You don’t have to be a fan of art to fall in love with Antoni Gaudí. You may not have heard of him, but you’ll certainly recognise some of his work. It’s unmistakable in its modernist quirky splendour, and can be seen all over the city of Barcelona in the form of civic buildings, churches and even parks. Exploring this iconic Spanish city you’ll follow in the footsteps of the famous Catalan architect, immersing yourself in legends of dragons, and visiting unusual buildings representing the colourful underwater world. Gaudí took much of his inspiration from nature, something that will become ever apparent as you wander these fabled streets.
In the beating heart of Barcelona one of the most famous Gaudi works, Casa Batlló, stands proudly overlooking the Passeig de Gràcia on the ‘golden mile’. It is the striking symphony of colour and light that makes this building really stand apart from the others in the street, and the fact that the Legend of Sant Jordi (Saint George) and the dragon is cleverly hidden in its façade, interior and roof.
Inside the Casa Batlló, visitors can really get to know and understand Gaudí. Or at least try to. The inner courtyards have been imaginatively designed to represent an underwater fantasy world, transporting observers to the depths of the glimmering turquoise sea. There are skylights shaped like tortoise shells, countless shades of aqua to give a marine illusion, and even a grand staircase banister carved in the shape of an animal spine. Perhaps a huge mythical deep sea beast.
Ascending back up to the earth’s surface, the roof terrace offers fine vistas of the city, and if you look through the eye of the dragon you can see the Sagrada Familia looming in the distance.
Whilst on the trail of Gaudí we mustn’t of course forget the Sagrada Familia, arguably his most famous masterpiece. This unusual cathedral combines Gothic, Art Nouveau and modern geometric styles, and is definitely one of the most visited sights in Barcelona, with good reason. Construction began back in 1882, yet this huge imposing basilica remains unfinished. Despite this it’s one of the most humbling buildings I’ve ever seen. The construction has all been privately funded, which is why it has taken so long. Well worth the wait I’d say! Inside you can explore the colourful forest of columns, and if you have a head for heights, climb to the top of one of the turrets for a bird’s eye view of the city.
I would love to know what was going on inside Gaudí’s head when he designed these spaces. It’s the stuff of wild imagination and impossible dreams. The man himself is buried here in the crypt, so hopefully one day he will see the completion of his final work.
My particular favourite Gaudí spot in Barcelona is the colourful open space that is Park Güell, a fine example of Gaudí’s creativity, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney fantasy movie. The Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits up on Carmel Hill and boasts gardens as well as architectural gems. Park Güell is full of curiosities. There isn’t a single straight line in the entire complex, which makes it flow delightfully from one area to another. There is a ‘Hall of 100 Columns’ (there are actually only 86 columns) which was inspired by the Temple of Apollo in Greece. And a huge mosaic salamander greets visitors on the entrance steps, just daring people to pass into his domain – it’s a favourite vantage point for photos!
Casa Milá (La Pedrera)
Casa Milá, also known as ‘the stone quarry’, or La Pedrera, is one of the most popular Gaudí buildings to visit in Barcelona. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, the casa has an unusually rough-looking façade constructed of rippling stone that mirrors currents of the natural world. This was Gaudí’s final residential architectural design work, and today stands proud as one of the most exquisitely designed buildings in the world. The roof terrace in particular is worth a look, where every inch of construction has been beautifully crafted, favouring art over functionality.
Have you been to Barcelona? Which of Gaudí’s works is your favourite?