This post will compare and contrast all of the major attraction passes that are available in Barcelona. We’ll break down what each service offers and discuss why you might want to consider purchasing a tourist pass.
There are several different tourist passes to choose from in Barcelona. Some of them focus primarily on museums, while others offer discounts at several different locations. There are also transport passes which can make traveling around the city much easier.
In addition to these factors, you will also want to consider the differences between the all-inclusive, preset packages, and build your own options. One thing to keep in mind is that most passes include skip-the-queue privileges at several tours and attractions.
An all-inclusive pass allows you to visit several locations in Barcelona for free. These attraction cards may also include discounts at a variety of different businesses. You can also expect a bus tour to be included with this option, but the price for these passes are usually much higher as a result of all the services they provide. That being said, this is definitely the easiest and most stress-free way to enjoy sightseeing in the city.
In comparison, a build-your-own pass will allow you to choose the specific locations that you want to visit and save money on them. If you’re not interested in paying for all of the services included with an all-inclusive pass, this is an excellent alternative. Rather than paying for admission to several attractions you may not even visit, you can select the locations you want to see and pay a lower price for tickets to each site on your itinerary.
If you’re not that interested in going to the Zoo or taking a tour of Camp Nou (both offered through all-inclusive and build-your-own pass services), a museum pass may be your best bet. There are a lot of wonderful museums in Barcelona, and more than one tourist pass provides free entry to all of them. This is a much more affordable option and it may be preferable for some visitors.Read more »
We may be biased here at Free Tours by Foot, but we’re partial to walking tours of Barcelona. However, bus tours offer a great way to get further afield and see more in a short period of time. Sometimes bus tours seem too expensive for a budget traveller or not detailed enough for a seasoned one, but we have some recommendations of the best bus tours in Barcelona.
Traditional bus tours are the hop on, hop off variety where you are able to exit the bus at a particular stop and pick up another bus when you’re finished. While the guide doesn’t come with you when you get off the bus, you should be able to get a good feel for the site from the commentary on the way. It is also a great way to get around an unfamiliar city and have direct access to the tourist sites – these are not always near public transportation stops.
This is a comparison of the various bike tour companies available in Barcelona. Whether you prefer standard guided bike tours, electric bike tours, or simply renting a bike and exploring on your own, Barcelona has you covered! However, with so many choices, it can be difficult to decide which company is best. So that’s where we come in! We’ve broken down all of the different types of tours by category and then compared them by quality and price, so that you can find what’s right for you!
Be sure to inquire about a helmet as some companies will not automatically supply you with one.
Don’t worry if you’re not used to biking in a city. Your guide will help familiarize you with the rules of the road, so you’ll be left feeling comfortable and confident in no time! However, if you’re worried about city riding, consider taking a bike tour on a day-trip outside of Barcelona.
Remember that Barcelona is a FULL of cyclists, so make sure you yield to locals who are using their bike to commute to work.
Thankfully, the large number of cyclists means that there are also a lot of clearly marked bike lanes. Stay within these lanes and follow basic traffic safety laws to avoid an unnecessary collision.
We recommend Excursions Barcelona’s Free Walking Tour, which you can book here, but if you prefer to explore on your own. This self-guided tour will show you all the main sights of the Mediterranean’s most vivacious city.
Barcelona is Spain’s most Cosmopolitan city, a metropolis where today you can find great food from all around the globe brought here by the immigration that has been constantly revitalizing the city for centuries. This manifests itself in the numerous Catalan fusion restaurants scattered around the city, but before globalization Barcelona experienced a huge scoop of Spanish culinary culture with immigration from the different regions of Spain. That’s what we’re going to explore today.
Free Tours by Foot is excited to partner with Excursions Barcelona. With travel tips on how to visit the Barcelona on a budget and self guided tours of Gothic architecture and Gaudi’s Barcelona, use our guides below to make the most of your visit.
Top 10 Free Things to do in Barcelona: We have you covered on free entry to museums, walking tours, great views and street festivals. While Barcelona is the most expensive city in Spain, it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Self-guided Barcelona Gaudí Tour: This self-guided tour will take you to all of the main Gaudí sites. As they are spread out, we will need to twice jump on the metro system. If you are planning on paying to enter the Gaudí houses, the monumental zone of the Park Güell, or la Sagrada Família, you should plan ahead and book tickets to avoid the lines. Antonin Gaudi was a well known architect, whose very distinctive style can be seen throughout Barcelona. Read more about him on his Wikipedia page.
Self-Guided Gothic Tour of Barcelona: This self-guided tour will show you all the main sights of the Mediterranean’s most vivacious city from the Barcelona Cathedral to the Jewish Quarter. You’ll discover some of the most beautiful views and awe-inspiring architecture spanning centuries. As a self guided tour, you choose the pace and how long you want to spend at each location.
We recommend Excursions Barcelona’s Free Walking Tour, which you can book here, but if you prefer to explore on your own. This self-guided tour will show you all the main sights of the Mediterranean’s most vivacious city.
This 47 m (155 ft.) monument to the world’s most famous sailor was built for Barcelona’s Universal Exposition of 1888. Looking around the Port Vell (old port) area today you’ll get incredible views of the hill of Montjüic, Las Ramblas, ships in the harbor, and Roy Lichtenstein’s colorful Cap de Barcelona statue along Passeig de Colom, but this would have looked very different in Columbus’s day when he returned from his first voyage to the New World and visited Barcelona in 1493. Today everything here is modern, but this is where the Roman ships would’ve come aground when they founded the city of Barcino in 25 BC.
Begin walking up Las Ramblas past the human statues and you’ll see the medieval Drassanes shipyard on your left. This is now the maritime museum of Barcelona and a must for naval enthusiasts.
As you stroll up Las Ramblas, on your left you’ll pass Arts Santa Monica, a modern gallery for travelling contemporary art, the Teatro Principal (the oldest theatre in the city, founded in 1579), and the beautifully tiled building which houses El Cordobés, the oldest and best Flamenco Tablao in the city.
Turn left on C/Nou de la Rambla and at no. 3-5 you’ll find your first Gaudí creation, Palau Güell. Built by the city’s most famous architect for his rich patron Eusebi Güell between 1886 and 1888 as Barcelona was at the height of its industrial boom and about to host the Universal Exhibition. This is the cheapest Gaudí house to visit as it’s the only one publicly owned.
As soon as we left Las Ramblas we entered the Raval neighborhood. This notorious part of town was once the city’s red light district and visitors would do well to watch their valuables in this area, especially at night. Return to Las Ramblas and almost immediately turn right for our next Gaudí piece.
Like a lot of the open spaces off of Las Ramblas, Plaça Reial was originally a convent but that was burned down in the anti-Catholic riots of 1835. The square was designed by Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó and is typical of Spanish plazas around the world. Can you see anything Gaudíesque here?
Many people miss them, but the colorful street lamps were designed by Antoni Gaudí. They were his first and only publicly funded work as he asked for more than the city fathers were willing to pay and spent years acrimoniously haggling over his fee!
There are many nice terraces for lunch or a snack in Plaça Reial though, be aware, the prices are much higher in and around Las Ramblas. For a night out, both Jamboree jazz and blues club, which later becomes a popular nightclub, and Sidecar rock club are worth a look.
Leave Plaça Reial by the arched entrance, on the left when you entered, and turn right on C/Ferran where you’ll pass lots of souvenir shops as you head up the gently sloping Mont Tabor hill where the Roman’s built their first settlement.
Plaça Sant Jaume
This is where the city is ruled from today. Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya an autonomous region within Spain with its own language, parliament and government. The Catalan government works out of the Palau de la Generalitat with its image of Saint George killing a dragon on the northern side of the square.
On the southern side of the square you’ll see the Adjuntament, or city hall. Inside here you’ll find the incredible gothic hall of the council of one hundred, who ruled the city during its first golden age in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Consell de Cent is open to visit on Sunday mornings and well worth a visit. On top of the city hall you’ll see the three flags of; Spain, Catalunya with it’s four red bars on a gold background, and Barcelona, split into four with the Catalan stripes and the white and red cross of Saint George, patron saint of the region.
Leave the square by the small C/Paradis on the upper corner of the square for a hidden gem.
Temple of Augustus
In a small dark corner of C/Paradis you’ll see an open doorway. Go into the courtyard and descend the steps on the right for a true hidden gem, the four huge Roman columns of the Temple of Augustus. When the Romans first ruled here they were not Christian and at the highest point of every city had a temple to their gods. Incredibly three of these columns had been built on top of over the years and ran through the floors and ceilings of several apartments before one resident, on seeing the forth column proudly displayed in Plaça de Reí, informed the authorities that he was living with an architectural gold mine! Be aware that the temple is closed on Mondays.
Continue on C/Paradis to the back of the Cathedral, turn right and down the hill into the Plaça del Reí.
Plaça de Reí
As you enter the square you’ll see the city history museum on the right. It’s in a fitting place with so much history here. The palace of the Counts of Barcelona, at the end of the square on the left as you entered, was first built during the brief 200-year reign of the Visigoths after the collapse of the Roman Empire. After the Visigoths, the city was briefly part of the Muslim ruled Al-Andalus, but you won’t find many traces of that in Barcelona. The Moors ruled here for less than 100 years before being conquered by the Franks who set up the first Counts of Barcelona.
During the Middle Ages these Counts spread the city’s power, conquering neighboring lands and marrying into the royal line of the Crown of Aragón. In 1469 the most famous king of Aragón, Ferdinand, married Isabella of Castile famously bringing together the two biggest kingdoms on the peninsular. Ferdinand and Isabella also funded Christopher Columbus and you’ll see copies of their contracts with him on the walls inside the Archives of the Crown of Aragón as you leave the square through the Palau de Lloctinent.
Turn right as you head down to the front of the Cathedral. You’ll pass through Plaça del Iu with the Museu Frederic Mares, which used to be the Barcelona headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition.
Head out into the bustling square in front of Barcelona Cathedral for the best views. The current building was begun in 1298 but took 150 years to build. The towers and ornate neo-gothic façade you see today were not added until the 19th Century in preparation for the Universal Exhibition.
The Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulalia the city’s first patron saint. It’s free to enter before midday and after 5pm. In the cloister, which will see soon, there are 13 geese to commemorate Santa Eulalia.
For now turn your back on the Cathedral and walk to the left.
You’ll pass the 4th Century Roman Wall on your left and walk into Plaça Nova between statues of metal letters spelling out Barcino, the original Roman name for the city. Opposite the Roman walls you’ll see some Picasso sketches engraved in the concrete decorating the ironically very ugly building that houses the College of Architects of Barcelona. Picasso grew up and learned to paint in Barcelona from 13-24 years old, and on the other side of the old town you’ll find the wonderful Museu Picasso. It pays to book in advance to avoid the lines (It is free on Sunday afternoons but the lines are huge!).
Opposite the College of Architects you’ll see the entrance to the Roman city. Head up C/Bisbe and stop in Plaça Garriga i Bachs where you can enter the cloister of the Cathedral for free. Inside you’ll find 13 geese representing Santa Eulalia’s thirteen tortures at the hands of the Romans.
On leaving the cloisters take the small C/del Bisbe de Montjüic, on your right as you leave, and you’ll head to the perhaps the city’s most tragic and picturesque square.
Plaça Sant Felip Neri
This square has been the setting for many movies and music videos in recent times but it shows scares of the biggest tragedy in Spanish history, the Civil War. In 1939 General Francisco Franco rose up in Spanish Morocco against the democratically elected government in Madrid. The next day the army on the peninsular did the same. In the big cities like Barcelona, revolutionaries defeated the uprising, and a bloody three-year civil war ensued. Franco won with the support of Hitler and Mussolini, whose air forces bombed Spain’s big cities. The shrapnel damage can be clearly seen in the façade of the church, which was being used as an orphanage at the time of the bombing in 1938. You’ll find a small plaque commemorating this on the far side of the square under the round window.
The Civil War, and 40-year dictatorship that followed, remains a taboo subject with many Spanish people. Catalans remember it as a time when their language was suppressed and political dissent was heavily punished.
Leave the square by the only other exit and turn right and then immediately left into the Call.
The Jewish Quarter
You’ll have noticed how the streets around here are very thin and labyrinthine, they go back a long time and are known as call in Catalan. Here in Barcelona and Girona, they use the word call to refer to the Jewish Quarters. During the golden age of the Crown of Aragón 20% of Barcelona’s population was Jewish and this area would have had up to 5 synagogues. The tragic expulsion of the Jewish people happened early here in Barcelona than in the rest of Spain. In 1391 angry mobs attacked the call destroying the Jewish community.
Continue past the fantastic Zona d’Ombra wine war (If you can resist a pit-stop for a glass of local produce!), past the plaça and turn right on C/Marlet, where you’ll find what is believed to be one of the lost synagogues. Today the building is an information center and for a few euros they will give you a fascinating speech about the history of the building.
Continue down C/Marlet; turn left at the bottom and then right on C/del Call. Looking up to your right you’ll see the remains of the old arched entrance to the Jewish Quarter. At the bottom of the street turn right on C/Banys Nous. This was the street of the old Roman Baths, though there are no traces of those left today, you can get fantastic churros con chocolate to snack on from Xurreria Manuel San Román. Turn left on C/de l’Ave Maria and you’ll pop out into the Plaça Sant Josep Oriol at the side of Santa Maria del Pí.
Santa Maria del Pí
Original Catalan Gothic architecture tends to be less decorated and simpler than northern Gothic, and Santa Maria del Pí, begun in 1391, is no exception. Walk to the front of the church to see one of the most beautiful rose windows in the city. You can climb the church tower by day for breathtaking views of the Gothic Quarter, or enter the church later in the evening for one of their enchanting Spanish guitar shows.
On leaving Santa Maria del Pí turn left on C/del Cardenal Casañas.
You’ll arrive at Las Ramblas by the ornate modernista, Casa Bruno Quadros, with its Asian style dragon decoration commemorating the original owner’s import-export business. Cross to the center of Las Ramblas and you’ll see to your left the luxuriant Liceu Opera House and, under your very feet, a work of art by one of the world’s foremost surrealists, Joan Miró. Miró was born here in the Barrio Gótico in 1893; the same year anarchists were bombing the Liceu Theatre. For a fascinating insight into the world of Joan Miró, check out the Fundació Miró museum up on the hill of Montjüic.
Casting your eyes back down Las Ramblas, you might still be able to catch a glimpse of our old friend Columbus, but we’re going to head up Las Ramblas and end our tour right outside the city’s beating heart, the fabulous Sant Josep La Boquería food market.
After all this walking you deserve some rest and refueling, and what better place than an 800 year old market. La Boquería is named after the gateway where peasants first came in 1217 to sell their wares to Barcelona citizens without paying the taxes imposed inside the walls. Today you’ll find the place packed full of bars and restaurants, or, for a cheaper option, buy your own food and sit and eat in the little park behind the market.
This is the end of the tour, for a quick getaway the Liceu metro station on line 3 is right in front of the market. Enjoy Barcelona!
The following are our Top 10 Free Things to do in Barcelona to enjoy the city without dipping your hand into your pocket:
Although most of the Modernista buildings in Barcelona are now extortionately priced to enter, the city’s unique art-nouveau style architecture can be enjoyed from the street for free, and it really is an open-air museum. Check out our self-guided Gaudí walking tour for a good itinerary.
After 3pm on Sundays a number of museums offer free entry. Though the lines at the Picasso Museum can get very long on Sunday afternoons, it is a must see for those who like to follow an artist’s development. The history museum with its roman ruins and access to the old medieval palace is fantastic for history buffs, as is the maritime museum in the old Drassanes ship-yard at the bottom of Las Ramblas. Barcelona’s Gothic Cathedral is also free every morning before midday and after 5pm.
Barcelona has a vibrant street art scene typified by bright colorful designs. There are a number of legal walls where you can enjoy an ever-changing gallery of urban art, or even have a go yourself! You could also visit the fantastic Base Elements and Montana Colors
As well as urban art you will find many sculptures on the city’s streets from more traditional modern artists like Frank Gehry’s golden fish by the beach, Roy Lichtenstein’s head, and Joan Miró’s work behind the Arenas bull-ring, on Las Ramblas and at the airport, Fernando Botero’s fat cat in Raval and many, many more…
All around the city there are breath-taking views to be had from climbing the many hills. The best by far is from the mountain of Tibidabo with the church of Sagrat Cor and a vintage amusement park. From the top of the mountain you can descend away from Barcelona and loose yourself in the natural beauty of the Collserola park.
A little closer to the city center, on the same range of hills as Gaudí’s Park Güell, are the much less crowded civil war anti-aircraft placements, from where today the city lays peacefully at your feet.
The easiest view point to reach from the city center is Montjüic, there is a funicular up but you don’t need to be mega fit to walk up for free. On Friday and Saturday nights don’t miss the free magic fountain displays from the steps of the Palau Nacional.
Let’s face it Barcelona is cool for so many reasons but it’s unique selling point are the beaches in the middle of the city. Although easily walkable from the Gothic Quarter, from there you will arrive at the most crowded beaches by Barceloneta. We recommend taking the metro to Ciutadella Vila Olimpica for access to the beach at Bogatell, or even heading further down to Llacuna metro, though from there the walk to the beach is longer. For LGBT travellers the walk from Llacuna or Poble Nou is worth it, as you’ll arrive at the LGBT friendly Marbella beach.
If you time your visit right, you could catch one of Barcelona’s myriad free street festivals. The biggest are La Mercè (link only available in Catalan) in late September when the whole city is full of free live music in the evenings and packed full of traditional events like els castellers by day.
At the end of June Barcelona celebrates Sant Joan, or mid-summer, by heading to the beach with cava and fireworks to await sunrise.
Each neighborhood of Barcelona has it’s own street festival throughout the year. The most famous is undoubtedly the Gràcia festival (Link only in Catalan) at the end of August. The streets of the whole neighborhood are decorated with different themes each year, each competing to be the best in the barrio. With live music everywhere and many traditional events for families by day, this is not to be missed if you are in town at the time.
Every neighborhood of Barcelona has it’s own fresh food market, most have bars and restaurants inside and you really get a good feel of how local people live by visiting and eating in the markets. The most famous by far is the Boquería on Las Ramblas, but because this is so popular with tourists, the prices are higher than elsewhere. In the old town, Santa Caterina market, with it’s cool colorful roof, is a lot more down to earth than the Boquería. Up in the Eixample the Mercat de la Concepció is great, as is the Abacería market in Gràcia.
Barcelona does not just have great food markets, it also has a fantastic flea market, Encants, in its stunning new building by Glories metro, and for book lovers the Sant Antoni Market on Sunday mornings is unmissable.
Take a stroll through the city’s parks. The most famous by far is Gaudí’s Park Güell. Although you have to now pay for the Monumental Zone with it’s mosaic bench, the rest of the park is free all the time, and even the Monumental Zone is free after 18:00.
Closer to the city center is the equally beautiful Parc Ciutadella with its lake, fountain and Modernista architecture there’s lots to see, but more interesting is to relax and people watch as Barcelonins get sporty and creative, playing music, jogging, dancing and practicing circus skills!
Free culture. Away from the tourist orientated Flamenco shows and nightclubs, there are plenty of small bars offering live music for free. Check out the jam’s a Café Marula (Wednesdays and Sundays at the time of writing), La Rouge and Gypsy Lou in Raval have shows every night, or get up and have a go yourself at an open mic or jam session. For the more proficient there’s Jazz Si, but anyone can get up at Open Mic Wednesdays, on Thursdays at Freedonia, or on Saturdays at Belchica.
Down at the beach on summer evenings you can catch free independent films screenings organized by Cinema Lliure.
For a regularly updated list of free cultural events in Barcelona, check out; BCN For Free.
For a fun, interactive and more in depth tour of Gaudí’s life and work, as well as the work of his contemporaries and the background which influenced the great man, we recommend Excursions Barcelona’s City Biking tour, which covers three of the more well known sites associated with Gaudí.
If you prefer to explore on your own this self-guided tour will take you to all of the main Gaudí sites. As they are spread out, we will need to twice jump on the metro system. The Barcelona metro is safe, clean and efficient. You can buy one, two or three day passes, but most people choose the flexibility of the T-10 ticket. The T-10 gives you 10 journeys, which can be shared between your group and have no expiration date, for less than 10€.
If you are planning on paying to enter the Gaudí houses, the monumental zone of the Park Güell, or la Sagrada Família, you should plan ahead and book tickets to avoid the lines.
Begin the tour in Plaça Reial, just off Las Ramblas (closest metro, Liceu on line 3, the green line). If you did the Gothic Walking Tour we recommend (Hyper-Link), you will have already visited the square.
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born in the Catalan countryside, near the town of Reus in 1852. His father was a Coppersmith and metal work would be a feature of his designs throughout his life. He came to Barcelona to study architecture, graduating in 1878. As a student he worked on many projects under various masters, his first and only public works are the street lamps here in Plaça Reial. They show the city crest of Barcelona and are topped by the helmet of Hermes, a symbol for commerce. Barcelona has more symbols of Hermes than any other city in the world. Walking the streets today it may seem very relaxed, but in Gaudí’s day the city was a hive of activity with industry booming and revolutionizing the city.
Head back to Las Ramblas and take the road opposite, C/Nou de la Rambla.
On the left you will see Palau Güell. You may also have seen this on our self-guided gothic walking tour. (Hyper-Link). This palace was built by Gaudí between 1886 and 1888 for Eusebi Güell. Güell would be the architect’s main patron throughout his life. Note the letters E and G sculpted into the two gates. The parabolic arch of the two gates is very typical of Gaudí and would be a recurring theme in his work. So too, the trencadis cracked ceramic decoration on the building’s colorful chimneys.
This is the cheapest Gaudí building to enter. The ticket office is to the left of the building. On the first Sunday of the month there are a limited number of free entrances available after 4pm.
Head back to Las Ramblas and turn left, up the hill. Go down into the metro using the stairs on the right of Las Ramblas as you look up the hill. If you do not already have a ticket, use the touch screen machines to buy your ticket paying in cash or by card. Un Viatge is a one-journey ticket. As we will be using the metro again later, we recommend buying the T-10 ticket.
Take the metro (Line 3, there is only one line in this station) in direction Trinitat Nova. Get off at Passeig de Gràcia station. Head to the exit and up into the light.
You will come out of the metro by the Manzana de la Discordia, the most famous block of Modernista architecture in the world.
Manzana de la Discordia
Passeig de Gràcia is the most expensive street in Spain. You will notice the streets around here are all in blocks. This is the Eixample neighborhood, built according to a plan laid out after the city’s walls were destroyed in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Apple of Discord is a Greek legend about an apple fought over by the goddesses in order to be considered the most beautiful. Here the name is used an allegory. We have five buildings by five different Modernista architects, all fighting to be considered the most beautiful!
Considered by many as their favorite Gaudí building, Casa Batlló was renovated by Gaudí between 1904 and 1906, for Señor Batlló, a rich textile magnate. It is typical of Gaudí’s dislike of straight lines and preoccupation with color. He was a devout Catholic and saw God as the world’s ultimate architect, trying to copy his maker’s work as much as possible in everything he built.
Casa Batlló is often called the house of bones for the columns in the lower windows and its balconies that look like skulls. Many see the Catalan legend of Sant Jordi slaying his dragon in the scaly skin-like tiled roof with the crossed topped tower representing the knight’s lance entering his victim.
At the time of writing Casa Batlló is 20€ to enter and the queues can be very long. We recommend booking in advance to avoid unnecessary waiting times.
For a free peek at the back of Casa Batlló go around the corner onto C/Aragó and check out the view from inside the hardware store.
Head up Passeig de Gràcia to Casa Milà. Note the tiles under your feet on Passeig de Gràcia, they were designed by Gaudí for the inside of Casa Batlló.
Casa Milà, or La Pedrera, was designed by Gaudí as a luxury apartment building for the Milà family. It was the first building in the world where the walls are not load bearing. Instead Gaudí designed a central skeleton frame and then hung the giant, undulating stones off of the fame.
Each metal balcony is hand-hammered and unique. On the roof you will see more examples of trencadís tile mosaics. Where the façade meets the roof you will see small inscriptions in Catalan of the Catholic prayer and directly above the door a small letter M. This represents María or Mary, mother of Christ. Casa Milà was built between 1906 and 1912, but Gaudí quit the project before finishing it due to arguments about money and design with the Milà family.
Many in Barcelona did not like Gaudí’s designs and Casa Milà was nicknamed La Pedrera, or the quarry as an insult. The original plan was for a statue of María on the corner of the building, but the Milà family scrapped this idea after a series of church burnings in 1909.
A visit to La Pedrera is also 20€ or you may choose to visit at night for live Jazz music on the roof. You may have already seen the roof in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film the Passenger featuring Jack Nicholson!
Continue up Passeig de Gràcia and enter the Diagonal metro station. Take Line 3 again (the green line) in direction Trinitat Nova. Get off at Vallcarca.
Walk down Avinguda de Vallcarca and then turn left up the hill on C/de les Medes. Two escalators will help you climb the hill. Turn left on Avinguda del Coll del Portell and enter the Park via the back entrance.
This is the back entrance of Park Güell and allows us to first see the incredible view of Barcelona from the Park’s pinnacle, the three crosses. This is representative of Jesus’s crucifixion on Calvary hill. The whole Park leads up this way with the incredible snaking raised walkways built by Gaudí.
The Park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was originally conceived as a luxury gated community for Barcelona’s elite, but due to it’s remoteness from the city there was little interest in building on the 60 planned lots and in the end only two houses were built, neither of them designed by Gaudí. The architect eventually moved into one of the houses in the park.
The use of the English, Park, instead of the Catalan, Parc, is a reflection of Güell’s interest in the English garden city movement.
As you head down through Park Güell, you will eventually reach the Monumental Zone. This is where the most impressive of Gaudí’s designs are to be found, including the world famous mosaic bench. To enter this area you now have to pay (8€ at the time of writing, with a 1€ discount for buying online). You may want to consider downloading the free mobile app audio guide for Android or Apple.
This is perhaps the most fairytale like of Gaudí’s work and it is no coincidence the architect was inspired by the tale of Hansel and Gretal. As you go down the stairs you will encounter the most iconic Gaudí image, the trencadís mosaic lizard. You can then walk amongst the columns that hold up the platform with the bench where you were standing earlier. This was designed as a central market place for traders to enter the Park and sell to the rich residents, but as only two houses where built it never got put to use.
You can pay extra to visit Gaudí’ house, though many are underwhelmed by the information inside.
A better option is the 4D Gaudí Cinema on C/Larrard, outside of the main gates as you head downhill towards Lesseps metro. This virtual tour is just 9€ and will show you inside of all of Gaudí’s main buildings. It’s great for big and small kids alike as you fly on a simulator through turn of the 20th Century Barcelona!
Once you’re done with the Park, head downhill to the Travessera de Dalt ring road and turn right until you see Lesseps metro. More energetic travellers may wish to take the ring road the other way, walk to the Modernista Hospital Sant Pau by the architect Domènech i Montaner, and then down to La Sagrada Família.
If you’re taking the metro it’s line 3 again, this time in direction Zone Universitària. Go two stops to Diagonal and change for the blue line, 5. Take this in direction Vall d’Hebron, two stops and get off at Sagrada Família.
Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece has 3 main façades. Start with the Passion façade to the west of the church on C/Sardenya.
The idea to build a church here was not Gaudí’s but after one year the chief architect was fired and Gaudí got the job in 1883. Many at the time were concerned about the loss of faith amongst the lower classes and Gaudí’s design was intended to make the church a beacon calling the masses back to faith.
After ending his work on Casa Milà, Gaudí argued with the Milà family about his fee. At this time his last remaining family members died leaving the unmarried Gaudí alone. Seeing a corrupt world around him Gaudí decided only to work on religious projects for the remainder of his life. In 1926 the 73 year old architect decided to move into the construction site at Sagrada Família and one day after work that same year he was heading down to a church in the old city to prey when he was hit by a tram, later dying of his injuries. The great architect’s tomb is inside his masterpiece, so he did not finish the project, but he said it would take 200 years to complete his design, so he knew he would not himself finish it.
The sculptures of the final days of Jesus’ life on the Passion façade are by Josep María Subirachs. They should be read from bottom left to top right in an S shape, starting with the last supper on the bottom left and ending with the crucifixion at the top. This whole side is symbolic of death with the sun setting on this façade. Walk around the church to the opposite façade to see what Gaudí finished in his own lifetime.
The darker stained stone shows us exactly what Gaudí finished during his life. This is the nativity façade and shows the traditional images from the birth of Christ. The smaller triangular portico to the left is dedicated to Joseph and shows scenes from before the birth, the small portico to the right is dedicated to Mary and shows scenes of Jesus growing up, and the grand central triangular portico is dedicated to Jesus and shows the baby Jesus in a manger at the bottom above the doors. To the left and right are the shepherds and kings bringing their gifts and all around angels celebrate the birth with celestial music.
The four imposing towers are replicated on the other side and will be replicated again on the bottom façade when it’s finished. These twelve towers will represent the apostles. When the project is finished there will be an additional tower to Mary at the back, four towers to the evangelists in the middle and the largest tower representing Christ will rise from the middle to a height of 174m making this the tallest church in the world.
We are now in the final phase of building and for a fascinating insight into how they are going about it, check out the current chief architects talk. The planned completion date in 2026, for the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death, whether or not they make that, you do not have to wait to see the project completed as there is a fantastic computer simulation of the finished project.
If you pre-booked a ticket for Sagrada Família you enter on the nativity side of the church, if you did not you can queue up on the passion façade side. If do go inside, you are not paying an entrance fee, you are giving a charitable donation to the Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Família.