La Sagrada Família
If you have time for only one sightseeing outing, this should be it. La Sagrada Família inspires awe by its sheer verticality, and in the manner of the medieval cathedrals it emulates, it’s still under construction. Work began in 1882 and is hoped (perhaps optimistically) to be completed in 2026, a century after the architect’s death. Unfinished it may be, but it attracts around 2.8 million visitors a year and is the most visited monument in Spain.
North of Gràcia, Unesco-listed Park Güell is where Gaudí turned his hand to landscape gardening. It’s a strange, enchanting place where his passion for natural forms really took flight and the artificial almost seems more natural than the natural.
The park is extremely popular, receiving an estimated four million visitors a year. Access is limited to a certain number of people every half-hour, and it’s wise to book ahead online (you’ll also save a euro on the admission fee).
One of the strangest residential buildings in Europe, this is Gaudí at his hallucinatory best. The facade, sprinkled with bits of blue, mauve and green tiles and studded with wave-shaped window frames and balconies, rises to an uneven blue-tiled roof with a solitary tower. It is one of the three houses on the block between Carrer del Consell de Cent and Carrer d’Aragó that gave it the playful name Illa de la Discòrdia (Spanish: Manzana de la Discordia), meaning ‘Apple (Block) of Discord’. The others are Puig i Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller and Domènech i Montaner’s Casa Lleó Morera. They were all renovated between 1898 and 1906 and show how eclectic a ‘style’ Modernisme was.
Barcelona’s central place of worship presents a magnificent image. The richly decorated main facade, dotted with gargoyles and the stone intricacies you would expect of northern European Gothic, sets it quite apart from other churches in Barcelona. The facade was actually added in 1870, although the rest of the building was built between 1298 and 1460.
The other facades are sparse in decoration, and the octagonal, flat-roofed towers are a clear reminder that, even here, Catalan Gothic architectural principles prevailed.