Eusebi Guell's model industrial village built in 1890 to house occupants of the textile industry. The highlight is one of Antonio Gaudi's key works - the unfinished church crypt. The crypt features brilliant use of leaded stained glass, brick and ceramics.
For me the highlight of Catalonia is a person – or perhaps the places he created. Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece is usually considered to be Barcelona Cathedral, Sagrada Familia. But I prefer his more human scale creations: the Park Güell and the Casa Milà were the highlights of our visit to Barcelona. The former is a wonderful garden built on a hillside, providing splendid panoramic views of Barcelona. Within the garden are several intriguing structures and sculptures designed by Gaudi, who lived in a house by the park entrance (now a museum). Casa Milà is an amazing apartment block, constructed without a single straight line. The public are admitted to much of the building and on to the roof terrace – the high point of a visit in more senses than one.
The last time I visited Barcelona I had a great experience with the guys of Barcelona Photocircuits. They run a photography studio and organise photography tours across Barcelona. I spent an afternoon in downtown and they showed me very cool hidden corners and also helped me improve my camera skills. You can ask anything, they give you lots of tips and tricks to make your pictures great and deeply know the city. Very recommended.
On the eastern side of the Rambla you’ll see one of Barcelona’s most photographed buildings, the Casa Bruno Quadros or, to give it its popular name, the House of Umbrellas. The ground floor of the building –now a savings bank– housed until 1980 a shop selling… umbrellas. The building was redesigned and decorated in its present form in 1883, just before the Universal Exhibition, by Josep Vilaseca, the architect who designed the Arc de Triomf at Passeig Sant Joan. Don’t let the spectacular dragon or charming umbrellas make you overlook the fine sgraffito work or the Egyptian inspiration of the upper floors.
La Rambla, 82
Google map: bit.ly/meWJZX
This is a new shopping centre that was once the main bull ring. Designed by Richard Rodgers, it has a roof terrace where you can walk in a full circle, and experience a 360 degree view of the entire city. The views are literally SPECTACULAR. You can then pop inside for a cool beer and a snack.
Gran Vía Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385
08015 Barcelona, Spain
Google map : bit.ly/mCi8lo
Barcelona is a terrific city for shopping, but I find the elegant old exteriors of the stores with their marble façades with gold lettering easily as interesting as what’s inside. You’ll find the highest concentration of historic shopfronts in the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter) and El Born, with a smattering in Eixample and Gràcia. My favourites are the pastry shop La Colmena, dating to 1928; the nougat shop La Campana, which opened in 1890; the pastry and chocolate shop Pastisseria Escriba, renovated in 1902; the knife store Ganiveteria Roca, dating to 1911; the hat store Sombrereria Obach, which opened in 1924; and the candle shop Subira Cereria, founded in 1761. And of course they all have beautiful things inside to look at too.
Wander around the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter), El Born, Eixample and Gràcia.
For fans of old architecture, I strongly recommend a visit to these two masterpieces: Liceu Theatre and Catalan Music Palace. You can buy a tour ticket from the venues.
If you love Gaudí and modernist architecture, this is a great webpage that gives a list of his buildings in Barcelona you can visit in one or two days, with addresses and opening hours.
In Barcelona there is the Casa Milà which is better known as La Pedrera; a building designed by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The roof of this building was used in the 1975 Jack Nicholson film ‘The Passenger’. La Pedrera means ‘The Quarry’ and refers to the cliff like walls of the building.
Most people might only see the building from street level and admire its structure from there; however, the roof offers something very unique with its strange chimney designs and views over Barcelona, including a view of the Sagrada Familia. It costs around 10 euros to get in and that includes seeing the whole museum.
Carretera del Carmel 23
Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Pedrera, Güell Parc and Palau Güell are staple Gaudí monuments that give Barcelona its magic.
But here are some of Gaudí's lesser-known, beautiful contributions to design and architecture in Barcelona:
- Fountain of the Three Graces in Placa Reial
- Gigantic fountain in Parc de la Cuitadella
- The amazing wrought-iron embellished street lamps that line the streets are 125-year-old originals in the heart of the city. In Plaza Reial, by Las Ramblas, Passeig de Gracia and the old port entrance.
I'd recommend it because it's a beautiful church designed by Gaudi, an artist. It wasn't finished when I went but it was still beautifully carved, a masterpiece I'd say. It reminded me of an amazing, whacky jungle; there were towers painted incredibly and when you climbed up to the very top you could see all the wonderful sights of Barcelona. It's not like any other church I've ever been in and well worth the effort to climb to the top.
Ella Lazenby (age 9).
Barcelona, metro Sagrada Familia.
One of the entrances to Cathedral La seu is through the cloistered courtyard. It’s a wonderful space, stone flagged floors, arched recesses, gothic columns and lush green foliage. One can easily imagine walking slowly around the cloisters in quiet contemplation. Ah, except for the interruptions of the geese which share the space.
There are 13 geese, each representing one-year of the life of the martyred Santa Eulalia, the patron Saint of Barcelona. One does get the sense that the geese feel they are the real owners of the courtyard; everyone else is just an interloper. And they are probably right.
Inside the beautifully cool interior are some wonderfully ornate side chapels, paintings and gilding. The high ceiling has carved round plagues at each axis and the patches of weathering on the roof rather than detracting from the decoration actually add to the feel of the place, giving a sense of history and continuity.
The choir stalls are handsomely decorated with coats of arms and all through the cathedral are wonderfully rich colours and decorative flourishes. It is an incredibly impressive building, a focal point for the area and community, imposing yet also welcoming and peaceful.
A lift takes you to the roof and a walk along the bouncy steel walkway not only gives you fantastic views over the city but also allows you to see up close the architecture of the cathedral itself.
Plaça de la Seu
Barri Gotic. Metro: Lines 1 and 3 (Catalunya Station) and Lines 2 and 4 (Urquinaona Station.)
Designed by Gaudi, begun in 1883 and still being constructed, the Sagrada Familia radiates a compelling presence in the city, even before you visit it. Maybe it is the fact that it is unfinished, maybe it's the unusual architecture and decoration - which includes broken bottles and ceramics - but there is something so creative about the building that it'll work on your imagination.
From a distance the facade looks like someone has taken a lump of clay, kneaded and moulded it into a mass of spikes, icicles, holes and ridges. Closer up and you begin to pick out elements, even closer and you become overwhelmed by the intricate details. Inside the lines of the stone are clean, elegant, tactile.
The structure and composition of the building is very organic - photographs show how some of the columns were inspired by trees - and it is almost as if the building has developed on its own burgeoning from the earth, expending and blossoming as it grows. I particularly sensed this inside the structure and when climbing around inside the thin towers, the building has such a strong sense of identity, its own identity, separate from the person who designed it and the people building it. Maybe that is in part what makes this a remarkable structure, the way that is both representative of Gaudi's vision but is also somehow independent. This is not just a building it's an ongoing work of art.
Carrer de Mallorca 401
Metro: Line 2 or 5 Station: SagradaFamilia
Obligatory on any visitor’s itinerary is the church of the Holy Family designed by the ultra-pious architect, Gaudi. George Orwell said that this was one of the ugliest buildings on Earth, and expressed wonder as to why the Anarchists hadn’t wrecked it in the Spanish Civil War. It is worth seeing for its ugliness. The stonework is like icing on a cake that has melted. It is not worth the eight Euro to go inside and see what is essentially a building site of scaffolding and cranes. Rightly or wrongly, it has become a symbol of the city.
When you go to Sagrada Familia, don’t jump back on the Metro but persevere up Avinguda de Gaudi. You’ll eventually come across this still part-working hospital that you are free to stroll around and ogle. Unesco protected, this lesser known of the Modernista works is a visionary place created by Domenech i Nontaner for Barcelona’s medial needs at the turn of the 20th-century. It would have been worth getting ill just to have been able to stay there.
While everyone flocks to Gaudi’s still-in-progress spires, it’s very much worth remembering that there’s a medieval cathedral still standing proud in Barcelona’s old town. There’s perhaps a touch of irony too, in the fact that the finishing touch was not applied to this building, in the early 20th century, until nearly 700 years after its inception. It is beautiful, as are its surroundings, and revealing of how the centre of this city has shifted according to fashion. Don’t pass it by.
Placa de la Seu
Quite apart from the permanent collection of Catalan, Spanish and other European contemporary art, and the special exhibitions, the museum is itself a work of art (architect Richard Meier). Just walking around its spaces is an uplifting experience.
5 minutes walk from Las Ramblas;
Plaça dels Àngels, Barcelona 08001;
tel: 93 412 0810;
This elaborately decorated, art nouveau (modernista in Catalan) concert hall is an absolute must see. It's exciting enough looking at it outside, but the whole of the inside is exhilarating with a riot of sparkling stained glass and swirling forms. There’s a huge expression of colour and light, especially in the auditorium itself with its stunning, golden-brown, stained-glass ceiling - a highlight in every sense. Guided tours only, some in English, last just under an hour, and it's best to book in advance. Don't be put off - this is really one to remember.
Calle Sant Francesc de Paula, 2; tel: 902 442 882; nearest metro: Urquinaona
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