Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926) was one of the world's most admired and influential architects. He was the master of the style known as Catalan Modernism, and his works continue to inform the style of his native Barcelona to this day.
Here are 7 of Gaudí's must-see creations. They are collectively listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
1. Sagrada Familia
Barcelona's famous Sagrada Familia is still under construction, making it the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world. Construction began in 1866, with another architect and a more traditional aesthetic, before Gaudí took over in 1883 and proposed his bold, innovative design. He dedicated the last 12 years of his life exclusively to this project, and construction has continued since his death, based on his original drawings.
Seeing the Sagrada Familia from outside is fascinating enough, especially the strikingly different Nativity and Passion facades, carved in stone. However, the trip inside is worth the ticket price. You'll see a stunning array of colors and shapes swirling around the central nave, and a great museum telling the history of the building.
Interestingly, the Sagrada Familia as a whole is not listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site: this honor belongs only to the Crypt and the Nativity facade, possibly due to them being completed by Gaudí himself.
2. Park Güell
Park Güell is quite a large public park located on Carmel Hill in the north of the city. It contains various elements designed by Gaudí, but a few are particularly famous: namely, the colorful mosaic work seen on the salamander known as el drac (the dragon) and its surrounding terrace seating in the shape of a huge coiling serpent.
Park Güell was originally intended to be a modern housing development, which would offer wealthy Barcelona residents a chance to enjoy the clear air and stunning views of the city. When a first house was built and no one bought it, Gaudí moved into it himself and the park became a public space: the residence is now preserved as the Gaudí House Museum.
3. Palau Güell
Palau Güell (Güell Palace) is a lesser-known Gaudí site, probably due to its relatively tame facade compared to the more fantastical designs that Gaudí is known for. It was designed for Eusebi Güell, the same industrial tycoon who commissioned the Park, and was completed in 1888.
The house is one of the first Art Nouveau buildings in the world. Despite the more subdued design, Gaudí's distinctive naturalistic style can be seen throughout, as well as his colorful mosaic work and innovative use of light and space. The visit is a must-see for fans of Art Nouveau style and architecture, and an interesting one to do before seeing Gaudí's more famous and outlandish work.
4. Casa Mila
Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is one of Gaudí's more famous city houses. It was the last one he ever designed, finished in 1912. Its distinctive wavy stone facade was the source of controversy and ridicule when it was built, and the nickname "La Pedrera" (the stone quarry) was initially meant to be derogatory.
The house is built around two large courtyards and features most of Gaudí's characteristic elements, including bright colors, naturalistic shapes, and a lack of flat surfaces. The rooftop area, with its ornately carved chimney tops, is one of its most celebrated features.
5. Casa Vicens
Casa Vicens was Gaudí's first big commission, which he received in 1883, a garden home designed for Manel Vicens, a wealthy stockbroker. It is one of the earliest examples of Modernisme architecture in the world, a movement of which Gaudí was to become a leading member.
More than any other of Gaudí's buildings, Casa Vicens is influenced by the Neo-Mudejar style, which took elements from Moorish architecture. It is a bright and colorful structure that blends a distinctly Middle-Eastern style with Art Nouveau and modernist elements. Like most of Gaudí's work, it combines multiple building materials, including tile, brick, iron, and stonework, and the interiors are lavishly carved and decorated.
With its eye-catching facade, Casa Batlló does not fail to stand out among the other buildings lining Barcelona's famous Ramblas. It has been nicknamed Casa Dels Ossos (House of Bones) due to the organic quality of its stonework, looking in places like a construction of human bones and skulls.
Batlló, who commissioned the house, gave Gaudí complete creative control over the building, wanting it to be unlike any other. Because of this, the house is perhaps the most unique, creative, and quintessentially "Gaudí" of all his projects. Both inside and out, Casa Batlló showcases a stunning combination of the curved surfaces, mosaic tiles, and plays on light and space that define much of Gaudí's work.
7. Colonia Güell
Yet another Gaudí-Güell collaboration, Colonia Guell is often left out of tourist itineraries because of its relatively remote location, far from the city center. However, this exceptional site is worth a visit, particularly the church designed here by Gaudí.
Colonia Güell was made to house Güell's factory workers, and Gaudí's church was to be their place of worship. Construction stopped due to skyrocketing costs in 1914. Interestingly, this is the same year that Gaudí decided to dedicate himself full-time to the Sagrada Familia, and the drawings for the finished church share many structural elements with his more famous masterpiece.
For fans of this legendary Spanish architect's work, or anyone with a love of architecture looking for interesting sights, these landmarks are not to be missed!