Barcelona and the architect Antoni Gaudí are almost inseparable. He made the city his canvas, transforming its streets and parks with his work, which today is admired worldwide. Here, learn a bit about the artist and where you can find inspiration while you’re visiting the Catalan capital.
About the artist
Gaudí’s fantastical work is equal parts divine inspiration and homage to his upbringing in the Catalan countryside. The architect himself said it best: “originality is the return to the origins.”
The mode that he worked in, Catalan modernism, was popular during the end of the 19th century. Modernisme took cues from other European art movements, but its Spanish followers distinguished their work by incorporating traditional motifs. Gaudí might be the most well-known follower of modernisme. Still, the school of thought reached beyond architecture, influencing Spanish literature, artwork, and even plays. Modernist artists of all types would gather and share ideas in Els Quatre Gats, or “The Four Cats,” a cafe in the city’s Gothic Quarter which is still open today. El Quatre Gats is famous for its creative atmosphere, and for being a favorite haunt of another renowned Spanish artist—Pablo Picasso.
Seek out inspiration
Barcelona boasts nearly a dozen buildings designed by Gaudí, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city itself is like a museum, so it’s easy to soak in the creative spirit—all you have to do is walk around. Get to know some of his most famous works before you go, and see how you can get a closer look at Gaudí’s most cherished designs.
The “House of Bones”
The House of Bones, or Casa Batiló, earned its nickname for its skeleton-like facade. More surreal than spooky, the building was once home to a wealthy Spanish family, whose patron was smitten with Gaudí’s work. It’s just one of many notable buildings along the Passeig de Gràci, and is one of three modernist buildings along Barcelona’s “Block of Discord.” Casa Batiló’s neighbor Casa Amatller was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, a contemporary of Gaudí who also made Els Quatre Gats.
If you want to explore the fantastic interior during your free time, we recommend scooping up Casa Batliò tickets in advance. The museum offers a few different experiences for travelers, including an evening toast atop Casa Batilò’s dragon-inspired roof.
Colorful Park Güell turned a little-used development into an icon. Gaudí’s famous curving benches, a highlight of the park, hint at the hilly landscape and are decorated with bright tilework—a nod to Catalonia’s Moorish ties. You can visit by adding a Park Güell excursion on your tour of Barcelona, and soak in beautiful views of the city as you explore.
While you’re there, keep your eyes peeled for one of Park Güell’s most famous residents, “el Drac.” The colorful lizard is perched between a set of stairs within the park and is one of the most popular photo stops for visitors.
The Sagrada Família
Gaudí’s unfinished Sagrada Família has been under construction for more than 100 years. As he famously said, his patron—God—was is no hurry to see it finished. The church is expected to be completed by 2026, marking a century since Gaudí’s death. Today’s architects capture Gaudí’s vision by working off models he made of the completed Sagrada Família.
The massive cathedral blends Gothic elements with Gaudí’s signature natural style, which includes the tree-like columns of the church’s basilica. Its exterior is punctuated by three different facades, envisioned as the Nativity, the Passion, and the Glory. The two completed facades are intricately detailed and feature stories from the Bible. The third, the Glory facade, is still under construction. It’s expected to be the most ornate, filled with scenes of heaven, purgatory, the Seven Deadly Sins, and more. When the Sagrada Família is finally finished, it will be the tallest church in the world.
You’ll step inside the Sagrada Família during your sightseeing tour of Barcelona. It’s a moment many travelers look forward to—even seasoned Tour Directors and local guides still admit it takes their breath away every time.
Have you seen Gaudí’s work in Barcelona? Been inspired by something amazing on tour? Tell us about it in the comments!