Terrassa, the industrial and Modernist pillar of Barcelona
The flourishing industrial past of Terrassa tarnished its many tourist and monumental attractions. But today the city is proud to show its fascinating medieval heritage and interesting Modernist architecture distributed between two geographical areas that were brought together after 1904: Terrassa and Sant Pere de Terrassa. There is much to see in this city in the Vallès Occidental region, located only 20 kilometres from Barcelona.
When you take a simple stroll through the centre of Terrassa you can feel the economic strength of a territory that has seen jewels of Catalan architecture take shape. There is the City Council building with its Neo-Gothic decoration, the neighbouring Independence Market, the imposing General Electricity Society building, the Romanesque Pont de Sant Pere bridge and many other numerous Modernist buildings that are scattered along the main roads of this city. A city that was one of the great pillars of the Catalan and Spanish economies.
What to see in Terrassa
Terrassa’s most outstanding and unique building is the tower of Palau, which has a circular floor plan and stands at 29 metres. It is the only vestige of the medieval castle which gave rise to the municipality that has survived; its battlements and its Gothic window are from a later period. And if we had to choose a second tourist attraction, it would be the Basílica del Sant Esperit [Basilica of the Holy Spirit], an interesting temple from the early seventeenth century which was restored after the damage suffered during the Spanish Civil War.
But instead, we will go on a small route through the historic centre of Terrassa so as not to miss any of the treasures hidden in this city of 220,000 inhabitants, the third most populated in Catalonia. We will start at the peaceful and charming Plaça Vella square and move towards Carrer Cremá, a pedestrian and commercial street that leads to the City Council, a Modernist emblem designed by Lluís Muncunill, a very famous architect from the region who left his mark on numerous buildings in Terrassa.
A little further down, we find the interesting Mercat de la Independència [Independence Market], built in 1908, and further still, Casa Alegre de Sagrera, an eighteenth-century manor house that belonged to a renowned textile entrepreneur, recently renovated and converted into a museum. While walking down the Rambla d’Egara, at precisely number 270 we will find the Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover building, a former textile factory which today accommodates the National Museum of Science and Industry of Catalonia.
Gaudí’s influence in Masia Freixa
Another one of Lluís Muncunill’s iconic buildings is Masia Freixa, dating from 1909. The architect was heavily influenced by the innovations of Antoni Gaudí, especially in the use of the elliptical arch. Today, this building houses the municipal conservatory and is surrounded by the Sant Jordi Public Park.
We must cross the old riverbed of Torrent de Vallparadís to enter the territory of what was once the town of Egara, whose diocese initiated the construction of the famous and monumental churches of Sant Pere de Terrassa. This complex of churches was declared a national monument, and is made up of three temples: Sant Pere, Santa Maria and Sant Miquel, which lie next to the spectacular Parc de Vallparadís park. The three churches are located in a closed area that is accessed through the Plaça del Rector Homs square, next to the stone bridge that crosses the Torrent de Vallparadís. It is a very spiritual space, in which the secular buildings’ ancient stone merges with dense wooded gardens to give a sensation of calm and tranquillity.
The temple of Santa Maria conserves the oldest remains and serves as the museum for the complex, as it hosts the paintings, altarpieces and artistic carved statues from the three churches. Take your time when you get to the Gothic altarpiece of Sant Abdó i Sant Senén [Saints Abdon and Sennen], patron saints of the peasant, popularly known as Sant Nin and Sant Non. And the church of Sant Miquel has an underground crypt dedicated to Sant Celoni, the only one to still preserve its primitive Pre-Romanesque construction. The church of Sant Pere was the last to be erected, although its apse, conserved from a previous construction, dates from the tenth century.
Parc de Vallparadís, Terrassa’s green lung
Terrassa’s medieval heritage can also be found in the Castell cartoixa de Vallparadís, transformed into the Terrassa Museum. It is an old castle from the twelfth century located within the famous Parc de Vallparadís, known as Terrassa’s green lung, with an area ranging 395,000 square metres. This public park is considered a paradise by the locals, as it is an ideal space for all kinds of outdoor leisure activities. You can take a boat trip in its small lake, a tour on a miniature train, enjoy children’s games or just walk along its paths. Parc de Vallparadís also has a large swimming pool which is open in summer.
Another one of the natural paradises in the city is Llac Petit de Terrassa, a large space whose main feature is the Can Bogunyà reservoir. It is on the outskirts of the city and ideal for hiking or family strolls, as the paths are easy to walk. It is used a lot by cyclists, dog walkers and anyone from the community who wants to enjoy this green space, accessed from the well-known Audiovisual Park, which has numerous sets to make all kinds of film and television recordings.
The Audiovisual Park is yet another one of Terrassa’s singularities. It was used as the location for scenes from many famous films, such as A Monster Calls, by Juan Antonio Bayona; REC 4, by Jaume Balagueró; The Photographer of Mauthausen, by Mar Targarona; Superlópez, by Javier Ruiz Caldera; and of course, we cannot forget that the popular television talent show Operación Triunfo is filmed here. A history that has made Terrassa one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Film, a recognition shared only by 13 places in the world, including Rome, Galway and Sydney.