Barcelona attracts millions of tourists every year, it is almost always in the top 10 most visited cities in Europe and I believe that the stunning architecture by Gaudi has a huge role to play in Barcelona’s attractiveness. In this post I will cover few of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona that we visited and also give you some extra suggestions in case you have more time to spend there than we did.
But first, who was Antoni Gaudi?
Gaudi wasn’t born into a wealthy family, he had to work to put himself through university, which was probably also the reason he wasn’t the most brilliant student at the time. He was very proud Catalan, he even refused to speak Spanish or Castilian, which also put him in jail for one night. Gaudi was extremely religious person, he spend the last 12 years of his life working solely on La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s design is very distinctive, he drew inspiration from nature (you will see that some motifs repeat itself in various of his work, like cypress tree) around him and his buildings have this fairytale-like feel.
Gaudi’s first comission was to design two lamp posts on each side of the fountain at Plaza Reial. This was his first and only work he has done for the city, after that he only worked for private investors and how our tour guide Misha put it: “in the end he worked for God himself”.
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s most elaborate and magnificent work, even though he wasn’t the first choice for the architect of this church. Associació Espiritual de Devots de Sant Josep (Spiritual Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph), founded in 1866 by Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer hired Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano to build an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. Due to differences of opinion Villar stepped down and the project was given to Antoni Gaudi, who was just 31 at the time. Gaudi’s design for La Sagrada Familia was completely different from the neo-Gothic design that Villar proposed.
Here are just a few things we learned on our audio guide in La Sagrada Familia and I think are the most fascinating ones:
- Gaudi only saw one bell tower build on the Nativity facade.
- Nativity facade shows Nativity scene of Jesus’s birth and life and is that for decorated with lively ornaments and representing summer. You will also find cypress tree on this facade, as it represents eternal life. On the inside of the church the glass is in blue and green shades, which are morning colours, while on the other side, with the Passion facade glass is orange and red, representing sunset. There is also a huge difference in the facade. Nativity facade is very ornamental, while Passion facade has edgier lines that show Jesus’s suffering and death.
- Sagrada Familia will have 18 towers when it will be completed. 12 of the towers will represent the apostles, four of them will represent the evangelists, one will be designated for the Virgin Mary, and of course the last one, the highest one in the middle, will represent Jesus Christ. This tower will be 172.5 meters tall, which is around 1 meter less than the highest point in Barcelona – Montjuic Mountain. Gaudi felt that nothing made by man should surpass what was made by God.
- Since Gaudi’s death many different Catalan artists continued his work based on the remains of the models, sketches, plans and notes that survived the vandalism between 1936 to 1939.
- Sagrada Familia is also Gaudi’s last resting place.
- The construction of La Sagrada Familia began in 1882 and it is expected to be completed in 2026 to celebrate thee centenary year of the death of Gaudí. Check La Sagrada Familia website to see what still needs to be build until 2026: sagradafamilia.org/en/towards-2026.
I strongly suggest you visit the inside of the Sagrada Familia, because it is just so fascinating and magnificent. Definitely go for either audio guide or tour guide, because you will learn so much about Gaudi’s life, his work process and the design of the Sagrada Familia. Book tickets ahead and if you want to avoid huge crowds, go early in the morning, it will be a bit calmer.
Book tickets here: sagradafamilia.org/en/ and support the construction of La Sagrada Familia. It is financed through donations and ticket sale.
Palau Güell was one of the first important commissions Antoni Gaudi received at the beginning of his career. Gaudi designed this residential palace for Eusebi Güell, rich industrialist, politician, who also became Gaudi’s patron and friend, and his family. What will instantly tell you this was palace was made by Gaudi is the roof. There are 20 chimneys all turned into these fantastic shapes, one of which is also cypress tree.
Gaudi had a total artistic freedom when working with Güell and money was never a problem.
Book tickets here: www.palauguell.cat/en
Gaudi and Güell worked together on many projects, one of the most important and famous ones is Park Güell. Güell bought this plot of land on the outskirts of Barcelona to build a residential area for rich and famous, but no one wanted to live there, so they turned this plot of land into park. Even with limited knowledge of Gaudi’s work you know this will be no ordinary park with trees, few benches and maybe a water fountain. Park Güell is a magical place, where you feel like you are in a fairytale.
There is an entrance fee to the Monumental Area of Park Güell, but you can still see lots outside this area. Here are few photos that you can take without paying a fee to the Monumental Area, even though the best views are from Nature theater (photo above).
Here are also few of my tips on how to best experience Park Güell:
- Book your ticket in advance to be sure you get the time you want to visit.
- Visit the Monumental Area before the sunset. Because the entrance to this area is at Nature Theater, it will be really crowded once you will be able to enter. Just wait it out, people do move on to the rest of area and you will be able to take lovely shots without pushing through.
- Come to the park before your booked time and explore the rest of it. It is really beautiful, you will get some stunning views of the city, see and listen to the parrots in palm trees…
- There will be bus shuttle from and back to Alfons X metro station included in your ticket.
Extra tip: you can visit Monumental Area for fre if you come before and after opening hours.
Book tickets here: parkguell.barcelona/en
Casa Batllo is located on Passeig de Gracia which is very prestigious street, and it is a part of Illa de la Discòrdia or Block of Discord, known for having buildings by four of Barcelona’s most important Modernista architects. The one right next to Casa Batllo (photo below) is called Casa Amatller and was originally designed as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller, today you can go in and enjoy some chocolate.
Gaudi didn’t actually build this one from scratch, he designed the facade and some of the interior for Batllo family. The owner Joseph Batllo wanted his house to stand out from the rest and gave Gaudi total artistic freedom. In 1906, when the renovation was finished, Barcelona City Council selected the house as a candidate for that year’s best building award, but it was awarded to someone else. Casa Batllo is locally more known as Casa dels ossos or House of Bones, for skeletal details. Gaudi used another cypress tree symbol on this building, the cypress cone which inspired so called Gaudinian cross, you will also find it in Sagrada Familia and Park Güell.
There are at least two theories on what the facade represents. One of them says that it is masquerade, because balconies look like masks. The other one tells the story of Sant Jordi, who killed the dragon to save the princess. The roof represents the dragon, the hole on the roof (you can’t see it on my photos) represents the wound and the top balcony the rose that grew from dragon’s blood.
Since 1990s the building is owned by Bernat family, who are the founders of Chupa Chups lollipop company. They fully restored the house and opened it to public in 1995.
Book tickets here: www.casabatllo.es/en/
Casa Mila wasn’t considered one of the best works of Antoni Gaudi at the time. The owner’s wife Roser Segimor, whose inheritance paid for this construction hated it and so did the public. It is also called La Pedrera which means stone quarry, due to its appearance.
Pere Mila wanted a luxury apartment for his family and not so luxurious apartments to rent out, but Gaudi refused to save money on tenants apartments, so the whole project costed a fortune. I am not really sure but it seems like Gaudi had a thing for roofs and chimneys, because this one also has amazing rooftop with sculptural chimneys and you can also visit it at night and listen to the concert up there. Few of those chimneys look a bit like soldier helmets and there is a theory that George Lucas’s stormtrooper helmets in Star Wars were inspired by Gaudi’s chimneys at Casa Mila.
The owner of the building is now Catalonian bank, while this is still home to four private tenants who live in spacious and bright apartments made by the grand master Gaudi and a part of the building is open to public (one of the apartments and the roof). Wouldn’t you want to live in a place of such cultural and architectural significance? I certainly would. We went to see this place with a free walking tour and our tour guide told us that the tenants pay the rent of only 500 EUR, which in my opinion is cheap considering where you live.
Book your tickets here: www.lapedrera.com/en
We didn’t visit any of the Gaudi’s casas from the inside, because the entrance fees were just way out of our budget, and we compromised on just seeing the outside. We did go to Park Güell (10 EUR) and to Sagrada Familia (23 EUR with audio guide) though. For Gaudi free walking tour we picked Runer Beans tours, and in the tour we covered everything except Park Güell, and learned so much about these places, so I would totally recommend you to go on a tour to learn more about Gaudi’s life and work because it is really fascinating.
Here is also the list of some of Gaudi’s other works you can see and visit in Barcelona, if you have more time:
- Casa Vicens: one of Gaudi’s first important buildings and first Art Nouveau building in the world.
- Colonia Güell: another one of Gaudi’s unfinished buildings.
- Dragon gates at Güell Pavillions
- Casa Calvet: one of Gaudi’s most conventional works.
- Cascada Fountain at Parc de la Ciutadella: Gaudi designed the fountain in one of the Barcelona’s most famous parks.
- Col·legi de les Teresianes: Gaudi desifnes a convent school for a community of nuns from the Order of Saint Teresa of Jesus.
- Torre Bellesguard: one of Gaudi’s less known works, names after magnificent views. In Catalan Bellesguard means “beautiful views” or “good viewing point”.
Have you been to Barcelona? Which Gaudi’s works did you visit? Which building is your favourite? Share in the comments. 🙂
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