Barcelona's Architecture Hot Spots
There’s more to Catalonia's capital architecture than the Sagrada Familia.
There are so many reasons to love Barcelona. Home to vast Picasso and Miro museums, it has some of the best modern art collections in Europe. Set by the Mediterranean—and a short drive from the legendary (but now closed) El Bulli restaurant—it’s famous for its amazing food, in particular its seafood and tapas. The people also happen to be really hot, and it’s a party city that stays up very, very late (dinner is at 10-11pm, just to give you an idea). Apart from the amazing lifestyle, it’s also a stunningly beautiful city. There’s a medieval neighborhood with winding streets (Barrio Gotico), bold contemporary towers by the sea, and block after block of Moderniste buildings, a style that reached its peak with local architect Antoni Gaudi’s revolutionary sculptures-slash-buildings. His two most famous are the Sagrada Familia and the Casa Batllo, which you’ll most probably want to see, but the places selected here will allow you to go beyond the postcard icons, and beyond Gaudi: greats like Richard Meier, Mies van der Rohe and Jean Nouvel have left their trace in Barcelona, too.
La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
Provenca 261-265, 934-845-900. Open daily 9am-6:30pm (Nov-Feb), 9am-8pm (Mar-Oct)
Of course you’ll want to see the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral that remains under construction to this day, or his psychedelic Casa Batllo. But architecture buffs shouldn’t miss the Casa Mila. For one, its exhibition on the top floor is one of the best recaps of Gaudi’s work, with quality models, videos and displays. But it also shows off Gaudi’s ability to do smart—and elegant—interior design for what basically amount to condo units, something that resonates deeply with our urban souls. To get in, make sure you buy the Articket BCN (www.articketbcn.org). Hardly advertised at this particular venue, it grants access to seven museums for 25 euros. La Pedrera alone is 12 euros so it is definitely worth it.
Fundacio Antoni Tapies
Arago 255, 934-870-315. Open Tue-Sun, 10am-7pm
Just three blocks away, this solemn structure isn’t as bold as Gaudi’s nature-inspired, free-form extravagances, but it remains a shining example of the Moderniste architecture. Turned into a foundation for the arts in 1984 by artist Antoni Tapies, the building was given a crazy frizz of metallic hair while the vast hall inside now plays houses a permanent collection, rotating exhibitions and a gorgeous library paneled in wood. Also on the Articket BCN (see above).
Mies van der Rohe Pavilion
Av. Frances Ferrer I Guardia 7, Parc de Montjuic, 934-234-016. Open daily 10am-8pm
Leaving the Eixample area for the heights of Montjuic Parc, you can catch a bird’s eye view of the city and visit a treasure of modern architecture. Set at the foot of the Palau Nacional housing the National Museum, this simple flat building was originally built as the German pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. It was dismantled in 1930 and rebuilt in 1983-1986 but its purity and elegance have remained the template for the last 80 years of modern architecture. Entrance EUR4.60.
Montjuic Communications Tower, Fundacio Miro
Olympic Park, Parc de Montjuic
The Montjuic Communications Tower, erected in 1992 for the Olympics, is a dizzying sight—and the plaza surrounding it commands views of Barcelona’s quiet backcountry. The Olympic Park itself isn’t much to look at, so get back into the park and follow the signs to the Fundacio Joan Miro (Open Tue-Sat 10am-7pm, Thu 10am-9:30pm, Sun 10am-2:30pm, entrance included in Articket BCN), where you can take in the artist’s colorful whimsies and the rugged, Corbusier-inspired architecture of the museum housing the late artist’s vast collection. You can then take a cable car back down to the city for panoramic views of the harbor.
Placa dels Angels, 1. 934-120-810. Open Mon-Fri 11am-7:30pm.
Designed by US Architect Richard Meier, the MACBA is a work of art in itself, often upstaging its vast collection of contemporary art, particularly the more obscure conceptual and mixed-media pieces. The building’s circulation takes place in a vast light well behind a glass façade where columns and beams create powerful shadows as the sun travels above the Placa dels Angels.
Corner of Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer Badajoz. Lights on 9-11pm.
To round off your modern architecture tour, you can also jump in a cab and head to the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes for a peek at Pritzker Prize-winner Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar, an office building for a big utilities company turned global corporation (Agbar). It’s particularly stunning at night, when its 4,500 LED illuminate the façade.
High-end> The Majestic Hotel & Spa. Located within a very short walk of the Casa Batllo, right on Passeig de Gracia, this is the grande dame of hotels in Barcelona. Rooftop pool, wise concierges, well-appointed rooms with Bulgari amenities, five-star GL (grand luxe) rating—if you can afford the room rates, this is the kind of place that definitely helps to recharge after a long day of walking. We found rates starting from EUR259 in October and EUR359 in September but, hey, book two nights and you can get the Articket for free. www.hotelmajestic.es
Mid-range> Emma Hotel. One thing we love about Spain is the Room Mate Hotels chain. They’re affordable, they do a killer breakfast buffet and the clean, modern rooms have just enough designer touches to avoid boredom. Their hotel in Barcelona is a two-minute walk from Casa Batllo, so it’s in the heart of the Eixample neighorhood’s best modernist architecture and the best shopping. We found rates starting from EUR107 for October, but September was double that. www.room-matehotels.com
Thais need a Shengen Visa. No point in calling or trying to get an appointment with the embassy, you have to first email firstname.lastname@example.org your name, passport number, dates and purpose of travel. They will respond within two weeks. After you submit your full application, allow 15 calendar days for them to process it. If you’d like to hear the recorded message for yourself, call 02-661-8284.
There’s no direct flight from Bangkok to Barcelona, so your options are as follows: Air France (www.airfrance.co.th) gets you there the fastest (15.5 hours) via Paris starting at B40,000 roundtrip. On the other hand, Finnair (www.finnair.com) gets you the cheapest deal (from B32,245 roundtrip), but that means a 25-hour flight via Helsinki. Other alternatives include Air Berlin (via Dusseldorf, from B35,696, www.airberlin.com), Qatar Airways (via Doha, from B37,160, www.qatar.com/th), Egypt Air (via Cairo, from B37,970, www.egyptair.com), KLM (via Amsterdam, from B40,125, www.klm.com) and Swiss Air (via Zurich, from B37,185, www.swiss.com).
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