As many of you know I am a life long art lover. I was an art history major in college and feel lucky that I am able to use that in my every day work at the art gallery. On my first trip to Barcelona, with Diana, I was determined to conquer all of the unique culture the city had to offer. While it certainly is not a comprehensive list of Barcelona’s many attractions, I’ve listed my art-centric highlights from our one-week trip.
1. Gaudi / Modernism Walking Tour. I highly recommend Sandeman’s walking tours as a great way to get acquainted with almost any European city. They have a free version, but I wanted to go a bit deeper so we paid – a mere 14 euro – for the tour focusing on Antoni Gaudí’s famed Art Nouveau architecture that is so unique to Barcelona. It was a great way to get our bearings and know what sights to add to our itinerary. We also took a the tapas tour through Sandeman’s, which was a fun way to learn about the cuisine and meet travelers from all over the world.
2. Sagrada Família. The undisputed highlight of Gaudí’s career is this incredible cathedral. Groundbreaking happened in 1882 and the facade is still under continuous construction today. The interior was recently completed and it showcases the most beautiful and unique stained glass I’ve ever seen. Each window is one color so the interior light spans the rainbow throughout the day depending on where the sun is in the sky. I went when it was bathed in orange/ red light and it was stunning! It’s easy to get glazed eyes when it comes to the great European cathedrals – it can feel like you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all – but this modernist masterpiece is in a class by itself. Unlike most churches, admission is not free so be sure to buy your timed ticket in advance.
3. Museu Picasso. I am a huge fan of single artist museums as I always feel like I learn the most from a highly focused viewing. At the Barcelona museum they naturally focus on the artist’s early life when he lived in the city, including Picasso’s dozens of interpretations of Diego Velazquez Las Meninas – a favorite work of young Pablo’s! While overall I think the collection is stronger at the Musée Picasso in Paris – its home in a Chateau doesn’t hurt either – there is still a reason the line is constantly around the block for entrance to this Barcelona jewel. Saint James makes a special shirt available in the store that is inspired by the artist’s lifelong affinity for their classic striped top.
4. Casa Batlló. This private residence designed by Gaudí is available to tour! The interior was inspired by organic forms of the sea which means there is not a 90 degree angle anywhere on site. The architect rethought everything from door handles to window panes to adhere to his ocean inspiration. Certainly one of the most unique architectural spaces I’ve ever visited, it is worth the higher entrance fee.
5. Fundació Joan Miró. Continuing my love of single artist museums, I was excited to learn from a friend about the Miró Foundation gallery in Barcelona. Joan Miró’s abstract style and artistic philosophy hugely inspired the American abstract expressionist movement. Artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollack looked to Miró as the foundation of their style that would ultimately shift the center of the art world from Paris to New York. It was amazing to learn more about him as an artist and see such a complete body of work. In regards to getting there, I recommend taking a cab as it is in the middle of hilly park on the outskirts of the city.
6. Park Güell. Although the park is on the edge of the city – and up about 1,000 stairs, wear your walking shoes! – it is featured in every movie set in Barcelona. Designed by – you guessed it – Antoni Gaudí originally as a private residential complex, it has been a public park since 1926. It features the iconic mosaic-covered benches and the pink home of Gaudí, which is now a small museum dedicated to him. The center and best known areas of the park require a paid ticket for entry.
Barcelona certainly earns its reputation as an artsy city. While the museum offerings are not on the level of other major capitals, the imprint left by Antoni Gaudí’s unique take on modernism makes the entire city a walking museum well worth a visit!