Barcelona is a great city for many reasons. There's the food. The beach. The culture. And, of course, the architecture. Barcelona is known for its unique architecture, from the narrow streets of the Gothic quarter to the modernist buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi.
Gaudi is one of the most famous architects in Europe, known for a form of architecture called Catalan Modernism. This Art Nouveau-style of architecture is famous for its smooth lines and natural shapes. And, in Gaudi's case, his designs are also known for being entirely unique and sometimes out-there. UNESCO has recognized Gaudi's contribution to architecture by recognizing his collective works as a World Heritage Site.
Seeing at least one Gaudi work is, therefore, a requirement for any trip to Barcelona. Even if you aren't interested in the history of architecture, you're likely to be blown away at what a single creative mind was able to dream up.
Here are the top four must-see works by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona.
1. Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is easily Gaudis most famous work in Barcelona. It's unlike any other church you've seen anywhere in the world and it's still not complete after more than 100 years of work.
Gaudi got involved in the construction of the Roman Catholic church in 1883, and by the early 1900s had become so obsessed with the project that he spent the last decades of his life living in the crypt as work progressed.
Today, work still continues slowly on the Sagrada Familia. The interior, with its towering stained glass windows and detailed ceiling, was only completed in the last few years. Outside, the church has two different facades the Nativity facade (completed by Gaudi) and the Passion facade (still being worked on) and you can clearly see the difference between the two; no one can completely replicate Gaudis style, even when working off his original designs.
2. Casa Batllo
The house currently known as Casa Batllo was originally built in the 1870s, in what was originally just a suburb of Barcelona. The area soon became very affluent, however, and Gaudi was hired in the early 1900s by the Batllo family to redesign the house in order to make it the most noticeable on the block.
What resulted is one of Gaudi's most recognizable works with its oval windows, mosaic details and a tiled roof that looks like the back of a dragon. In fact, Casa Batllo is often called the Dragon House, or the House of Bones because of its skeleton-like exterior.
If you can make it inside two Gaudi works (the Sagrada Familia being my first pick, of course), make Casa Batllo the second to see its curvy walls, mosaic light well, and dragon back rooftop up close.
3. Casa Mila
In the height of the Modernist movement in Barcelona, Gaudi was working on multiple projects at once. And yet no two of his buildings look remotely alike. Another of his notable works is Casa Mila, also known as La Padrera or the Rock Quarry. This was the last civil work designed by Gaudi in Barcelona before he devoted all his attention towards the Sagrada Familia.
Casa Mila was commissioned by Pere Mil i Camps and his wife in 1906, and is recognizable by its wavy stone exterior, twisted wrought iron balconies, and chimneys on the roof that kind of look like Storm Troopers. It's not a home any longer; today the building is a cultural center, and also home to some private apartments and offices. A visit gets you access to two separate museum spaces.
4. Park Guell
Seeing the insides of buildings not really your thing? Don't worry there's an outdoor space where you can see Gaudi's work, too. The place is Park Guell, a 45-acre park located on Carmel Hill. The park was built between 1900 and 1914, designed by Gaudi and funded by Eusebi Guell.
The park was originally supposed to be a luxury housing development, however the housing part was never fully realized. The park was eventually opened to the public in 1926.
Today, Park Guell has two major sections: the free public section filled with gardens and shaded passage ways, and the Monumental Zone, which now requires a ticket to visit. The Monumental Zone is where you'll find Gaudi's stamps: the gingerbread-like houses at the parks entrance, a mosaic salamander, and the serpentine mosaic bench encircling a large terrace. In my opinion, it's worth paying to get into the Monumental Zone.
Tips on Visiting
Thanks to Antoni Gaudi's fame and the fact that his works are UNESCO-recognized, his buildings and parks draw a lot of visitors each and every day. That means you're bound to face long lines and lots of people if you just show up hoping to buy a ticket.
To avoid this, here are two tips:
- Go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat/avoid the crowds and lines.
- Book a timed ticket online for any of these attractions. Buying your ticket online guarantee you entry at whatever time you choose, meaning you don't have to waste hours standing around in line.
And remember to enjoy yourself! These are some of the most amazing architectural wonders in the world!
Have you seen any of these buildings in person?
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