Going to Barcelona and not experiencing Antoni Gaudí’s visually striking creations is like claiming you flew somewhere, but never left the airport terminal. Sure, Barcelona has more than its fair share of things to offer, but the architecture in Barcelona has to be seen to be believed.
The heart and soul of the Catalan capital come alive through Gaudí’s awe-inspiring architecture. If you’re a fan of art or just seeing pretty things, we recommend using this list as a guideline to discover the unforgettable mark Gaudí left on Barcelona.
The crown jewel of Gaudí’s architectural footprint in Barcelona and not to be missed. Perhaps the longest ongoing construction project of the modern era, the basilica first broke ground in 1882 and is unlikely to be completed before 2030. Inspired by nature, the Sagrada Família breaks the rules and features only asymmetrical lines and a copious amount of animal figures. After you get over just how remarkable the facade of the church is, make sure you get yourself inside to marvel at its full glory. If you don’t come an hour in advance to wait in line, that’s okay, fast-track and skip-the-line tickets are available.
Maybe the most whimsical of Gaudí’s designs, Casa Batlló is a testament to just how insane architectural and interior design can be while still remaining tasteful. From dragons to skeletal structures, this colorful house is eye-popping at every turn and begs for a visit. A fun feature added to the experience is the augmented reality video guide, which lets you see life as it was for Barcelona’s elite at the turn of the 20th century. Much like the Sagrada Família, this is not an attraction where you want to rely on sheer luck to get in without a wait, so book in advance.
Casa Milà, otherwise known as La Pedrera, is another masterpiece by Gaudí and just a short walk from Casa Batlló. Not only does it house reproductions of early 20th-century living spaces, but inside you will find a comprehensive retrospective of Gaudí’s work. Take note of the impeccably designed interior and its ornate collection of furniture designed by the genius himself. The sandy-colored exterior is reminiscent of a quarry, including swirly chimneys and Gaudí’s signature whimsical lines, which helped redefine what architecture in Barcelona is and can be. Read our interview with Casa Milà Senior Tour Guide Laia Casamitjana to find out more about this Barcelona gem.
Casa Calvet is widely regarded as Gaudí’s most conservative work and made to fit into the affluent neighborhood in which it was built. However, the architecture still has quite a few modernista elements to it. Go admire the quiet composure of this building’s facade on your way to the more extravagant Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. The building itself houses apartments and offices, but lunch inside one of its restaurants will give you access to some of its interior.
Inspired by neoclassical and oriental styles, Casa Vicens is regarded as Gaudí’s first great work. This former summer home pops with bright and beautiful hues from every angle and transports the visitor to a candy-colored world, no Instagram filter needed. You’ll find the interior to be just as vibrant, with numerous nature-inspired elements like vines and birds. Once inside, enjoy the informative architectural museum and the wonderful views from the rooftop terrace. After your visit, take a stroll towards the nearby Vila de Gràcia neighborhood. In this former village, you’ll discover charming squares, a striking 19th-century clock tower and some great lunch spots.
Not that this world-famous park needs any introduction, but we’ll give one anyway. Park Güell was originally intended as a private housing complex in 1900 with the then-popular layout of an English garden. Not only did Gaudí design this colorful mosaic-filled fantasy, but he also resided here until his death in 1926. It then became a public park and was even declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Full of Kodak moments at every turn, make sure you stop a moment to take in the gorgeous view of Barcelona from the hilltop on which the park is situated. Because of its very limited capacity, it’s neccesary to choose an entry time in advance to avoid long waits when visiting Park Güell.
The Gaudí House Museum
Before leaving Park Güell, consider entering the Gaudí House Museum for an intimate look at the artist’s private life. Until he passed away, Gaudí spent 20 years living in this appropriately flamboyant house. Once you’ve admired the beautifully adorned facade, step inside and take a peek at furniture, houseware and some personal objects, mostly designed by the famed architect himself. In addition to all that, his former home houses various paintings, sculptures and drawings from esteemed colleagues he would often work with. An entrance ticket to Park Güell is not required to visit the house, but we recommend you visit both on the same day because of their more remote location.
Off the beaten path, but still as decadent as any other Gaudí creation, Torre Bellesguard is worth the effort. One of the things unique to Torre Bellesguard is its abundance of straight lines, rarely seen in Gaudí’s work. This medieval castle-inspired structure incorporates Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, but its core remains very Catalan. Keen eyes will also recognize how it demonstrates the architect’s development leading up to the construction of Sagrada Familia. However, maybe the best feature of Torre Bellesguard is the insane view you’ll get to experience up there. In fact, Bellesguard literally means “beautiful view” in Catalan, so, it’s in the name really.
For the more adventurous among us, we recommend venturing to Colonia Güell. This Gaudí must-see is slightly outside the city and requires a train ride to reach it, but don’t let the commute deter you, it’s well worth your while. The church of Gaudí’s crypt contains all of the artist’s known attributes and innovations, so take notice of the building’s architectural easter eggs. One may view Colonia Güell as a prototype of his later masterpiece, Sagrada Família. Whilst the world-famous basilica will complete its construction in the coming years (okay, maybe decades), this small church will be left unfinished, but forever open to curious travelers such as yourself.
Our last stop on this architecture in Barcelona tour is the delightful gate designed by Gaudí at the entrance to the private Miralles family estate. It is also the only piece of it left standing and coincidentally the only part of the compound he designed. This wavy wonder is made of steel-reinforced mortar and decorated with trencadís broken tile mosaic. Just beside the gate, you’ll notice a life-size statue of Gaudí, which was installed in 2000 by the sculptor Joaquim Camps. It’s a great chance to pose for a picture with the architect next to one of his masterpieces! The gate is free of charge and only a 5-minute walk from Maria Cristina station on the L3 line.