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Barcelona's architecture
 
The Cities

The Roman City - The Medieval City - The Modern City

Modernist architects

Antonio Gaudi - Domenech i Montaner - Josep Puig i Cadafalch

New symbols of the city

Torre Agbar


The Cities

The Roman city
 
Barcino, the first Roman township, was founded at the end of the first century B.C. However the name Barcino dates from an earlier settlement possibly dating from the first half of the 1st millennium B.C.. Roman Barcino was a small city of about 100 hectares bounded by walls 2 metres thick. The walls were strengthened and the height increased in the 3rd century A.D.. Impressive stretches of the walls remain notably parallel to Via Laietana at Plaça Ramon Berenguer. To the right of the cathedral, twin towers of the Portal de l'Angel flank the entrance to Carrer del Bisbe (note: street names are shown in italic and Catalan - Carrer is Catalan for street). The lower sections of these semi-circular towers are Roman. Much else remains buried under the medieval city. The Roman forum is believed to lie under the Plaça Sant Jaume. Nearby, at number 10 Carrer del Paradis, three columns of the Temple of Augustus can be seen in their original position, well below the present street level. Clearly a Roman back-water, Barcelona's periods of glory were still to come.

Metro: Jaume I (Line 4)
 
The medieval city

By the end of the 13th century Catalunya had grown rich on exports to the rest of the Mediterranean and as far as Flanders. This area of the city is known as the Barri Gòtic (Catalan), Barrio Gótico (Spanish) or Gothic Quarter.

The Cathedral (1317-1441)
The neo-gothic facade was added in the 19th century. From Carrer del Bisbe there is an entrance directly into the cloister, a gothic dream world of fountains, geese and palm trees. Linger here, let your mind wander and refresh your spirit. Another secret world is the roof of the cathedral which can be reached by an elevator adjacent to the left nave.

Plaça de la Seu
Metro: Jaume I (L4)

Santa Maria del Pi (1322-1486)
A church with a single wide nave, enter from the Plaça del Pi or Plaça Sant Just Oriol.

Plaça del Pi
Metro: Liceu (L3), Jaume I (L4)

Santa Maria del Mar (1329-1367)
The truest representation of the austere Catalan gothic style, know as the Cathedral of the sailors and fisherfolk. The city's favourite for weddings with an excellent acoustic.

Carrer Montcada 1
Metro: Jaume I (L4)

Saló del Tinell (1359-1370)

The roof of this huge hall is supported by rounded arches, where Christopher Columbus is said to have been received by the king after returning from America.

Plaça del Rei
Metro: Jaume I (L4)

El Call - Jewish Ghetto
Barcelona's Jewish community was consigned to a Ghetto, ostensibly for their own protection. Centred on the present Carrer Sant Domènech del Call, a 14th century Hebrew inscription can be seen at no. 1 Carrer Marlet.

Carrer Sant Domènech del Call
Metro: Jaume I (L4)

Llotja (Stock Exchange) (1380-1392)
Magnificent gothic room with three naves which can be seen from the large windows in the ground floor. Until 1970 it was home to the School of Fine Arts where Picasso and Miró studied. Now used as government offices.

Carrer del Consolat del Mar 2
Metro: Jaume I (L4)

Drassanes (1378)
The largest and most complete medieval secular structure in the world. Now home to the Maritime Museum.

Avinguda de les Drassanes
Metro: Drassanes (L3)
 
The modern city

In the 19th century, two great events shaped the present Barcelona. In 1854 the Bourbon walls, built following the surrender to Felipe V in 1714, were torn down. This allowed the city the possibility to expand. In 1859 a competition for a town plan was won by Idelfons Cerdà, an engineer rather than an architect.

Cerdà's plan was an uncompromising grid of streets with three great avenues cutting across. Thus we have the layout of the present day Eixample (enlargement). Cerdà's stroke of genius was to cut the corners of each block at a 45º angle, to make small squares at the intersections which give light, space and air to what might have been an oppressive grid-iron.

It was not until the end of the century that work seriously started on filling in the grid with buildings. Fate allowed the happy conjunction of rich patrons, architects of genius, and unsurpassed craftsmanship. In the years before and after the start of the 20th century, Barcelona produced its version of art nouveau - modernisme.

Antoni Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner y Josep Puig i Cadafalch were the principal exponents of Catalán Modernism. Each has an individual section which includes their most famous buildings.
 
Modernist architects

Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)

 
Casa Batlló (1904-1906)
The colourful Casa Batlló (Batlló House) is an apartment building located at no. 43 Passeig de Gràcia. It was totally remodelled by Gaudí from 1904 to 1906 on a commission from the textile industrialist Josep Batlló i Casanovas. Along with two Modernista works, the Casa Amatller by Puig i Cadafalch (1900) and the Casa Lleó Morera by Domènech i Montaner (1905), the Casa Batlló makes up the Mançana de la Discòrdia (Block of Discord).

Passeig de Gràcia 43
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia (L2, L3, L4)

 
Casa Mila - La Pedrera (1906-1911)
This fantasy in stone appears to have been carved out of the living rock, hence its nickname "La Pedrera - the quarry". This was Gaudí's last secular work before dedicating the rest of his life to the Sagrada Família. Pere Milà the owner of the site had been inspired by the Casa Batlló, also on Passeig de Gràcia, and commissioned Gaudí to design a large apartment building. Today the building is owned by Caixa Catalunya, a Catalan bank. You can visit an apartment which has been carefully restored and furnished, and in the magical attic space there is an exhibition of Gaudí's work. Don't forget to visit the roof with its spectacular chimneys and views. The first floor is now used for temporary art exhibitions.

Passeig de Gracia 92
Metro: Diagonal (L3, L5)

 
Casa Vicens (1883-1888)
The Casa Vicens, a private house, was built between 1883 and 1888 for the ceramics industrialist Manuel Vicens i Montaner at 24 Carrer de les Carolines. One of Gaudí's early works, the building's structure is still dominated by straight lines. The decorative tiles and fanciful turrets show ideas that Gaudí would not cease to cultivate.

Carrer de les Carolines 24
Metro: Fontana (L3)

 
Palau Guell (1888-1889)
The Palau Güell (Güell Palace), an urban residence built between 1886 and 1888 for the family of Eusebi Güell Bacigalupi, is located at 35 Carrer Nou de la Rambla. It is the first large scale work by Gaudí which uses new ideas in construction coupled with an innovative interpretation of historical styles. In this case, Gaudí drew upon the Gothic and Moorish in a splendid combination of the creative and unusual.

Carrer Nou de la Rambla 3-5
Metro: Liceu (L3)

 
Parc Güell (1900-1905)
An urban park next to Carrer d'Olot standing on the Muntanya Pelada to the north of the Barcelona district of Gràcia. Gaudí planned and directed the construction of the park from 1900 to 1914 for Eusebi Güell as infrastructure and facilities for a residential garden city based on English models. It was intended for sixty single-family residences. The project, however, was unsuccessful and the park became city property in 1923. It is one of Gaudí's most colourful and playful works. Gaudí's house in the park is now a museum where you can see some furniture designed by the master.

Carrer d'Olot
Metro Lesseps (L3), Vallcarca (and a long walk).

 
Sagrada Família (1884-unfinished)
The monumental church "El Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família" is Gaudí's most famous work, the finest example of his visionary genius, and a world-wide icon for Barcelona. Gaudí undertook the task in 1883 on the site of a previous neo-Gothic project begun in 1882 by F. del Villar. Gaudí dedicated the last years of his life to this monumental work.

Plaça de la Sagrada Família
Metro: Sagrada Família (L2, L5)

Domènech i Montaner (1849-1923)

 
Casa Lleó i Morera 1905
Situated in the famous "block of discord" where three buildings in totally different styles were built within a period of ten years. On the first floor examples of the finest Catalan modernista stained glass can be seen.

Passeig de Gràcia 35
Metro: Passeig de Gracia (L2. L3. L5)

 
Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau (1900-1910)
Built in pure modernista style with a series of pavillions linked by underground passages to the main hospital facilties. The decoration based on flower motifs was designed to create a happy, optimistic atmosphere to help lift the spirit of the patients.

Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167
Metro: Hospital de Sant Pau (L5)

 
Museu de Zoologia (1887-1888)
This building of brick battlements decorated with ceramic coats of arms was built as a café-restaurant for the Universal Exhibition. Since 1937 it has been the city's museum of natural sciences.

Parc de la Ciutadella
Metro: Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica (L4)

 
Palau de la Música Catalana (1904-1911)
Built as a home for the Orfeo choir, using an extravagant mixture of sculpture, mosaic, glass and tile. Guided tours are held throughout the day. The spectacular concert hall is uniquely lit by natural light.

Carrer de Sant Francesc de Paula 2
Metro: Catalunya (L1, L3), Urquinaona (L1, L4)

Josep Puig i Cadafalch (1867-1957)

 
Casa Amatller (1898-1900)
Flemish architecture, with a typical step gable, inspired Puig i Cadalfach when asked to design a house for the Amatller family. However a profusion of polychrome tiles presents us with a façade very different from the cold brick of Northern Europe. To the left of the main entrance you can see a typical Catalan motif, Saint George killing the dragon.

Passeig de Gracia 41
Metro: Passeig de Gracia (L2, L3, L4)

 
Casa Macaya (1899-1901)
An elegant mansion with a large patio, today housing the cultural centre of "La Caixa", a Barcelona bank. Cafeteria, library, exhibitions.

Passeig de San Joan 108
Metro: Diagonal Sagrada Familia (L2, L5)

 
Casa Martí (Els Quatre Gats) (1895-1896)
Bar and restaurant decorated with paintings of the Catalan artists who met here at the turn of the century. A favourite haunt of Picasso who held an exhibition here.

Carrer de Montsió, 3
Metro: Catalunya (L1, L3), Urquinaona (L1, L4)

 
Casa de les Punxes (1903-1905)
Designed in the Germanic style with five towers toped with metal spires which give the building its name.

Diagonal 416-420
Metro: Diagonal (L3, L5)

 
Palau Quadras (1902-1904)
Notice the complex sculpted frieze which decorates the windows on the first floor of this beautiful building.

Diagonal 373 (next to Passeig de Gracia)
Metro: Diagonal (L3, L5)

New symbols of the city

Torre AGBAR (2005)

 
Torre Agbar (2005)
The tower houses the offices of its owner the Agbar Group and with a height of 142 metres, it is the third tallest building of Barcelona. Designed by the french architect Jean Nouvel, the tower has become a new symbol for its unique shape and the nocturnal illumination.

Diagonal 211 (the buisiness district of the city, 22@-district)
Metro: Diagonal (L1, Parada de las Glorias)
Tranvía: Parada de las Glorias
 

 

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