You can’t visit Barcelona without seeing some of Gaudi’s famous architecture. He’s Barcelona’s most famous architect and you will be able to feel his influence everywhere around the city today.
Although not widely appreciated during his lifetime, Gaudí’s work is now widely studied by architecture students worldwide and seven of his works have been named World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, including Sagrada Família, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Europe.
There are a number of Gaudí sites in Barcelona, Spain that you will be able to visit, some are world-famous, but I also recommend visiting his other locations to get in touch with his art. Before coming to Barcelona, I recommend learning more about this architect as you will most likely visit some of his masterpieces. It’s helpful to understand the man and his art before experiencing it for yourself.
Who was Antoni Gaudí?
Born in 1852 in Tarragona, Antoni Gaudí had a long and distinguished career as an architect and is often considered the master of Catalan Modernism. His first designs were centered around Gothic and traditional Catalan architectural styles, however soon he developed his own style that has set him apart from others.
Gaudí found a lot of his inspiration in nature and studied organic and geometric forms and applied them in his work. You will always be able to notice the buildings he designed, especially his later years, as he used elements that had never been used in architecture at the time. Gaudí was a private and spiritual man, he was proud of Catalan culture and language. He devoted his life to his work and his Roman Catholic faith and never married. During Gaudí’s final years, he dedicated himself entirely to working on Sagrada Família, ignoring his own appearance and social life.
He was always in favor of Catalan culture but was reluctant to become politically active to campaign for its autonomy, although attended demonstrations and protests. In 1924, on National Day of Catalonia, he was at a demonstration against the banning of the Catalan language by the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and was arrested and beaten by the Civil Guard, resulting in a short stay in prison.
Gaudi died in 1926 after being hit by a streetcar on his way to church. He was knocked unconscious and without any identification on him, people assumed he was a beggar and left him be. He was later taken to a hospital where he received only basic care. He died of his injuries shortly after people realized who he was.
During Gaudí’s life, his work was controversial and not widely appreciated, on the contrary, his work was even criticized by many art critics of his time. However, his work was admired by a fellow genius Catalan artist Salvador Dalí and others who helped promote Gaudí’s work.
Which Gaudí Sites Should You Visit?
Depending on your schedule and your interests, I would recommend visiting at least 2 Gaudí attractions in Barcelona on the inside, but you can’t miss seeing the top 5 from the outside when you visit. (Please, visit more if you’re interested in Gaudí and have a full week to spend in Barcelona.)
If you want to see as much as possible in one day, I recommend starting at Park Güell in the morning and then going to see the exterior of Casa Vicens, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and the interior of Sagrada Família (including a tower).
If you are only interested in visiting one attraction, I’d recommend choosing between Park Güell and Sagrada Família, they are my top favorites.
A Guide to Gaudí Sites in Barcelona
No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing Gaudi’s work. It will give you insight into the history and culture of the city and its people. Here is a guide to visiting Gaudi’s best sights in Barcelona:
La Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia is one of Barcelona symbols and is Gaudi’s last and most elaborate work in the city. “Basilica of the Holy Family” has been under construction for over 100 years and is supposed to be finished in 2026. Antoni Gaudí was in full knowledge of the fact that he would not see it finished and has famously said, “My client (God) is in no hurry”. Gaudí started with the Nativity façade thinking that if he managed to leave it finished, it would be more difficult to stop the construction of the church. And that’s the only part of the Sagrada Familia originally built by Antoni Gaudí.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Sagrada Familia is one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona and often sells out. Get tickets online in advance and if possible, visit the towers for an additional fee: you will see one of the best panoramic views of Barcelona. Try to visit mid-morning to late afternoon so you can witness the sunlight cascade throughout all the stained glass. Admission is about 15 EUR and 22 EUR for a ticket and audio guide.
Park Güell – a Must-Visit Architecture Site by Gaudi
Park Güell is one of the most impressive parks in the world and is just one of the many gifts Gaudi left to the city of Barcelona. Park Güell is a 45-acre garden complex designed and built between 1900 to 1914. It’s now a municipal garden and a World Heritage Site.
Güell and Gaudí created this park, situated within a natural park. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes in the park as it already included a large country house and was next to a neighborhood of upper-class houses called La Salut (The Health). The intention was to exploit the fresh air and beautiful views from the site, with sixty triangular lots provided for luxury houses. Ultimately, only two houses were built and Gaudí, at Güell’s suggestion, bought on of them with his savings. He lived in this house from 1906 to 1926, which is now the Gaudi House Museum.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Only 400 tickets are available in every half-hour and they sell out well in advance. As with Sagrada Familia, book your tickets online. However, you can see the park for free if you come before it opens or after it closes. Early morning is my favorite time to visit Park Güell to enjoy it without big groups of tourists, enjoy the sunrise and for free!
Admission is 7.50 EUR, with discounts available.
Cascada Fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella
Gaudí helped design this fountain in Parc de la Ciutadella while he was still a student. He was responsible for the design of the fountain, the bandstand, and the park’s entrance gate, a project that stretched from 1873 to 1882. Baroque in style, the fountain is massive, intricate, and awe-inspiring.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: The park is the perfect spot to rest, have a picnic like a Barcelona local, it’s open daily from 10am-10pm and admission is free. Take a blanket, some strawberries, and enjoy this park in the shade of trees.
Gaudi Lampposts: Plaça Reial and Pla del Palau
The first commission that Gaudí received after graduating from school was to construct street lamps for the city. At the request of the city council in 1878, he designed lamps with three and six arms and crowned by a winged helmet. They were symbolic of the commercial power of Barcelona, but most of them are gone now except for the ones left in and Pla del Palau. Don’t miss them!
Plaça Reial is a popular meeting place during the summer, during the annual La Mercè festival in September when open-air concerts take place, and during other celebrations such as New Year’s Eve. Plaça Reial is in the center of the city, just off La Rambla. They are located in a public square so are always accessible and free.
Casa Vicens was Gaudí’s first important work, constructed between 1883-1888. This is the first time Gaudí broke away from tradition and created his new type of architecture, and Casa Vicens represents a new chapter of Catalan architecture and the beginning of a successful career for Gaudí. It is made of iron, glass, ceramic tiles and concrete in checkerboard and floral patterns. The client was the owner of a brick and tile factory, so the ceramic tiles pay tribute to his employment. It’s very different from his other sites (and often has the shortest line).
Casa Batllo is a building restored by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900s. The house was bought by Josep Batlló, a textile industrialist who owned a few factories in the city, in 1900 and Gaudi was hired to remodel the exterior, main floor, patio, and roof. Located on the Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district of Barcelona, it was heavily influenced by the Art Nouveau style. The façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles and the roof is arched like the back of a dragon. It’s beautifully decorated with roses on April 23 (the day of books and roses) definitely one of my favorite Gaudí buildings.
Also known as “La Pedrera” (the stone quarry), this building was commissioned in 1906 by Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon. Roser Segimón was a wealthy widow of former colonist returned from South America, who had made his fortune with a coffee plantation in Guatemala. She bought the house with a garden that occupied an area of 1,835 square meters and commissioned Gaudí to build them a new house with the purpose of living in the main floor and renting out the rest of the apartments.
Known as the stone quarry due to its resemblance to the facade of an open quarry, Casa Mila was the last work designed by Gaudi before he committed himself to the Sagrada Familia Gaudi’s goal was to evoke the sense of a snowy mountain. Gaudí also planned for the Casa Milà to be a spiritual symbol and included many religious elements like an excerpt from the rosary prayer on the cornice and statues of Mary, St. Michael, and St. Gabriel.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: Casa Mila is right across from Casa Batillo, so I recommend visiting them on the same day. Also, Casa Mila hosts a light show in the evenings with music and dancing lights bringing the building to life. Standard admission (which includes an audio guide) is 22 EUR.
Bellesguard Tower – Architecture Site by Gaudi
The Bellesguard Tower, also known as Casa Figueras, was built by Gaudí between 1900-1909. Gaudí drew inspiration from the medieval castle that once stood on the same site, built for the King of Aragon in the early 15th century. When Jaume Figueres and his wife commissioned Gaudí for the project, all that remained of the initial structure were a few walls and the patio. Still, Gaudí worked to preserve the medieval spirit of the ruins and sought to blend the construction with its natural surroundings.
For over 70 years Casa Figueres belonged to an esteemed doctor, Lluis Guilera, who converted the building into a modernist hospital dedicated to cancer treatment and research. Following the doctor’s death, his son, a gynecologist and obstetrician, inherited the home and hospital. Several Barcelona citizens were born in Casa Figueres until 1974 when the site of the hospital relocated to a more accessible area better suited to medical needs.
From that point on, the original building has served as a private home for the Guilera family. In 2013, the family opened the home to tours to ease the finances required to maintain the unique Gaudí landmark.
Barcelona sightseeing tip: The best way to see the dragon from the roof is by going to the top and seeing the nose and the eyes of the dragon for yourself!
Gaudí was a genius architect and wandering around Barcelona, you will see many of his creations. Even more, you’ll see his influence on other architects and his students in other buildings around the city.
Final Barcelona Sightseeing Tip: If you plan to visit Barcelona, keep in mind many of the houses and museums are closed on Mondays.
Are you going to Barcelona? Tag me in your Gaudi pictures on Instagram, I would love to see them!