The Eixample is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues and square blocks. This visionary and pioneering design was made by Catalan architect Ildefons Cerdà, who considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation when coming up with this octagonal blocks, characteristic of Barcelona.
Probably the most visited street in this district is Passeig de Gràcia, one of the major avenues in the city as well as one of its most important shopping and business areas with designer and luxury shops and hotels. Built in 1827, it shows the constructing style of the period with amazing Modernist buildings. Here you can find some of the best work of architect Gaudí.
The hot spot of this beautiful avenue is the world renowned building of La Pedrera (“The Quarry” in english, due to the material used) or Casa Milà, part of UNESCO’s World Heritage site. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí it was built between 1905 and 1910 following the modernist style. The building was designed taking the sea as an inspiration, reason of the wavy front wall and curvy interior, and the roof’s chimneys are decorated as if they were soldiers using broken champagne bottles and mosaics. The building is open to the public everyday from 9am to 8pm, more information can be found here.
Casa Batlló (Passeig de Gràcia, 43) is another indispensable piece of Barcelona’s Modernist architecture. Built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 under the orders of businessman Josep Batlló, is part also part of UNESCO’s Work of Gaudí Heritage for its innovative design and creativity. The front wall was inspired by nature and human anatomy, resulting in skull-like balconies and columns that look like bones. The house-museum can be visited everyday from 9am to 9pm for 18,15€ or 14,55€ student price. More information can be found here.
Just a few steps away there is Casa Ametller (Passeig de Gràcia, 41), another modernist building made by architect Puig i Cadafalch in 1898. The design mixes traditional Catalan gothic style with characteristics elements of the Medieval period. The detail of the windows is exquisite, and the roof is remarkable too designed to recreate the look of a chocolate bar, reflecting the business of the building’s original owner.
Number 35 of Passeig de Gràcia hosts another of Domenech i Muntaner’s work: Casa Lleó-Morera. The building, constructed in 1864 and renovated in 1902, takes the name (“Lleó” is Catalan for lion and “Morera” for mulberry tree) from its decoration with sculptures, ceramics and mosaics made by local artists.
Turning right at Carrer Aragó there’s the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, created by the artist itself to promote the study and knowledge of modern art. The museum hosts one of the best collections of this artist including some of his best work; the building itself has been converted with an intelligent use of space, definitely worth stopping by! More information about opening times and prices can be found here.
Last but not least is the Sagrada Família, one of the most emblematic and popular buildings of Barcelona, also part of the UNESCO’s Work of Gaudí. The church’s construction started in 1882 under the supervision of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar until 1883, when Antoni Gaudí was asked to continue the project. The building is being built using public’s donation – reason why it’s construction is taking this long – with the objective of gaining God’s forgiveness. The three main towers at the centre of the construction represent the Sacred Family, surrounded by twelve smaller towers representing the twelve apostles mentioned in the Bible.
[Pictures credit: Passeig de Gràcia via Bernard Bagnon; Casa Milà via Diliff; Casa Batlló via Sabalas; Casa Amatller via Year of the Dragon; Casa Lleó-Morera via Kwon Yee Cheng; Sagrada Familia via Arte en el Valle]