Barcelona hosted the World’s Fair in 1929. At that time, the World Fair was on par with or perhaps even greater than hosting the Olympics. It was a major international event requiring a significant investment of resources. It was also an opportunity to showcase the host city and nation’s cultural achievements. As a point of reference, the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 to serve as the entrance for the World Fair in Paris, France. When Chicago hosted the World Fair, it introduced the Ferris Wheel to the world.
When Barcelona was selected to host the 1929 World Fair, several significant projects were initiated to showcase the best of Barcelona. One project was the Palau Nacional (National Palace) which served as the main site for the 1929 World Fair.
Revitalizing the Gothic Quarter (El Gotic) was another major project and one I will write about in the future. El Gotic is probably my favorite place in all of Europe so far.
Poble Espanyol was another significant World Fair project. Planners for Poble Espanyol wanted to create a village that would serve as a synthesis of Spanish architecture, arts, and cultural achievement throughout the various regions of Spain. Project architects visited over 1500 towns and villages taking hundreds of photographs and making notes and drawings in order to plan an authentic town with streets, squares, church, and other sites that captured the spirit of Spain.
During the International Exhibition, between May 1929 and January 1930, Poble Espanyol hosted a long list of cultural and recreational events.
Poble Espanyol was a huge success during the World Fair so the city decided to keep it intact versus destroying it as originally planned. It is also noted that Poble Espanyol, according to Michael Eisner, former president of Disney, served as the initial inspiration for Disney theme parks. Unfortunately, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) would nearly destroy the site and most certainly destroyed the spirit and momentum from the World Fair.
Poble Espanyol underwent several attempts at revitalization during the remainder of the century with mixed results. It wasn’t until 1996 that the village was once again a flourishing cultural site with year-round events for locals and tourists alike. Here are a few sights from my stroll through Poble Espanyol.
If you have enough time, Poble Espanyol is definitely worth visiting. However, if you are a first-time visitor to Barcelona, I would suggest your first area to visit should be La Rambla, El Gotic (the Gothic Quarter), and the waterfront areas. They are all close to one another and this is the area that will make you fall in love with Barcelona. A trip to world-renowned La Sagrada Familia church is also a must. Another point of interest is Montjuic features a 17th century castle, the National Palace/National Art Museum of Catalonia, and sporting facilities built for 1992 Olympic games.