Barcelona, one of the world's most visited cities, and once home to Antoni Gaudi, “the architect of God.” His architectural creativity and flair transformed the city into a work of art, and is one of the reasons that the city receives so many visitors today.
Born on 25th June 1852, to a coppersmith, Gaudi went to school in Barcelona and graduated from the Provincial School of Architecture in 1878. He became part of the Catalan Modernista movement and is regarded as the most outstanding of the Modernista architects.
His style was unique and seven of his buildings are now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage. This man has definitely put Barcelona on the map as one of the most architectural striking cities. We look at his most popular works and where you can find each one.
Recognised by UNESCO in 2005, Casa Batlló is situated in a street which once connected the village of Gracia to the city. It is known as the House of the Dragon, in reference to the legend of Saint George, and has a striking facade.
Owned by one of the most important families in 1903, Gaudi was hired to redesign the building by Josep Batlló y Casanovas in 1904 and completely transformed the facade from the original building built in 1875. Skull shaped balconies adorn the exterior, their hallowed eyes against the coloured glass and stone. The roof is decorated with bright ceramics and mushroom-shaped chimneys, displaying Gaudi’s creativity.
But it isn’t just the exterior that was transformed. Inside, Gaudi altered the partitioning and divided the main entrance into two halls, allowing private access for the family. A carved wooden staircase resembling an animal’s spine leads to other floors.
A room entirely covered in white and blue ceramics gives an underwater theme, which appears to be continued in the family’s main living space with a spiral-shaped ceiling and a stunning chandelier representing the sun.
Gaudi was known for his creativity with natural light and from the facade to the atico and the courtyard of lights (Patio de Luces), Casa Batlló is one of his finest creations. In 1995 the house was opened to the public, and today it attracts 1 million visitors every year. Visit during the evenings for live music on the roof terrace.
- Find at: Passeig de Gràcia, 43
- Check ticket prices and dates for: Casa Batllo
Not as well known as the others, Casa Calvet was one of the earliest buildings designed by Gaudi in 1897. Built on top of a textile manufacturers that was located in the basement and ground floor, the house has a letter ‘C’ above the entrance to identify its owner, Señor Calvet. Inside are pieces of furniture that Gaudi cleverly designed for Pere Martir Calvet, the heir of a cotton industrialist.
In a Baroque style, it doesn’t have the same flamboyant architectural flair as his other designs but with iron balconies hugging the curved stone walls it still has that Gaudi trademark, just more understated. The restaurant inside has since closed.
- Find at: Career de Casp, 48
- More information for Casa Calvet
Casa Vicens was Gaudi’s very first masterpiece. Built for the Vicens family as their summer house, Casa Vicens lies in the Gracia district and is called one of Gaudi’s best kept secrets. Completed in 1885, and recognised by UNESCO, Casa Vicens is now open to the public as a museum.
The permanent and temporary exhibits can be found on the first and second floor as well as the Vicens familys’ bedrooms, bathroom and sitting room. Head to the rooftop for the pitched roof vantage point with green and white ceramic structures that were influenced by Asian and Islamic architecture. You can walk all the way around the four sides.
The museum is easy to navigate your way around self-guided or take one of the Casa’s guides. You’ll find a bookshop in the basement which once housed the coal cellar, and a cafe within the garden’s grounds.
- Find at – Carrer de les Carolines, 20-26
- Check ticket prices and dates for: Casa Vicens
La Pedrera (Casa Milà)
In addition to Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia, his other famous works are Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, due to its rippling stone facade, this unconventional-style building was built between 1906 and 1912 and is one of Gaudi’s most iconic structures.
Commissioned by Pere Milà as a new home for his family, Señor Milà rented out the apartments and lived only on the main floor. Its ornamental design is literally a work of art, full of nooks and crannies and curvy. Colourful spires compliment spiral staircases on this fascinating building who’s forms were inspired by nature.
La Pedrera is a cultural centre that regularly holds exhibitions. There are shops and offices on the ground floor and some of the apartments are still rented by residents. Parts of the building are open to the public throughout the day and evenings including the Pedrera Apartment. Visit the roof-terrace, the attic, and courtyards as well as the former Milà residence.
Casa Milà is also a foundation helping children reach success in their education. If you are short on time make sure that Casa Milà is on your list.
- Find at: Passeig de Gràcia, 92
- Check ticket prices and dates for: La Pedrera
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s biggest attraction. It is also the most controversial, taking more than one century to complete (it’s not finished yet!) Dominating the city’s skyline, this symbol of Barcelona was Gaudi’s dream and he worked on this masterpiece until his death. La Sagrada Familia is set to be the world’s largest church building.
Every single detail in this cathedral (which is actually a basilica) has been beautifully designed and is a work of art. From the outside facades to the bell towers with colourful pinnacles and white balls on top. The inside is just as impressive as the outside, especially when the sun shines through the stained glass windows of the Basilica. Inside, columns leading to the ceiling resemble tree branches.
The basilica has three facades with each one said to represent a historic moment in Jesus’ life; his birth, death and resurrection, and his future glory. Two of the three facades have been completed. The Glory facade is due to be the most impressive, whilst tortured figures stand in the Passion facade. The crypt and the Nativity facade depicting the three kings on the left, have been declared a World Heritage Site. There are five naves where church visitors sit for mass.
The 12 Apostles are represented by the four towers on each facade. The dome-shaped tower is still to be completed and once finished will symbolise the Virgin Mary.
Visitors are allowed access to the Basilica, and the towers (eight have been built so far). Gaudi’s former workshop, situated under the Passion facade is now the Sagrada Familia museum, where you can get a glimpse of the drawings and construction plans.
Climb the towers (or take the lift) for stunning views of the city. You can even contribute to the building of the cathedral too. Apparently the project relies on the generosity of donations to continue Gaudi’s biggest dream.
Gaudi adapted the original plans for the neo-Gothic cathedral to make them bigger and grander than before. But this grand design hasn’t gone without its problems over the years. Some of the models were vandalised during the Spanish Civil War and a fire in 2011 destroyed the sacristy.
There are still a few years to go until his dream comes into fruition. At the time of Gaudi’s death, only 25% of the design was complete. The building work for Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is expected to finish in 2026, 100 years after the architect’s death.
- Find at: Carrer de Mallorca, 401
- Check ticket prices and dates: Sagrada Familia
Not to be confused with the park, Palau Guell (otherwise known as Guell Palace) was one of Gaudi’s first major projects. This Gothic palace is like something from a fairy tale. Commissioned by politician, Eusebi Güell, the palace was built between 1886 and 1890 as a home for him and his ten children. Decorated in wrought iron and dark colours, it has achieved UNESCO World Heritage status.
Everything from the light and space has been carefully thought out within this functional palace, especially within the central hall. You can even find some of the same elements in Casa Batllo, and Sagrada Familia.
Access to the permanent exhibition ‘A Look at Furniture, on the bedroom floor’ is included in your ticket price. Palau Guell is also home to the painting ‘Hercules searching for the Hesperides.’ Visit the shop afterwards to pick up a handmade souvenir.
Palau Guell is situated in El Raval, off La Rambla, a well-known street in the city where you can find souvenirs and La Boqueria, the city’s famous market.
- Find at – Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5
- Check ticket prices and dates for: Palau Guell, Ramblas, Boqueria Market Guided Tour
Park Güell Barcelona
Park Güell (Parc Güell) is one of Barcelona’s iconic images and second most popular attraction.
Both enchanting and unique, this architectural gem was the idea of Eusebi Güell, an industrialist who owned a textile factory on the city’s outskirts. Güell commissioned Gaudi to design a park for private residents in 1900.
Originally designed with 40 detached houses over 15 hectares, the project was never finished, leaving only two of the homes completed (one of which Gaudi made his home). The garden city was inaugurated as a public park in 1926.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases Gaudi’s urban-planning skills where architecture fuse with the natural surroundings transforming it into one of the world’s most impressive public parks. Ceramic dragons cover the stairwell leading to the hypostyle hall where more than 80 columns stand. One of the most iconic pieces here is the curving bench around the plaza, which was designed by one of Gaudi’s associates.
This area of the monumental zone – which makes up 5% of the park – is free to enter. Wind along the walkway, see the Carob’s viaduct and spend time in the gardens before ending at the colourful mosaic wall to get a fantastic panorama of the city.
The amount of visitors to the monumental area of the park is limited to help protect the park’s sustainability so pre-book your ticket before you go. Bus Güell is included in your ticket. The bus leaves from Alfons X metro to Park Güell
- Find at: 08024 Barcelona, Spain
- Check ticket prices and dates for: Park Guell
These are just some of Gaudi’s architectural designs. Apparently Antoni Gaudi even worked on the fountain at Parc de la Ciutadella (in his younger years).
To learn more about the life of this famous architect, you can visit the Gaudi House Museum. After his death in 1963 his once private home was opened to show the life of this famous architect who left his mark on one of the most beautiful cities in the world.