Barcelona is filled with the influence of Catalan Architect Antoni Gaudi. Many of the buildings in the city pay homage to his use of wrought iron, mosaic tile, and organic lines with reference to nature and God. Any trip to Barcelona is not complete without spending some time admiring these UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Getting to Parc Güell is a bit of a hike, whether you arrive by tour bus or metro, there is still a climb to get to the entrance of the park, but I promise the climb pays off. The first thing you notice is the oddly shaped, brightly coloured rooves of the buildings inside the fence, especially the chimneys, organic shapes I have seen before. The wall that leads you to the gate is adorned with mosaic tile nameplates announcing you have arrived at your destination.
Take notice of the intricate wrought iron gates as you enter the park, through the gates there are a few buildings that look as though they were off the set of an animated movie, inside you will find souvenirs and washrooms. There are two grand staircases around gardens with mosaic tiled sculptures and fountains leading you upwards. You arrive at a large room that was dug into the hillside on the next level, with numerous dominating pillars holding up the level above. As you explore this area, you are shaded from the sun and the further you travel back, you notice the sea breeze circling around the room providing natural air conditioning giving purpose to this space. My Mother decided to hang out here while we explored the park, when we returned she was chatting up a whole group of people who took this area as a great place to relax and socialize.
Climb another set of stairs to have an incredible panoramic view of the city and the sea. You are overwhelmed in both the beauty of Barcelona and in the incredible amount of colour in the mosaic tiled seating around the entire structure; each section is uniquely patterned throughout the incredible landing. Continue to explore the walkways throughout the park to discover more Gaudi buildings, incredible sized Agave growing of the sides of the rock cliffs, and artists selling their wares. Park Güell seems like it was Gaudi’s lab, the testing ground for many of his techniques.
Entrance to the park is free and is frequented by both locals and tourists so I would suggest going early to beat the crowds and the afternoon sun.
Metro: Lesseps and follow the signs
Located at Carrer de les Carolines 24, Casa Vicens was Gaudi’s first important work. Today it continues to be a private residence, but the residents are open to the numbers of admirers that come to see the exterior of house and grounds. Move to the side of the house to find a small chapel at the back of the property, where you can light a candle and reflect.
Metro: Lesseps or Fontana
Casa Milà – “La Pedrera“
Located at Passeig de Gràcia 92, La Pedrera is a high end residence building that stands out along this luxury shopping area. The structure is organic in design with rounded corners, brilliant wrought iron decoration, and an air of elegance. From the ground you notice brightly coloured tiles around organic shapes contrasting with a series of Roman Soldier sculptures on the roof of the building. Around the corner there is access to a tour of the roof and an apartment in the building. Once inside, you will pass through this rounded courtyard, with windows lining the walls to the roof. Notice the large metal and rounded glass door, the residents’ entrance to the building, before grabbing the elevator to continue the tour on the roof.
The roof feels like an artist studio. Walking up and down short staircases to see sculptures of Roman Soldiers, standing alone and in a group surrounding strategic posts on the roof. There is a series of chimneys, winding up through the roof giving interesting perspectives of the city through the diamond shape openings. You are then drawn to the egg shaped sculptures, brilliantly coloured, covered in mosaic tiles.
Heading back inside you are guided through the attic of the building. It’s filled with the reference material Gaudi used to create and build. There are models and other interesting displays leading to what I consider the gem of this tour. You enter into a 2 bedroom suite, complete with 2 kitchens, and a maid’s quarters all set up at the era of the building. I was struck with the amazing use of space, the long hallway connecting all of the rooms, the incredible light pouring into the suite and of course the view of the city beyond the suite. This is a great opportunity to get a full Gaudi experience.
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia or Diagonal
Down the street at Passeig de Gràcia 43. find Casa Batlló. Brilliantly coloured on the exterior with an incredibly beautiful roof line and chimneys. Look down to see that Gaudi even had the sidewalk changed. Best viewed from the opposite side of the street, there is a tour as well.
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia or Diagonal
Tourists and the faithful line up for hours to get into Sagrada Familia, the church that has been under construction for the last 128 years and is estimated to be under construction until at least 2026. You first notice the 8 spires of the building leading to the sky, they are surrounded by multiple cranes that will continue to build the 4 remaining spires. The building is very complex, even from the outside, if you’re with a group I would suggest having someone keep your spot and take the time to walk around the exterior, 2 of the 3 exteriors are complete. Everywhere you look is something else amazing from the structure, to the windows, and the stones and bricks holding up the spires.
All of a sudden you discover the Nativity facade, amazing intricate detail carved into stone, covering the whole side of the church is the story of the birth of Jesus. You can spend hours looking at the detailed forms brought to life in the artists rendering. It is breathtaking and beautiful and it is almost overwhelming to take it all in. At the very top see a Gaudi coloured Christmas tree with doves flying out of it.
As you get to the entrance you are struck by the passion facade, numerous stoic, hard angled sculptures with harsh tool marks for finish, made to represent the Passion of Christ and the sins of men. Two massive metal doors covered in words from the Bible in many languages are the entrance into this heavenly space.
Once in the cathedral, you are awestruck, you feel like you are in a forest of light. The pillars holding up the roof look like tree trunks and that you are walking through an arbor created by trees. The altar is filled with light as the sun shines through roof window surrounded by a gold. Religious or not, this space can make you believe.
There are a couple of museums on site with more Gaudi information and some artifacts that have been put on display for safe keeping. You can also take an elevator up the spires to walk along the roof and climb down a circular staircase beck to the cathedral.
Metro: Sagrada Familia
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