Reviewing Park Güell – a failure of access

About Park Güell

Park Güell was built as part of the rapid expansion of Barcelona. As the Eixample was built the city grew outwards. The busier the city, the more that green space was necessary. Gaudi designed Park Güell initially to be the garden for an area of expensive housing – which Antonio Güell, a businessman, commissioned.

After Güell’s death, it was sold to the city to be a park for the residents of Barcelona. It stayed that for many years. When they started charging for entry, this was incredibly controversial. The paid area is only free to residents of the city for a small part of each day.

A beautiful lookout point

Up in the hills, the view over the city is unparalleled. On a clear day, you can see right to the sea. The park itself is also incredible. It has such a range of stunning tiles and mosaics, columns, light, and shade, plants, flowers, and lavender.

I have a strong sentimental attachment to Park Güell. I am lucky enough to have visited it many times, and to know the space well. However, the more I’ve needed mobility aids, the more inaccessible it’s become clear that the park is.

Access in Park Güell

Getting to Park Güell

The good thing is that they do provide a guide on accessibility at Park Güell, but the bad thing is that even despite that, access is still a real challenge.

The standard route to get up to the park – given the steepness of the hills, is a series of staircases and escalators. While there is a road route, the roads themselves are very steep, which could challenge your chair. If you can arrange one (google is your friend), an adapted taxi might be easiest.

If you want an accessible route round the park, they recommend that you enter via Carretera del Carmel. This can be reached from the Alfons X metro station, but staying in MICs Sant Jordi as I did, I decided just to go on wheels. While this route needed a lot of steep hill-climbing, my electric wheelchair did manage. However, it was difficult and I don’t think a less powerful one, or a manual wheelchair would be easy to manage at all.

Navigating Park Güell

Tickets to the park sell out quickly, so it’s very worth booking online first. I booked a free ticket for a disabled person, with a reduced price companion ticket. This meant that I didn’t need to queue. I just went straight to the front and staff let me through.

Once inside the park, while there are ramps to most areas, they require a very long route round. Most of the paths are either steep and sandy, or cobbled. Someone in a decent manual wheelchair (with powered attachment and/or freewheel) or someone in a good electric would manage. However, I still found it a challenge which reduced my enjoyment.

The famous view

The views are incredible to photograph. I was very glad to have the riser on my electric wheelchair for this, but you do have to fight your way through a crush of people. The most famous photo spot is from the tiled benches looking out over the city. These are all up a small step – much like a kerb between pavement and road. I think many electric wheelchairs would struggle to get up the step, and manual wheelchair users would need a shove. The area of ‘pavement’ before the benches is also not wide, meaning that if your chair leaps up and lurches forward, you could easily crash into the benches.

The access signage is also dreadful. While they gave me a blurred printed access map in black and white, it made very little sense. They would benefit from having signs pointing to the wheelchair-accessible routes to the famous parts of the park. Places like the mosaic terrace and hypostyle columns are very difficult to find via an accessible route. You often have to go to a gate and get the attention of a security guard who will let you through.

Final thoughts

It’s heartbreaking to say that I can’t recommend Park Güell when it’s so beautiful. However, the access is so poor that I would say it was a nightmare to visit honestly. I would absolutely go again despite that – but knowing that it would be very arduous and a less fulfilling experience. Maybe by the next time I go they’ll have improved. Hopefully.

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