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The elegant pedestrianized boulevard of Avenida Gaudí stretches northward from the Sagrada Família, and at the opposite end sits another key work of the moderniste movement, almost equal in vitality to Gaudí's. The Hospital Sant Pau (as it's more commonly known) is a remarkable work by the architect Domènech i Montaner. He is the second most important moderniste architect after Gaudí, and his magnificent Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the movement's most emblematic pieces.

The Hospital Sant Pau was commissioned by Pau Gil i Serra, a rich Catalan banker who wished to create a hospital based on the "garden city" model. While patients languished in turn-of-the-20th-century prisonlike edifices, Gil i Serra had the then-revolutionary idea of making their surroundings as agreeable as possible. He conceived a series of colored pavilions, each (like a hospital ward) serving a specific purpose, scattered among parkland. He only achieved half his vision. Although the first stone was laid in 1902, by 1911 funds ran out and only eight of the 48 projected pavilions were completed. Domènech himself died in 1930. After work subsequently carried out by his son, and economic intervention from another city medical institution, the Hospital Sant Pau was opened.

It's an inspiring place to visit (guided tours only). The interiors of the pavilions are off-limits, but their gorgeous Byzantine- and Moorish-inspired facades and decoration, from gargoyles and angels to fauna and blossoming flora, greet you at every turn. The largest, the Administrative Pavilion, is also part of the tour. Its facade glows with mosaic murals telling the history of hospital care, and inside the building there are beautiful columns with floral capitals and a luxurious, dusty pink tiled ceiling.