Travel Guide: Barcelona

by | 23. May 2018


The Barcelona Pavilion. Photo by Ashley Pomeroy/CC

Many cities claim it, but in Barcelona’s case it’s most certainly true. There is no city like it. It’s a place of colourful contrasts. Of culture and nightlife. And truly spectacular architecture.

Primarily known among architects in part for the eccentric and sculptural buildings of Antoni Gaudí – sprawling, organic and endlessly inventive in form – out of which the Sagrada Família Basilica (although still incomplete) is the most baffling. And in part for Mies van der Rohe’s masterpiece of modernism, the Barcelona Pavilion, known for the simplicity of its form, as well as its extravagant use of expensive materials.

Casa Milà by Gaudí. View at dusk. Photo © Diliff/CC

Among urban planners, though, the city’s reputation rests largely on the so-called Cerdá plan, one of the most hardcore ever city planning schemes.  This 19th century expansion of the city beyond its former fortification walls may seem radical today with its rigid grid, but it was in fact very considerate towards the existing city fabric – especially when compared to Hausmann’s contemporary ruthless renovation of Paris.

The  result of the Cerdá plan, however, was a city split in two: a bustling, old city center surrounded by a vast region of lush, quiet courtyards of almost exactly the same dimensions. Existing in parallel but dependent on eachother, they appear like two diametrically opposed sides of the same shining coin.

You’ll find buildings in Barcelona spanning all eras of the city’s 2,000 years old history: The oldest date back to the time of the Romans but there are also plenty of buildings from the Gothic period, the Catalan art nouveau and – since the city escaped the tyrannical reign of Franco – modern additions have been shooting up all over the city, adding further to the urban patchwork that makes up the Catalonian capital.

Several international architectural superstars such as Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel, Herzog & de Meuron and Álvaro Siza (to name a few) have thus far put their distinct thumbprint on the city.

From Nouvel’s Torre Agbar, known for its glimmering, geyser-mimicking facade (and for looking suspiciously like the Gherkin) on the large scale to Siza’s Meteorology Center on the smaller scale – they are all sculptural additions to a vibrant city refusing to ever be compartmentalized.

We’ve collected a small selection of must-sees below.

Herzog & de Meuron

Torre Agbar by Ateliers Jean Nouvel in Barcelona, Spain, exterior Photo ©Thomas Mayer
Torre Agbar
Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Museum of Contemporary Art
Richard Meier & Partners

Auditorium and Music Centre exterior facadePhoto: arcspace
Auditorium and Music Centre
Rafael Moneo

Diagonal Mar Park
Enric Miralles-Benedetta Tagliabue (EMBT)

Funeral Home in Sant Joan Despí by Batlle i Roig Arquitectes in Barcelona, Spain. Exterior view. Exterior view. Photo: Jordi Surroca
Funeral Home 
Batlle i Roig Arquitectes

Residence for Architecture Students by HARQUITECTES + dataAE in Barcelona, Spain. Exterior view. Photo: Adrià Goula
Residence for Architecture Students

W Barcelona Hotel in Barcelona, Spain, by Ricardo Bofill- Taller de ArquitecturaPhoto: Ricardo Bofill - Taller de Arquitectura
W Barcelona Hotel
Ricardo Bofill

Omm Hotel
Juli Capella