Barcelona means different things to different people; beaches, wine, food, and perhaps, architecture. Antoni Gaudi was from Catalonia and most of his works are in Barcelona. They are a huge drawcard for tourists and we were not immune to the charms of his work. The organic nature of his style is eye catching even though in the late 19th century when he was alive, some of his work might have seemed creepy. Barcelona contains a wealth of beautiful buildings and Gothic churches but they are all outshined, in my view, by Gaudi’s masterpieces.
Our first stop was the iconic La Sagrada Familia. This Roman Catholic church is probably the most famous of Antoni Gaudi’s works in the city. We popped out of the metro station to be greeted by the impressive Nativity Facade. There were a lot of people milling around taking photos and enjoying the park space across the road. The first thing that struck me was the size; I had to really crane my neck back to see the top.
We followed ambiguous signage around the site to try and gain entry. Unfortunately tickets for the afternoon session were sold out. We ended up purchasing tickets online that night and returning the following day. In the end this was for the best because the sun was shining on the second day, allowing the beautiful stained glass windows to come to life, filling the church with soft colours.
Still incomplete after 134 years, La Sagrada Familia has been deemed a UNESCO world heritage site. It truly is uniquely spectacular. Choosing photos is difficult because I don’t believe there is a photo which can capture the awe we felt from being there in person. Eight spires reach 170 meters up ensuring you can see the structure from points all around the city. The exterior is so detailed it feels as though you could look at it every day and still find something new each time.
Incredibly, the interior is even better than the facades. In his genius, Gaudi has created a space that is intensely engineered and yet also completely organic. Stepping inside is like walking under a rich canopy of trees. Perhaps in a reflection of the variety in a real forest, the columns are not all made of the same material. The type of stone was not random however, but rather chosen depending on the weight load each column was taking. See what I mean?
The branches that stem from each column gather to form a unique ceiling of intertwining branches with small gaps between the leaves to allow dappled sunlight to stream in.
There was no way we would skip going up the tower of this particular church! A lift took us up most of the way and we climbed a few more narrow stairs to the top. While the view was obviously fantastic from that height, I was most impressed by the exterior decoration. Even though most people see these decorative features from a distance, they were still incredibly detailed.
It is very clear why this church is so famous and popular with visitors. The combination of design, engineering and creative vision is about as perfect as I’ve seen. Both Richard and I now feel that we have seen the church to end all churches and that perhaps we don’t need to see any others!
For our weekend, we also purchased tickets to see Casa Batlló on Sunday. It’s an odd experience to walk along the tree-lined street and suddenly come across to this crazy looking house. The home was remodelled by Gaudi in 1904 and is considered one of his masterpieces. The audio guide was a genius interactive screen allowing you to hold the guide up and see what the place looks like without a whole bunch of people. It’s very helpful in home that was not designed to have so many visitors at once.
Again, the design concepts were totally synchronised with the practical needs of a home. A lot of thought seemed to go into the ergonomic details of the home; the banisters and door handles are designed to fit the natural shape of a hand in a remarkably effective way. I marveled that a banister could fit my hand so well!
At times the home appeared to be a creature with the spine as the staircase spiraling up through the home. Other design elements reflected the ocean such as the textured glass that makes you feel like you’re looking through water. The home is also well known for having very few straight lines making it feel perfectly imperfect.
We were able to go right up to the rooftop which is no less detailed. The chimneys are covered in mosaics that are incredibly colourful in the sunlight. From the mushroom oven space to the gill-shaped air vents, the home was a truly incredible and unique creation. It was so much fun to explore and learn about the incredible work Gaudi produced.
As a whole, Barcelona is a truly beautiful city. Stunning architecture is widespread around the city making for plenty of photo opportunities and bringing to life the idea of a romantic Spanish life. Both Madrid and Barcelona have been wonderful cities to visit so I think we will have to try and squeeze in another Spanish city some time!