Barcelona's Most Poignant and Authentic Historic Highlights, Monuments and Buildings
By Sam Mednick
Barcelona Local Expert
One thing Barcelona does not lack is a healthy mix of historical landmarks; all of which are breathtaking and inspiring in their own right. Whether it's a hospital, a religious site or even a government building, Barcelona's buildings are laden with history and each created with a very strong attention to detail. Whether you're strolling down Passeig De Gracia, gawking at Gaudi's modernist masterpieces or in the Gotico surrounded by century-old structures, Barcelona is a beautiful city to walk through as it is one of the most aesthetically charming city's in the world. There is always something that will catch your eye and there are plenty of interesting places to visit full of exciting and unique anecdotes and tales from the past.
Many of the monuments and historic sites will lead you to different neighborhoods within the city, which are worth exploring. With most of the buildings being situated in Ciutat Vella (Old City) between the Gothic Quarter and Born areas, there are quite a lot in the Eixample as well. Arc de Triomf for example, is situated on the edge of the Born and if you continue walking you'll find yourself on larger walkways and amongst more trees than in the Old City. Not only are the monuments themselves worth exploring, but their surroundings are as well.
10 Santa Maria Del Pi
One of the smaller Churches in the Gotico, Santa Maria Del Pi, was constructed between 1319-1320 and is an excellent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. The Church has been restored however since the 1936 fire when it was destroyed and today it has a slightly more modern facade. One of the Gothic Quarter's quaintest and most charming Churches, if you take a stroll inside each carving on the wall, and stone on the ground tells an ancient story. It's worth it to read up on this Church before entering or ask a local for a few anecdotes which will help to bring the Church alive. (933 184 743)
9 Arc de Triomf
Built for the Universal Barcelona Exposition in 1888, Arc de Triomf is situated at the end of Park Ciutadela and was the main gateway during the event at the end of the 19th century. It was built in the Neo-Mudejar style by Josep Reynes and is a great place to visit especially since it's ideally located near the train station and the red metro line. It's also a nice idea to continue walking up from Arc De Triomf, to Passeig Sant Joan. A slightly less touristy area of the city, full of great restaurants and quiet walkways; its a perfect way to explore a different neighborhood within the city. (NA)
8 Casa Amatller
Built in the 1880's, this domed structure was the first large-scale undertaking for architectural visionary Antonio Gaudi and reflects his innovative fusion of Gothic and Moorish sensibilities. This beautiful structure was built in honor of the famed architect's mentor and guardian and is named for him. Listed as a World Heritage location by UNESCO in 1984, the site initially served as an urban residence and is now employed as an outstanding theater, museum and library. Perhaps not as well known as Casa Batllo and La Pedrera, Gaudi's other works, if you're into Moderniste works then it's work visiting, if only to see the architects evolution. (34 932 160 175)
7 Hospital Sant Pau
Dubbed "The Stone Quarry" for its remarkably sculpted stone façade. Built in the early 1900's and designed by Gaudi, the building's edifice is considered the world's largest abstract sculpture. Declared a heritage sight by UNESCO in 1984, the hospital is a fusion of two buildings that came together. It was a fully functioning hospital until June 2009, and today it acts as a house and an art school (Escola Massana) as well as the National Library of Catalonia. There are still tours given in the old hospital, just be sure to check the times as they vary depending on the season. (93 291 90 00)
6 Casa Batllo
Day or night, the street in front of one of Gaudi's most classic buildings, is always full of people; mouths wide open, staring up in awe. If you're wondering which of Gaudi's creations to enter, this should definitely make the list. One of two great buildings created by Gaudi on Passeig De Gracia (La Pedrera being the other), the building's façade appears to be made of skulls and bones, which are in fact balconies. There are often parties in the museum, but they are usually private and hard to get into. Check online for events ahead of time though as there are always last minute tickets. (934 880 666)
5 Cathedral La Seu
The construction of this cathedral began in the late 13th century and was not completed until the middle of the 15th century. The interior design is distinctly Gothic, whereas the front and spire of the church were touched with a French influence at their completion in the 1800's. The cathedral is dedicated to a Christian martyr whose tomb is located in the crypt beneath the high altar. The choir stalls are intricately carved with religious images. The Cathedral La Seu is one of the largest Cathedrals in the city and is constantly full of people either exploring the inside or seated outside along the steps, relaxing and people watching in the plaza below. (93-315-15-54)
4 La Sagrada Familia
Without a doubt this is Gaudi's crowning glory. Set to be completed in 2046, the Sagrada Familia is a Barcelona must-see. Even if you don't want to go inside, the outside facades, history and master design are equally breathtaking. This was Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi's last work before he died in 1926. The creation of the Sagrada began in 1882 and Gaudi came on board a year later. He transformed the project combining Gothic and Art Nouveau forms to achieve unprecedented results. Gaudi died before the building was able to be completed, but it is still undergoing work today and survives on funding by private and public institutions. (93-455-02-47)
3 Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
Casa Mila, otherwise known as La Pedrera, is one of Gaudi's most well known creations and is situated on Passeig de Gracia, just a stone's throw from Casa Batllo. Constructed between 1905-1912, from the outside La Pedrera looks like it is made up of skulls. Architecturally however, it is considered to be incredibly innovative as its facade is self-supporting. It also has underground parking and separate lifts and stairs for the owners and servants. One of the best parts of La Pedrera is the roof. This multi-level rooftop provides for great city views, especially those of Passeig de Gracia which is directly below. (93-484-5995)
2 Palau Guell
Designed by Antoni Gaudi, this Barcelona mansion was created for the Catalan tycoon, Eusebi Guell and today is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This is one of Gaudi's many architectural masterpieces and was specifically used for entertaining high society guests in the main room. Palau Guell is particularly special because it is one of the few Modernist buildings in the Old City. Most of Gaudi's works as well as those of Luis Domenech i Muntaner and the rest of their contemporaries are in the Eixample neighborhood, up from Plaza Catalunya and where the expansion began for the rest of the city at the turn of the century. (93-317-3974)
1 Palau de la Música Catalana
Constructed by the famous, Lluis Domenech i Montaner, Palau de La Musica is a Modernist masterpiece. Today it is known for being one of the world's most unique concert halls. Even if you don't manage to see a show, it's definitely worth taking a guided tour. Tours can only be done through the official guides at the Palau De La Musica, so be sure to book in advance and check the language for each tour as not all languages are offered at all hours. Afterwards, have a cava and tapas on the terrace in their outdoor courtyard at the front of the building. (93-268-1000)
About Sam Mednick
Sam’s passion for the sea and the mountains makes Barcelona the optimal living destination. She's lived in this beautiful seaside town for seven years with no plans of leaving. Sam's passion for traveling has taken her around the world including Fiji, Argentina, Lebanon, Uganda, Ghana, Israel the Philippines, and Canada. Before moving to Barcelona Sam worked in Ghana as a foreign correspondent for a Canadian NGO, as well as a the Executive Radio Producer for an internationally syndicated lifestyle show based out of New York City. In addition to freelancing Sam works as a professional Life and Executive coach. Read about Sam's coaching philosophies at: www.blueprintcoaching.ca.
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