature train to get around the circuit.
The most adventurous visitors can also put their balance and flexibility to the test in the Bosc animat, an aerial forest park that has four circuits of different degrees of difficulty. Both adults and children can take part in up to 66 different activities among the trees, from climbing pine trees and enjoying the thrills of a zip line to crossing a rope bridge and swinging on a vine. If you want to escape from the city for a few hours and have some fun and excitement, this is the ideal place to do it.
Morning day 3: Jujol’s modernista legacy in Sant Joan Despí
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona
After enjoying our experience in nature, we'll continue our itinerary around Baix Llobregant by following the trail of another renowned modernista architect, Josep Maria Jujol (1979-1949), in Sant Joan Despí. A close collaborator with Gaudí, whom he assisted in projects as important as Casa Batlló, la Pedrera, the restoration of the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca and Parc Güell, Jujol was the municipal architect of Sant Joan Despí for 20 years and the town proudly exhibits his architectural legacy. His work is characterised by a renovating style that attempted to create spaces that are almost magical, with intense colours and plenty of visual metaphors.
Sant Joan Despí schedules an itinerary dedicated to Modernisme including Jojol's works at 11am on the last Sunday of every month. The route includes a guided visit to Can Negre, the Catalan country house renovated by Jujol between 1915 and 1930. Other interesting sites on the itinerary are Torre de la Creu, Casa Rovira and Torre Jujol, in which the architect lived during the Spanish Civil War. Pre-booking is essential if you want to take part in the visit.
Sant Joan Despí's architectural heritage is not limited to the figure of Jujol: other important architects were commissioned for the building or restoration of many spaces in the town. Two examples are the town hall, built by Josep Domènech i Mansana in 1927, and the market building, which now houses the market in the Centre neighbourhood, designed by Martinell.
Afternoon day 3: Among the dunes and marshes
© Josep Cano / Diputació de Barcelona
The last stops on our tour of Baix Llobregat have nature as their focus. We'd like to propose a four-minute trail around the Delta of the Llobregat that begins at Prat beach, where you can take sailing and windsurfing lessons at the Centre Municipal de Vela, which has a wide variety of services related to the sea and the beach. If you carry on along the promenade on the wooden walkways over the sand, you'll come to the Sea Animal Recovery Centre, which is devoted to saving sea mammals and reptiles and fishes. On your walk, you'll see protected dunes and a lookout tower located just in front of a pond called Estany de la Roberta, from which you can see the airport complex. The route now takes us over the sand to the Platges Verges, where the quality of the surrounding and the water is magnificent. Continuing on wooden walkways we'll come to the beach of Viladecans, which is also worth visiting for its well preserved dunes and vegetation, including morning glories and sea medicks.
The route continues along Viladecans beach to a lookout tower and then, following the path on the right, you should walk on along the path running parallel to a stream called Riera de Sant Climent to the Remolar-Filipines nature reserve, a 174 hectare space made up of the Estany del Remolar pond, the Filipines mareshes, the Riera de Sant Climent stream and a beach. The Filipines marshes are the most important ones in the delta in terms of size. Ducks, herons and cormorants are among the waterfowl that can be seen here and it's the perfect place to end the weekend and begin planning another trip.
Where to stay and where to eat
Cultural venues in Baix Llobregat
The Interpretation Centre at the Gava prehistoric mine site brings back what life here was like 6,000 years ago, when the local Neolithic community began to work the local variscite mines. As well as offering visits to a small part of the mine, the centre features audiovisual and explanatory modules and a scale reproduction of the mines. Many of the items discovered here can be found in the Gavà Museum.
- Jaume I, 7, 08850
With more than 1,700 seats and a stage measuring 375 square metres, the Teatre de la Passió d'Esparreguera is one of the largest theatres in Catalonia. Although the performances of the Passion Play, which will take place from the 9th of March to the 4th of May in 2014, are the theatre’s true raison d’être, it also has a varied programme of theatrical performances throughout the year, as well as concerts, and a drama school dedicated to the performance of the passion play.
- Avinguda de Francesc Marimon, 83-89, 08292
The Colònia Guell complex dates from the year 1890, when the textile industrialist Eusebi Güell decided to move his El Vapor Vell cotton factory from the neighbourhood of Sants in Barcelona to the village of Santa Coloma de Cervelló, and is made up of the factory colony itself, an interpretation centre and the Gaudí designed crypt. You can carry out your visit with the help of audio-guides or, if you prefer, there are guided visits at 12 midday on Sundays and public holidays. On Saturdays mornings, you will find a farmer’s market where local produce is sold.
- Colònia Güell, 08690
The Castle of Castelldefels, which first appears in documents dating from the 10th century and which is located on top of a hill, has largely been restored and can be visited on the second Sunday of every month. Among the spaces open to the public are the courtyard, the fencing hall, the church of Santa Maria and the stables. The castle also offers views of the Garraf Massif, Collserola, the plain of Barcelona, Montjuïc, the Llobregat Delta and the coastline.
- Plaça del Castell, 1, 08860
The Llobregat delta has plenty of places open to visitors. You can explore its marshes, ponds, pools and beaches on foot or by bicycle. The protected area includes the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park, one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the country. Another interesting feature of your visit to the Baix Llobregat is the possibility of acquiring products from local farmers who sell their produce directly to the public.
- Masia de Can Comas, Camí de la Ribera, s/n, 08820