Those with a lust for travel will no doubt have the city of Barcelona somewhere on their ‘to-do’ list. Spain’s second city (and the capital of Catalonia), plays host to some of the most spectacular icons of European architecture with a diverse landscape bustling with gothic mansions and ‘modernista’ masterpieces. Barcelona enjoyed a relative anonymity as seaside tourism took off in the 1960s while holiday makers from the UK and the rest of Europe flocked to the sandy beaches of Ibiza and Marbella for sun, sea and sangria. But ever since the city hosted the 1992 olympics it’s been awash with the clicking shutters of thousands of tourists’ cameras.
The spectacular Catedral (La Seu) is one of the most beautiful and jaw dropping masterpieces of gothic architecture in the world, but there’s a whole lot more to the city than this beloved icon. Barcelona, Spain’s rich history and culture has seen a range of cultural influences in its architecture resulting in one of Europe’s most beautiful and fascinating skylines. Let’s take a tour through some of these brilliant buildings.
La Sagrada Familia
If you only see one building in Barcelona it should be this astonishing, unfinished masterpiece. Every square foot of wall space in La Sagrada Familia is a masterfully crafted work of art. Attracting 2.8 million visitors a year it is by far the most visited monument in Spain, with its recent consecration by the Pope in 2010 causing an even greater boom in visiting tourists from all faiths. The temple’s architect Antoni Gaudi saw its completion as more than his life’s work, it was his all-consuming obsession and he regarded it as his Holy mission to see its completion. While work may continue well into the 2040s, there’s still plenty of stone sculpted wonderment to be found here.
Another of Antoni Gaudi ingenious works, this undulating oddity looks almost like a Salvador Dali painting brought to life. Completed in 1910 it was originally intended to function as an apartment building and office block, commissioned by Pere Mila. Mila has just married the wealthy widow Roser Guardiola and he knew how to spend her money in style. ‘Casa Mila’ as it was originally known is one of the first buildings in the world to have its own in-built parking space. The building now hosts visitors drawn to the eccentricity of Gaudi’s work and while the best viewing is in the spectacular roof with it’s chess piece like chimneys, the apartment itself is still a shrine to 20th century wealth and excess.
This ultra modern cucumber shaped building is a hot blooded Latin cousin of London’s famous ‘Gherkin’. While the English monument is a primly restrained tower of glass and steel, Torre Agbar (completed in 2005) is more like a crystal finger pointing at the sky, shimmering in vivid shades of blue and red at night.
Palau de la Música Catalana
This shrine to Catalanian music is not only Barcelona’s premier concert hall but a masterpiece of Modernista architecture. The central glass and metal structure paints the beautiful interior with light while the ornate exterior lures in thousands of tourists from around the world every year. The building is the only concert hall in this style to be listed as a UNESCO heritage site.