1. Fundacio Juan Miro
The options for art lovers are almost endless in Barcelona. The Museu Picasso is a traditional favorite with visitors, but for me at least, it’s Joan Miro who best epitomizes the vibrancy, color and quirkiness of Barcelona. Some of Miro’s sculptures can be found dotted around his home city, but for the most immersive experience, visit the Fundacio gallery on Montjuic. If you’re bitten by the Miro bug you can take time to pay your respects afterward, as Miro’s body is interred in nearby Montjuic cemetery.
2. Palau de la Musica
This concert hall is not just one of Barcelona’s best locations to indulge in a symphony or some jazz music, it’s also a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. The famous skylight could be straight out of a Renaissance Cathedral, but the rest of the building is another example of Barcelona’s love affair with “modernisme”. Guided tours can be arranged from as little as 20 Euros, though it’s more if you want to take in a performance too.
The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is an art gallery housed within the almost preposterously grandiose Palau Nacional, on Montjuic Hill. One of the largest museums in Spain, MNAC exhibits everything from early church paintings to modernist and surrealist works. What better way to understand a place and its people than through the works they leave behind?
4. Park Güell
Most major world cities have one or more architects or planners who have left an indelible mark on the landscape. In the case of Barcelona, that person is undeniably Antoni Gaudi. Here, Gaudi draws on his life-long fascination with the natural world to create a miniature wonderland of colorful mosaics and contoured lines; a small paradise in the middle of a modern city.
5. Block of Discord
Colorful, exuberant and conflicting—no other spot best encapsulates the explosion in modernist architecture that took place in Barcelona at the end of the 19th Century than the “Block of Discord”. Another of Gaudi’s masterpieces, the “Casa Batllo”, is perhaps the best-known of the houses in this area, but other architects have also left their mark. “Casa Amatller” and “Casa Lleo-Morera” are no less distinctive than Gaudi’s masterpieces For the best experience take a tour inside one—or all—of the houses, where the styles are even more over-the-top than they appear from outside.
And here’s a very imaginative (and weird!) video in the style of Gaudi showcasing the otherworldliness of the Block of Discord:
6. Deep Dive Gaudi
No one comes away from the first visit to Barcelona without some exposure to its most famous architect, Antoni Gaudi. However, those looking to gain a deeper insight into Gaudi’s work should visit the Palau Guell in El Raval, his first major building in the city, and Bellesguard Tower in Sarria-Sant Gervasi. These two monuments showcase Gaudi’s style but are removed enough from the throngs of crowds that you’ll have time enough to savor the details and drink in the atmosphere.
The Gothic Cathedral—built largely in the 14th Century—is in the slightly unusual position of being overshadowed by a much more recent neighbor (of which more later). However, for many centuries before the modernist explosion in Barcelona, the Gothic Cathedral was the heart of public life and a spectacle that would have been unrivaled anywhere in the region. It’s also the likely origin of one of Catalunya’s most unusual traditions—the dancing egg—which takes place throughout Catalunya during Corpus Christi.
8. Sagrada Familia
Begun in 1882 and still under construction, La Sagrada Familia is regarded by many as one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and is certainly Barcelona’s most emblematic site. It’s an explosion of colors and ideas set in stone, for some this means that it lacks some of the internal harmony compared to Gaudi’s masterpieces dotted elsewhere around the city, but for others, it’s a testament to the breadth of his vision. Yes it’s touristy and yes it’s crowded, but it’s also a structure unlike any you will find anywhere else in the world, making it a must-see. Just make sure you order your tickets online in advance or prepare for long queues to get in.
The Sagrada Familia is currently unfinished (even though construction started in 1882), though here is a video showcasing how it will look once it is finally finished:
9. Tablao Cordobes
Flamenco is an art form that is synonymous with the southern region of Spain, meaning an authentic experience of the dance is a near impossibility in the north. Luckily for us, the one exception is Barcelona. The Tablao Cordobes has been in operation since 1970 and has hosted some of the masters of the form since then. It is now one of the only two authentic tablao in Barcelona. Enjoy tapas or a larger meal as you watch the dancing for the complete experience.
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