14 Famous Gaudí Buildings & Attractions In Barcelona
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If architecture's your forte and a trip to Barcelona is on the cards then it goes without saying that Antoni Gaudí will be top billed on your sightseeing itinerary. In today's blog we're summarising 11 of the seminal modernist's most famous buildings, along with 3 exciting attractions that explore his life and works.
- Planning on visiting as many of them as you can? Enjoy discounted entry to 8 of them with an official Barcelona Card.
1 - Parc de la Ciutadella & Cascada Fountain:
Still a little known apprentice at the time of Parc de la Ciutadella's inception, Gaudí assisted architect Josep Fontserè in the construction of this sprawling green space and its Trevi-inspired water feature - the Cascada Fountain. He was given responsibility for the design of the park's entrance gate and the bandstand's balustrade (where can be seen early examples of his iconic ironwork). Arguably his most conspicuous contribution is the artificial rock feature at the heart of the fountain, a motif that signalled his penchant for nature an its incorporation into later architectural projects.
Parc de la Ciutadella and the Cascada Fountain during the 1888 World Fair.
Park and fountain today.
2 - Casa Vicens:
Casa Vicens may still be a privately owned property inaccessible to the public, but come Autumn 2017 Gaudí aficionados owe it to themselves to pay a visit. Constructed between 1883-85 during the architect's orientalist period, it was also his first official building design project, the commission having been requested by stockbroker Manuel Vicens i Montaner. Montaner was a tile manufacturer, a profession clearly alluded to in Casa Vicens numerous green and white tiles. These sit alongside various oriental motifs popular at the time of the building's construction.
Casa Vicens Gaudí Building Exterior | Photo © Casa Vicens, Barcelona 2017. By Pol Viladoms.
It being one of Gaudí's earliest projects, Casa Vicens stands in stark contrast to later hallmark projects such as Casa Milà and La Sagrada Família. Though it does boast several elements characteristic of the later style to come, such as exposed stonework and organically twisting cast-iron railings.
Casa Vicens Restored Interior 2017 | Photo © Casa Vicens, Barcelona 2017. By Pol Viladoms.
Soon to become Barcelona's newest publicly accessible UNESCO World Heritage Site, keep up to date with the restoration project on Casa Vicens' Facebook page.
3 - Palau Güell:
Originally a private mansion owned by the Count Eusebi de Guell, Palau Güell is now a key part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Colònia Güell and five other famous Antoni Gaudí buildings. Gaudí was tasked to create a city palace, with the goal of making it a multi-purpose building consisting of several apartments, functions, and exposition rooms. An eclectic mixture of Gothic, Art Nouveau, and Islamic architectural styles, Palau Güell is a sight to behold inside and out, from its intricate staircase and magnificent music room, to the stately rooms that offer impressions of what it was like to live a life of luxury in late 1800s Barcelona.
Palau Güell Exterior Ironwork | Photo Credit: Palau Güell.
Located in the city's El Raval neighbourhood, the mansion was reopened to the public in 2012 after several years of restoration work. Today, guided tours of building's interior are a must when you visit Barcelona. Be sure to visit during opening hours, when music is played from the magnificent grand piano in the music room.
Palau Güell Building Main Hall | Photo Credit: Palau Güell.
4 - Torre Bellesguard:
Gaudí’s buildings around Barcelona are surely the bread and butter of any architectural itinerary, but to get the full picture it's worth taking a trip to the edge of the city centre. Torre Bellesguard was built at the beginning of the 20th century and isn’t a traditional Gaudí building: while we do see lots of mosaics, colours, and patterns, the architect surprises by using more rectilinear shapes, as opposed to his natural penchant for rounded shapes.
Scenic view of Gaudí’s Torre Bellesguard.
Also known as 'Casa Figueiras', it lets visitors admire one of Barcelona’s most stunning panoramas - a feat not-so-subtlety alluded to in its name. In Catalan, 'Bellesguard' means “beautiful view.” The site is found some way out of the city centre but is easily accessible by bus from major areas like Pl. Catalunya, Pl. Glories or Les Corts. It’s also relatively close to the 'Tramvia Blau', an old-fashioned tram that leads up to the funicular for Tibidabo.
5 - Casa Calvet:
One of Gaudí's earliest Naturalist buildings, Casa Calvet is also considered to be one of his most conservative works. Commissioned by the family of textile manufacturer Pere Martir Calvet, the building sports a Modernist architectural style, though with obvious Catalan baroque elements prominent throughout. The facade of Casa Calvet features exquisite wrought ironwork on the balconies, as well as three eerie busts representing Saint Genesius of Rome, Saint Peter the Martyr, and Saint Genesius of Arles. Other symbols on the facade include an olive tree, a cypress, and Catalonia's coat of arms.
Casa Calvet Building Exterior | Photo Credit: Kimbrehhh.
Often overlooked by locals and tourists, Casa Calvet may not have the theatrics of Gaudí's other more famous buildings, but it set the tone and helped to mould the architect's iconic style. Constrained by the Eixample building requirements laid out by Cerdà at the time, Gaudí had to devise a building with a rectangular base, a central courtyard, and a double facade. Though as Plato once said: 'necessity is the mother of invention'. What we're left with is a structure that elegantly blends into its environment, all while maintaining a unique sense of identity.
It's important to note that, like Casa Vicens, Calvet is private property and the majority of the building can only be viewed from the outside. Unlike the former, however, there's a lucky loophole in the guise of Restaurant Casa Calvet. Located on the building's ground floor, this on-site eatery comprises the former owner's offices, an intimate collection of spaces decorated as per classic Art Nouveau convention. Original posters and historical photographs embellish deceptively simple white-tile walls. These in turn are warmly lit by floral lamps and multicoloured light filtered through organically patterned stained glass windows.
6 - Park Güell:
- Park Güell Guided Tour | Book Tickets.
Park Güell is known for being one of the best 'free' attractions in Barcelona. The park itself - with its local Mediterranean feel and vegetation, its hiking paths and viaducts - is free, but access to the monumental area is subject to a fee. That 7 Euro fee (for an adult, without a guide) is well worth it since the monumental area contains some stunning buildings and sites.
Park Güell Main Entrance.
Gaudí’s style is evident once again, in swathes of rounded shapes and colourful trencadís tiles. At the top of the monumental area is a large plaza with a circular bench covered in these uniquely Catalan mosaics, from where you can admire a panoramic view of Barcelona. Everything in the city is visible from here - the towers of Sagrada Família, MNAC on Montjuïc, and even the seaside.
View From Park Güell.
Please note that although you can get close to the park by metro or bus, you should be prepared for a short hike up a hill to actually get there. Also, bring plenty of water since Barcelona’s summer weather can quickly sap your energy, and book your tickets online in advance (especially if you want a guided tour). Without prior booking there can be a peak time wait of between 4 to 6 hours at the park’s gates.
7 - Gaudí House Museum:
Both a modern day attraction and an original structure that Antoni himself would have recognised, the Gaudí House Museum was designed by friend and contemporary Francesc d’Assís Berenguer i Mestres. Serving as none other than the residence of Gaudí himself, the building (located in the heart of Park Güell) is resplendent in Art Nouveau and religious motifs. While the latter two 'museum' attractions in this article tend towards the development of the architect's career, the House Museum takes a somewhat broader perspective.
Approaching the Gaudí House Museum.
First occupied by Gaudí, his father and niece in 1906, its rooms are intensely personal spaces with very little in the way of decoration or pomp. The white-walled bedroom, for example, while containing a sparse collection of obviously Gaudí-esque furniture, has its focal point geared towards the corner, where sits a tiny illuminated bookshelf, a single wooden chair and an image of Christ on the Cross. The scene is more like something from a secluded convent than the home of one of the world's most famous architects. This, however, perfectly encapsulates the purpose of the House Museum; it acts as a window into the mind of Gaudí 'the man' rather than the architect.
Gaudí House Museum Bedroom.
Indeed, the audio guide available upon entry encourages visitors to "...discover the more intimate side of the architect". That's not to say the house is devoid of art, in fact it boasts one of the finest collections of Gaudí furniture anywhere in the city. Its architecture is also undoubtedly Gaudí-inspired, with long, curving archways, floral patterns and curvilinear ironwork as conspicuous as on any of Antoni's own efforts.
Casa Museo Gaudí Furniture.
If you decide to pay a visit note that the House Museum is located in the free access area of Park Güell. It has its own entry fee and this does not include the park's Monumental Zone.
Gaudí House Museum Photos © Fundació Junta Constructora del Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.
8 - Casa Batlló:
One of Gaudí's masterpieces, Casa Batlló is an extraordinary piece of architecture that represents the designers' whimsical side at its very best. It's an eclectic, almost surreal building that features subtle religious flourishes and physical elements inspired by corporeal forms (especially those of dragons). The latter quality is largely responsible for Batlló's alternative name, 'Casa del Ossos' or House of Bones. True to the moniker, the building's exterior displays an overtly skeletal design, which is particularly prominent at night when interior lights shine through, casting eerie yet beautiful shadows.
Gaudí's Casa Batlló during daytime.
Casa Batlló at night.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that features 7 of Gaudí's masterpieces, tourists can take a peek inside the unique attic space and the famous mezzanine where the Batlló family lived. The roof of Casa Batlló is quite intriguing, even from afar, as it looks like the back of a dragon. Colourful tiles resemble the beast's scales, with 'spines' that change colour from different angles. A masterpiece of iridescent art, Casa Batlló is a place where visitors can experience the full spectrum of Gaudí's genius.
Casa Batlló's blue tile interior.
9 - Casa Milà:
Also known as 'La Pedrera,' Casa Milà is one of the last civil buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí. It was built between 1906 and 1912. Nowadays, it is one of the most visited structures in Barcelona on account of its coral-like facade, its unique interior and the spectacular roof - both artistic and offering a unique view of the city. Even the furniture inside the house was designed by Gaudí, and is as unique as the rest of the building, making it a must-see for anyone travelling to Barcelona. We strongly recommend buying tickets online in advance, because it can get quite crowded very fast.
Did you know that Casa Milà is also known as 'La Pedrera' (the stone quarry), because its rippling exterior resembles the rocky shelves commonly seen at stone quarries?
Visitors admiring Casa Milà's roof at night.
10 - Sagrada Família:
Every big city in the world has one famous tourist attraction that everyone knows of. London has the Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Milan has the Duomo, and Barcelona has the Sagrada Família. Widely regarded as the most important of all Gaudí’s buildings, this Roman Catholic basilica has stirred much discussion since its conception in 1882.
The spires of Gaudí's magnum opus building.
People initially argued that the new church would rival the city’s established cathedral, that the project would not outlive Gaudí (who died in 1926), or that the architectural style had nothing to do with a church. The architect himself may be long gone and his magnum opus still incomplete after nearly a century and a half, but the project is far from dead. Due to be completed some time between 2026 - 2028, it's considered a masterpiece even in its partial state, and consistently occupies high spots in top 10 lists of Spain's most visited attractions.
The Sagrada Família's iridescent ceiling with stretching pillars.
It’s very hard to find a church more emblematic, unique and with such an extraordinary story as the Sagrada Família - which has been built entirely out of private donations and has outlived economic crisis', civil wars and periods of waning religiosity. Combining Gothic architecture with concepts from Art Nouveau, Gaudí has produced one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. We strongly recommend buying tickets online in advance, since the queues are quite large.
11 - Sagrada Família Schools:
Located right at the intersection between Carrer de Sardenya and Carrer de Mallorca is a quietly unassuming rectangular building that most tourists could be forgiven for writing off as some nondescript accessory to the basilica at its back. Known as the Sagrada Família Schools, this wavy 10 x 20 meter edifice was originally intended as a temporary structure in which the children of those working on the nearby church could receive an education. Like big brother, however, it was designed by architect Antoni Gaudí in his signature modernist style - an attribute that undoubtedly saved it from future demolition.
That's not to say the schools didn't face moments of peril. Damaged during the Spanish Civil War and shifted to make way for the ever-expanding basilica, it no longer occupies the original position it did in 1909. It's also likely that as the Sagrada Família creeps towards its proposed 2026 completion date the schools will again be raised and reconstructed elsewhere. Saved at least, from total destruction.
From outside, visitors can admire the school's undulating Catalan brick walls and its sine wave roof. Viewed together these features give the building an undeniably gingerbread-like appearance, almost as if peeled from the pages of a fairy tale. It's Gaudí in microcosm, at his naturalistic best. Literally, the schools represent a professional landmark in that they were one of the last unique projects Gaudí tackled before devoting most of his life to the Sagrada Família.
Few buildings exemplify Gaudí's love of curves like the Sagrada Família Schools. | Photo Credit: Munashami.
The building's interior is divided into three classrooms, a hall, and a small chapel. These spaces now serve as the offices of Sagrada Familia, and are open to visitors.
12 - Colònia Güell:
Located in the town of Santa Coloma de Cervello, about 20 km southwest of Barcelona, Colònia Güell was originally meant to be a workers' village, but due to economic hardships, only the crypt was finished in 1915. Commissioned by the famous industrialist Count Eusebi de Guell, the Colònia Güell is another highlight of the aforementioned 'Works of Gaudí' UNESCO World Heritage Site - a collection of 7 of Antoni Gaudí's most famous buildings and attractions.
Church of Colònia Güell at night. | Photo Credit: Colònia Güell.
A striking church, Gaudí's signature on the crypt's architectural style is undeniable. Unusually oval-shaped, its construction techniques are said to have laid the foundation of Gaudí's most famous work - the aforementioned La Sagrada Família. The crypt or church is unlike any other you've seen before. Originally intended as a place of worship it has since transcended this role and now stands as a very secular testament to Gaudí's avant garde style.
Colònia Güell church interior.
13 - Gaudí Experiència:
If you want to learn about Gaudí’s life and works but don’t have time to personally visit all of his buildings, Barcelona still has something for you. Close to Park Güell, on Carrer de Larrard, you will find Gaudí Experiència, a place where you can explore the legacy of the famous architect in 4D. The exhibition summarises the conception and construction of Gaudí’s most famous buildings throughout Barcelona. It’s a great learning experience for adults and children alike, who will enjoy the vibrant 4D experience.
Gaudí Experience exhibits.
Getting there is straightforward: use the bus (lines 24, 31, 32, H6 & 92) or take the Metro to Lesseps station. Since it’s very close to Park Güell, another one of Barcelona’s famous attraction, seeing both in the same day is easy - not to mention cheap, since a ticket only costs 9 Euros for an adult. The Gaudí Experiencia should ideally be visited at the beginning of one’s stay in Barcelona, and treated as an introductory overview of the architect’s greatest works, most of which should be visited in person.
Explore Gaudí's most famous buildings in 4D.
14 - Gaudí Exhibition Centre:
The Gaudí Exhibition Centre is a museum dedicated entirely to works of the great architect. You can find everything from documents, models and old writings of the author in the museum, as well as new, unconventional methods of understanding Gaudí’s mind – like virtual reality, interactive boards and holograms. Opened as recently as 2016, the museum is located in the 'Pia Almoina' building, a wonder in its own right. It can be found near the Cathedral in the city centre and is easily accessible by metro (L4 - Jaume I Station, or L3 - Liceu Station) or bus (lines 45, V15 & V17). Access to the museum is free if you hold a Barcelona Card, which can get you discount access to several other Gaudí buildings as well.
Walking with Gaudí exhibition in Barcelona.