Self-Guided Gaudí Tour of Barcelona
This post is a Gaudi tour of Barcelona. Use can use it to get around on your own or to discover some of the magnificent city architecture associated with Gaudi and Modernism.
There are numerous “free tours” or rather pay-what-you-wish tours that cover Gaudi buildings.
These tours run daily in both English and Spanish. You can book them for free here.
Related Tours in Barcelona:
Self-guided Barcelona Gaudí Tour
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€.
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.
Enjoy your visit! Book your walking tour of Barcelona on the Book Online Page.