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Palau Nacional is one of the most spectacular buildings in Plaça Espanya and was built for the 1929 Universal Exposition, as were a lot of buildings in Montjuïc. The brainchild of architects Eugenio Cendoya and Enric Catà, the aim was to build a monumental, grandiose structure but the duo managed to surpass expectations. The Palace was restored by Italian architect Gae Aulenti and now houses the Museu Nacional de Arte de Catalunya (MNAC).
This stopover on the way to Montjuïc was once the gateway to the city because of the creu coberta found in the square. The creu coberta was a Gothic cross that symbolized arrival in Barcelona. Historically, criminals were hanged in this part of the city, often remaining on display to dissuade newcomers from straying from the "path of righteousness." Urbanization plans for the area began in 1908 and ended in 1929, the same year as the Universal Exposition of Barcelona. Beyond the architectural jewels surrounding the square, there is a fountain in its center designed by Josep Maria Jujol, a disciple of Gaudi.
An eye-catching fixture of downtown Barcelona, the Palau de la Música Catalana boasts a striking modernist design. It was built in the early-20th century by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who designed the now-iconic exterior to feature intricate carvings, red brick arches, and exquisite Spanish and Arabic architectural details. Inside, the concert hall is even more breathtaking with its gold accents, floral patterns, and exceptional stained-glass elements. Visitors to the Palau de la Música Catalana will be awed by the kaleidoscopic skylight whether they take in a show or simply tour this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the past, the Palau de la Música Catalana has hosted such quality performers as Ella Fitzgerald, Paco de Lucía, Woody Allen, Ángel Corella, and Duke Ellington.
The name for this architecture-rich attraction makes reference to the golden apple of discord in Greek mythology given its unparalleled beauty. Comprised of three spectacular structures, the block plays host to what some would argue is Barcelona's most recognizable group of buildings. It is home to Gaudì's Casa Batlló, Domènich i Montaner's Casa Lleo Morera, and Puig i Cadafalch's Casa Amatller, all of which are famous for exemplifying the Modernista architectural movement. Stroll between the three at your own pace, but be sure to visit as no trip to Barcelona is complete without a detour to the Manzana de la Discordia.
Gaudi's masterpiece, the Casa Batlló is one of the most unique residential buildings ever constructed in the Modernista style. Its facade bedecked with a rainbow of colored tiles gives way to the entrance hall that evokes an underwater sojourn complete with wave-like walls, turtle-shaped skylights, and a staircase that resembles the spine of a mythical creature. The upper level Noble Floor features windows that open out onto Passeig de Gràcia and are flooded with natural light and the connected outdoor patio is a kaleidoscope of hues wrought in glass and tile. From the terrace, it's easy to understand why the house is called casa del drac locally, as the roof tiles resemble Sant Jordi's dragon. A marvelous expression of both creativity and architectural acumen, the Casa Batlló stands as a testament to Gaudi's psychedelic genius.
Featuring an air of striking regality that can be attributed to its historic dull rose facade, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is a longstanding symbol of Barcelona's prized culture. Perhaps the most important theater in Barcelona, the Gran Teatre del Liceu was built in 1847 as a venue for opera performances. The original building showcased a modern aesthetic designed by architects Miquel Garriga i Roca and Josep Oriol Mestres, and while the theater was rebuilt after a fire in 1994, a handful of cherished artifacts from the first structure remain. The main façade, the Hall of Mirrors, and staircase notably represent the historic Gran Teatre del Liceu as it was originally conceived. As important as ever, the new theater stays true to its roots by staging an exciting program of operas, concerts, and ballets performed by some of the most reputable companies in the world. It even houses a symphony orchestra and choir that perform throughout the year. With 2,292 seats, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is certainly grand, and it has one of the largest opera auditoriums in Europe.
Barcelona's oldest residential district is a maze of narrow streets housing some fantastic examples of Gothic architecture. Lots of trendy young designers have opened up outlets here over the last few years, along with some classy but not too flashy restaurants, including tapas bars that fill up with the city's youth most nights. Alongside Gothic buildings like the imposing Cathedral of Barcelona, you can see the most concentrated remains of the Roman period here, between Plaça de la Catedral and Plaça Sant Jaume. The old Roman walls still demarcate the boundary between this and its adjacent districts. This spirited neighborhood, known locally as Barri Gòtic, is one of the city's most atmospheric and enchanting explorations serving up style in spades.
Antoni Gaudí, the architect who built this jewel of Catalan modernism, wanted the facade to reflect his romantic and anti-classical ideas about design. It was built for the Milà family between 1906 and 1910. Neither the family nor the public were much impressed, and it was dubbed La Pedrera (stone quarry) as an insult. Only later in 1984 did it win great acclaim when the UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. Now internationally celebrated, Casa Milà is a prime example of Gaudí's civil architecture; it is aesthetically interesting and unique as well as outstandingly practical. Call +34 90 220 2138 for more details.
While competition for the most outstanding religious structure in Barcelona is high given architectural masterpieces like the Sagrada Familia and Barcelona Cathedral, this basilica is quite spectacular. It was built between 1329 CE and 1384 CE, giving visitors a glimpse into Gothic history and serving as an important stop along any tour of the Barri Gòtic. The austere Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar boasts a lovely 15th-century stained-glass window shaped like a rosette, as well as impressive sculptures on the facade and tympanum. Mass is held in the Santísimo chapel except on Sundays when it is held in the main altar. Mass is regularly conducted in Catalan, as well as in Spanish on select days.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc occupies the original space of The Four Columns. Built for the World Fair in 1929, the man-made masterpiece is the brainchild of Carles Buigas. Having faced the brunt of the Spanish Civil War, it was restored to its magical charm in 1955. Concentric pools surround the state-of-the-art mechanized features. Stop by every half hour in the evening for a breathtaking visual display. The chromatic lights give the water a dancing illusion as it synchronizes with the rhythm of the music that accompanies the show. The shapes and colors are constantly changing, and the effect is mystical and enchanting.
An impressive sight and the crowning glory of the football community in Spain, Camp Nou is one of the largest stadiums in Europe. Home ground of the beloved FC Barcelona, known simply as Barça to locals, this spectacular stadium was constructed in 1957 on a separate piece of land when the expansion of the Camp de Les Corts stadium was deemed impossible due to lack of space. The stadium is sometimes referred to as the 'house that Kubala built', in reference to the great Slovak-Hungarian goal scorer who played for Barça through the 1950s. Kubala was so popular with spectators that the stadium was even unable to accommodate the extraordinary masses that flocked to watch him play on more than one occasion. Camp Nou can accommodate more than a whopping 99,000 spectators at a time, and is profoundly iconic for its vibrant bleachers, painted in the club's royal blue and red colors.
Nestled in the heart of the city is the Plaça de Catalunya, an upbeat and animated public square that you cannot miss on your visit to the city. The generous square with grassy lawns, shady trees, fountains that light up after dark, is surrounded by an abundance of bars, restaurants, and cafes. The square, because of its central location, is close to numerous city attractions making it the perfect spot for a midday meal or to people watch as you sip on a cup of joe.