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).
An unfinished religious icon that is steeped in profound cultural value and features an incomparable aesthetic, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is an astounding marvel. Gaudí began working on this utterly surreal temple, now a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1882. Originally intended to be a modest, neo-Gothic church, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia has since become arguably the most iconic building in all of Barcelona. Gaudí broke away from the reigning neo-Gothic style in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, imbuing his architecture with symbolic meaning and pioneering the Catalan Modernism movement. Intricate details like palm-tree pillars whose bases take the shapes of turtles, eye-catching colors, Baroque-style influences, and materials ranging from mosaic tiles to an array of stones converge to create an absolute masterpiece.
Gaudi's masterpiece, the Casa Batlló is one of the most unique residential buildings ever constructed in the Modernista style. Its façade, 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.
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.
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.
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 Barcelona Cathedral, 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.
To cope with the exponential expansion outside the city's medieval walls, Ildefons Cerdà developed a new city plan in 1850: a grid structure of vertical and horizontal streets that formed squares when they crossed. Cerdà wanted to build residential accommodation in these square blocks and have communal yards in the middle with gardens where children could play. This part of the plan was sadly never accomplished, but the original design gives the blocks plenty of light. L'Eixample was built between 1860 and 1920, coinciding with the boom in Modernist architecture that is well represented here. The district is divided between the Dreta de L'Eixample (The Right) and the Esquerra de L'Eixample (The Left).
Created by Catalan Sculptor Josep Clarà, La Deessa o l'Enigma is a white marble sculpture of a woman. Currently, it can be seen at the Plaça de Catalunya. When first introduced, the sculpture was subject to some controversy because of its portrayal of nudity, and subsequently it was removed from display. Later, however, it was reintroduced and became a hit with the public.
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.
Located in the heart of Barcelona is the striking Casa Rocamora, one of the largest buildings in the area and a beautiful example of Spanish architecture in the early 20th-Century. This building has numerous Neo-Gothic features including its stone facade, great domed towers, turrets, semicircular windows, and balconies. This monolithic building is reminiscent of medieval castles and should not be missed when in the city.
Barcelona's Tourist Office organizes excellent 90-minute walking tours through the old town (Ciutat Vella) led by an official guide. The tours take you on a trip through history as you retrace the steps of one of the world's most iconic painters, Pablo Picasso. The English-language tour starts at 10 am and the Spanish/Catalan tour at noon from the main office in Plaça Catalunya. You will start your tour at the Portal de l'Àngel followed by a visit to the Plaça Nova, Casa de l'Ardiaca, the cloister of the cathedral, Plaça del Rei, Llibreteria, Plaça Sant Jaume (including the Casa de la Ciutat (Ajuntament)), Sant Honorat, Plaça Sant Felip Neri and end up back at the cathedral. View the city through the eyes of Picasso and experience it in a new light on this well-organized tour of Barcelona.
The Barcelona City Hall is built on the site of the old Teatre Barcelona, which was destroyed. It has one auditorium and puts on musicals and concerts at varying times. It also opens its doors to other less common performing arts. Its most original shows are the dinner shows, the food is always good, and there is a lively atmosphere.