SPAIN – 5 days in Barcelona, the city of Gaudi; and a day trip

Barcelona - Park Guell
Barcelona - Park Guell

A long school holiday weekend brought me to Barcelona with my son. A father & son trip to Barcelona to finally see the Gaudi works; but also a day trip outside of Barcelona to see two more UNESCO Sites which I want to sell all. A great time, but tight schedules from 7 AM to 11 PM daily. One tip: book tickets for all sights online to avoid the queues! I take you to all the places day by day.

Casa Batllo, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Palacio Guell, Roman Remains and Bus Tour

We had to go also to Casa Mila but we didn’t buy tickets online and there was a never ending row. So; we went to Casa Batllo but also a row; online we could buy tickets with for 3 euro more the priority line with no waiting. Great to have internet phones these days so we got in avoiding a just over an hour queue. Casa Batllo is one of the masterpieces of Gaudi (UNESCO Site) which first constructed in 1877 as a ‘normal’ house but in 1904-1906 renovated by Gaudi in the current form. The design has almost no straight lines and many parts are curved. The façade is covered by broken tiles. The roof looks like the bulb of a dragon with a tower. The middle part has a mosaic tiled waterlilly motive and the main floor is made of sandstone. The inside has an open area where light comes down to all rooms. Also the inside has many curved shapes and a very unique fireplace in the shape of a mushroom. See the image gallery for more details photos of the architecture.

For today we had the hop-on-hop-off bus ticket so we got on the bus for two stops to get off at the nearest stop of Palau de la Musica Catalana. The Palau de la Musica Catalana had open day at 21th June 2014, which meant free entrance and free walking around and checking all in details. Also a short free concert was given. A concert hall in Barcelona designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and build 1905-1908 and designated a UNESCO site. As with the Gaudi Catalan modernism also this building has almost no straight lines. The façade has a lot of decorations build with mosaics, bricks and iron and stained glass. Particularly interesting is the pillar outside with a window where in previous days the tickets where sold. The foyer, hall, concert hall are all very nicely decorated (see images). The concert hall is one of the most beautiful I have seen in the world. There is place for 2200 people with at the ceiling a huge stained glass skylight and around the walls also many stained glass windows making the hall very full of light.

After the visit here we took again the bus three stops further to walk to the Palacio Güell, also a UNESCO Gaudi work. Luckily no queues for waiting and we could get in directly. This mansion was build for Eusebi Güell a industrial tycoon. From the entrance carriages can go in with horses and down to the cellar. The house has a main hall for guests around which the rest of the house was build. From the private area one can look into the public hall where the guest where to already “spy” on them. The main hall has a high ceiling with wholes in the ceiling for lanterns to make it look like the night sky.

From here we walked a bit over La Rambla to the old town to see some Roman Remains. The remains are not much but nice to see as it’s a nice walk. We ended at the Cathedral from where we took the hop-on hop-off bus the remaining of the circle to check out some sights from a short distance. They were not open to publish or not interesting for us. Things of interest are the old customs building, stadium of the soccer club, world expo buildings and so and back to our hotel. In the next gallery an impression.

Crypt at the Colònia Güell, Poblet, Tarraco, Parque Güell

Today we were able to tick off two more UNESCO sites and some parts of the Gaudi works. We started the day at a Gaudi work just outside of Barcelona at Santa Coloma de Cervello a small hour drive from our hotel, from Barcelona probably a 30 minutes. The place opens at 10 AM and we arrived there at 9:30 AM; took our tickets which we ordered already online (do this!). We looked around probably for 45 minutes after which we continued our journey to Poblet Monastery. The crypt at Colonia Güell is the only finished part of the church which Gaudi designed on behalf of Eusebi Güell, a leading industrialist and patron of Catalan arts and literature. The work started in 1908 but in 1914 the Güell family said it would no longer fund the project and Gaudi abandoned the project leaving only the Crypt finished. Even though it’s not finished it’s a highlight in Gaudi’s work as all elements of building were combined into one building and therefore it deserves a place on the UNESCO list.

We continued our journey for an hour by car to the Poblet monastery in Poblet, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Poblet has been a monastic community for centuries and following the rules of Saint Benedict. The monastery was founded in the year 1150 by a small group of Cistercian monks from France. Quickly the community became a important place for economics and political matters and got also royal protection. In the 14th and 15th century various royals were buried here. In the year 1835 the place was abandoned and only in 1940 it was restored as a monument and institution. Places one can see and visit are the gate, atrium, the cloister, kitchen, refectory, parlor, library, church, royal tombs, dormitory, winery, chapels.

After a nice tappas lunch near the monastery we drove in an hour to Tarragona arriving there around 3PM. Tarragona was the old capital of the Roman province Hispania. The roman remains in Tarragona are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. To be honest, they are not the best Roman remains I have seen in my life. Because we arrived after 3PM on a Sunday we could not get into any of the sights, but they were OK to see from the outside. We checked out the wall, the amphitheater from 2nd century, the forum, old Roman villa (outside of the city), the aqueduct (outside of the city) and arch and tower (also outside of the city) getting a good impression of past times.

Because we had time left we decided to go to Parque Güell which was actually scheduled for the next day. It was a good choice as we needed more time at the Sagrada Familia the next day as expected. The park started construction in 1900 and was intended to be an estate  for the rich. They build on the park for 14 years after which in 1914 it stopped and after the death of Eusebi Güell it was sold to the Barcelona Government and opened to the public as a park.

Casa Vicens, Casa Mila, Sant Pau, Torre Belles Guard, Sagrada Familia

We started the day with a drive by along the casa Vicens, a privately owned house closed to visitor. It was Gaudi’s first important work and part of the UNESCO Gaudi Site. Build during 1883-1889 for Manuel Vicens. It’s build with bricks, stone and parts of tiles with influences from mainly Moorish styles.

Now we arrived to Casa Mila, La Pedrera. Which we actually wanted to visit on the first day but with a to long line of visitors we skipped. Now with our online bought tickets we could go in directly without waiting. Unfortunately the outside was not visible due to reconstruction works. The house was build between 1906 and 1910 for Pere Milà i Camps and his wife Roser Segimon i Artells and designed by Gaudi. It’s the last civil work designed by Gaudi and on the UNESCO list. It’s build in a way that inside there are no supporting walls making it possible to arrange rooms in any way one wants. The chimneys are very famous, they look like aliens. At the time of our visit the roof, the attic and one residential floor was open for visit. On the residential floor also furniture of Gaudi can be seen and all details and curving’s in the walls and all. The remainder is still in use for residence and commercial use.

Next stop on our tight schedule: Sant Pau Hospital Art Nouveau Site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Hospital de la Santa Creu I Sant Pau is like a city within a city. It’s build between 1902-1930 and a masterpiece of Catalan Modernism. The hospital dates back to the 15th century and this last location was designed by Lluis Domenech I Montaner. The plan of the site is based on two axis forming a cross and the sides are all symmetrical. There are various pavilions which each one had it’s own medical specialty. Gardens, sculptures and lots of ceramics make the site. In the (guided) visit it’s possible to view the Sant Rafael Pavillion, Sant Jordi Pavilion, Administration Pavilion and façade. You enter the sight through the tunnel through which patients where brought into the hospital in old days.

Off to the next Gaudi work, not actually part of the UNESCO Gaudi list but very worth to visit: Torre Bellesguard. The Bellesguard house was built by Antoni Gaudí between 1900 and 1909, using rectilinear forms rarely seen in his other work. His inspiration was the medieval castle of Martin I, also known as Martin the Humane, the last king of the Catalan dynasty of the House of Barcelona, who resided at Bellesguard until his death in 1410. Gaudí built a castle that was a blend of Art Nouveau and Gothic style and restored the ruins of the medieval palace, which are now part of the estate’s grounds.

Then, last, the highlight! Sagrada Familia or in full Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família , Gaudi’s masterpiece. First construction started in 1882 and Gaudi got involved a year later. The crypt under the basilica is of architect Francisco de Paula del Villar design. Gaudi kept his design for the crypt after taking over the design in 1883. The church is Gaudi’s last masterpiece until his death in 1926 when only 15-20% was finished. Construction continued until 1936 with a small break during the civil war and continued building in 1940 until today. It’s estimated to be completed in 2026. Current construction is at high speed due to funding of tourist and the help of computer graphics and machine made off-site sculptures. The church as 18 spires representing the twelve apostles, Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and the biggest Jesus Christ.  There are three grand facades: Nativity, Passion and Glory façade. The inside has five aisles and the highest vault up to 45m high. The pillars represent trees with branches going into several directions. Everything has lots of geometric details, cubism, hyperboloid structures.

We visited of course the outside, the crypt, the inside including the towers to have a view from a different perspective. This work of Gaudi is really amazing! For sure want to return once it’s really finished. One must note that the older parts already need renovation works. A great last sight in our travel, just superb.

Stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to the newsletter or follow CTB on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram including Instagram stories; on all social media you can find CTB @christravelblog) to get updated information.

Did you visit Barcelona too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Further reading

Sometimes it’s impossible to cover every single place of interest, activities, food, and others that might be relevant. In the below list you find a list of relevant links with further information about Barcelona which I have carefully curated. These will help plan your trip even better.