Gaudi’s Barcelona

By Nomadic Matt | Published October 5th, 2009

Antoni GaudiEverywhere you go in Barcelona, you’ll see his influence and his buildings. Antoni Gaudí is to Barcelona as Frank Lloyd Wright is to Chicago. Gaudí is Barcelona’s most famous architect—not only because of his tragic death getting killed by a tram, but also because of his unique style, use of nature, and catalog of work. Antoni Gaudí was a Spanish Catalan architect who belonged to the Art Nouveau movement. Gaudí first designed in Gothic and traditional Catalan architectural styles, but he soon developed his own famous style. He even developed a new method of structural calculation based on a model built with cords and sacks of lead. His work is a real visual treat. If you like unique architecture, consider doing something different in Barcelona and take a tour of Gaudí’s works:

La Sagrada Familia
Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain
The most famous of Gaudí’s work, this church has been in construction for more than 100 years. Gaudí was a devout Catholic and spent over 10 years working just on this project. He put everything he had into it. It’s supposed to be finished in 2030, but you never know with how slow everything’s going. The church blends man, nature, and religion in its detailed architecture. There’s also a really great audio tour that fills in a lot of the gaps about the structure and is worth the rental fee. This is one of the most popular destinations in Barcelona, so expect long lines.

Gaudi Lamppost, Placia Real
Gaudi Lamppost in Barcelona Spain
The first commission that Gaudí received as an official from the city was to construct street lamps for the city. He designed them with three and six arms and crowned by a winged helmet, symbolic of the commercial power of Barcelona. They’re all gone now except for the ones that remain in the Placa Real off La Rambla. They’re a lot more interesting than the modern ones that dot the city.

Casa Batllo
Caso Batllo in Barcelona Spain
Casa Batllo is a building restored by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900s. It’s located in the Eixample district of Barcelona and, like everything Gaudí designed, heavy on the Art Nouveau. The facade is decorated with a mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles that starts in shades of golden orange moving into greenish blues. The roof is arched and has been likened to the back of a dragon. It’s one of my favorite Gaudí buildings.

Palau Guell
Palau Guell
Located off La Rambla, this building doesn’t jump out at you like other Gaudí structures. The home is centered on a main room for entertaining high-society guests. The main party room has a high ceiling with small holes near the top where lanterns were hung at night from the outside to give the appearance of a starlit sky. There are colorful tree like chimneys on top. It’s easily missed, so keep your eye out.

Park Guell
Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona
Park Güell, a World Heritage Site, is a garden complex designed and built in the years 1900 to 1914. It’s since been converted into a municipal garden. The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent. The park is right near La Sagrada Familia, and you can buy joint tickets for that and Gaudí’s house, which is located in the park.

Casa Calvet
Casa Calvet
Casa Calvet was built for a textile manufacturer in the Eixample district of Barcelona. This building is the most conventional of his works, partly because it had to be squeezed in between older structures and partly because it’s in one of the nicest sections of Barcelona. The house’s symmetry, balance, and orderly rhythm are unusual for Gaudí’s works. However, the curves and double gable at the top and the projecting oriel at the entrance are modernist elements.

Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens in Barcelona, Spain
Casa Vicens was Gaudí’s first important work. The house is constructed of undressed stone, rough red bricks, and colored ceramic tiles in checkerboard and floral patterns. The owner was the owner of a brick and tile factory, so the ceramic tiles pay tribute to his employment. (The tiles were made by the owner.) It’s not one of the prettier Gaudí sites, but the plus side is that there isn’t a big line.

Casa Mila
Casa Mila, Barcelona
Gaudí, a Catholic and a devotee of the Virgin Mary, planned for the Casa Milà to be a spiritual symbol. Overt religious elements include an excerpt from the rosary prayer on the cornice and planned statues of Mary, specifically Our Lady of the Rosary, and two archangels, St. Michael and St. Gabriel. The local government objected to some aspects of the project, fined the owners for many infractions of building codes, and ordered the demolition of aspects exceeding the height standard for the city. Casa Milà was in poor condition in the early 1980s, but it’s since been restored and many of the original colors revived.

Cascada Fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella
Cascada Fountain in Parc de la CiutadellaGaudí helped design this while he was still a student. While more Baroque in style, the fountain is massive and awe inspiring. While there are many Gaudí elements in this fountain, Gaudí would leave more of his touch on later works. If you visit most of the sites on this list, you can see the evolution of his style and how different this is from his other works.

Gaudí was a prolific architect, and wandering around Barcelona, you’re sure to bump into many of his works. If you plan to visit the inside of these places, keep in mind many of the houses are closed on Mondays. Gaudí is not my favorite designer, but he uses color well and his work is always unique. Searching out his works is a different way to see Barcelona.

For more information, visit my page on backpacking Europe or my guide to Spain.

comments 20 Comments

I know La Sagrada Familia is is suppose to be his grand vision, however I found the sight of it gaudy at best (pun intended!). Seriously, his new approach to architectural styling included giant colored fruit on the facades! yikes, I say.

I appreciate a lot of his other buildings in the city though, such as the ones you showcased after the cathedral.

NomadicMatt

I like some of his work but, like you, I wouldn’t say I am a huge fan.

Hi Matt! Profiting from today’s holiday – the 99th anniversary of the Republic in Portugal – I’m happy to have some more time to surf the net and enjoy your blog!
Loved to see your Edinburgh, but this Barcelona is superb. Furthermore I’m reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón (The Shadow of Wind) and Barcelona is all there…
Blogtrotter is showing you Antalya. Enjoy and have a great week!

NomadicMatt

Glad you are enjoying the city tours!

Blue

The Shadow of the Wind is one of my all time favourites. When I was in Barcelona I kept wondering if Fermin could really exist! I’d love to have coffee with him at Placa Reial!

I loved Barcelona and will return there someday.

I would love to go to Barcelona one day! Gaudi’s works are all unique, one of a kind. Thanks Matt for sharing these beautiful pictures.

NomadicMatt

who knows. Eventually they will…but 2030? not sure.

I loved this look at a variety of Gaudi structures. I love unusual architecture, and his work always fascinated me. I saw a few small pieces and drawings at the “Barcelona!” exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art a few years ago, but I hope to see some of the buildings in person one of these days.

They are really beautiful structures. I hope I get to see La Sagrada Familia somday soon.

Great set of pictures.

I actually like Gaudi. All of his work is unmistakeably original. They are almost fairy tale structures. I really hope to get out to Barcelona next year.

Great list Matt! Visiting Gaudi’s work in Barcelona was definitely one of the highlights of my visit in that city. I can still remember distinctly heading to visit the Sagrada Familia and literally having my breath taken away as it came into view. The church is an incredible work of art and an amazing feat of architecture. I think it will be a pretty amazing sight when it is finally finished.

Maria

I´m Spanish but just back from visiting Barcelona for first time last weekend and i have to say i´ve enjoyed reading ur blog Matt, thats a great visual and historical tour. Barcelona is a must see without a doubt, i loved the Park Güell, the Sagrada Familia and the Casa Batlló among other buildings and monuments. Gaudi is a fantastic!!!! I would strongly recommend u to visit Barcelona soon but if you can´t make it now, u can keep updated through this blog atm and to get some tickets for 2030… :)).

We were in Barcelona for a few days this summer. Even our four year old, who doesn’t appreciate architecture too much yet, had a jaw dropping moment when he saw the facade of the Sagrada Familia. We also enjoyed wandering around Park Guell. We’ll post about our trip to northern Spain on our own blog, and some of the amazing digs we found for travelers on a budget. -Michael

Great post! It can´t be emphasized enough how important Gaudí is to Barcelona. He really led an interesting life, from being one of the most sought after architects to dying alone in a paupers´ hospital.

he gave the biggest impact to the touristic development to barcelona, valencia wants to do the same with Santiago Calatrava with his Cityof Arts and Science, they will never get this level

What a really great travel blog. I love this post about Gaudi’s Barcelona. Having just returned from a trip to Barcelona, I thought we’d ‘done’ most of Gaudi’s gorgeous designs. But having looked at this site, I’m going to have to return – particularly to see the street lamps off La Rambla. They look magnificent. And thanks for all the great information.

NomadicMatt

You’re welcome. Glad I could help!

Barcelona Traveler

Thanks for the information! I love Barcelona and am looking forward to going back. I especially love Antonio Gaudi’s work, which can be found all over Barcelona; every single one is a masterpiece. The Temple de la Sagrada Familia is so intricate; it is the most beautiful and artistic temple I have ever seen. As someone has said, they found his work somewhat gaudy, but that’s what I love about his work!

Despite how striking the Sagrada Familia is, I much preferred the Casa Batlo instead. Both have hefty entry fees, so if I had to choose one of would be the funky house over the cathedral. I think I’ll wait until the cathedral is finished before I visit again and lose 13 euros to see a construction site!

Good post. Nicely sums up all the must see Gaudi sites. :)

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