Travel Guide: Barcelona
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.
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.
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.