If you like to travel with a theme, you’ve come to the right place! This is the ultimate guide to Antoni Gaudí’s UNESCO-listed architecture in Barcelona Spain.
Gaudi is Spain’s most famous architect. His fantastical architectural masterpieces are among Barcelona’s top attractions.
Even if you aren’t an architecture geek, these Gaudi buildings are a magnet for the curious. They’re compelling and eye catching. Gaudi was like a sculptor playing with form.
To many Catalonians, Barcelona is Gaudí. Or at least he’s its unofficial saint.
There’s been no artist in history to have such an absolute influence on a city. Gaudí designed everything from mansions, to churches, to public parks in inimitable style.
Seven of Gaudí’s magnificent architectural creations in Barcelona are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites This list includes Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Vicens, Gaudí’s work on the Nativity facade and crypt of La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, and the Crypt in Colonia Güell.
I’ve written about several Gaudí sites separately. I admit I’m a little obsessed. Everything about his work is so unique. It captivates me.
If you’re at home and or just can’t afford the hop overseas to Spain, there’s also a fix. You can see these amazing Gaudi attractions online. I’ve posted links to virtual tours you can take.
A Short Biography Of Antoni Gaudí
But, first, let’s set the scene with an overview of the life of Antoni Gaudi.
In 1851, Gaudí was born in Reus, Spain to humble origins. He showed an early predilection for architecture.
Gaudi attended the Provincial School of Architecture in Barcelona. His eccentric talents were immediately apparent.
1. Early Life and Career
Despite poor grades, Gaudí eventually graduated. The dean of the school remarked, “I am not sure to whom I presented a diploma today, to a madman or to a genius.”
Over Gaudí’s 50 years of independent practice, he concocted some of the most imaginative architectural forms in history. They are mostly in Barcelona, but there is a beautiful villa in Comillas in northern Spain as well.
As a young man, Gaudí was a handsome man and a dapper dresser. He wore well cut suits, attended opera at the famous Liceo theater, and enjoyed dining out. As a young man, he wasn’t particularly devout.
Later in life, that all changed while working on the Sagrada Família. Gaudí adopted an ascetic lifestyle and neglected his appearance.
In family-centric Spain, he never married. He was a private man. He devoted his life exclusively to his work and the Catholic faith.
Gaudí fasted frequently, once endangering his own life. In his last decades, he was consumed only with religion and the Sagrada Família.
Gaudí was a multi-disciplinary artist. He went through several design phases in his life. Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona reflects this evolution. He used Neo-Moorish, Neo-Gothic, and more naturalistic styles.
Gaudi didn’t just design buildings. He also designed interiors and furniture. Gaudi didn’t like to draw architectural plans though. He worked mostly from models.
2. Gaudí’s Accidental Death
In 1926, Gaudí was hit by a tram on a busy street on his way to church. He was knocked unconscious. He was dressed in tatters and didn’t have any identification on him.
People assumed he was a homeless person and left him on the street. Eventually, Gaudí was taken to a hospital, but received subpar medical care. By the time people realized who he was, it was too late to save him.
At his funeral, half of Barcelona dressed in black.
3. Gaudí’s Legacy
Gaudí was not revered in his lifetime, except in his home city of Barcelona. He died without knowing how famous his body of work would become.
Gaudí never fit into any stylistic movement. He was a genius who broke all the rules to create his own vision.
Gaudí ‘s architecture in Barcelona was quite controversial. It contained Orientalist, Gothic, and Art Nouveau elements.
Gaudi’s work reflected his obsession with nature. Gaudí famously said: “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.”
Aside from architectural decoration, Gaudí is equally notable for his advances in engineering. He studied geometry in his youth.
His work regularly featured innovative shapes — catenary curves, hyperbolic paraboloids, hyperboloids, and helicoids. Gaudí used these shapes to create efficient, but still organic looking, buildings.
Although he was an architectural missionary, Gaudi never wrote a book. He didn’t deliver any lectures or publish articles about this theories.
Interest in Gaudí’s work declined after his death during anti-clerical times. But interest was revivified. Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona won widespread acceptance in the 1950s.
Now, Gaudí is regarded as a genius. His characteristic style is distinctive in architectural history, both awe-inspiring and bizarre. It’s never really been emulated.
Since 1992, there’s been a fast track campaign to make Gaudí a saint. Most artists aren’t beatified, so this would be an unusual move.
But Gaudí not only devoted his architectural life to Sagrada Família, he led an exemplary Christian life in the tradition of a religious mystic.
Gaudí didn’t die a martyr’s death. Without that qualification, before beatification, the Vatican requires proof of a miracle.
Nonetheless, in 2003, the Vatican expressed interest in the portfolio of research submitted about Gaudí. No doubt reports of miracles will soon be forthcoming.
In 2010, in a further positive sign, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Sagrada Família as a basilica.
The Modernista Movement In Barcelona
Spain’s “Modernista” architecture is a movement that flourished from the late 1880s to the early 1910s. It’s limited to Catalonia.
But could be considered the Spanish branch of the Art Nouveau movement. Bourgeoise ideas were rejected. The requirement to strictly follow a given historical style fell out of favor.
Driven by the industrial revolution, Barcelona was a fertile environment for the new movement. The city was bursting at its medieval seams and needed to grow.
Somewhat ironically, the city’s wealthiest industrial barons commissioned modernist architects like Gaudí. They wanted him to create villas that were magnificent showplaces.
Barcelona Modernism is a mix of ingenious and whimsical creations. The movement valued curves over straight lines.
It elevated asymmetry, rich decoration and detail, use of natural and organic motifs, and dynamic shapes. Overall, Modernism is highly ornate, with much focus on aesthetic details.
Gaudí’s Architecture In Barcelona
With that preview, let’s get down to business and tour the top UNESCO-listed Gaudi attractions in Barcelona. Along with an overview of Gaudi architectural masterpieces, I also given you practical information and must know tips for visiting.
1. Sagrada Família
The Sagrada Família in Barcelona is Gaudí’s masterpiece, an architectural gem. Its surreal and colossal design evokes strong emotions.
People have contrasting opinions; some love it, others hate it. George Orwell famously criticized it as “one of the most hideous buildings in the world.” Personally, I was awe-struck by its mesmerizing and unconventional exterior.
Gaudí devoted 11 years of his life, starting at age 31, exclusively to this “Sandcastle Cathedral.” He put aside other projects, claiming his client, God, was “not in a hurry.”
Despite gaining fame for luxurious homes, Gaudí envisioned Sagrada Família as a “cathedral for the poor.”
Construction began in 1882, and Gaudí joined in 1883. By the time Gaudí passed away in 1926, only a quarter of the soaring basilica was finished.
Surprisingly, even after over 130 years, the basilica remains incomplete, with an estimated completion date of 2030.
Gaudí, a devout Catholic known as “God’s architect,” fused nature and religion in Sagrada Família. The grand vision aimed to encompass the entire history of the Catholic faith.
The interior shines as the most remarkable and radiant part. It’s like a sculptural masterpiece transformed into architecture.
The nave showcases pale columns resembling a forest, branching out like trees. Gaudí considered “trees as buildings,” and this concept comes to life within.
Once completed, the basilica will feature a total of 18 towers, of which 6 are yet to be finished. The tallest tower, representing Jesus Christ, currently stands at 85 meters and will reach a height of 172.5 meters when fully constructed.
The remaining towers, in ascending order of height, symbolize the 12 apostles, the 4 Evangelists, and the Virgin Mary.
The facades of the basilica’s exterior resemble grand altarpieces. There are three distinct facades: (1) the Nativity Facade, completed during Gaudí’s lifetime; (2) the somber and contentious Passion Facade, symbolizing the crucifixion; and (3) the Glory Facade, which is still undergoing construction.
The Glory Facade will eventually portray the path to eternal salvation, completing the trio of facades with its own unique significance.
Tickets & Tours
It’s essential to book a skip the line ticket for Sagrada Familia. There’s so much to see at Sagrada Familia that you might want to book a guided tour. There are several options you can choose from.
- a 1.5 hour skip the line guided tour
- a 2 hour skip the line guided tour
- a 2 hour skip the line private tour
- a 3 hour skip the line private tour
- a 1.5 hour guided tour with tower access
- a 3.5 hour guided tour of the basilica and Park Guell
- a 4 hour bike tour + Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia Virtual Tour
Sagrada Familia has opened its digital doors You can now take an extensive virtual tour right on its website.
You can visit the Passsion Facade, the Nativity Facade, the interior, the apse, the Cloister of the Rosary, the Western Sacristy, the Crypt, and Gaudi’s Tomb.
Practical Information for Visiting Sagrada Família:
Address: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona. The main entrance is by the Nativity Facade. Ticket windows are near the Passion Facade.
Hours: Open daily 9:00 am to 8:00 pm in summer, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in winter
Ticket prices: 20 euros on line. Check here for other prices and discounts
Passes: Entry is included in the Barcelona City Pass, but you can’t skip the line. The Barcelona Card gives you a small discount, if you choose either an audio guide or top views tour.
Buy a timed entry ticket online in advance for shorter waits. Be prepared to specify what you want to add (audio guide, Gaudi house, tower access) to the basic ticket.
There is a free 1 hour mass every Sunday at 9:00 am.But you can’t take photos or tour the place.
- Getting there: It’s on the HOHO tour bus route and at Metro Sagrada Família
- Official Website
- Sagrada Familia Blog: with all the latest analyses and updates on construction
2. Casa Batlló
Casa Batlló showcases Antoni Gaudí’s surreal and dreamlike brilliance, making it one of Barcelona’s most iconic landmarks.
Originally built in 1877, Casa Batlló was transformed when wealthy textile industrialist Josep Batlló y Casanovas acquired it in 1900. Entrusting Gaudí with complete creative freedom, Batlló saw the birth of a unique interpretation of the Art Nouveau style popular at the time.
In this masterpiece, Gaudí envisioned a dragon-like structure. The facade is a peculiar bone-like facade adorned with balcony masks resembling skulls. The sinuously scaled roof culminates in a striking tower resembling a sword.
Though it’s a bit hard to see, the facade’s actually uneven and slightly wavy, like a calm sea. Its marine-like surface that doubles as a dragon’s skin.
The interior is no less beautiful, filled with bright tiles, curved wood, and stained glass — all in organic forms and curvy shapes. The motif is an undersea grotto lit by skylights shaped like tortoise shells. The ceiling droops and swerves poetically.
The long gallery of the main suite is called the Noble Floor. It overlooks the Passeig de Gràcia via a magnificent window. The oversized window is astonishing, decorated with bone-like pillars and watery colors.
The curved wood windows are so large that they have spawned another nickname for the building — the House of Yawns.
There is also now a Magic Nights event. You can visit Casa Battlo and here a concert.
You can now peak at Gaudi’s endless allusions to Mother Nature on a 360 virtual tour of Casa Battlo on its official website or on this excellent YouTube video. Here’s my complete guide to Casa Battlo.
Practical Information for Visiting Casa Batlló:
- Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona
- Hours: Open daily 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, last entrance at 8:00 pm
- Entry fee: Check here. Free entry with the Barcelona Pass and a discount with the Barcelona Card
- Metro: Passeig de Gràcia (Green Line, L3), Calle Aragó-Rambla (Catalunya exit).
- Tel: +34 932 16 03 06
3. Casa Milà | La Pedrera
One of my personal favorite Gaudi attractions in Barcelona is the captivating Casa Milà, more commonly known as La Pedrera, meaning “The Quarry.”
It stands as a remarkable masterpiece inspired by nature, following Gaudi’s signature style. Every aspect, from the overall appearance to the tiniest details, reflects the theme of nature.
The building’s design undulates and curves like a flowing ocean, devoid of right angles or straight lines. Gaudi aimed to capture the essence of a “petrified wave” by juxtaposing heavy, solid stone facades with organic, wavy shapes.
Interestingly, the undulating facade is not merely a load-bearing wall. Instead, it acts as a self-supporting curtain wall, connecting to the internal structure of each floor through gracefully curved iron beams.
This innovative approach granted Gaudi the freedom to create irregular floor plans, marking it as one of his groundbreaking architectural innovations.
Take a moment to notice the unique and expressive grills adorning the 32 exterior balconies, each one distinct. They resemble the graceful forms of seaweed or oceanic creatures, as if being swept and swayed by waves.
The combination of the building’s curves and these balcony grills creates an immersive underwater-like scene.
Upon entering through the wrought iron door, reminiscent of a butterfly, you’ll discover a vibrant burst of color within. Unlike the exterior, the interior boasts lively hues.
The entrance hall showcases magnificent paintings overseen by Symbolist painter Aleix Clapes. These dreamy tapestry-like artworks feature mythical and floral themes, adding to the enchanting atmosphere.
However, the highlight of La Pedrera lies on its roof, resembling a lunar landscape. The undulating and irregular surface offers winding pathways, leading to a unique forest of 30 chimneys with striking spiky forms. It’s a sight to behold and explore.
It’s filled with whimsical structures, lording over and guarding the building. Some chimneys are freestanding structures. Others are joined in groups of 3 or 4. Some are covered with fragments of marble and broken tile.
La Pedrera is now considered one of the crown jewels of the Art Nouveau movement. It’s been used in 15 movies. (To me, the rooftop is reminiscent of Tatoine in Star Wars.) It’s a main setting in Dan Brown’s 2017 novel, Origin.
In the evenings, a spectacular audiovisual show takes place on the terrace. Casa Mila’s rooftop terrace and stairwells are illuminated with projections set to music.
Practical Information for Visiting La Pedrera/Casa Milà:
- Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 92
- Metro: Diagonal
- Phone: (+34) 902 202 138
- Entry fee: 25 euros. Night show is 35 euros. Entry is free with the Barcelona Pass and you get a discount with the Barcelona Card.
- Hours: Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
4. Güell Palace
Situated near La Rambla, Palau Güell, also known as Güell Palace, offers a distinctive departure from Gaudí’s typical architectural style in Barcelona.
Unlike his other works, Palau Güell exudes a sense of tradition and darkness, akin to a luxurious Venetian palace. Its eerie Gothic ambiance adds to its allure—don’t overlook this captivating structure.
The commission for Palau Güell came early in Gaudí’s career, marking a pivotal moment as he established himself as an architect. It serves as a testament to his early creative prowess.
Built from 1886 to 1888, Palau Güell was commissioned by Eusebi Güell, a prominent industrialist and Gaudí’s greatest patron. The palace served as the Güell family’s residence until their relocation to Park Güell in 1910.
The heart of the home revolves around a grand main room, designed for entertaining affluent guests. This space boasts a towering 17-meter-high ceiling, adorned with a captivating parabolic dome.
Notably, small perforations near the dome’s apex allow lanterns to be hung, creating an enchanting illusion of a starlit sky. It evokes a mesmerizing planetarium-like experience.
Gaudí’s architectural ingenuity shines through the use of 40 different types of columns throughout the house. These columns exhibit a range of materials, from sturdy brick to elegant marble, adding to the visual diversity of Palau Güell.
Gaudí’s experimentation comes to life in the basement of Palau Güell. This section showcases his early fascination with incorporating organic forms, as seen in the mushroom-shaped pillars that adorn the space.
On the roof, a characteristic of many Gaudí designs, vibrant ceramic elements and 20 chimneys catch the eye. Among them, a conical chimney resembling a stack of green olives pressed tightly together adds a whimsical touch.
To avoid potential client objections, Gaudí often reserved his most innovative and daring architectural features for the upper and lower portions of buildings. This strategic placement allowed him to express his artistic vision without risking the disapproval of his patrons.
Practical information for Visiting Palau Güell:
- Address: Carrer Nou de la Rambla 3-5, Barcelona
- Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.
- Entry fee: 12 euros, with discounts available for students, seniors, and children. Audio guide included in entrance fee. There’s a 25% discount with the Barcelona Card.
- Pro tip: Expect to spend 1-1.5 hours there
5. Park Güell
Park Güell stands as one of Gaudí’s most innovative architectural creations in Barcelona. This enchanting public park and garden complex spans 45 acres, nestled on Carmel Hill. It’s a captivating and vibrant wonderland to explore.
Initially, Eusebi Güell had commissioned Gaudí to design a miniature city featuring luxurious homes. Gaudí dedicated himself to the project from 1900 to 1914. However, the plan proved unsuccessful, resulting in a commercial failure, with only four out of the originally intended sixty houses being constructed.
Before the project came to an end, Gaudí had already crafted a remarkable plaza. It had two charming gatehouses reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel, a sinuous bench, colonnaded walkways, and beautiful staircases.
Fascinatingly, Gaudí himself acquired one of the houses within the park and resided there for nearly two decades before permanently moving to Sagrada Família.
Among the park’s highlights is the breathtaking serpentine bench adorned with intricate tile work. Its cheerful design encircles the park like a nautilus shell.
Gaudí meticulously paved the curved bench using fragmented tiles in a vibrant rainbow of hues, adding a delightful burst of color to the surroundings.
he Park Güell’s most renowned symbol is undoubtedly the vibrant mosaic lizard named “El Drac” or the dragon. Gaudí worked in collaboration with Joseph Maria Jujol, a talented young architect, to create the captivating tile work for this iconic sculpture.
While the majority of the park is accessible free of charge and offers delightful city views, do note that there is a fee for entry into the central Monumental Zone.
If you wish to explore the former residence of Gaudí, the museum is situated just outside the Monumental Zone within the free section of the park. Gaudí himself lived in this home from 1906 to 1925, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into his life and work.
Most of the Park Guell is free to visit and you’ll have some nice views over the city. But you’ll need a ticket for the central Monumental Zone. You may also want to take a 2 hour guided tour of the park.
Practical Information for Visiting Park Güell:
- Address: Calle Claudi Güell, 08690 Colònia Güell, Santa Coloma de Cervelló, Barcelona
- Entry Fee: 10 euros, with discounts available. Free admission with the Barcelona Pass and a discount with the Barcelona Card
- Pro tip: Park Güell requires walking up a hill from most locations. It’s close to Sagrada Familia, so you can visit both on the same day.
6. Casa Vicens
Casa Vicens, with its regal appearance, holds the distinction of being “the house where it all began” for Gaudí. This architectural marvel marked his first significant commission in Barcelona following the completion of his degree.
Considered one of Europe’s earliest Art Nouveau-style buildings, Casa Vicens played a pivotal role in ushering in the Spanish Modernista movement.
Commissioned by Manuel Vicens, the proprietor of a brick and tile factory, Gaudí dedicated five years from 1883 to 1888 to the creation of this remarkable home. During this project, it seems that Gaudí enjoyed considerable creative freedom and a generous budget.
Technically classified as one of Gaudí’s “orientalist works,” Casa Vicens showcases his incorporation of Neo-Moorish designs.
The architect sought to amplify the dramatic impact by crafting a facade that appeared as if lush vegetation was naturally growing upon its walls.
Gaudí skillfully employed contrasting materials and forms to bring Casa Vicens to life. The architectural elements encompass geometric patterns, vibrant ceramic tiles, a striking horseshoe-shaped staircase, nature-inspired motifs, intricate iron balconies, and abstract brick ornamentation.
I particularly admired the charming yellow flowers adorning the tiles, adding a delightful touch. Overall, the design exudes a more tesselated aesthetic rather than an organic one, showcasing Gaudí’s innovative approach.
As you step inside Casa Vicens, you’re greeted with an explosion of color. The walls are adorned with intricate motifs depicting plants, birds, and seashells.
The ceilings are equally captivating, featuring paper mâché plant motifs intricately placed between the beams. Each ceiling is a unique masterpiece, showcasing Gaudí’s attention to detail and creativity.
The main floor encompasses the dining room, smoking room, and a charming covered porch. Moving up to the first floor, you’ll find the bedrooms adorned with vibrant and lush leafy decorations. On the second floor, there is an informative exhibition highlighting the history of Casa Vicens.
In 1925, the new owner of Casa Vicens approached Gaudí, requesting an addition to the home. However, as Gaudí was deeply engrossed in his work on the Sagrada Familia, he regretfully declined.
Instead, he recommended his colleague Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez, who extended the residence with a seamless integration that harmoniously complemented Gaudí’s original design.
Casa Vicens remained a private residence until 2014 when it was acquired for an undisclosed amount (originally listed at 35 million euros). Fortunately for us, as travelers, the property underwent a meticulous two-year restoration and refurbishment, meticulously returning it to its original grandeur.
In November 2017, Casa Vicens opened for public tours. It’s fast becoming a Gaudí hotspot in Barcelona, especially for those on the UNESCO route.
You can take a virtual tour of it here.
Practical Information for Visiting Casa Vicens:
- Address: Carrer de les Carolines, 18-24, 08012 Barcelona
- Entry Fee: 16 €, discounts available. Entry is free with the Barcelona Pass. There is a discount with the Barcelona Card.
- Metro: Metro: L3 stop Fontana
- Hours: Open daily Monday to Sunday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, last admission 6:40 pm. In the winter, open until 7:00 pm, last admission 5:40 pm
7. The Crypt in Colonia Güell
Nestled in the serene village of Santa Coloma de Cervelló, the Colonia Güell is an absolute must-visit for admirers of Gaudí’s architectural wonders. This site holds significant historical importance as Gaudí’s patron, Güell, relocated his textile operations there.
Güell aimed to create an industrial estate that prioritized the welfare of his employees, thus establishing the Colonia Güell. As part of this ambitious project, Güell commissioned the construction of Modernist-style homes and a parish church for the colony’s residents.
Gaudí embarked on the design of the church in 1908. Regrettably, due to funding issues, Güell halted the project in 1914, leaving it unfinished. Only the crypt-like lower nave had been completed, while the plans for a soaring ceiling were abandoned, resulting in the upper floor being bricked over.
In 1915, the lower nave received a blessing from the bishop of Barcelona, and since then, the crypt has functioned as a church, serving the spiritual needs of the community.
The exterior of the crypt boasts delightful stained glass windows that exude a whimsical charm. Stepping inside, you’ll find an intimate and earthy space with a circular nave, supported by strikingly lurching stone pillars.
Notably, a giant clam shell has been repurposed as a holy water font, adding a unique touch to the ambiance. Gaudí’s ingenious touch can also be seen in the design of the beautiful ergonomic pews, which he personally crafted.
The crypt church served as a remarkable precursor to Gaudí’s later masterpiece, the Sagrada Família. It provided him with an opportunity to experiment with new materials and innovative designs, laying the foundation for his groundbreaking architectural vision.
In 2000, the crypt underwent a renovation, ensuring its continued preservation.
Click here to book a ticket for Colonia Guell. You could also book a combo tour that combines Casa Vicens and Colonia Guell.
Practical Information for Visiting The Crypt in Colonia Güell:
- Address: Carrer Claudi Güell 6, 08690, Barcelona Hours: May 1 to Oct. 31 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Nov. 1 to April 31 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Entry fee: 10 euros. Free with Barcelona Pass and a discount with the Barcelona Card.
- Getting there: The church is in a suburb of Barcelona called Santa Coloma de Cervello. Start your trip in Plaza España station on Lines S33, S8 or S4. Spraypainted footprints will lead you to the church.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the must visit Gaudi architecture in Barcelona. You may enjoy these other travel guides and resources for Barcelona:
- 1 day itinerary for Barcelona
- 3 day itinerary for Barcelona
- Guide To Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
- 40+ Landmarks in Barcelona
- Hidden Gems in Barcelona
- Architecture Lover’s Guide to Eixample
- Guide to the Gothic Quarter
- 10 day itinerary from Barcelona to Bilbao
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