In a city where the buildings alone are impressive attractions, you’ll trip over your feet trying to take in the amazing architecture surrounding you from every angle. Spain’s Catalonian capital has it all when it comes to spellbinding architecture unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This is partially due to the life and works of Barcelona’s great Antoni Gaudi and his eclectic flare for outlandish design. Journey through the city’s history simply by gawking at unique medieval Gothic and Art Nouveau Modern creations and see things in a new light as old meets new. Here’s our guide to Barcelona’s architecture.
Perhaps the most famous of Gaudi’s works, the Catholic monument was never finished and has been a work in progress for more than 135 years. Combining styles from Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau and Spanish – late Gothic, the massive church was Gaudi’s last obsession before he died. Supposedly representing the blending of his architectural theories with his strong Catholic religious philosophies, the structure is a mismatch of old and new and dominates the Barcelona cityscape. Take the public lift up to the two spires and walk between them to fully take in the size of the building and spectacular views of the Old Town.
Sitting right in the middle of one of Barcelona’s most notable streets, Casa Batllo is another of Gaudi’s creations drawing the crowds year after year. Nestled alongside numerous other art nouveau style properties, the house was remodelled by the architect in 1904 for Joseph Batllo, a wealthy aristocrat and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Somewhat of an optical illusion from a distance, the building looks like it’s been decorated with skulls and bones but on closer inspection you’ll see the skulls are actually a number of balconies and the bones are supporting pillars. Inspired by the colours and shapes of marine life, Gaudi chose natural coral as the colour for the outside of the building making it a picture perfect spot in the centre of town.
Also known as Casa Mila, the house was commissioned to Gaudi by the wealthy Mila family and is very much one of a kind. Stone-like in appearance the limestone curtain wall holding the façade made for irregular shaped rooms and large windows. Possibly the most advanced approach from anyone to building on a street corner the building is now a museum and open to the public for tours. Wander around the open plan apartment blocks and note the complex wrought iron work on the doors, gates and balconies and appreciate the decorative embellishment in the artwork and structural detailing. This is a must see to add to the list of architectural gems in Barcelona.
Head out of the city and enter in to a fantasy world in the gardens of Park Guell. Right on top of Carmel Hill sits the sculpture park featuring works of Gaudi and stunning panoramic views of the entire city. The World Heritage Site has plenty to explore within its rustic ceramic-tiled walls and is great for day trips with families. Spend the afternoon walking through the colourful green space touring the dragon stairway, the Hypostyle room, the Greek theatre, the Austrian gardens and numerous roads, pathways and viaducts. Rest in the bar and brush up on your history in Gaudi’s life museum. Both educational and lots of fun, the park is a real hidden gem you need to know about.
Straying away from the designs of Gaudi, the city is bursting with other styles and creators that are often overshadowed by the Catalonian Modernist. Marking the gateway to the new technological district of Barcelona, the Torre Agbar designed by Jean Nouvel, resembles a monumental cucumber shooting up out of the ground. Completed in 2005, the office tower is panelled with coloured movable glass tiles radiating shades of blues and reds which often also reflect the colours of the Mediterranean. A symbol of contemporary Barcelona, it’s best to go in search of this landmark at night when the darkness really does the colours justice.
At the southwestern end of Passeig del Born, you’ll come across one of Barcelona’s finest churches. Built in the 14th century, the Catalan Gothic church is spacious, light, lacks any elaborate decorations and is harmonious in its structural proportions, making it the perfect example of Gothic style architecture. Book a guided tour and walk around the impressive main church, museum, gallery and crypt or take the separate tour of the towers and rooftops to fully take in the spectacular composition of the iconic building.
Built in the late 19th century, Barcelona’s iconic opera house is a must see when visiting the city. Still standing through two fires, the reconstructed building that exists today is an exact replica of the place that locals both loved to see and be seen at. Take a look around the five-tiered horseshoe auditorium, the Mirror Hall, Renaissance-style lobby and multi-purpose foyer for a glimpse into the grandeur and significance of this historical gem. Finished in red plush velvet, gold and polychrome – cast plaster, the interiors are as beautiful inside as the structure is outside.
Planning a Barcelona getaway soon? Be sure to tag us using #ryanairstories, in your photos of buildings from our guide to Barcelona’s architecture for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s Instagram feed.
Flights to Barcelona
- Lucy Norris