More than any other city on the planet, Barcelona is famed for its architecture. Day 1 of your 3 day tour of Barcelona will have given you lots of glimpses into the origins of this reputation, and you’ve already seen centuries of Catalan craftsmanship and attention to detail in the oldest parts of the city.
But to see how these roots evolved and were channelled into the brilliant imagination of Barcelona’s most famous son, Antoni Gaudí, we need to move out of the old town and into the modern L’Eixample district. You’ll be able to see how Modernisme, the movement most associated with Gaudí, has left a unique legacy that defines Barcelona even today.
10:00 – the world’s most ornate hospital?
Your day begins just to the north of L’Eixample at Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. This stunning work was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (try saying that backwards!) who was also the architect behind the Palau de la Música Catalana which we saw on Day 1. A working hospital until 2009, the building is in the process of being converted into a museum and cultural centre, and is the first of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites that you will come across today. Take an English speaking tour of this remarkable building at 10:00 but remember to book in advance.
11:00 – a masterpiece in the making
Take a 10-minute stroll along to the one building in Barcelona that you literally can’t miss – Gaudí’s magnum opus, the Sagrada Família basilica. With its almost inconceivable attention to detail this labour of love has come to define Barcelona more than any other building. Throughout its history it’s always attracted either adoration or loathing (George Orwell lamented the fact that it wasn’t demolished like many other churches during the Spanish Civil War).
Gaudí’s intention when he created the Sagrada Família was to redeem his troubled city with an offering of sheer artistic brilliance. He also wanted to celebrate not just the glory of his god, but all creation. As a result, the closer you get to this building the more detail you notice. Set aside at least an hour to appreciate the structure’s myriad of imagery, such as the bronze door to the church’s Passion Façade, and the sheer drama of the Nativity Façade.
12:30 – who would live in a house like this?
On the glamorous Passeig de Gràcia, the next Gaudí wonder on your hit list is La Pedrera, aka Casa Milà. It was commissioned by a wealthy Catalan couple to show off the affluence that had already made them infamous in Barcelona society. The result was a strangely undulating structure. Its bizarre chimneys, arched windows and wrought-iron balconies are mind blowing, and a sight that is likely to stay with you for years. Head up to the rooftop for some photos, view a restored apartment on the top floor and get an in-depth view of Gaudí’s life and work in the Espai Gaudí museum.
13:30 – time for tapas
Chances are by now you’re starving. But just before going lunch walk down Passeig de Gràcia and take in the façades of the Manzana de la Discordia (the block of discord) where three structures by Modernisme’s most famous exponents, Gaudí, Cadaflach, and Montaner, jostle for your attention.
Right, now food. Running parallel to Passeig de Gràcia is the tree-lined street Rambla de Catalunya. There are countless eateries on this fashionable avenue, with prices no usually more than 20 euros per person for lunch. If you have a hankering for Iberian ham, Mesón Cinco Jotas specialises in this delicacy and other tapas dishes, or if you prefer tapas in a more contemporary form try Taller de Tapas. Aim for a table under the shade of the trees that line Rambla de Catalunya and take the chance to chew over the morning’s Modernista classics.
15:00 – a walk in the park
At this point you could be forgiven for thinking that Gaudí would be all out of puff, yet one of his best-loved creations, Parc Güell, is still to come. This psychedelic city park covers over 15 hectares and is located on the edge of the city centre.
To get there after lunch just hop on the metro from Diagonal station and take line three to Lesseps. From here it takes around 10 minutes to walk to the park entrance. The park project was sponsored by the eccentric entrepreneur Eusebi Güell, and was supposed to create a miniature town for Barcelona’s richest citizens. Given the scope of this plan it`s probably not surprising that it was never completed.
Today it’s one of the most popular green spaces in the city, dotted with mosaic terraces and sculptures, including the iconic Salamander fountain. (In fact, this is so iconic that you might have to queue for a photo opportunity.) The park has fantastic views over the city and as well as countless quiet corners where you can relax for the rest of the afternoon.
17:00 – lounge about in the square
If you’re still eager to see more of the city, on your way back towards central Barcelona wander through the district of Gràcia. Today this area is a bohemian haunt, brimming with quaint boutiques and small bars and restaurants. At one time it was a separate settlement from Barcelona, before L’Eixample connected it to the oldest parts of the city, and it still feels like a bustling small town. You’ll see plenty of locals socialising in its laid-back squares – the ideal spot to wind down as evening draws in and reflect on the second day of your whistle-stop Barcelona tour.
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