If you think of European cities, you probably picture classical columns, medieval towers and lots of right angles. That’s why the must-see Barcelona buildings may surprise you! This seaside city in Spain’s Catalan region has its own distinctive feel, due in no small part to an architect named Antoni Gaudí. For many visitors, Barcelona and Gaudí go hand-in-hand.
With a unique blend of modernist principles and organic shapes, Gaudí transformed everyday concepts about what buildings could be. And his crowning achievement, the soaring church of Sagrada Familia, is Spain’s most visited attraction.
Discover the whimsical creations of Gaudí with these picture-perfect spots throughout Barcelona!
Shining with stained glass, wobbly with wavy lines, the Casa Batlló was commissioned as a private home. Today it’s truly a must-see Barcelona landmark. You can wander through its whimsical rooms, ascend to the roof, whose curves evoke a dragon’s spine, or simply admire the building’s extraordinary facade on a street already popping with elegant designs. Next to the elaborate tile and ironwork of its neighbors, the Casa Batlló shines like an outpost from a fantasy world.
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The first house designed by Gaudí, Casa Vicens is a riot of Moorish tiles and turrets, odd-shaped windows, ceramic flowers, fancifully curving iron and some rooftop domes because… well, why not. It’s a delightful confection of a house parked on a narrow side street without much else going on, as if someone accidentally placed an ornate cupcake in a display of sandwich bread. Opened to the public in 2017 after 130 years as a private home, Casa Vicens includes a permanent museum collection of Gaudí’s extraordinary work as well as temporary exhibitions. You’ll find no better introduction to discovering Gaudí in Barcelona.
With the mosaics and views that launched a thousand stock photos, Park Güell is signature must-see Barcelona. Originally the park was meant to be an upscale housing estate, and while there’s little doubt the houses would have been fabulous–just look at the Porter’s Lodge–as a public space where nature and architecture meet, Park Güell is simply sublime. When a city park becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you know it’s something special. Of course, it’s incredibly popular. So if you’re not visiting with a tour, be sure to book your ticket to the Monumental Zone (that’s where things like the famous Lizard Staircase are located) ahead of time. You’ll get a reserved time-slot when you can visit.
La Sagrada Familia
The most visited site in Spain, and it’s not even finished yet. La Sagrada Familia, the world’s largest unfinished church, has a scheduled end date of 2026, but there’s no reason to wait that long to visit this must-see Barcelona mainstay. The extraordinary interior of white columns and vaults lit by rainbow stained-glass is unlike any other church you’ve been inside. And from the outside, the organic curves of the spires are straight out of a fantastic future. Along the with Park Güell, this church brings in the crowds, so be prepared with pre-purchased tickets and comfortable shoes for the queue to get inside.
Twisting pillars, surreal shapes and an absolute refusal to draw a straight line? We must be looking at a Gaudí. Even without the brilliant color palette of his earlier works, there’s no mistaking Casa Milà for anything else. The waving columns and curved balconies, decorated with nature-inspired ironwork, draw you in. The rooftop terrace and the dizzying central courtyard direct your gaze outwards and upwards, where you’ll find a shining blue Catalan sky.
With these must-see Barcelona designs by Gaudí on your to-do list, you’re ready for an incredible trip through one of the world’s great art cities! Add Barcelona to your tour of Spain, combine Barcelona with Madrid and other cities by high-speed rail, or just spend a few days here exploring the ambiance–it’s a getaway like no other. View all of our options for Spain, including rail/hotel packages and more, here.