7 UNESCO-Approved Stops on a Wonderful, Weird Tour of Gaudí’s Barcelona

It’s always the perfect time to explore the famed architect’s lasting imprint on Catalonia’s most beloved city.

Interior of the Casa Vicens in Barcelona with fireplace and colorful tile work

Out of the 14 buildings Gaudí designed in Barcelona, 7 are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Courtesy of Casa Vicens/Pol Viladoms

Barcelona is practically synonymous with Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. The modernist’s style combines Catalan and Moorish architectural influences with a twist of surrealism: Across his 14 buildings in the city, balcony railings seem to melt, rooftops come festooned with towers of berries, and columns mimic trees sprouting from a forest floor.

Gaudí was born in rural Catalonia, the youngest of five children; his father was a coppersmith who specialized in making boilers. From a young age, Gaudí suffered from chronic illnesses, including early onset rheumatoid arthritis, and his health problems were only exacerbated by the frequent fasts he would undertake as a strict Roman Catholic. (He was such a fervent believer, in fact, that he’s been nicknamed “God’s architect” and there have been calls for his beatification.) In 1878, he graduated from Barcelona’s School of Architecture while completing his compulsory military service, and he worked in his private architectural practice for more than 50 years. Sadly, Gaudí died when he was 73 after being hit by a trolley—due to his shabby clothing, he wasn’t given medical aid in a timely manner (bystanders thought he was a beggar); he died a few days after the accident.

After Gaudí’s death in 1926, his work fell out of favor, and during the Spanish Civil War, his workshop was ransacked and many important artifacts, models, and documents were destroyed. However, Gaudí’s work experienced a resurgence in the 1950s when his oeuvre was rediscovered by Spanish architect Josep Lluís Sert and Salvador Dalí. Basílica de la Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s most famous work, is now Spain’s most popular tourist site—but there is plenty more Gaudí spotting to do in Barcelona. Of the 14 buildings he designed in Barcelona, seven are now UNESCO World Heritage sites. Here’s your guide to seeing all of them the next time you visit Barcelona.

The exterior of the very colorful Casa Vicens in Barcelona

Built between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens is characterized by its colorful tiling and clear Moorish influence.

Photo by Marco Fine/Shutterstock

1. Casa Vicens

Where: Carrer de les Carolines, 20–26, 08012
When: Monday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Visit: Guided tours start at $22, casavicens.org

The first home Gaudí designed, Casa Vicens was commissioned by Manel Vicens Montaner, a stockbroker, as a private summer house and completed in 1885. The construction is considered Gaudí’s first major artistic accomplishment and the first building example of Catalan Modernisme (an art movement in northeastern Spain at the turn of the 20th century, which embraced nature-inspired influences and vibrant colors). Privately owned for many years, the property finally opened to the public in 2017. Opt for the guided, one-hour tour to view Gaudí’s bright and playful celebrations of nature, including papier-mâché olive leaves that cover one ceiling, ceramic ivy vines that stretch across another, and Islamic-style painted tiles. Before you leave, visit the rooftop for a scenic view of Barcelona and the surrounding neighborhood.

Exterior of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia has been under construction for 144 years.

Photo by Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

2. La Sagrada Família

Where: C/de Mallorca, 401, 08013
When: Daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Visit: Tickets start at $27 per person, sagradafamilia.org

Easily the most impressive of all of his buildings, the sandstone Sagrada Família was Gaudí’s last design and has famously remained under construction since the project began in 1882—it’s the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world and has become synonymous with Barcelona. Considered by many to be the most striking—and controversial—sight in the city, the Gothic-inspired structure was designed with 18 towers, although only 8 are complete. (You can buy a special ticket to climb the towers for superlative city views.) The building was long projected to be finished in 2026, but given delays caused by the COVID pandemic, it’s not likely that it will be completed then; a new date hasn’t been set yet. However, La Sagrada Família already functions as a working basilica: Step inside to admire the brilliant stained glass windows, the building’s cross-inspired shape, and statues depicting geese, turtles, berries, cabbages, and more. The dream-like design has surprises around every corner, inside and out, so take your time to appreciate the rich details.

The top of Casa Milà in Barcelona

The Casa Milà is known for its rough exterior and wavy roof.

Courtesy of Catalunya La Pedrera Foundation

3. Casa Milà

Where: Passeig de Gràcia, 92, 08008
When: Daily 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Visit: Tickets start at $26 per person, lapedrera.com

Also known as La Pedrera (which means “quarry”), this former home set on the elegant Passeig de Gràcia was designed by Gaudí in the early 20th century for newlyweds Pere Milà and Roser Segimon. The notoriously fickle architect changed his plans for the building several times during its construction, leading to several delays, fines, and some trouble with the city.

Casa Milà is regarded as one of the architect’s most well-known works of civic architecture because of its scale and eye-catching, undulating facade. Inside, check out his famously ergonomic furniture, modernist moldings and fixtures, and spectacularly patterned wood floors, as well as an exhibit featuring models of Gaudí's major works. But it’s the unusual rooftop—a series of staircases and walkways with statue-topped chimneys—that steals the show.

The interior of the Palau Guell in Barcelona

The Palau Güell was used as a backdrop in the 1975 film The Passenger, which starred Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider.

Photo by silverfox999/Shutterstock

4. Palau Güell

Where: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3–5
When: Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Visit: General admission starts at $13 per person, inici.palauguell.cat

Built between 1886 and 1890, the Palau Güell (or Güell Palace) was designed for politician and industrialist Eusebi Güell, an avid fan of Gaudí. Thematically, Palau Güell is darker than Gaudí’s later works and is considered one of the first art nouveau buildings. The exterior of the building is uncharacteristically simple, but the interiors explode with vibrancy and elaborate decoration. To create Palau Güell, the architect used a combination of wrought iron, ceramics, glass, wood, and stone taken from Güell’s quarries.

For an extravagant palace, Palau Güell’s location is notable—it’s situated in the Raval district, considered a rundown neighborhood during the late 1800s. Hardly the place where one would expect to find the home of an aristocrat. However, Güell wanted his new home to be located close to the old Güell House, which he had inherited. He envisioned the Palau Güell to be a meeting place for the upper echelons of Barcelona society and asked for a number of luxury amenities to be added, including a three-story-high central hall, a smoking lounge, a concert hall, and even a horse stable, located in the basement—all of which you can take a peek at with the price of admission.

A view from the top of Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Park Güell was initially intended to be a housing development but was later converted into a park.

Photo by Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock

5. Park Güell

Where: Carrer d’Olot, 13, 08024
When: Daily 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Visit: General admission starts at $11 per person, parkguell.barcelona

Surrounded by gardens, this beloved urban park boasts Gaudí-designed touches via colorful mosaics, ergonomic benches, and a famous tiled lizard sculpture. Construction of Park Güell began in 1900, when Barcelona was experiencing an economic and cultural boom, and when Gaudí was going through his naturalism period (an artistic movement inspired by how things really were in everyday life).

The sprawling preserve’s hills offer views of Barcelona and on a warm and breezy day, Park Güell is a lovely spot to stretch your legs and take in those very Instagrammable Barcelona rooftops. Gaudí initially planned to build a chapel at the highest point in the park, El Calvari, but instead erected a monument with three crosses—the views from the top are not to be missed.

The curious exterior of Casa Batlló in Barcelona

With its skull and bones motif, Casa Batlló is hard to miss.

Photo by Alan Tan Photography/Shutterstock

6. Casa Batlló

Where: Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007
When: Daily 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Visit: General admission starts at $36 per person, casabatllo.es

Located in the heart of Barcelona not far from Casa Milà, Casa Batló is considered one of Gaudí’s great artistic triumphs and perhaps his most curious work—the exterior resembles a series of skulls and bones. The building was initially constructed in 1877 by one of Gaudí’s professors, Emilio Sala Cortés, and was purchased by a local businessman, Josep Batlló y Casanovas, in 1903, who wanted to demolish it since it was built before the introduction of electric lighting in homes. Gaudí was given complete artistic control over the project and decided not to destroy the old construction but instead to renovate it. During 1904 to 1906, the property was transformed from a drab apartment building to the fanciful and vibrantly tiled creation you can see today.

Casa Batllò offers tours during the day and night, which both feature use of immersive, virtual art. During night tours, however, Casa Batlló is bathed in special lighting that makes the building seem even more magical than during the day—projections that aren’t seen during daylight tours are also on view.

The interior of the church portion of the Güell Crypt in Barcelona

The Güell Crypt is part of a textile community planned by Gaudí's patron, Eusebi Güell.

Photo by TETSU Snowdrop/Shutterstock

7. Cripta de la Colonia Güell

Where: Carrer Claudi Güell, 08690 La Colònia Güell
When: Daily 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Visit: Guided tours start at $13 per person, gaudicoloniaguell.org

This location’s name, Cripta de la Colonia Güell or “Crypt Güell,” is a bit of a misnomer: There is no crypt here, but rather, a small, unfinished chapel that has an incomplete, underground level—the project halted in 1914 when Gaudí’s biggest fan and patron, Güell, passed away. The church was part of an ambitious project conceptualized by Güell, who wanted to build a large textile industrial complex and small village for workers away from Barcelona’s center, where pro-union movements were gaining ground.

The cave-like lower level of the chapel was constructed using moody woods and dark-colored stones, like basalt. The upper level, on the other hand, is adorned with fanciful stained glass windows, and there were plans to paint the interior gold, white, green, and blue to symbolize the natural world. Moving from the dark basement of the church to the more cheerful ground level was supposed to represent the ecstasy and salvation that would come to church practitioners once they accepted Christ.

This story was originally published in May 2018, and was updated on December 14, 2022 by Mae Hamilton to include current information.

Writer/Editor/Digital Content Strategist. Author. Never checks bags. Asker of questions; Maker of jam.
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