Barcelona, a city brimmed with incredible architecture, graced with churches that influence the Baroque period and Modernist marvels. The 1992 Olympics transformed the city by firmly putting Barcelona back on the map, buildings that were previously overlooked became must-sees and the wealth of architecture within Barcelona was recognized once more. With its rich cultural, today it is now an important business center point and major tourist destination.
1. La Sagrada Família
This basilica is considered as one of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces and is a key symbol of Barcelona. With it’s incredible framework of daunting and eerie spires, this beautiful construction first began in 1882 and it is fascinating to think that this building is still in work. Gaudi actually devoted his last years to this project and as he died in 1926 with only 15% completed – it has served as a monstrosity of a building to construct in his memory. The sheer detail in this church, not only outside but inside too, demonstrates the genius vision and talent that Gaudi possessed.
The style of La Sagrada Família is commonly associated with Spanish Late Gothic, Art Nouveau (Catalan Noucentisme) and Catalan Modernism. The original design was encompassed of eighteen spires, representing the height of the Twelve Apostles (ascending order), the Virgin Mary and the tallest to be the Jesus Christ. As of 2012, eight spires have been built to coincide with the four apostles at the nativity façade and Passion façade. The inside of the church is equally magnificent and here you can visit the crypt were Gaudi is buried as well as the museum to explore more about the wonders of this building.
2. Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar
This basilica is also known as the “Cathedral of La Ribera”, is a stunning example of Gothic architecture and a beautiful welcome to the ever-present remains of the Gothic quarter. Built in 55 years from 1329 to 1384 – it is the only church that symbolizes pure Catalan Gothic style. With its tall columns and incredible height the view is breathtaking. The stained glass windows of Santa Maria del Mar are an integral part of the church and are evident throughout. Designed by Berenguer de Montagut this church remains an emblematic part of the district.
3. Torre Agbar
Completed in 2005, this structure designed by French architect Jean Nouvel towers over Barcelona city. Reminiscent of the Gherkin in London, this spectacle is 34 stories high, which is 142 meters tall and is often referred to as a geyser. It actually stands as headquarters for the municipal water company, Aguas de Barcelona – Agbar. Nouvel was keen to incorporate eco elements and this has been harnessed with the solar power and groundwater implemented to reduce energy consumption.
The oval tower definitely adds an element of interest to the Barcelona skyline and at night can be seen afar with the building transforming in to a colorful LED psychedelic display.
The exterior of the building has glass, which can be tilted at different angles and the color scheme changes from reddish tones to cool blue hues.
4. La Pedrera
There is something quite fantasy-like about the Casa Milá or La Pedrera (Catalan for stony quarry) – an architectural landmark in Barcelona and a must-see. Located on Passeig de Grácia it makes a prime location and a modernist building that takes center stage with its curved rooftop and elaborate structure. Like Antonio Gaudi’s other projects, La Pedrera stays true to natural and organic influences, with the façade resembling the moving sea – interacting with seaweed emblems on the balcony railings.
Pere Millá commissioned Gaudi to build the residential block and this was built between 1906 and 1912 with the building occupying the whole corner as a modernist beauty. In 1984 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now belongs to bank Catalunya Caixa. Visitors can expect to see the large attic space, the rooftop and period apartment.
5. Palau de la Música Catalana
The Palau de la Música Catalana was designed by Lluís Doménech i Montaner and is composed of an elaborate concert hall, which has been acclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a prestigious music venue. Built between 1905 and 1908, the colorful building boasts beautiful arches, an incredible amount of light and one can’t help themselves from staring at the floral motifs in the interior. Some of the world’s greatest performers have performed at the venue making it a significant and cultural point of Barcelona city.
6. Casa Batlló
It is difficult to not be captivated by Gaudi’s Casa Batlló on Passeig de Grácia, popular amongst visitors the building is something special. This reform is one of Gaudi’s boldest with imaginative and intense concepts in full fruition. Tiled with mosaic composed of pieces of glass and ceramic discs, flowers and water lilies the result is quite a mesmerizing one and ever more so when the sun shines on the façade and the shard pieces of glass glisten.
Upon entering the building is a magnitude of textures, colors and effects. The balcony on the first floor is of long sandstone, at the top is a scaly ceramic skin and the rooftop is curved with mosaic chimneys.
Nothing is simple in this structure with its parabolic arches, central light well and unique staircase.
7. Las Arenas
This new shopping mall has taken precedence in the former bullring of Plaza Espanya. Given a modern overhaul by Richard Rogers, the building that was originally built in 1900 has transformed into an entertainment and retail center. It now hoses a futuristic rooftop terrace where you can enjoy the view of the magic fountains at Montjuic and at the rear you can see Tibidabo.
8. Mercat de Santa Caterina
If you like food and bright colors then you will get just that at the old Santa Caterina food market. The spacious and modern market structure has a roof made from colorful ceramic pieces – representing fruit and vegetables and adds a nice flair to the neighborhood. In 1997 EMBT won the bid to regenerate the area and that it has done – discovering ruins of a Roman necropolis only haled the project for two years but it completed with great success.
9. Arc de Triomf
Built in 1888 for the Exposicíon Universal de Barcelona by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas, this bricked arch serves as a passageway to Parc Ciutadella. The front section of the arch captures a stone sculpture “Barcelona re les nations” (Catalan for Barcelona welcomes the nations) and is noted as different to that of the Arc in Paris because of the reddish brick color which is a “mudéjar” style with origins in Moorish architecture. Nowadays it’s a spot where you will sometimes find festivals and in general it’s a lovely walkway that takes you to the Borne neighborhood.
10. Torre Gas Natural HDR
Torre Gas Natural HDR is the headquarters of the national Catalan gas company – an impressive sight indeed. Designed by Miralles and Benedetta Tabliabue EMBT in Barcelona, this futuristic office tower is comprised of colored glass panels and slick corporate aesthetics that makes it stand out from the crowd. Located between the Olympic Village and La Barceloneta it adds a different edge to the urbanized landscape.
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