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February 13, 2009

A tour of Barcelona’s Top 5 Modernista sites

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One of the main draws for travelers to Barcelona is the number of structures built in Modernista style, that fantastical, colorful, most whimsical of architectural styles popularized in the late 1800’s that is the Catalan equivalent to Art Nouveau. Most often associated with Antoni Gaudi, there are in fact other renowned Modernista architects, most notably Lluis Domenech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. While examples of Modernisme can be found throughout Catalonia (as well as in other regions of Spain), Barcelona has the highest concentration—and there are so many fantastic examples that it is hard to narrow my list to just five!

We would consider the following as must-sees. Their facades are both beautiful and mesmerizing, and can be admired on a simple walk-by; however, we recommend touring the fascinating interiors as well, as both adults and kids alike will enjoy exploring the various rooms, public spaces and rooftops filled with rich ornamentation and playful, undulating shapes.

Many Artisans of Leisure travelers are interested in Modernista architecture—some of whom have requested very in-depth, full-day explorations of it—and for these travelers we assign guides who are experts in the field.

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1.) Palau de la Musica Catalana
Built by Domenech i Montaner, this is considered by many to be the crowning glory of Modernisme. The facade of this still-functioning concert hall is a riot of colorful mosaics and other decoration, but that is nothing compared to what is waiting inside! Stained glass, lampposts, sculptures and ceramic ornamentation create a colorful “garden of music,” as the architect considered it.

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2.) Casa Mila
Also known as La Pedrera, this is one of Gaudi’s best-loved creations. Undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary apartment buildings ever built, its wavy grey stone facade looks more like something created by nature than man-made. Inside, one can visit a recreated Modernista apartment, furnished in the style of the times. Kids in particular will love the roof, with its fantastical chimney pots.

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3.) La Sagrada Familia
The symbol of Barcelona and a definite must-see. This church is the most famous work of Gaudi, and the one to which he dedicated most of his life. Over 125 years after Gaudi began this project, the church remains unfinished, and work on it is ongoing. It has been amazing to me to watch the progress of its construction, from my first visit in the late 1980’s to the present!

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4.) Parc Guell
This is a delightful park created by Gaudi. It’s a bit of a distance from the city center but worth visiting if you have the time and inclination for a little relaxation—and the views over Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea beyond are spectacular. Our Barcelona tours with a private driver make this an easy place to visit.

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5.) Manzana de la Discordia (Block of Discord)
So called because of the wildly contrasting Modernista buildings found on this one block on the Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona’s grand boulevard. Here you will find the lavish Casa Lleo Morera, built by Domenech i Montaner and now home to the luxury store Loewe; Casa Amatller, built by Puig i Cadafalch in a rather neo-Gothic mixed with Flemish style; and Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, the facade of which looks like dragon skin, with its rippling blue and green tiles. (Lleo Morera is not open to the public and the ground floor only of Amatller is open, but visitors are allowed in the gorgeous interior of Batllo.)

Tours of these Modernista sites can easily be incorporated into any of our private Spain tours that visit Barcelona.

Destinations:  Europe, Spain

Tags:  architecture, architecture tours, art, Art Nouveau, Barcelona, Barcelona tours, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Catalan, design, family, Gaudi, La Pedrera, La Sagrada Familia, Manzana de la Discordia, Modernista, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Passeig de Gracia, Spain tours, tours, travel