Barcelona has a lot to offer, but Antoni Gaudi's buildings will transport you to a world of fantasy and imagination.
There's no question that Antoni Gaudí was an architect ahead of his time. He combined his profound Catholic faith, his love of nature, and a deep sense of belonging to Catalonia, as well as broad knowledge of materials and craftsmanship for his world. Today, he is regarded as one of the best architects in history, and his buildings attract millions of tourists to Barcelona every year.
La Sagrada Familia (Catalan and Spanish for the Holy Family) is undoubtedly Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece, and it's not even finished yet! It's a church built in neo-Gothic style (kind of) in the way that it features very tall spires, combined with stained glass, allegorical imagery, and upwards construction. Except Gaudí totally made it his own. It has a total of eighteen tall towers, one for each of the apostles, evangelists and the Virgin Mary, and then there's a really, really, like really, tall one for Jesus Christ.
Gaudí loved nature, so animal sculptures surround the façade, like the turtles at the bottom of two columns, and there are plants all over the facade. Inside the church, you'll feel like you're in a forest, and this is intentional, since the columns are designed to look like palm trees. The stained glass follows a color progression and the façade features several sculptures depicting the Nativity. It portrays several moments, from the Annunciation to the Nativity, like a comic book would.
Gaudí wasn't able to see this project finished, so another Catalan artist, Josep María Subirachs, had to design this façade, portraying several scenes from the Passion of the Christ. Which one do you like best.
This was the first Gaudí building paid for by Eusebi Güell, one of his main patrons. When it comes down to it, Palau Güell is a humungous palace in an old neighborhood with narrow streets called El Raval. It features a heavy use of wood and bricks on the inside and ironwork at the entrance. It looks like the Phantom of the Opera's giant organ, or a palace that has been cursed to be creepy for the rest of eternity. Gaudí was a "go big or go home" kind of guy.
He did love his arches, though. Palau Güell was only occupied for a short period of time, since Güell and his family found it too creepy to live in. Yeah, no kidding.
Casa Batlló is another building by a prominent businessman. This time Gaudí fully renovated a pre-existing bilding by giving it a marine-inspired façade. From the outside, on Passeig de Gracia, the transit backbone of Barcelona, it's as if you looked into a coral. As you walk in, blue tones and wavy patters really make you feel underwater. Gaudí was also a sucker for Catalan legends, so he inserted a reference to Sant Jordi (Saint George), Barcelona's patron, on the skywalk. Glance at the first picture again and notice how the colored rooftop look like scales while the hole on the right side looks like an eye. Voilá! You have yourself a dragon.
Casa Milá (La Pedrera)
Casa Milá is famously known as La Pedrera (the stone quarry). It's right on the corner of Passeig de Gracia and Provença, a perfect spot to achieve an undulating limestone façade that wraps around the corner. Interestingly, La Pedrera's façade isn't a load-bearing wall, like it usually is for most buildings, but rather, a curtain wall. The rooftop features chimneys decorated with recycled material, some of which look like medieval warriors with helmets.
La Pedrera was supposed to be two blocks of an apartment building connected via courtyard. Though it is now hailed as a masterpiece, this building was extremely controversial at the time. We can all agree, it's pretty quirky.
The ironwork on the balconies was done by a Gaudí colleague, but it goes to show how Gaudí used crafts and incorporated them into his buildings.
The building that started it all. Casa Vicens is the first design by Gaudí, and it's done in a neo-Mudéjar style, the style in Spain that became prominent thanks to the Moorish influence. This house pretty much speaks for itself, with vibrant colors and mesmerizing patterns you'll want to lose yourself in.
Bellesguard is one of Gaudí's lesser-known buildings. This house was built to look like a medieval castle. With a spire topped by a cross, stone walls, and tall windows, Bellesguard is located at the top of a hill in Barcelona overlooking the entire city.
At the very top, two upper windows appear to make a familiar face. It's another dragon, with the spire working as its tale. This is Gaudí for you.
Further reading: 5 Buildings That Will Make You Cringe If You Suffer From Trypophobia
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