A Guide to Gaudi’s Barcelona

Antoni Gaudi was a Spanish architect, famous for his unusual but unmistakable design. It’s almost impossible to visit the Catalan capital city without discovering his work and being amazed by the intricate design and attention to detail.

I don’t profess to know much about architecture, but I know what I like and Gaudi’s work is right up there. I first visited Barca more than a decade ago and was struck immediately by how beautiful, and often colourful, his buildings were. This is my guide to Barcelona’s must-see Gaudi spots:

Sagrada Familia: 

Everyone knows the basics of the story of SF and its seemingly never-ending construction, so let me just go over it once again.  You’re welcome. The ground was broken on the site in 1882 and, at the time of writing in 2017, the cathedral is still strewn with cranes and scaffolding as work continues towards its eventual completion. It is estimated that the church towers will finally be finished around 2026, which will be the centenary of Gaudi’s death. Other decorative elements are not expected to be finished until after 2030.

‘However, knowing what my local builders are like, I think that’s possibly a tight timeline. Maybe Spanish contractors are different, I just don’t know.  I highly doubt it, though, and we can only wonder *just* how many cups of tea the Archbishop has to make in a day to keep all those workers happy’

Anyway, despite the fact that the cathedral isn’t even finished yet, it has already earned UNESCO World Heritage status, which is an incredible feat, considering it might be crap when it’s done. I jest, course. It’s already jaw-dropping, so it can only more so in the future.  Rather incredibly, the church receives (and has received) no public funding. The investment comes entirely from private donor and, these days, entry fees.  Going to visit SF will not only blow your mind, but it will also help to gift with the world Gaudi’s vision, and you can’t really argue with that. I first visited in 2006 and the difference from just over a decade into its almost 135 year construction was marked.

Instantly recognisable and can generally be spotted from a distance due to all the people taking photos.

Casa Mila (La Pedrera):

More commonly known by its nickname, ‘La Pedrera (the quarry), this building is the last vivil work by Gaudi and was completed in 1912 on the Passeig de Gracia. The building was commissioned by a wealthy widow and her second husband, Pere Mila (hence the name) and caused some degree of controversy surrounding its curved design and very unique style. Gaudi was asked to design the property as a residential home, which you’d have real difficulty getting through the planning process in this day and age. Changing your windows can be problematic, but building a massive curvy house without load bearing walls and imaginative staircases would have you tangled up with your local council FOREVER.
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These days, the building is occupied by the Fundacio Catalunya La Pedrera, who offer the  property as an exhibition space and visitor attractions, where you can wonder at the marvellous design from the inside and take a trip up to the stunning roof terrace.
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Casa Mila is an incredible building, sitting on the corner of the street, surrounded by other structures that, quick frankly, pale into comparison beside it. However, this beauty does comes with a price, with adult tickets coming in at a quite astounding €39.50 each. Kids under 7 go free so if you do have little ones, you might not quite* need that second mortgage to get your entire family in.  In all seriousness, though, it is a unique building and you won’t be disappointed with your visit. Poorer, yes, but not disappointed. There’s also a shop and a restaurant on site, if you’re a millionaire.
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As with Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
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guell

Parc Guell:

Situated on Carmel Hill above the city, Parc Guell offers a stunning iew across the city and is a real mix of beautifully coloured Mediterranean tile and colourless rock passageways, which are very similar to the facades of SF. Guell is a public park and is a maze of beautiful land and wonderful walkways and viewpoints. Given its location, it’s a fair climb up the side of a hill just to reach the entrance, and it doesn’t get any less steep once you get in.  It’s even more challenging with it’s 32 degrees, so take water and comfortable shoes.  Still, it’s very much worth the complete exhaustion to look around inside.

Although the majority of the park is free to enter, there is a charge for the monument section.  If you like doing your hill walking before your first bocadillo of the day, the monuments are free to enter before 8am.  I’m too lazy to get out of bed for anything before 8am. Even Gaudi.

Tickets for the monument are priced at €6 each and are allocated in 30 minute slots. At the height of season, it’s anxiety-inducingly busy (for me, anyway), so it’s best to pre-order online to ensure your place.  There is also a charge if you wish to visit Gaudi’s home – now the Gaudi Museum – which is also located within the parc. The undoubted highlight of the parc, for me, are the buildings at the entrance gates, which are simply stunning, with their Spanish tile glinting in the brilliant sunshine. El Drac, which is the fabulous salamander sculpture, is also incredible. I didn’t have to pay to have my photo taken with him back in 2006, but such is life in 2017.  In 2007, the statue was badly vandalised, which was a truly shocking crime to commit on one of the world’s iconic and best known landmarks. He has since been restored to his former glory and continues to snake proudly down the staircase of Parc Guell.

If colourful animals are your thing, do visit the parrots (you can usually hear them) on your way round. These lovely birdies live in the parc and are very fond of singing for tourists.

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A Guide to Gaudi's Barcelona
Casa Batllo’s wonderful rooftop and chimneys

Casa Batllo:

Widely regarded as one of Gaudi’s master prices, this house, built in 1877, is located on Passeig de Gracia.  It was purchased by the Batllo family in the early 1900s and the building still holds their name. As well as the official title of Casa Batllo, the property is known locally as the House of Bones, due to its skeletal type structure.

The exterior of the building is decided into three vastly different sections, which are impressively merged together.  The lower level is built from Monjuic sandstone, with the uneven lines that make the building instantly recognisable as a Gaudi design. The middle section is complete with a series of balconies and colourful designs, while the roof is replete with beautifully coloured ceramic tiles and is often likened to the scaly back of a dragon. As well as the impressive exterior, Casa Batllo also has a great deal to offer within its walls. Part of the building is open to the public as a museum and gives locals and tourists the opportunity to step within the famous Noble Floor.

Tickets are available for between €22.50 to €29.50, depending on whether you’d like to both standing in line or not.  Prices are a touch steep, but it is outstanding from the inside, if that makes any sense…  Alternatively, go stare at it from the outside.  It’s impossible not to be blown away by the sheer detail.

Casa Calvet:

This is one of Gaudi’s earlier commissions and was built for both private and business purposes for his client, Pere Calvet, a textile manufacturer. In comparison with more ‘recent’ works, this is a really conservative building.  However, it still has Gaudi hallmarks at every turn; particularly in terms of the rooftop and the protruding wrought iron balconies. The building is located on the terrace at Carrer de Casp in the Eixample neighbourhood and now has a restaurant on the bottom floor.  The rest of the building is not open to the public, unfortunately.

The eatery, ingeniously called Restaurant Casa Calvet, isn’t quite as horrendously expensive as you might think. The weekly lunch menu comes in at just shy of €40 and looks pretty tasty, to be honest. I didn’t try it myself as I simply cannot be trusted to be in nice places and not spill food/break crockery.  It’s better for everyone if I continue to eat at home/some place it doesn’t matter.

A Guide to Gaudi's Barcelona
check out these gates.   You will NEVER be broken into at Casa Vicens.

Casa Vicens:

Dating back to 1888 and located in the lovely Gracia neighbourhood on the Carrer de las Carolinas, Casa Vicens was purchased by Mora Banc in 2014 and is a private property.  Boo! Don’t worry, though, it’s currently being restored and the interior being transformed into a museum that will be open to the public.  Yay!
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Gaudi completed the residence when he was a mere 30 years old, under the commission of Manuel Vicens Montaner.  When I was 30, I still couldn’t build a decent looking house with Lego.  Señor Montaner was a tile merchant, which largely explains the insanely colourful design and the quality of the home’s exterior facade. It is truly astounding to view.
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Vicens was the private residence by Gaudi and was very well received at the time.  Unfortunately, his subsequent, and shall we say more ‘curvy’ designs were not *quite* as popular with the locals.  Casa Vicens has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since way back in 2005.
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Barcelona is filed with the amazing visions of the mind of Antoni Gaudi and, although revered today, he died in the city as a poor man, unrecognised, as he was killed by a car.  It took days for him to be identified as he was assumed to be a vagrant.  It was a very sad end to the life of such a talented man.
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What’s you favourite Gaudi design in Barcelona?

Suzanne x

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