A little history
Hospital de Sant Pau (officially ‘Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau’) originated with the merging of six Barcelona hospitals in 1401 and soon outgrew its 15th-century building. In the early 20th century, Catalan architect Lluis Domenech i Montaner, the great mind behind Barcelona’s Palau de la Música, designed and started work on a new home for the hospital. Considered to be among Domenech i Montaner’s best work, the new hospital was a series of independent buildings linked by underground passageways and gardens and was a functioning hospital until 2009.
Exploring the world’s greatest Modernista hospital
As you approach the hospital, it closely resembles many a town hall with its tall and slender clock tower flanked on either side by wide brick rectangles. Beyond the entry hall, the complex’s 16 unique pavilions are lavishly decorated with statues, ceramics and other artwork by artists and artisans, like the prolific Catalan artist Eusebi Arnau.
The Hospital complex is more like a small, self-contained community than the massive medical cubes that have become commonplace in Barcelona and beyond. From the vaulted ceilings of the church, to the cosy library space, all the structures serve their various purposes in surprising and aesthetically pleasing ways.
Hospital Sant Pau’s library is an ideal place to pull out a chair and curl up with a book, but even book lovers may be too distracted by the space’s dramatically domed ceilings and elegant archways.
Art and architecture buffs may have to close their eyes occasionally to avoid sensory overload – in Hospital Sant Pau there is too much to take in, especially on a first visit. Throughout the complex, smile and stare at pictures painted in jewel-toned windowpanes and towering columns scaled with gleaming mosaics. Snap close-ups of wrought iron wrestled into floral-motif chandeliers and woodcarvings on massive doors.
Visiting the Hospital
The historic site is currently being restored and unfortunately for those visitors who prefer to wander around by their lonesome, the interior is only open for hour-and-15-minute-long guided tours in English, Catalan, French and Spanish. Which isn’t to say you can’t wander around the gorgeous Modernista exteriors, gawking at mosaiced domes as you stroll the gardens, or perch on a park-bench with a sandwich or a newspaper.
Opening hours are from 09:30 until 13:30. Guided visits in English at 10am, 11am, 12pm and 1pm, French at 10:30am, Spanish at 11:30am, and Catalan at 12:30pm. Closed December 25-26, January 1 and 6.
Metro L5 Hospital de Sant Pau, or L4 Guirnardó, Bus 15, 19, 20, 45, 47, 51, 92, 117, 192.