13 architectural gems of Barcelona

The variety of architectural gems in Barcelona really amazes!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Barcelona is one of the cities where architecture is a dominant participant of any tourist checklist alongside museums and gastronomical insights.

From Romanesque and Gothic  to contemporary, the variety of architectural gems in Barcelona really amazes. I’ve chosen a dozen of such spots you must not miss when visiting the main city of Catalonia. Scroll down to see them all!   

1. La Sagrada Familia

No doubt that the Basílica de la Sagrada Família is the most well known building of Barcelona, and, arguably, of all Spain. Antonio Gaudí, a young and creative architect, took this project over his older colleague Francisco de Paula del Villar in 1883 and was working on it until his death caused by a tram accident. He is buried in the crypta inside the cathedral now. 

The Cathedral is still notoriously unfinished but, in the steady hands of other architects who follow Gaudi’s plan (Executive Architect at the moment is Mark Burry from New Zealand) , it’s planned to finally be finished in 2026. 

No words are required for this extraterrestrial place (it reminded me of Star Wars, to be honest!), just see it for yourself and make notes of how natural shapes (stars, forest, grapes&wheat, sand castles and so on) can be transferred into the stone! Don’t miss the museum to learn more about it.

2. Barcelona cathedral

Another absolutely incredible architectural landmark is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia located in the Gothic Quarter of the city. For many centuries it served as the main religious building of Barcelona only relatively recently giving the way to the Sagrada Familia.

Lavishly decorated from the outside (actually, the facade is the newest part of the building but the oldest parts date back to 1298), it looks amazing from the inside too. We were lucky to enter it when the local chorus was singing, so the first impression was absolutely overwhelming! And I was so surprised to see geese and fish in the pond almost inside the cathedral, in its inner court!

Tip: don’t miss the Holy Christ of Lepanto (do you remember the naval battle between Ottoman Turkish and Catholic european fleets in 1571?)


3. Palau de la Música Catalana

If you’re in Barcelona, you must buy the concert tickets or book a guided visit to the Palau de la Música Catalana! Modernism aka Art Nouveau is presented there at its best. It was built for the Orfeo Català at the beginning of the 20th century by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Now it is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Stained glass of the chandelier, statues of ladies playing different types of musical instruments, columns looking like the forest, amazing staircases – it all is extremely impressive! 

Tour takes about an hour, and you can book at the official website of the Palau: first you watch the film about the history of the palace and then explore it with the guide and listen to a short tape of the Palau’s organ to get a chance to appreciate the acoustics.

4. Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

 Palau Nacional of Montjuïc was initially built for the International Exposition of 1929 but only five years later it reopened as the Museu d’Art de Catalunya.

Its collection includes romanesque mural paintings, medieval art and more modern objects and is worth visiting without doubt but as we’re talking about the architecture there  – just look how beautiful the Museu itself is and what an amazing view over Plaza de Espana and Magic Fountain it offers! 

5. Arc de Triomf

You most probably have seen this amazing Arc de Triomf by Josep Vilaseca as it’s one of the favorite spots for all instagrammers in Barcelona. Did you know that it’s not dedicated to a victory as Arc de Triomf tends to be, but was constructed as a gate to Parc de la Ciutadella which hosted the Universal Exhibition in 1888?

6. Santa Caterina Market

Colorful mosaics of the roof Santa Caterina Market catch your eye, don’t they? Long ago Santa Caterina convent was located in this place, but since 1840s this site has been occupied by a first covered food market in Barcelona.
The mosaics are done by Toni Comella.

7. The Castle of the Three Dragons 

Castillo de los Tres Dragones in the Parc de la Ciutadella. Although it looks like a proper brick castle, it was built in 1888 – again for the Universal Exhibition by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. During its course it served as a café-restaurant. Now it’s considered a gem of Modernism in Barcelona.Over a few dozen years it hosted various museums: Museum of History, Museum of Zoology and more recently – Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona.

8. Cascada Monument

And again we are back to the Parc de la Ciutadella. Actually its monumental and impressive fontaine inspired by Fontana di Trevi in Roma was designed by Josep Fontseré in 1881, and the young Gaudí had a chance to design the hydraulics for it. How many mythical creatures can you spot? 

9. Fish by Frank Gehry

Giant golden fish on a hotel near the seafront? Why not! Frank Gehry created this 56 metres long and 35 metres high Peix to celebrate the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. I believe it must look so much better on a sunny day!

10. The Palau del Parlament de Catalunya 

Palace of the Parliament of Catalonia is not only an amazing building dating back to 1717 – 1727 (it was a military arsenal back then) but also an important political site – considering the situation in Catalonia. 

11. Casa Milà

Well, a few more Gaudi’s works to mention… Casa Milà, or ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry ironically) doesn’t look like a building for living but more like a piece of art! It was designed by Gaudi in 1906-1912 which made it one of the last residences created by him. It is now considered another UNESCO protected spot. 

12. Casa Batlló

I couldn’t miss another Gaudi’s masterpiece: Casa Batlló which was redesigned and reformed by him in 1904-1906. Actually I loved it so much!

Fantasy – styled windows, arched roof, almost non-existent straight lines, colours of trencadís (broken ceramics) – looks unreal, doesn’t it? According to one legend, it represents the dragon timed by Saint George. 

Interesting: another name of Casa Batlló is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones). Look at the picture and guess why!

13. Parc Güell

To end this blog, I decided to include the whole park closely linked to Gaudi’s name.  Eusebi Güell commissioned him to create a park on the deserted housing complex site, and Gaudi worked on Parc Güell for many years.

Looking at all the crowds, you’d never guess that at its time the project was perceived as unsuccessful, the funds became very scarce, and finally the territory was bought by the city. 

World famous salamander (or dragon), colonnades and Sala Hipóstila, observatories, terraces and Banc de Trencadís (now partly closed for the reconstruction), hideaways – it’s an amazing spot to admire the genius of Gaudi and to spend a day in the fresh air.

Tip: don’t forget to buy your ticket online to enter the main part of the park!




Hope you enjoyed my today’s blog!



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