Want to hit up Antoni Gaudí’s most famous Barcelona buildings all in one day? It’s possible on foot, and it’s something I did a couple weeks ago. (Though I pass a few of the buildings regularly and had already been to the others, I wanted to see them back to back.)
Regrettably, I forgot to take my good camera with me, so you’ll have to deal with iPhone pics, but I’ll also post better pics by others so you can see the full effect.
Allow me (and my knowledge gleaned from Fodor’s!) to take you on a walking tour of Gaudí’s best, including some additional stops along the way.
Note: While these may be some of the more touristy places to see in Barcelona, they’re popular for a reason. They’re pretty special. But I’m also planning a few future posts of less-discovered gems in BNC. Stay tuned. :)
Start your tour: At the foot of La Rambla, close to the sea
Here, nobody says north or south; it’s “away from the sea” and “toward the sea.” So, start your walking tour near the sea, at the foot of La Rambla, and walk up Rambla, away from the sea.
First stop: Plaza Reial
This plaza’s worth a peek for its storied past. Author Gabriel Garcia Márquez, architect Oriol Bohigas, and former president of the Catalonian Generalitat, Pasqual Maragall, were said to have apartments here. I find it a little lackluster compared to other plazas – and its cafés are nothing special (I learned the hard way by buying an overpriced, bad coffee here) – so take a quick peek and then leave. (It’s on the right on La Rambla, about one third of the way up the street.)
Next stop: Boqueria
La Rambla, 91
Barcelona has so many wonderful markets, and the Boqueria is one of the liveliest. You can find all sorts of things here: meat, cheese, fresh bread, sweets, fruit, wild mushrooms, hot peppers, nuts, and more. Throughout the market there are also crowded bars where you can muscle your way in for a snack and a glass of cava (or wine or beer, or whatever you fancy). Despite being on one of the most touristy streets in the city, the Boqueria maintains its local appeal.
Continue up La Rambla until you hit Plaza Catalunya at its top.
Next stop: Plaza Catalunya
I’ve never actually spent time in Plaza Catalunya; it’s less than relaxing and basically serves as a central meeting spot in Barcelona. But it’s worth a meander and moment to collect your thoughts. (Do I sound like a tour guide or what?)
Look back toward the sea, and you’re looking toward Barcelona’s old town: the Gothic district and La Ribera (referred to more commonly as El Born). Look away from the sea, and if you can look past the monstrous Corte Ingles, you’re looking toward the more modern L’Eixample.
On the northwest side of the plaza, find Passeig de Grácia and head north (away from the sea). ;)
Next stop: Casa Batlló and CASA Amatller
Passeig de Gràcia, 43 and 41
I love Casa Batlló (on the right) and its equally stunning neighbor, Casa Amatller (which isn’t a building by Gaudí). Casa Batlló, restored by Gaudí and partners, is like a Willy Wonka building: all candy-colored and shaped.
Apparently, the skulls and bones on the balconies represent the victims of the Dragon of Evil, and the scales of the rooftop represent the dragon’s body, having been killed by St. George.
A look inside will cost you a hefty 17€. (My cheap ass, therefore, has not been in!)
To Casa Batlló’s left you’ve got Casa Amatller, designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who also served as mayor of Barcelona. The building’s facade includes a sculpture of a princess, said to be the architect’s daughter, and animals pouring streams of chocolate, a nod to the house’s original owner, a chocolatier.
Casa Amatller isn’t open to the public.
Continue north on Passeig de Grácia; the next stop is on the right side of the street.
Next stop: La Pedrera, aka Casa Milà
Passeig de Gràcia, 92
La Pedrera means The Stone Quarry, and it’s an apt name for this building, with its wavy facade and wrought-iron, kelp-shaped balconies. The roof was originally meant to hold a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, but the building owner, Pere Milà i Camps, asked for a design change, and now the building’s colorful chimneys are some of the Gaudí’s most recognized work.
You can pay 16.50€ if you’d like to go inside – and up to the roof.
La Pedrera sits on the corner of Passeig de Grácia and Carrer d’Arago. Head east on Arago.
Now begins the longest walking section of the tour, so take your time. Said another way, Stop in a café for coffee/red wine and a chocolate croissant! Yum. I’ll wait …
Six long-ish city blocks later, turn left on Passeig de Sant Joan. Head north for three long blocks, and turn right on Carrer de Provenςa. In four blocks, you’ll run into Sagrada Familia and gasp (either because it’s so huge or because that damn thing is still under construction).
Next stop: Sagrada Familia
Plaza de la Sagrada Familia
So, yes, more than 100 years later, Sagrada Familia is still under construction. It’s monstrous, and it’s controversial.
I’ve been past it at least eight times since I’ve lived here, and I always notice something else upon returning. In fact, it’s meant to be overwhelming to the senses, as it’s supposed to encompass the entire history of the Gospel. Read more about its meaning and symbolism here.
A visit inside costs 13€, and I’ve heard again and again that it’s absolutely wort the price of admission … but I still haven’t been in.
On the northeast side of Sagrada Familia, find the diagonal street called Avinguda de Gaudí. Continue northeast on this avenue until you run into our final stop.
LAST STOP: Hospital de Sant Pau
Carrer Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167
I’d jogged by this building a few times before I realized it was a hospital. It’s simply too striking; decorated with mosaics and ceramic tiles, it looks more like a church or really fancy old school. It was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who also designed the Palau de la Música Catalana and Casa Lleó Morera. If you’d like a tour inside, you can arrange one from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm on the weekends only.
And there you have it. Pretty good all for a half day’s walk, right?
If you’ve got energy to burn, hop on the metro (stop: Lesseps, then walk ten minutes uphill) or take a cab to Park Güell, Gaudí’s infamous city garden.
Coming soon: An architectural tour of the Grácia neighborhood :)