Life in textile model villages
If you have a curious mind and are looking for a family-friendly activity, then plan a day trip to the colònies tèxtils (textile model villages) of the regions of Barcelona. Built between the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, they’re still full of working machines, fabrics you’re allowed to touch and plenty of amazing stories. Ready to journey into the past?
1. Colònia de Viladomiu Nou
A good place to get acquainted with the history of these industrial model villages is Torre de l'Amo de Viladomiu Nou (Residence of the Owner of Viladomiu Nou), in Gironella, which is now home to the Interpretation Centre of the Textile Model Villages of Llobregat. There you can discover the lifestyle of the owners of these Catalan modernist start-ups, who were at the top of the rich list of the time. There are some lovely views at the centre as well. Because textile factories had to be built outside urban areas and next to rivers, many of them are located in wonderful settings.
Very close by, in Puig-reig, you’ll find another very interesting model village overlooking the Llobregat River. Cal Pons is a residential and industrial complex built in 1875 with the goal of covering all the needs of workers and their families. Accordingly, in addition to the factory and housing, there’s a school, a garden, a shop, a café, a bakery and an inn. There’s also a church and a nunnery; if you’re curious about the religious aspect of these villages, make sure you visit the Cal Pons Interpretation Centre. It comprises three distinct areas that explain very clearly the role played by religion in consolidating the textile model village system in Catalonia.
3. Colònia Vidal
Our next stop is Puig-reig, where Colònia Vidal is located. Its industrial facilities have been extremely well preserved and you can see all the gadgets that were used to turn the force of water into energy in order to power the factory: the lock, canal and turbine are truly impressive! The steam machine is another element that children enjoy discovering, along with the strange tools on display in the loom room. If you observe the opener, the flat card, the spinning frames and the power looms, you’ll learn plenty about fabric making.
4. Borgonyà Colony
Borgonyà was the largest textile model village in the Ter River basin. Built in 1895 in the municipal district of Sant Vicenç de Torelló, it was known as the“English colony”, although its founders, the famous Coats family, were actually Scottish. The Scottish link explains the architecture and urban layout of Colònia Borgonyà, comprising lines of terraced houses with patios at the front and well-tended gardens and even a football pitch at the back. The Ter Museum organises group visits, so just contact the museum if you’d like to look around.
5. Colònia Güell
And we end up at the most famous textile model village in the regions of Barcelona: Colònia Güell. Located in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, its historical and architectural heritage has been perfectly preserved. As you wander its streets, you can easily imagine what it was like to live in a village like this at the turn of the 20th century. The most characteristic features of Catalan modernism are prominent at this site, so keep your eyes peeled! Whatever you do, make sure you pay a visit to the crypt of the Colònia Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudí and included on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2005.