The old Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (nowadays Sant Pau Recinte Modernista) is the largest modernist complex in Catalonia. For more than a century, it was the hospital that cared for Barcelona’s poor. In 2014, after many years of renovation, it was opened to the public for people to visit and admire its unique architecture.
In this article you’ll find:
- What makes this old hospital so special
- Information about tickets and tours
- History of Sant Pau
- Sant Pau’s unique architecture
- Personal tips
- How to get there
What is Sant Pau and why should you visit it?
For anyone interested in Catalan Modernism and architecture, Sant Pau hospital is an absolute must visit.
It is the largest modernist complex in Catalunya, and the largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe.
The Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau is truly unique. In many ways, it looks like something out of a fantasy novel.
It is richly ornamented, full of colorful stained glass windows and beautiful trencadís mosaics.
If you haven’t already, take a moment to google some pictures and you’ll instantly understand why it’s so appealing.
The complex, once officially known as the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau but currently called the Recinte Modernista Sant Pau, was designed by architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner (he was also the mind behind the spectacular Palau de la Música Catalana), at the beginning of the 20st century.
Domènech i Montaner took an interesting approach to designing the hospital.
He believed that the ill would be happier and recover better if, instead of being housed in the typically grim wards of the hospitals of the period, they were treated in a space that was beautiful, airy, comfortable, and full of natural light.
The monumental zone is no longer used as a hospital, and is open to visitors since 2014. The beds and other facilities were moved to a new hospital that was built very close to the complex.
When to visit Sant Pau?
Sant Pau is one of our favorite attractions in Barcelona, but it is not a tourist magnet like the Sagrada Família.
Besides, it’s so big that crowding is almost never an issue. On free admission days (we’ll get to them in a minute) it can be busier and you may have to queue.
A large part of the complex is outdoors, so if it’s very hot out avoid going in the middle of the day.
Tickets & Prices
- Basic ticket
This ticket includes access to the large main patio and the two old hospital wards of Sant Salvador and Sant Rafael. It doesn’t include access to the main building though. Price is €13 for adults, €9.10 for seniors and young people aged 12-29.
- Guided tour
This ticket takes you on a guided tour of the premises and includes the spectacular main building. It’s the only option that allows you to visit it. Price is €19 for adults, and €13.30 for seniors and young people.
- Audio guide
Audio guides can be purchased separately from the tickets. They come in Spanish, Catalan, English, French, German and Japanese. The price is €3.
For the guided tour, you must book your tickets via the Sant Pau website. Tours are held every day at 10.30 am in English, and 12 am in Spanish. Make sure you arrive a few minutes early when joining a tour.
Children under age 12 enter for free.
Entrance is free on February 12th, April 23rd, September 24th and every first Sunday of the month.
- November to March: Monday-Saturday from 10 am to 4.30 pm, Sundays and public holidays from 10 am to 2.30 pm.
- April to October: Monday-Saturday from 10 am to 6.30 pm, Sundays and public holidays from 10 am to 2.30 pm.
- Closed on January 1st and 6th, and December 25th.
How do you get to Hospital de Sant Pau?
- Metro: To get to Sant Pau Recinte Modernista, take the blue line (L5) to stop Sant Pau/Dos de Maig. You’ll see the complex when you get off the metro.
- Bus: The following bus lines will drop you off you near the Sant Pau hospital: H8, 19, 20, 45, 47, 50, 51, 92, 117, 192
- Hop on hop off bus: Take the blue bus line and get off at Sagrada Família. From there it’s 5-10 minute walk along Avinguda de Gaudí.
- Walking and cycling: From the city centre (Plaça Catalunya) it is a 45 minute walk, and roughly 20 to 25 minutes by bike.
- Taxi: A taxi from the center will cost around €10.
If your destination is the hospital itself instead of the modernist complex, you must take the yellow metro line (L4) and get off at Guinardó – Hospital de Sant Pau. The main entrance is at Sant Quintí, 89.
What to see and do during your visit to Sant Pau Recinte Modernista
Doménech i Montaner’s idea when designing Sant Pau was to make it a self-contained space that offered everything patients could need right on the premises.
Because of this the complex feels more like a park or a miniature city than a hospital.
Sant Pau Recinte Modernista consists of a main building and a number of pavilions.
The original design counted 48 pavilions, but only 27 were built. Some of them have been reformed and are accessible today for visitors.
Main entrance + facade
The main entrance of the Hospital de Sant Pau is located on a corner, facing the Sagrada Família.
According to some, Domènech i Montaner chose this orientation because he thought it would receive more wind from the sea.
Others believe that he simply wasn’t a fan of the grid-shaped design of the Eixample.
Just like the Palau de la Música, also by Domènech i Montaner, the façade of the Sant Pau Recinte Modernista is abundantly decorated.
The architect chose brick as the main construction material, and combined different architectural styles for the ornamentation.
You will see Gothic and Moorish elements along with the expected Art Nouveau. When the sun sets, the facade is lit up beautifully.
This part of the complex can only be visited with a guide.
The main building was where patients were admitted. Men and women were kept separate, and their respective areas can be distinguished by the names of male and female saints that decorate them.
Aside from admissions, the main building was mainly used for administrative purposes.
When you visit the main building you’ll also get to see the underground tunnels that connect the different hospital wards and pavilions with each other.
These subterranean tunnels were used to transport patients from one location to another.
Sant Salvador Pavilion
The Sant Salvador pavilion holds an exhibit space that documents the history of medicine in Barcelona.
Diverse medical materials, architectural elements, models, and displays paint a picture of the hospital’s heritage.
The hospital’s gardens are very beautiful, you should definitely take some time to explore them on your visit.
Doménech i Montaner was inspired by the garden city movement for their design, much like Gaudí was for the Park Güell.
They were meant to hold medicinal plants which could be used directly on site.
Sant Rafael Pavilion
The Sant Rafael Pavilion contains a display of what the hospital looked like when it was built, including the old medical tools and the beds.
History of Sant Pau
At the turn of the 19th century, the old Hospital de la Santa Creu in the Raval, which served mainly Barcelona’s poor, had become crowded and fallen into disrepair.
Moreover, due to the neighborhood’s cramped nature, there was no way to expand the hospital at its current location.
The old building dated from the early 15th century, and should have been replaced much earlier, but due to a multitude of circumstances this never happened until the early 20th century.
To address the problem, the city decided to build a new hospital in the district of the Eixample, where there was still abundant available land.
The project was given to Lluís Domènech i Montaner, and construction began in 1902.
Insider tip: visit the old hospital in Raval (C/Hospital 56), where Gaudí died in 1926 after his unfortunate street car accident. Nowadays’ the building houses an art school and the library of Catalonia. You can have a drink and a bite to eat on the terrace at El Jardí. Since 1997 Sant Pau is on the Unesco list of Cultural Heritage Sites.
The money to build the new hospital came from the estate of Pau Gil, a wealthy local banker whose last will provided the funding for the project — which would of course carry his name.
Mr. Gil also determined that the hospital should meet the latest technical standards and be an example of innovation in the field.
Despite Gil’s economic backing, the project suffered financial and administrative setbacks that delayed its completion.
Domènech i Montaner died before he could see it finished, and it was his son Pere Domènech i Roura who completed it a few years later.
In 1930 the hospital was inaugurated in the presence of king Alfonso XIII.
In 2009 the hospital moved to its current location, slightly to the north of the modernist complex. Five years later, in 2014, the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau opened its doors to the public.
Some of the pavilions and spaces are off limits to the public. They currently house cultural institutions and NGO’s.
The hospital was designed by local architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
Gaudí was part of a generation of talented Catalan architects, and his fame has overshadowed his contemporaries somewhat, but seeing Domènech i Montaner’s work a case can be made that he was just as talented an architect and a designer as his more famous compatriot.
The Sant Pau modernist complex is a perfect example of this. It is one of Barcelona’s lesser-known attractions but it is strikingly beautiful.
Attractions near Sant Pau Modernist Complex
Two of Antoni Gaudí’s important creations are near Sant Pau Modernist Complex: