Checklist: Gaudí's Barcelona

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Barcelona is steeped in history and home to many renowned creators, most famously, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet. Some of his most impressive works can be found in and around the city he once called home and his distinctive, modern and colorful style has become Barcelona’s trademark.

Plaça de Catalunya, a large square in Barcelona’s city center that attracts tourists with its large fountains and sculptures, is a great starting point for a tour of Gaudí’s Barcelona.

1. Casa Batlló

From the Plaça de Catalunya, walk up along the Passeig de Gràcia. Luxurious designer shops (Hermés, Chanel, Adolfo Dominguez), an array of cafes, restaurants, bars and several Desigual shops may tempt you to stop for a quick shopping spree but this is the most expensive street in Barcelona, if not Spain. After a 15-minute walk you will reach Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, one of his great masterpieces (pictured above). Textile industrialist Josep Batlló was determined to own a house that stood out from all the rest, so he hired Gaudí to help him accomplish that in the early 1900s. Gaudí seems to have omitted the use of straight lines, giving the structure of the house an organic, skeletal quality, which has earned it the nickname Casa dels ossos (House of Bones). The roof is arched and likens the spine of a dragon, with broken mosaic tiles in shades of yellow, orange, blue and green bringing its form to life. Be sure to book an entrance ticket prior to your visit to Casa Batlló to avoid waiting in line for up to two hours.

2. Casa Vicens

Just before getting to the end of Passeig de Gràcia and reaching the Ronda del General Mitre, you will find Casa Vicens on the Carrer de les Carolines. Built between 1883 and 1889, it was one of Gaudí’s first major projects. From afar, the residence may not appear colorful enough to be a true Gaudí but, upon closer inspection, you will come to realize just how much playful detail has gone into Casa Vicens. The house was inspired by Gaudí’s endless fascination with natural shapes; in this case, the free flowing and delicate forms of the plant world. The walls, ceiling, façade and even the windows are adorned with delicate paintings, tile, metal and wood work, all in floral shapes. The wrought-iron bannisters and window grilles blend in with the warmth of the façade’s red brick and undressed stonewalls with the incorporation of further floral patterns and Moorish influences. If you still have some travel money left at the end of your Barcelona trip, you’ll be happy to hear that Casa Vicens is currently up for sale.

3. Parc Güell

From the Passeig de Gràcia you can take the L3 metro to Parc Güell, although making your way there by foot or bicycle is definitely recommended. This will give you a chance to take in various different districts along the way, including Avinguda Diagonal, Passeig de Sant Joan and Travessera de Dalt. There are different entrances into the Parc Güell, the main one being the “monumental zone” where Gaudí’s former house is located. The house is now a museum in which you can view many of his furniture designs. The park itself is a living, breathing work of art full of mysterious symbolism and puzzles. Colonnaded footpaths and a roadway built upon columns resembling the park’s trees enhance the other-worldly feel of this fairytale-like park. The famous serpentine bench and “el drac” (the dragon) celebrate Gaudí’s use of mosaic tiles. There is plenty to see at Parc Güell, but you’ll also get to hear some good tunes, as plenty of street musicians take advantage of the area to provide tourists with a Parc Güell soundtrack.

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