Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, is admired worldwide for its distinctive architecture. Colourful and flamboyant, many of Barcelona’s architectural gems are the works of Antoni Gaudi, one of Modernism’s greatest practitioners.
Inspired by Nature, Gaudi’s buildings integrate natural shapes to create a bold yet harmonious look. The imaginative blend of ceramics, mosaics, arches and beams successfully propelled Barcelona to be one of the top architecture destinations in the world. In fact, seven of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona are UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Apart from Modernism, the face of Barcelona is also heavily influenced by the gothic architectural style, which you can see in the designs of Barcelona’s museums, cathedrals and residences. Nonetheless, Gaudi’s Modernista creations are often lauded as the crown jewels of Barcelona. So immerse yourself in this beautiful city, which you will need at least three days to explore to completely experience its architectural wonders and beyond. Here are the top 8 spots in Barcelona that I highly recommend.
8. Palau Guell (Metro: Liceu)
Palau Guell was created by Gaudi for an entrepreneur who wanted to entertain the upper class society. From the basement to the rooftop, every single room has its own story to tell. I was particularly impressed with the Central Hall, which houses a magnificent domed ceiling, a mini chapel and an organ console. The rooftop is decorated with 20 colourful mosaic chimneys of varying shapes and sizes. Bright and flamboyant, these iconic chimneys stand out delightfully against the urban surroundings.
7. Esglesia de Santa Maria del Mar + La Catedral (Metro: Jaume)
Located in the heart of Barcelona, these 2 beautiful gothic cathedrals will take your breath away with their magnificent interior deco. Towering pillars, exquisite stained-glass and antique chandeliers are some of the cathedrals’ most memorable features.
6. Montjuic (Metro: Parallel)
Montjuic is a scenic hilltop that is well-worth spending a day of your time to experience the gorgeous views and historical monuments. Here is a suggested itinerary to spark off some ideas:
– In the morning, take the cable car to Castell de Montjuic for a magnificent view of Barcelona.
– Get a glimpse of the illustrious 1992 Olympics Games in Estadi Olimpic.
– Spend the afternoon in Meseu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which is famous for its massive collection of Romanesque paintings.
– End the night at La Font Magica (Magic Fountain) for the colorful water display.
5. Gran Teatre del Liceu (Metro: Liceu)
Destroyed by fire in 1994 and subsequently reopened in 1999, Gran Teatre del Liceu is one of the largest and the most important opera houses in the world. It is also the stage to many world-class performers such as Pavarotti, Domingo and Tebaldi. The opera’s facade may look humble at first glance, but the real beauty is within. With just EUR 6, I managed to join a guided tour of the Auditorium and the Hall of Mirrors. It is indeed an enriching and fascinating experience to explore and understand the splendid details of each and every room!
4. Casa Mila/La Pedrera (Metro: Diagonal)
As one of Gaudi’s Modernisme creations, La Pedrera was once considered controversial due to its innovative architectural design, with its stone facade and its twisted wrought iron being especially intriguing. The rooftop, the attic and the apartments are opened to the public. Out of the 9 levels, the rooftop is the most amazing of all, with 28 giant chimneys shaped in the form of medieval knights. Look at the photo below and you be the judge!
3. Casa Batllo (Metro: Passeig de Gracia)
Another illustrious building not too far away from La Pedrera is Casa Batllo. There are a few nicknames for Casa Batllo, notably “House of Bones” and “House of Dragon”. Some might say Casa Batllo showcases the very best of Modernism. For me, the surreal experience inside this residential building is simply beyond words. I will keep the suspense by not disclosing any pictures of the interior. It is for you to discover on your visit to Barcelona.
2. La Rambla +Mercat de la Boqueria (Metro: Liceu/Catalunya)
La Rambla is Barcelona’s iconic shopping belt, a shopping haven a la New York’s Fifth Avenue and Singapore’s Orchard Road. A unique tree-lined pedestrian mall, La Rambla is a charming place to explore. From boutiques to restaurants to historical features, La Rambla’s vibrance and charm is simply hard to resist. Not to mention the fresh juices and sumptuous breakfast that you can savor at the local market Boqueria!
1. La Sagrada Familia (Metro: Sagrada Familia)
If you only have limited time for your stay in Barcelona, then make the half-completed La Sagrada Familia the top of your itinerary. Not only is it the best interpretation of Gaudi’s brilliant vision and an architectural challenge to construct, it is near impossible to find another church like this anywhere in the world. Despite all the cranes surrounding the church till its anticipated completion date of 2026, La Sagrada Familia is still the most visited tourist attraction in Spain. Be sure to visit the church when the glorious sun rays burst through the colorful stained-glass. Most importantly, remember to book the entry tickets online to avoid the extremely long queues. Standing under the glaring sun for a few hours is no fun at all!