The sunny, colorful city of Barcelona draws tourists from all over the world for many reasons: great beaches, exciting nightlife, and a laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle. The city is renowned for being cosmopolitan and stylish, but perhaps nothing defines it better than the unique architecture of Antoni Gaudi.
Walking through the streets of Barcelona, a first-time visitor never truly expects the crazy shapes and colors that make each Gaudi project so memorable. They are all the more remarkable considering they were built with century-old technology in an era when such deviation from the traditional was considered risky.
Gaudi’s work is so integral to the identity of Barcelona, and so important for the development of architecture in general, that seven of his most distinctive structures have been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In fact, it has been exactly 30 years since these projects were designated World Heritage Sites.
The most visited Gaudi building is La Sagrada Familia, high on a hill overlooking the city. The still-unfinished cathedral with curving towers and angular facades has been under construction since 1892, and won’t be completed until around 2030!
Casa Batlló, known for its oddly organic curves and skull-like balconies, was a restoration Gaudi was commissioned to do in 1904. It violated all kinds of city building regulations at the time, yet still managed to be recognized as one the best buildings of the year by the city council.
Gaudi’s skill in designing outdoor spaces is evident in the whimsical Parc Güell. Visitors here can see enjoy the architect’s sculpture in a gorgeous setting of greenery and uniquely angled walkways.
Of course, there are many other Gaudi buildings sprinkled throughout Barcelona, each one uniquely imaginative, but still somehow recognizable as one of the architect’s eclectic creations. It’s straightforward for tourists to wander Barcelona themselves and appreciate the most famous of his works with little more than a guidebook and an eye for the unusual. Real architecture buffs, though, may prefer to take one of the many Gaudi tours available to see some of his lesser known works and maybe get a deeper insight into his amazing Catalan Modernist style.