Casa Batllo, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona - Casa Batllo Gaudi architecture, Spain

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, Barcelona, Spain

Gaudi is possibly the greatest thing to come from Barcelona! Born 1852, Antoni Gaudi is the most famous architect from Catalonia (and Spain), as well as a trendsetter in modern architecture, particularly Catalan modernism, or modernista. Organic and flowing, Gaudi’s buildings were inspired by the harmony of man, nature and religion. A mix of modern architecture, art nouveau, neo-gothic with a bit of his own bizarre or absurd additions sprinkled in, Gaudi has become one of the most recognisable architects of the 20th century. In fact, his most famous work the Sagrada Familia cathedral, is still being completed. Other famous works found on the Block of Discord (a city block of unusual architecture), including Casa Mila, as well as Casa Batllo, as seen here. Remodelled at the turn of the century by Gaudi, this fin de siecle Casa Batllo uses almost no straight lines. Its facade is a quilt of broken mosaics and on the roof, the back of a dragon rises up, coupled with a cross thought to represent Catalonia’s patron saint, St George (who once slayed a dragon). Wavy, rounded stain glass windows look out onto the street, turning ordinary Barcelona into something magical and out of this world. The building is collection of apartments centred around an extravagant stairwell. Today, you can visit some of the rooms, where you can see a collection of art nouveau furniture as well as modern art exhibits. In the attic, explore the attic vaulting reminiscent of a giant animal’s ribcage, similar to the apartment mentioned in Dan Brown’s 2017 book, Origin (though his character actually inhabits Casa Mila).


Pro tip: Barcelona is a hotspot for pickpockets – be careful with your affairs, don’t carry more than you need, and be wary of any distraction schemes!


Other Amazing Art Nouveau in Europe

 

Barrio Gótico of Barcelona, Spain

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Barrio Gótico, Barcelona, Spain

Spicy, salty, vibrant. Oranges and yellows light up this striking Spanish square in the heart of Barcelona’Barrio Gótico as the afternoon draws to a close. Though it may be a winter’s day far from beach season, this period is actually the ideal time to explore the famed city with your lover, and no place is more magical or romantic than Barrio Gótico (though Gaudi’s works such as Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, and the Sagrada Famillia give it a run for its money!) While parts of the Gothic Quarter date back to the Middle Ages, a controversial paper released in 2011 purports the idea that many of the ‘old’ buildings were elaborated or rebuilt at the turn of the century or in the early 1900s with the ambition of augmenting tourism dollars and making the city more exciting for the 1929 International Exhibition. This may or may not be true, but in any case, let’s leave the theorising to the scientists and simply enjoy this beautiful neighbourhood hand-in-hand with your spouse or lover, because authentic or not, the winding labyrinth that is the Barrio Gótico is one of Barcelona’s most alluring neighbourhoods! (One caveat: along with Las Ramblas, it is one of the top hot-spots for crime. Be very aware of your surroundings, leave unneeded personal belongings at the hotel, and do not talk to anyone on the street no matter how lost they claim to be. This is one of the biggest pickpocket hotspots in Europe. That said, don’t let that ruin your chance for an amble in this wonderfully beautiful place!)

Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain

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Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain

Didn’t immediately recognise this to be Spain? Look closely at the paintings themselves; there, you’ll see the artist’s rendition of the famed Sagrada Familia, the  magnificent and unmatched final creation of Antoni Gaudi – itself, a work of art! Barcelona is full of art. On La Ramblas – Barcelona’s main street – you’ll find not only painter’s stands like this one, but street performers wearing intricate costumes, performing mini theatrics, dancing to original routines, singing known and unknown songs – and more. But it’s more than that: Barcelona as a city is a Work Of Art. The Block of Discord is a great example – an entire city block dedicated to “bizarre” buildings, snuggled right into the city centre. Let’s not forget the famous artist Pablo Picasso, who spent much of his life in this city, and considered the Catalan capital his “true home.” And of course, we have Gaudi’s masterpieces, all of which clearly escaped from the Candyland board game: Parc Guell, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, not to mention the Sagrada Familia (a work of art STILL under construction). Let’s face it, the Spanish city is more than an urban centre – it is a dramatic nod to the arts, and an artistic creation in itself! In the words of Picasso himself: “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one.” The world would do well to remember that!

Barcelona, Spain

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Plaza Catalunia, Barcelona, Spain

Orange umbrellas by orange roofs in Barcelona’s famous central plaza, stylised in the short-lived but spectacular Art Nouveau design. Orange is surely the national colour of Spain! Spain, after all, is a vibrant, lively country despite any economic mishaps. Everything is fun in Spain – from eating to drinking to taking naps to commuting (try out one of those mopeds!). Everybody is always outside, in the streets, on the balconies, in the plazas. Thanks to the largely sunny climate, life is nearly always spent outside – except during mealtime of course (14h-16h), which is traditionally taken inside with all the family, particularly if you live in a village or small town. And despite economic troubles, you’ll see nothing but smiles!

Barcelona, Spain

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Detail of Casa Batlló, Barcelona, Spain

Josep Batlló wanted a house like no other, one located in the ritzy section of central Barcelona that would turn heads, blow minds and be the talk of the neighbourhood—and that’s exactly what he got. Casa Batlló, designed by the infamous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi who was also responsible for Casa Mila and Parc Guell, all in Barcelona, seems to throw away the notion of straight lines as the entire building permeates fluidity, movement, and curves. In fact, straight lines seem not to exist here. This particular section is part of the roof—and if you think it looks a bit like a dragon, you’re not alone. A popular story states that the statue just visible to the right-hand side of the photo represents a lance stabbing the back of the scaly, orange object, symbolising the “dragon.” Evidently, St George was the patron saint of Gaudi’s hometown. As evidenced by this and the rest of the “Block of Discord” region of Barcelona, bizarre architecture seems all the rage in the infamous Spanish city. Loosely inspired by the Art Nouveau/modernista movements, Gaudi seems to go above and beyond to make his art numbingly, blindly and unforgettably unique… which it surely is!


Other Colourful Places in Europe
  1. Central Annecy, France
  2. The Berlin Wall, Germany
  3. Zagreb’s Park Josipa Jurja, Croatia
  4. Warsaw’s Plac Zamkowy, Poland
  5. The Hundretwasser House in Vienna, Austria
  6. Gdansk’s Long Street, Poland
  7. Verona, Italy
  8. Terracotta Roofs of Peniscola, Spain
  9. Bryggen in Bergen, Norway
  10. Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Parc Guell, Bacelona, Spain

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Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain

What’s more saturated than Gaudi?? Honestly, not much. His reputation is built on both his inability to follow a straight line and his exorbitant use of vibrant, headache-inducing colour. These are the famous benches in the famous Parc Guell in the famous Barcelona. Constructed 1900 to 1914, it was originally part of a rather unsuccessful housing community – that just happened to be a century ahead of its time (Gaudi basically envisioned our modern-day suburbs and “gated” communities, an idea that didn’t sit well with the turn-of-the-century Spaniards). He liked the fresh air and the beautiful views that the site afforded, but sadly, no one liked the distance from La Ramblas or the beach. So, now it’s a colourful public garden and UNESCO site that makes for some pretty vividly saturated photos! (This one does it no justice, as I took it with a camera phone…)

 

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

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Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

What would Barcelona be without Antonia, Gaudi?  Barcelona is unimaginable without the genius Spanish architect. Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Parc Guell…the list goes on and on. Most of the city’s beloved symbols are the result of Gaudi. The building of Gaudi’s Art Nouveau cathedral, Sagrada Familia, commenced in 1882, and still continues today (hence the cranes), for Gaudi died without finishing his masterpiece.  The cathedral is spectacular–on on side, large statues tower over the visitor, inside, columns shaped like trees create an immense, petrified forest, and the other side sports an impressive Gothic facade, carvings covering every inch of stone.  Brave visitors can take an elevator to the top, affording both spectacular views of the beautiful city and an up-close look at Gaudi’s architecture, much of which was inspired by the natural world (be prepared to come face-to-face with towers clearly inspired by fruit, among others). Not surprisingly, this amazing beauty is a UNESCO monument, and is a must-see when visiting the famous Spanish city.

Casa Milà, Barcelona, Spain

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Casa Milà, Barcelona, Spain.

This famous (and bizarre) landmark was designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudi. Built between 1906–1912, this crazy yet iconic house makes up a section of the thoroughfare Passeig de Gracia called “The Block of Discord.” Pere Mila, a rich businessman, wanted his house to stand out, so he hired Gaudi to make something interesting. Gaudi destroyed the current – more normal – building, and built….well, he built this, whatever this is! Casa Milà is now a UNESCO site for its…wait for it…innovative architecture (what a shocker). And Casa Milà, like many of its sisters and brothers located in this Catalan city, it is just as strange on the inside as on the outside!