General tours of a city or country are always nice, but sometimes travelers want to zero in on one area for a more in-depth travel experience. Barcelona is one place where a themed tour would work well. Some visitors may want to tackle trying a different Catalan specialty at every meal while others may want to search out great finds in antiques or local handcrafts. Still others will want to visit buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi, who is considered one of the great Spanish modernist architects. Gaudi designed a number of buildings that are among the top tourist draws in Barcelona.
After looking at Gaudi’s works, travelers may want to see a different style of architecture, in this case Catalan Art Nouveau, which can be seen at the Palace of Catalan Music. Visitors are highly recommended taking in a concert there as well as touring the building.
Past travelers to the Catalan capital say getting lost is the best way to explore Barri Gotic, the old quarter that has ties to the Romans. Just wandering through the district, with its narrow streets lined with art nouveau buildings that are filled with shops, restaurants and bars, is a real treat. Shoppers highly recommend La Basilica Galeria, which is both an art, perfume and jewel shop as well as a display of permanent exhibits of art and jewelry.
The city also offers art aficionados a chance to learn more about famous Barcelonan artists such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. When it’s time to relax, there’s sunbathing on Mediterranean beaches, pigging out on tapas, taking in a flamenco show, or cheering on Barcelona at a football (soccer) match. It’s nigh impossible to run out of things to do in this great Spanish city.
Parc Guëll is a thinking person’s park, only it’s not a park in the traditional sense of the word. Rather it started out as a grand neighborhood for the rich as dreamed by a Barcelona entrepreneur, Eusebi Güell, the first Count of Güell.
As the 1800s drew to a close, Guell picked noted architect Antoni Gaudi, to design something that would stand out. The count bought land in the Gracia district of Barcelona so Gaudi could design an estate for the rich. The area had little vegetation, ironic perhaps because the estate was to be like an English garden.
The two men worked toward building high quality, architecturally innovative homes that would use the most modern technology of the day. Unfortunately, their vision was not a commercial success, since only two houses were built, neither of which were designed by Gaudi. Guell died in 1918, and his family donated the estate to the state in 1923.
Gaudi was a famous architect who represented Catalan modernism. His designs were symbolic of the pair’s religious and political beliefs. They also looked to the Temple of Apollo at Deifos for inspiration.
Today Parc Guell is a municipal garden, filled with houses, gardens and pavilions, all surrounded by a rustic stone fence that utilizes ceramic tiles as decorations. The entrance is via an ornate staircase that passes by grottoes, a water fountain and whimsically shaped statues.
The park is noted for its sculptures and designs that are covered in mosaic tiles. Indeed, park buildings are ornately designed, with columns, porticos, steeples and spires. Though the designs were considered modern art for the early 1900s, today some may think they resemble an amusement park.
Between 1906 and 1926, Gaudí lived in one of the two houses that were completed. Francesc Berenguer designed the house. Today it is known as the Casa Museu Gaudí and serves as a museum, displaying some of Gaudí’s furniture.
Visitors say Parc Guell is a must-see attraction in Barcelona, especially for those interested in Gaudi’s architecture. They also say views of the city are breathtaking.
Casa Milà in Barcelona is another building designed by the modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. It is the last civil work he designed; it was built between 1906 and 1910. Casa Milà is also known as La Pedrera, which translates as “the quarry.”
The multi-story building is considered highly innovative. The columns and floors have no load-bearing walls, and the front also supports itself. In an era when motorcars were still in their infancy, Gaudi designed Casa Milà with an underground garage.
Casa Milà was built for Roser Segimon and her second husband, Pere Milà, who is said to have loved things flamboyant and opulent. He wanted a home that would stand out in Barcelona. He retained Gaudi to design the building, which would also contain apartments to let on other floors. The building, located at Provence and Passeig de Gracia, was finished in December 1910, though it did not contain some of the elements Gaudi proposed. A Catholic, he included statues of the Virgin Mary, and the archangels St. Michael and St. Gabriel.
During construction, Milà was fined for violating city building codes and was ordered to tear down portions that exceeded city height limits. The end result was an ornate, wavy building. Unique chimneys can be found on the rooftop, which also offers scenic views of Barcelona.
Milà died in 1940; the building was sold in 1946, though his widow continued to live there until she died in 1964. After that, some remodeling was done, but the building fell into disrepair. Restoration of the two buildings surrounding two courtyards began in earnest in the late 1980s.
Every big city in the world has a street it’s famous for. In Paris, it’s the Champs-Élysées, and New York has its Fifth Avenue. La Rambla is Barcelona’s famous street. It’s where people go for shopping, including at markets; sidewalk cafes; nightlife and other entertainment, including street performers and festivals.
La Rambla is a promenade less than a mile long that bisects the city center, separating the old city, known as Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter), in the east from El Raval in the west. It connects Port Vell near the Christopher Columbus monument in the south to Placa de Catalunya, a square that is considered the city center, in the north..
Even though it is one continuous street, the Rambla actually consists of five ‘ramblas’. That’s why the street is also referred to as Las Ramblas. It’s a boulevard that is made for pedestrians, since the city has restricted traffic to two narrow one-lane streets
La Rambla was once a stream bed used as drainage after heavy rains. In the mid 15th century, walls were built around the city, and the stream was diverted outside them. La Rambla gradually began turning into a street. Today, besides shopping and entertainment, strollers on the tree-lined promenade can see a mosaic by Joan Miro and the famous Font de Canaletes, which is a popular meeting point.
The Sagrada Familia is a church in central Barcelona that Antoni Gaudi took over as architect in 1883, continuing to work on it until his death in 1926. Over the decades the church has become a symbol of Barcelona.
The Sagrada Familia is an expiatory church because it was built with donations from the people. The church also is an ongoing construction project, since work spans the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries; construction is expected to be complete sometime in this century. Workers still follow some of the practices instituted by Gaudi to make the massive construction job easier. This includes use of small railroads to carry supplies, locating workshops on site, and using cranes to lift heavy objects.
The Sagrada Familia was originally designed as a neo-Gothic church, but when Gaudi became the architect, he drastically changed the theme to his trademark modernist style, and constantly changed the design as construction progressed. Most of his plans for the church were destroyed in the 1935 civil war, but architects today are trying to finish the building by doing what they think he would have done.
When it’s finished the church will be able to hold 13,000 people and have 18 towers; 12 of the towers will represent the 12 apostles. Four towers on each of the three facades will represent the evangelists, while the largest tower represents Jesus Christ; the final tower, over the apse, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The first facade, facing east, was finished by Gaudí himself and is ornamented in a Baroque fashion with motifs of animals and plants. Opposite is the Passion Facade. Construction started in 1954, but only in 1987 sculptures depicting the crucified Jesus Christ were added. Construction of the third and main facade started in 2002 and is still ongoing. This facade, on the south side of the church, will picture life and death.
The church is considered Barcelona’s most popular tourist attraction. Though still under construction, the Sagrada Familia is open to the public. Visitors are able to see the crypt where Gaudi is buried.