Some history: presenting Casa Batlló
Gaudí’s elaborately adorned and organically sculpted façade – now a symbol of Barcelona the world over – was built between 1904 and 1906 on top of an old country house on what was once the outskirts of the city.
Gaudí replaced the building’s original façade with a striking and colourful collage of stone, glass, and ceramic tiles that sparkle in the sun and subtly shimmer by streetlight. Even in the company of Modernista masterpieces like Domènech i Montaner’s Casa Lleó Morera and Puig i Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller, Casa Batlló stands apart. This could be because unlike some of Gaudí’s other clients, Josep Batlló allowed Gaudí complete artistic freedom in the construction of Casa Batlló. The façade alone is proof positive that an artist’s imagination left to its own devices will produce the greatest art.
The tour: wandering underwater realms
Open to the public since 2002 (the year of Gaudí), the tour of Casa Batlló includes the Noble Floor, the Loft, the building well, the entrance hall, and the rooftop.
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An unusual residence
On the way to Noble Floor, the former residence of the Batlló family, admire skylights shaped like tortoises’ shells and a curving banister carved from hardwood, resembling the spine of some massive beast. At the top of the stairs, get a glimpse of the blue-tiled building well. Enlarged and re-imagined by Gaudí, the building well features sea-coloured tiles that fade lighter towards the bottom and windows that shrink as they go up, creating the illusion of evenly distributed light.
In the main living area, peer out wooden-framed windows that showcase views of busy Passeig de Gràcia. The windows are unique in that they have no doorjambs and can be flung open for a continuous panoramic view of the street below (by your tour guide). Snap shots of carved pillars shaped like human tibia bones, embellished with stylised floral designs and massive wooden doors set with stained glass. Gaze up at a plaster ceiling that swirls and waves into a whirlpool. Before you leave, spend a few moments fantasising about a cosy winter afternoon watching flames flicker and dance, while slouching comfortably on a bench beside the floor’s mushroom-shaped fireplace.
Located directly above the Noble Floor, the loft is a utilitarian space once used by tenants for laundry and storage, characterised by stark white walls and simple curving shapes. Here, more than on the Noble Floor, you see the ‘bones’ or underlying structure of Gaudí’s genius, without the distractions of colour and texture present in other parts of Casa Batlló. Walking among its series of 60 arches, it’s easy to imagine you’ve been swallowed alive and find yourself inside the spotless ribcage of some ravenous animal.
Up the spiral staircase, explore Casa Batlló’s unique rooftop terrace, dominated by the overarching shape of the front façade’s dragon-inspired roofline with its large, iridescent tiles, so often compared to scales. Examine chimney stacks covered in elaborate mosaic work. Take in sweeping views of Barcelona from above. Breathe deep, and remember why you came. Casa Batlló is only the beginning. Gaudí’s city awaits.
TMB 7, 16, 17, 20, 22, 24, 28, 43, 44, 63, 67, 68
Barcelona Tourist Bus North and South routes Casa Batlló-Fundació Antoni Tàpies
Metro: , , Passeig de Gràcia stop
RENFE: Passeig de Gràcia station
FGC: Provença station