Located above the Diagonal and L'Eixample Esquerra, Gràcia is a large neighborhood, full of character and once a separate town from Barcelona. Although notable attractions here are not abundant, Gràcia is well worth visiting for a taste of authentic barri life. Shopping and cafe society are particularly good around the Calle Verdi and Plaça del Sol, and nocturnal activity here is lively, particularly in the summer at the famous Fiesta Major de Gràcia. Gràcia boasts a unique mixture of proud locals who have lived here all their lives and young, progressive urbanites. This melting pot is reflected in its street life.
Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, the man who launched Gaudí's career and became a lifelong friend, was a product of Barcelona's new, wealthy elite. He studied art, poetry, and theology in Paris and London and, upon returning to Barcelona, put his business sense into practice in the shipping, banking, railroad, and textile sectors -- all the industries that drove Catalonia's industrial revolution in the late 1800s.
Enormously well respected, Güell was high-minded and took civic duty extremely seriously. He felt bound to improve the lives of his city's inhabitants (of all classes) through art and better working conditions. It seems Güell's first meeting with Gaudí was in the carpentry workshop Gaudí had designed as a showcase for a Barcelona glove shop, and shortly afterward Güell saw the work displayed at the 1878 International Exhibition in Paris. The fruit of the relationship materialized in such marvels as the Parc Güell, the Palau Güell, and the church for the ambitious Colònia Güell in outer Barcelona. Just before his death in 1918, Güell was made a count by King Alfonso XIII.
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