Barcelona is not only one of Spain’s most popular cities, but also a well-known destination for travelers who wish to have a good mix of fun and culture in a modern setting.
Knitted in this unmistakable urban fabric you will some unusual and well-known buildings of a single architect named Antoni Gaudí.
His unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement generated some of the most creative buildings you will see in this Spanish region known as Cataluña.
Even if you don’t know anything about architecture or Gaudí, when you walk the streets of Barcelona you will intuitively be able to identify a Gaudí building –they are unmistakable.
So, if you’re interested in experiencing an unusual “Gaudi Barcelona”, you should take a look at 10 of the most important buildings designed by the one and only, Gaudí:
1. Casa Vicens
Not only this is Gaudí’s first important building (and residence), but it is also considered one of the first Art Nouveau buildings in the world.
Built between 1883 and 1888, Casa Vicens is an imaginative residential project made for a wealthy family that owned a ceramic factory.
Gaudí expressed the client’s professional background through the use of ceramic tiles in the “trencadis” façade, which contains a significant variety of ceramic decorations.
Gaudí designed it as a reflection of Neo-Mudéjar architecture – a popular style that can be seen throughout Gaudí’s architecture, blending oriental and neoclassical design elements. You can also see some Islamic architecture influences in its façade and some of its rooms.
What’s impressive about Casa Vicens is that it shows how Gaudí broke away from tradition and created his own language of architecture.
It represents a new chapter in Gaudí’s career as well as in the history of Catalan architecture. This is the beginning of his famous “gaudi architecture.” (pun intended)
Today it is a museum showcasing Gaudí’s first masterpiece as well as other permanent and temporary exhibits.
Location: Carrer de les Carolines, 20-26, 08012 Barcelona
2. Casa Milá (La Pedrera)
Also referred to as “the stone quarry” due to its unusual rough-hewn appearance, Casa Milá is one of Barcelona’s most popular modernist buildings. UNESCO recognized this building as World Heritage in 1984.
Built between 1906 and 1912, this is not only Gaudí’s last private residential design but also one of his pain projects and one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture. It is more of a sculpture than a building.
The façade is a varied and harmonious mass of undulating stone that, along with its forged iron balconies, explores the irregularities of the natural world.
The entire building, both interior and exterior are worthy of admiration, but one of its most iconic spaces is its spectacular roof terrace.
In it, you’ll see a series of sculpted and decorated skylights and staircase exits, chimneys, and vents. Typically these are unsightly elements required for the building’s functionality, but here they are a piece of art.
From the basement to the terrace, Casa Milá is a total work of art. I highly recommend visiting it with one of these tours.
Location: Passeig de Gràcia, 92, 08008 Barcelona
3. Parc Güell (Park Güell)
Parc Güell was commissioned to Gaudí by one of his biggest clients, Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi, the count of Güell.
It was built between 1900 and 1914 and today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is a garden complex that houses a series of dynamically designed buildings, including Gaudí’s house.
The Gaudí House-Museum (located at one of the Parc Güell’s entrances) houses a collection of furniture and objects designed by Antoní Gaudí himself. It was Gaudí’s house for almost 20 years, from 1906 until the end of 1925 (just months before his death).
It is here where Gaudí perfected his personal style, which was greatly inspired by organic shapes (his naturalist phase).
Most buildings have the “trencadis” (surfaces covered with irregular ceramic pieces) that are characteristic of Gaudí and Art Nouveau.
The colonnaded hall and the terrace with serpentine shapes are the most famous places in this park.
It is in front of the famous colonnaded hall where you see the iconic Gaudí dragon covered in mosaics. And from the terrace, you get one of the most beautiful views of Barcelona, with Gaudí’s work in the foreground, and the city in the background.
This park is the perfect place to take a peaceful stroll while enjoying nature and looking at Gaudí’s artwork. Don’t miss visiting the Casa del Guarda (Caretaker’s House) to see its exhibition on Gaudí and Barcelona.
While Parc Güell is almost on the city’s outskirts, it is relatively easy to reach with public transportation. Alternatively, you could reach it with one of these tours.
Location: Carretera del Carmel, 23, 08024 Barcelona
4. Palau Güell
Eusebi Güell, an industrial tycoon in the late 19th century, was not only one of Gaudí’s most important clients but also a good friend of his.
Not only he commissioned the Park Güell, but also this palace and a few other works from now-renowned architect Gaudí.
Built between 1886 and 1888, the Palau Güell served as the palace residence of the Güell family. It is located in the Gothic Quarters, just off the popular La Rambla, which is one of the best areas to stay in Barcelona.
The exterior shows a sober façade that doesn’t resemble other projects made by Gaudí, but it still gives us some hints of his style with the use of the parabolic arch entrance and mosaic figures on the roof.
Back then, guests entered the home in horse-drawn carriages through the front iron gates designed specifically for the unique parabolic arch.
While the exterior is quite sober, the interior and the roof make up for the lack of “Gaudiesque” elements on the façade.
The central living room has an unusual parabolic dome, and the lounge ceiling is perforated by circles that, under the daylight, give the ceiling a planetarium appearance.
The roof counts with chimneys and conical vents resembling fir trees.
Palau Güell, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is open to visitors. You can visit it as you tour the Gothic Quarters. This tour shows you both, and gives you an upgrade with tapas!
Location: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5, 08001 Barcelona
5. Colonia Güell
Another Güell commission worth visiting. Colonia Güell is an unfinished building by Antoni Gaudí.
Gaudí designed this irregular oval church and crypt in 1898 as a place of worship for the residents in a suburb near Barcelona.
Unfortunately, after Güell lost profits from his business, construction was halted in 1914 with only the crypt completed.
The crypt is built in basaltic stone bricks with mosaics that give an archaic appearance. Worth noting are the unique geometric columns often used by Gaudí, found on the interior and exterior of Colonia Güell.
The interior of the crypt has five aisles: a central nave and two aisles at each side. The stained glass windows jut out over the walls to give them a stronger ornamental appearance, and on the upper part of the door, a ceramic composition shows the four cardinal virtues.
The interior’s intricate details, from the roof details to the playfulness of the columns, make this church worth visiting. In a way, it is an unfinished, rough precursor of the much bigger Sagrada Familia.
In addition, the construction techniques used here laid the foundation of the techniques employed in La Sagrada Familia.
Location: Carrer Claudi Güell, 6, 08690 Santa Coloma de Cervelló, Barcelona
6. El Drac de Gaudí at Finca Güell
Finca Güell is a significant property of Eusebi Güell, but what’s interesting is not so much the complex itself; is the iron gate at its entrance.
The buildings in this land were designed by other architects, but Gaudí was commissioned to remodel the house and build a perimeter wall with gates.
Gaudí proposed a wall with several gates in a Mudejar-like style. Its main gate, though, is a completely different monster – literally.
In it is a wrought-iron grille in the shape of a dragon spreading its menacing bat-like wings while showing its forked tongue coming out of its gaping maws.
This gate represents the mythical dragon from the Garden of the Hesperides, which commemorates Hercules’ daring feat. This stunning dragon was manufactured by the locksmith’s Vallet i Piquer.
The complex is composed of two buildings linked by a common monumental cast-iron gate adorned with Art Nouveau vegetal fantasies and a medallion with the “G” of Güell.
Location: Av. de Pedralbes, 7, 08034 Barcelona
7. Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló is the result of a total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877. Gaudí used for it the typical constructive elements of the Modernisme (Catalan Art Nouveau) that include ceramics, stone, and forged iron.
Even though it was highly criticized by the city during construction due to its radical design that broke all the bylaws of the city, in 1906 the Barcelona City Council awarded it the recognition of being one of the three best buildings of the year.
The building is so irregular that there are few straight lines in it and much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic, known as trencadís, made of broken ceramic tiles.
While officially known as Casa Batlló, the local name for the building is Casa dels ossos, or House of Bones, due to is visceral, skeletal organic design.
You can see some of the bone-like columns on the façade; specifically those in front of the irregular oval windows and playfully sculpted stonework on the first floor.
The roof is arched and “scaled” like the back of a dragon. A popular theory about this building is that the rounded tower crowned with a turret and cross represents the lance of Saint George plunged into the back of the dragon. Saint George is the patron saint of Catalonia, Gaudí’s home.
You can save money by visiting Casa Battló with this bundle ticket that gives you access to Gaudí’s highlights in Barcelona.
Location: Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona
8. Casa Calvet
Casa Calvet was built between 1898 and 1900 for the Calvets, a family of textile industrialists.
Architects and scholars agree that this is the most conventional of Gaudí’s works. This is due to the fact that it had to be squeezed in between older structures and because it was located in one of the most elegant sections of Barcelona.
The stone facade reflects Baroque influences, along with its bay windows, sculptural decoration, and interior decorations.
Its balance, symmetry, and orderly rhythm are unusual for Gaudí’s style. Still, you can see a bit of his design language in certain details.
The shape of the balconies can be seen as a forerunner to shapes used at Casa Batlló, where Gaudí turned much more to the inspiration of nature.
The roof is topped with two pediments, each supporting a wrought iron cross. They are surrounded by various pieces of stone ornamentation and crowned with statues of San Genis and Saint Peter – Calvets saints.
Location: Carrer Sant Marc, 57, 08253 El Calvet, Barcelona
9. La Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia is the most famous of Gaudí’s works. It is his masterpiece; the very definition of Gaudí’s architecture. This church has been in construction since 1892, and it’s not expected to be finished until 2026 — to commemorate the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
Sagrada Familia is deeply associated with Gaudí, but one of the fun facts about Barcelona is that Gaudí was not the original architect.
Construction of Sagrada Familia started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, but by 1883 Villar resigned, giving Gaudí the opportunity to take over as chief architect.
With his own design language, Gaudí transformed the project from a typical cathedral to the masterpiece we know today. He combined Gothic with curvilinear Art Nouveau forms and his own geometric style.
Gaudí devoted the remainder of his life to the project. In fact, he lived in the workshop of the Sagrada Familia for several months, until his untimely death.
At the time of his death, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Gaudí died at age 73 in 1926, when he was run down by a tram. He is buried in Sagrada Familia’s crypt.
After Gaudí’s death, construction progressed slowly and was halted several times by events like the Spanish Civil War and revolutionaries partially destroying Gaudí’s original plans, among others.
While construction is now going at a faster pace, ten more spires are still to be completed, each symbolizing an important Biblical figure in the New Testament.
The central spire is the tallest of all, representing Jesus Christ. It is to be surmounted by a giant cross, reaching a height of 170 meters (560 ft), standing at just one meter less than the height of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona.
Gaudí believed that his creation should not surpass God’s creation.
The church presents an excellent depiction of the relationship between man, nature, and religion through its architecture and façade sculptures.
The way light bathes and plays with the interior space with various hues of colors is one of the most impressive aspects of this building. It is quite an inspiring space.
Climbing one of its towers on the Nativity and Passion Façades will give you a unique view of Barcelona.
Take the audio tour, is very informative and it’s well worth it. Also, due to its popularity, long queues are to be expected, so I highly recommend skipping the line by going with any of these tours.
Location: Carrer Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona
10. Cascada Fountain at Parc de la Ciutadella
Last but not least, is one of Gaudí’s very first projects – the fountain located at the Parc de la Ciutadella, one of Barcelona’s most famous parks.
The Cascada was designed by Josep Fontseré in 1881, specifically for the universal exhibition in 1888, with young Gaudí as an assistant.
The inspiration for the Cascada was the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy.
The fountain counts with several sculptures of horses and mythical creatures. Among these sculptures is also that of Venus standing on an open clam – designed by Venanci Vallmitjana.
Location: Parc de la Ciutadella, Passeig de Picasso, 21, 08003 Barcelona
As you can see, Gaudí’s architecture is full of unusual and unexpected characteristics that are not seen in other buildings, let alone other cities in the world.
It’s no surprise why this architect’s works make great sightseeing destinations that without any doubt will create an impression on you.
If you’re interested in seeing several of his buildings, I recommend taking any of these Gaudí focused tours to save money and time.
Below is a map with the location of each of Antoni Gaudí works mentioned here:
Want More Gaudi?
If you’d like to learn more about Gaudí or Barcelona’s Architecture, I recommend checking out these books:
- Gaudí: The Complete Buildings (Architecture & Design)
- National Geographic Walking Barcelona: The Best of the City
- Gaudi: A Biography
- Antonio Gaudi: Master Architect
Master These Travel Logistics
If you’re traveling to Barcelona and you’d like to stay in the center, near all these beautiful buildings by Gaudí, then I recommend checking the best-reviewed hotels on TripAdvisor to pick the best one for your trip.
For activities, Viator offers dedicated tours of Gaudí’s buildings in addition to tours covering all the highlights in the city. Not to be missed!
Lastly, don’t forget to buy travel insurance to get comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (like getting sick, injured, theft, and cancellations). I use World Nomads and I highly recommend it.
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