Well-designed buildings stand out no matter where in the world they’re located. Some iconic structures practically define a city or region, and are destinations you just have to see during your travels. Barcelona is no different; the city is full of architectural must-sees from Gothic churches to Modernista buildings.
No one in Spain is better known for Modernista architecture than renowned Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Take a great design, add a heap of creativity and a pinch of whimsy, and you’ll have Gaudi’s creations.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of Gaudi-designed buildings in Barcelona. If you’ve gotten the overview of Barcelona and want to go deeper into an area of interest, here are 10 must-see Gaudi buildings in Barcelona that you’ll want to take the time to see with your own eyes:
La Sagrada Familia
This modern take on a medieval cathedral is considered Gaudi’s most amazing design–and it’s still under construction, some 130-odd years later (by some estimates, it won’t be complete until sometime in the 2040s). As the most visited monument in Spain, La Sagrada Familia is often busy with tourists, but its vast size means you’ll have plenty of room to explore. Or, take a guided tour so you don’t miss any of the intricacies of the design. Try to stop by the on-site museum dedicated to its designer.
As Gaudi’s first important building, the Casa Vicens gives visitors a peek into the master’s imagination as he started his career. This residential structure pulls from Islamic influences and features exterior ceramic details that give it a colorful and fun feel.
Many people who know a little bit about Gaudi think of this unique residential structure, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, as a symbol of how innovative and supremely creative his designs were. There are no straight lines here; gentle stone curves and forged iron balconies blend together to give the appearance of a seamless sculpture rather than a housing structure.
You won’t see just one building here–the Parc (pictured at the top of the page) is a series of gardens and buildings that includes Gaudi’s home for many years. A hall with leaning columns and a curved hall are the most well-known parts of the Parc Güell, but the entire complex is beautiful and you could spend hours wandering around. Don’t miss the “trencadis” ceramic tile treatment on many of the houses that characterizes the Art Nouveau design elements Gaudi enjoyed.
From the outside, this palace designed for the Güell family doesn’t show many of the characteristics of creative Gaudi design. But the interior certainly incorporates many amazing details, including a parabolic dome in the main living room and intricate circles on the ceiling of the lounge. Take another look at the exterior and you’ll spot chimney vents that look like colorful trees.
You may never see another church like this one, which features an arched entryway, windows that push out over the walls and more of Gaudi’s beloved ceramic tiling. Inside, be sure to visit the crypt, which has five aisles and more columns.
El Drac de Gaudí at Finca Güell
The Count of Güell, one of Gaudi’s biggest clients, commissioned this design which includes a complex iron entrance gate that links two buildings.
For this house, Gaudi started with a pre-existing residence and made it his own, restoring it and adding Modernista elements like a stone facade, iron railings and ceramic decorations. Barcelona city administrators were initially hesitant to allow the building to stay in place, since it violated several of the early 1900s building codes, but by 1906 the city council deemed it one of the best architectural buildings of the year.
This home was commissioned by a more conservative family, and that is apparent from the Baroque influence and reduced number of Modernista elements. It does boast a stone facade, like many of Gaudi’s other homes.
Cascada Fountain at Park de la Ciutadella
Gaudi did more than create homes and churches, such as this fountain that he assisted with in the late 1800s. Inspired by Rome’s Trevi Fountain, Cascada was designed for the universal exhibition held in Barcelona in 1888; Josep Fontseré was the head architect for the project.
Of course, Gaudi is not the only architect who has made Barcelona the great city it is. True architecture fans will find even more works by other great designers to marvel at and enjoy. But his works are not to be missed as part of your time in northern Spain; try to see as many as your schedule allows!