Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain

Palau Güell – Horse tie in the shape of a dogs head

One person that is almost synonymous with Barcelona is Antoni Gaudí, an architect who has made his mark throughout the city. Some people aren’t big fans of his. His work is unique and modern — it daringly walks the line between acceptable and over the top. There are several Gaudí sites in Barcelona, ranging from free to 18 euro entry, and they are scattered throughout the city.

Palau Güell door hole

Our first Gaudí related activity was visiting the Palau Güell, which I believe translates to Güell Palace. It is the mansion for industrial hotshot Eusebi Güell, and was designed by Gaudí. In my opinion, this is one of Gaudí’s more reserved works. Most of the intricacy that he is known for is reserved for the finer details of the Palace, such as in the small window holes in doors and walls.

Palau Güell interior

The building is four stories, five including the horse stables in the basement, and is certainly luxurious. It even has it’s own chapel. The details are subtle, but when focused on, they give the building a complex, detailed, beauty that is surprisingly not overwhelming. Luckily, once we reached the roof of the building, we saw more of the style that Gaudí is known for.

Palau Güell – Chimneys on the rooftop

This is the sort of look I’ve been wanting from Gaudí! Not subtle, tasteful intricacies, but loud and daring color and shapes. Actually, this palace was the most normal appearing building we saw of Gaudí’s in Barcelona. Just next to the apartment we were staying at was this building:

La Pedrera – AKA Casa Milá

This is La Pedrera, which means The Quarry, which was built in 1910. This building had the most expensive entry of the Gaudí buildings, at 18 Euro, so we didn’t go inside. To help put this in perspective, the Palau Güell was 20 Euro for the two of us, nearly half the price of this building. As far as I could tell, none of the buildings entry costs allowed you in other buildings either (I didn’t notice a Gaudí Pass for example, that allowed you in all his buildings.) This building was also built for a wealthy private residence, and originally was intended to be covered in religious iconography. The interior apparently still has a significant amount of this. The project was modified and adapted due to complaints from the city, building violations, and also an outbreak of anti-clericalism in the city.

Casa Batlló

This is another building of Gaudí’s, just down the street from La Pedrera. It seems to have no straight components. The best part of the building is the roof, which looks like a dragon’s back, and it is theorized to represent Saint George having stabbed a dragon in the back. The front of the building is composed of broken pieces of ceramic.

Sagrada Familia detail

Okay, now to my favorite building of Gaudí’s, The Sagrada Familia. It started construction in 1882 (Gaudí joining one year later), and is still under construction today. Gaudí combines Art Nouveau styles with Gothic and creates this very detailed and unique church. The cost of entering the church was up there, but the line was already around the block and we had arrived only half an hour after the church opened.

The church combines many of Gaudí’s personal interests; the church, and the environment. What I like about it is that it is just in the middle of a calm neighborhood, you walk around and suddenly there is this huge detailed church unlike anything you have seen before. The church is definitely, without a doubt, over the top. Every inch of the facade seems to have some sculpted creature on it telling you a story or a reminding you of some religious tradition.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia detail

Antoni Gaudí died when only 10% of the church was completed. The expected finish date is not until 2026. When Gaudí was young, he dressed sharply as befit an aspiring architect, but towards the end of his life, he dressed more shabbily and appeared homeless to many bystanders. On the day that he died, he was hit by a car and because of his appearance, he was not taken immediately to the hospital, nor when he did arrive at a hospital was he attended to sufficient time. By the time it was discovered that he was this predominant person of society, he was beyond medical help.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia from Gaudí Park

Our last Gaudí related stop was Park Gaudí which was built as a real estate investment of Gaudí. He bought the land on the edge of Barcelona and tried to sell houses that he had personally designed. It ended up being a failure, with only one house being sold. The reason apparently being that it was to far from the city to be close enough for the people who wanted to live in the city, but too close to the city to be far enough for the people wanting to live outside of the city. This is where Gaudí’s house was though and he walked everyday to Sagrada Family for work (approximately 40 minutes).

Parc Gaudí
Parc Gaudí

The park is actually much more nature than I was expecting, because the only tourist image you see of it are of the broken ceramic constructions that are an icon of Gaudí’s work. It is said that Gaudí paid his workers to pick up every single piece of broken ceramic that they could find in the city, which is how he obtained enough for his work.

While in Parc Gaudí there were illegal venders in the main plaza space, as is very common in touristy European cities. Here though, they would have someone looking out for police, and while I was there someone ran into the square and whistled. Everyone grabbed their blankets of goods and booked it out of there. In Italy, the sellers just pick up there stuff and just act normal. “Yah, I always walk around with 20 replicas of the David, so what?” But these guys were scared. They took their blanket bundles, put them into a trash bag, and then stored the bag under a bush and walked away. I really wanted to grab a bag and walk off to see what would happen. I didn’t need 15 cowboy hats though.

For our finale, we have another church, but this one is not built by Gaudí. This time it is the Barcelona Cathedral. It was built in the Gothic style in 13th -15th century. The Cathedral is in the center of the city and is as traditional of a church as one can find, a sophisticated beauty juxtaposed to Gaudí’s complex modernities.

Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral

One interesting thing about the church is that it still performs the tradition of the “dancing egg” during Corpus Christi (a feast held to celebrate the blood and body of Jesus… or something). The tradition involves taking a egg and emptying it and then resealing the hole with wax. Then the egg is placed on a fountain where it begins to roll without falling. The fountain is also decorated with flowers and fruit. This is a catalan tradition and celebrated in many different locations.

Barcelona Cathedral Interior

The church is also known for it’s gargoyles of real and mythical creatures on the roof. I don’t have photos of those though, so instead, here is a interesting faucet.

Barcelona Cathedral detail – note the face in the wall as well.

Another cool thing about the cathedral is that it has a well of geese. Since 1450. Because apparently churches like geese?

And finally, that is Barcelona. You can see a lot of it in 60 hours, but I think I would recommend taking more time.


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