Last Updated on September 27, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
By Jim Ferri
Perhaps more than any other person, architect Antoni Gaudi made Barcelona the tourist magnet it is today.
His almost surreal style of art made him a leader in the Spanish Art Nouveau architecture movement, also known as Modernisme.
Although there are several other well-know architects of the period whose works grace the streets of Barcelona, for the most part it’s Gaudi’s creations that draw the “oohs and aahs” of travelers. in fact, seeing these works are among the best things to see in Barcelona.
He was a man with an extraordinary imagination who used curved stone and concrete, twisted iron and vibrant-colored tiles, to marry design and nature. If you look closely at his works you’ll see that the curved roofs and walls, twisting chimneys and spiraling columns are all represented in nature, whether they be the bone of an animal or the branches of a tree.
Of course, there is much to see and enjoy in Barcelona in addition to Gaudi’s works. But you’ll find that the architect’s work dominates the city. In all, there are 14 basic Gaudi works you can see in Barcelona including Casa Vicens, Casa Calvet, Palau Güell and, just a few blocks away across La Rambla, the lampposts in the Plaça Reial.
But his four most famous works, all easily accessible in Barcelona, are Casa Batllo, La Pedrera, Park Güell and his Magnum opus, La Sagrada Família. The latter is an enormous basilica that is still under construction today, 86 years after his death.
If you have 48 hours in Barcelona you can see a great edal of the city, including the following four Gaudi masterpieces, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Even if you’re on a day trip by train from Madrid – a great trip, by the way – you should visit some of these sites.
A Popular Gaudi Building in Barcelona: Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo is the focal point on the Illa de la Discòrdia, the “Block of Discord,” a block on which stand buildings designed by four different Modernista architects including Gaudi. The name refers to the different building styles, which clash so much with one another and the surrounding neighborhood.
Casa Batllo is actually a remodeling of a previous building by Gaudí, an apartment building to which he added two additional floors and a new façade. It’s one of the very popular Gaudi buildings in Barcelona since it’s an incredibly beautiful place to visit (the reason for the line out front) and something you shouldn’t miss.
Since Gaudí designed both the exterior and interior, this is a place that’s filled with surprises. The Art Nouveau façade mirrors the calm of the sea and its windows the shape of waves. Inside all of the colorful tiles mimic both the colors of the ocean and much of what’s in it.
The great draw for many though, are the whimsical (some call them mythical) chimneys that jut up from the rooftop terrace.
If You Go:
Passeig de Gràcia, 43
Tel: +34 932 16 03 06
Entrance fee: from €35 per adult
Open: daily 9am-6:30pm. Last entry 5:30pm.
La Pedrera / La Casa Milà
Although its official name is La Casa Milà, the building is called La Pedrera, meaning “stone quarry” in Catalan. That’s how people refer to it today and it’s another of the great Gaudi building in Barcelona.
Currently owned by a local bank, La Pedrera is all undulating concrete and twisted iron balconies. You’ll find it less colorful and fanciful than Casa Batllo. The chimneys on the rooftop (including one crowned with broken Champagne bottles) rightfully draws a lot of attention from visitors. But what I found most interesting are the exhibits inside the building.
The attic is lined with arches supporting the roof. Originally designed as the laundry, it now contains a series of exhibits on, and scale models of, Gaudi’s work. Below it are two apartments: one contains an audiovisual presentation on Barcelona history, the second is a recreated apartment of a wealthy family in early-20th century Barcelona.
The recreation is beautiful and fascinating since it consists of the actual elements of one of the original apartments, including everything right down to the door handles and moldings. Each room contains period furniture, works of art and various household accessories.
If You Go:
Provença, 261 – 265
Tel: +34 934 84 59 90
Entrance fee: adults €24 / 7-12 years €12 / 6 years and younger free / students, seniors, disabled €18.50. Audio guide provided.
Open: daily 9am-6:30pm. Night tour: 8:40pm-10:00pm
La Sagrada Família, the Most Famous Gaudi Building in Barcelona
Although still a work in progress, La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s greatest work. It’s also the number one tourist attraction in Barcelona.
Although I had read about it before visiting Barcelona, I was still totally unprepared for the actual experience. The basilica is not only immense, it is incredibly beautiful. And, as in all of Gaudí’s work, the beauty is both in the overall structure as well as in the details, as well.
When you visit La Sagrada Familia try to do as I did and first look at it from a distance. From far away it appears almost to be melting in the hot Spanish sun. I couldn’t help but wonder how something appearing so grotesque could be as beautiful as I had been told.
Then, as my wife and I got closer, things began to take shape. As we neared the building we became awestruck by the beauty of it all. We, like many, found the stone carvings of Biblical scenes on the exterior fascinating. But once inside, however, you stand in awe of the beauty and grandeur on a massive scale all about you.
You can spend hours here, walking about both inside and out. And certainly take the elevator up into the spires to see the ongoing construction work. (When you purchase a ticket you’re given a time to be at the elevator). And be sure to go to the museum in the basement, where there’s also a lab with engineers doing tests.
One other note: don’t put off a visit here until the project is complete. It’s anyone’s guess when construction will actually end and the estimates range between 10 and 80 years. Consider this: 8 towers have been built so far — although a total of 18 are planned.
If You Go:
La Sagrada Família
Carrer de Mallorca, 401
Tel: +34 935 132 060
Entrance fee: adults €26 / free for children under 11, disabled + 1 companion.
Open: daily 9am – 8pm
Note: entrance fees help fund the ongoing construction
This was originally planned by Gaudi to be a residential neighborhood for wealthy Barcelonans. Gaudi envisioned a “garden city” in which people bonded with nature as nowhere else. But despite Gaudi living in Park Güell for some years, the project never quite got off the ground. Finally, in 1923, the land was given to the city as a park.
The most popular area in the park is the Gran Plaça Circular with its serpentine bench of colorful tiles. The bench sits atop a cavernous room of 87 crooked columns with a ceiling studded with ceramic tiles. It also faces two Hansel-and-Gretel-style houses at the entrance. The entire park remains one of the great Gaudi projects in Barcelona.
Wander about the park and you’ll see the sometimes-bizarre beauty of it all. It’s a fantastic fantasy land of bridges and walkways made with rock from the area, and walls with gargoyles jutting out. Even the flower beds are planted to appear as if undulating like waves of the ocean. There is not a single straight line in the entire park.
Here, too, Gaudí left plenty of surprises for visitors. You can stand amidst a beautiful field of flowers at one moment, and minutes later be beneath a viaduct whose twisting rock supports look like giant tree trucks jutting out of the ground.
Despite the crowd that was there when we visited, it still was peaceful and calm. It’s an incredible place that’s almost hypnotic and magical, and one of the most amazing parks in the world.
If You Go:
Carrer d’Olot, 13
Tel: +34 932 130 488
Entrance fee: adult €14.50 / 7-12 years and 65+ €10.33 / under 6 years and disabled are free
Open: daily 9:30am – 8:30pm
Note: tickets must be purchased only online in advance for a timed entry.