Barcelona stands as one of the most modern and versatile cities when it comes to architecture. From the expansion plans of the city in 1860 to the latest contemporary buildings, Barcelona has broken several architectural standards by reinventing the way we see buildings and their urban context.
Since Barcelona and architecture go hand in hand, here are ten buildings you cannot miss when in the city.
1. Sagrada Familia
If you know of Barcelona, you know this is a dead given. Sagrada Familia is the most popular sight in Barcelona, and for good reasons. Designed by Antoni Gaudí in the late 19th century, this cathedral has been under construction since 1882. Yes, it is still under construction and it won’t be finished until at least 2026.
But that is not the only amazing thing about this building. The facades, towers, interior columns and spatial organization play with grotesque abstract figures, catenary curvesanda reinterpretation of nature through a smart use of physics. Yes, it’s that complex. But beyond complex, this cathedral has a unique beauty that is not found anywhere else in the world.
2. Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló is a restoration done by Gaudí in 1904 – another Gaudí building! In fact, the Barcelona we know today has been highly influenced by Gaudí’s architecture. For its design, Gaudí followed the constructive elements of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau) that include ceramics, stone and works in forged iron.
Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction for its radical design that broke all the bylaws of the city, it was recognized in 1906 by the Barcelona City Council as one of the three best buildings of the year.
3. Barcelona Pavilion
As part of the 1929 International Exposition celebrated in Barcelona, the Barcelona Pavilion was designed to be the example display of architecture’s modern movement to the world.
Designed by Mies van der Rohe and originally named the German Pavilion, the pavilion was the face of Germany after WWI, emulating the nation’s progressively modern culture that was still rooted in its classical history.
Its elegant and sleek design combined with the rich selection of natural materials like marble, red onyx, and travertine, made this building one of the best representations of minimalism and modern architecture, in addition to becoming the language that would define Mies’ career as an architect.
4. Parc Güell
Situated on the city’s El Caramel hill, Parc Güell is a municipal garden complex that houses a series of dynamically designed buildings, including Gaudí’s own house.
Built between 1900 and 1914, this garden was originally conceived as a housing project by Count Eusebi Guell, but not even Gaudí’s talent could get the houses sold, so the whole site was converted into a much more successful municipal garden.
Most buildings have the “trencadis” (surfaces covered with irregular ceramic pieces) that is characteristic of Gaudí and Art Nouveau. The colonnade hall that looks like a stone surf wave and the terrace with serpentine shapes are the most popular places of this park.
5. Torre Agbar
Combining several architectural styles, Torre Agbar was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel as one of the strangest looking buildings in all of Catalonia. Its unusual shape earned it nicknames like “the suppository”, but even with its suggestive simple design, Torre Agbar became one of the most innovative and visually striking buildings in the world. It features 4,500 LED devices that generate images directly on the building, in addition to advanced thermal sensors that regulate the opening and closing of the windows.
6. Palau Nacional
The Palau Nacional, or National Palace, was built on Barcelona’s Montjuic Hill for the 1929 International Exposition. Since 1990, this classic building has hosted the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which displays a collection of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque artworks.
This building was designed to be the antithesis of Gaudí’s avant-garde style, so it followed classical styles that make the building look much older than it actually is. Still, it is an impressive structure. Not to be missed is the water fountain show of the Magic Fountain in front of the Palau Nacional.
7. La Pedrera
Also known as Casa Milá, La Pedrera is one of Gaudí’s main residential buildings and one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture.
This building is more a sculpture than a building. The façade is a varied and harmonious mass of undulating stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, explores the irregularities of the natural world.
La Pedrera stayed abandoned for several years, but a complete restoration at the beginning of the 1980s brought back life to its façade and interiors, making it one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona.
8. Santa Caterina Market
Built in 1848, the Santa Caterina Market is Barcelona’s oldest market. Even though it’s old, the building you see today is a modern renovation done by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. The new building of the market attempts to represent the figures and colors of the fruits and vegetables sold there daily through the use of a very expressive arc roof and mosaic tiled designed by artist Toni Comella.
9. Palau de la Música Catalana
This concert hall is a high note on Barcelona’s Modernista architecture. In this building, curves predominate over straight lines, dynamic shapes are preferred over static forms and rich decoration emphasizing floral and other organic motifs are used extensively.
It was built by Domènech i Montaner between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeo Català musical society and was conceived as a temple for the Catalan Renaixença (Renaissance).
One of the most iconic moments of the building lies in the stained glass skylight in the main hall, which looks like it is melting and about to fall.
10. Fundació Joan Miró
The Fundació Joan Miró, is a museum of modern art honoring Joan Miró. The idea for the foundation was made in 1968 by Joan Miró to create a new building that would encourage particularly younger artists to experiment with contemporary art.
The building, designed by Josep Lluís Sert, was designed with a series of courtyards and terraces to create a natural path for visitors to move through the building. The museum, besides being an exquisite building, houses a collection of world-renowned modern and abstract art.
Do you have a preference of these buildings or architectural styles?