From quirky apartments, through lush parks, to breathtaking places of worship –the capital of Catalonia is a feast for the eyes. You’ll find astonishing sites in the style of Modernisme all around town, some of which are absolute must-visits. And because we know you want to make the most of Barcelona, we’ve listed the eight examples of modernisme architecture in Barcelona you have to see.
What is Modernisme Architecture?
Modernisme, otherwise known as Catalan modernism and Catalan Art Nouveau, was an artistic movement born in Barcelona. At the forefront of this explosion of artistic expression were Catalonian architects like Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and their striking, eccentric examples of Modernisme architecture can be found all around the city today. Now, let’s take a look at them!
1. Sagrada Familia – the king of Modernisme architecture in Barcelona
Every list on Modernisme should start with Gaudí’s immense cathedral, just like everyone visiting Barcelona should first go see this modern marvel of architecture. Why? Because with the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí reached the pinnacle of his work – and of Catalan modernism itself.
On the outside, intricate sculptures decorate the facade that resembles a mix of a beehive, a spaceship, and a sandcastle. On the inside, biomimetic (mimicking nature) patterns, stained glass, and spiraling pillars touch the deepest part of your soul. And when you skip the line to the Sagrada Familia, your visit will be as heavenly as Gaudí intended it to be.
2. Casa Milà
Next up on this list of Catalan Art Nouveau in Barcelona: If you can’t get enough of Gaudí’s unique take on Modernisme, Casa Milà is as stunning as the Sagrada Familia. Like the aforementioned church, this biomimetic building doesn’t involve a single straight line, resembling a stone quarry (hence the nickname, La Pedrera).
But while the cathedral was meant for the divine, Casa Milà was meant for daily living. And for such a quirky-looking apartment block, the interior is quite serene – that’s why this striking structure is an absolute gem and a must-visit. Get a ticket to skip the line to see the building inside and out.
3. Casa Batlló
This casa is another of Gaudí’s masterpieces – and arguably the most animalistic and colorful of his works! It’s a local favorite, as the building seems to come alive at any given moment. The scaled facade, the bony windows, and the slain dragon on the roof – Gaudí let his imagination run wild when designing Casa Batlló.
This unique apartment building is also open to the public, and with Gaudí’s works being World Heritage Sites, it’s no surprise people visit them by the hundreds. Of course, we have skip-the-line tickets for this much-frequented Catalan Art Nouveau wonder too. Once you’re inside, pay attention to Gaudí’s use of space and the way he lets light enter the building!
4. Sant Pau Hospital
Another masterpiece of Modernisme, this structure was born out of Catalan architect Domènec i Montaner’s touching belief. He figured that a beautiful environment could cheer up and heal patients – and designed an Art Nouveau hospital dedicated to that thought. This large complex of pavilions, tunnels, and courtyards is the healing experience you need on a holiday or short getaway.
The 16 pavilions are full of arching hallways, detailed mosaics and ceramics, and artworks from gifted Catalan artists. Topping it off, serene courtyards and underground tunnels tie the place together. In the spirit of Montaner, the site still has working hospital facilities. We highly recommend doing your health a favor with a visit to the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site!
5. Casa Macaya
Josep Puig i Cadafalch designed many of the most iconic Modernist buildings in Barcelona. Palau Macaya is one of the finest examples of his interpretation of Catalan modernism.
Because of its size and grandiosity, the building is known as Palau Macaya (Palace Macaya). The wonderfully detailed entrance hall and the majestic inner courtyard will help you understand why this is called a palace. Home to La Caixa Foundation, the palace is a place of social well-doing. And, being a place of well-doing, Casa Macaya is open to the public – for free!
6. Casa de les Punxes
Another of Josep’s wonders, Casa de les Punxes is a mighty Gothic castle just a short walk from Palau Macaya (or one metro stop from the Sagrada Familia). Punxes is Catalan for spikes, indicating the six iconic towers that pierce the sky.
Not only is the building awe-inspiring from the outside, the inside is as gorgeous as it is culturally significant. The casa tells the story of Saint Jordi and the Dragon, the most popular myth of Catalonia. Children will love the interactive tour through the castle, as they’re immersed in a world of knights, fair maidens, and dragons! Another architectural masterpiece in Barcelona.
7. Palau de la Música Catalana
Lovers of music need to pay careful attention, because the Palace of Catalan Music is the materialization of a flawlessly orchestrated classical symphony.
Let’s leave aside the concert hall’s richly detailed facade and imposing busts of classical composers. Instead, we’ll move on to the pièce de résistance, which belongs to an entirely different order of beauty. A guided tour through the Palau de la Música Catalana takes you to the main hall, where a brilliant stained-glass sun illuminates the room.
8. Park Güell
Nothing beats having a picnic in the park on a hot summer day – that is, unless the park was designed by Gaudí and is full of Modernist sculptures, pathways, and buildings.
And while you’ll have to bring a picnic basket with wine and tapas yourself, your tickets for Park Güell do include a mosaic lizard, a forest of swaying columns, and an omnipresent celebration of colors. Also in the park: Gaudí’s former home, which is now a museum (and requires a separate ticket). It’s Catalan Art Nouveau heaven!