I keep returning to Barcelona, in fact I think it’s more like the city keeps pulling me back. I’ve seen a lot of what it has to offer, but there is still so much more to explore. I want to see it all and then I want to see it all again. Barcelona is dominated by the work of one man: Antoni Gaudí. His unique approach to the Art Nouveau movement generated some of the most creative buildings you will see packed into one European city.
No visit to the Catalan city is complete without a visit to its crown jewel: the Sagrada Familia. On both my visits to Barcelona I’ve been to the cathedral to marvel at the designs of Antoni Gaudí; to track the progress since my last visit; and to gaze with awe at how much work and detailing goes into creating a cathedral. The medieval cathedrals of Europe often took a couple of hundred years to complete, but that’s difficult for us to comprehend. This church has been in construction since 1892, and it’s not expected to be finished until 2026, which will commemorate the centenary of Gaudí’s death. Gaudí combined the traditional Gothic style of the great medieval cathedrals with the curvilinear forms of Art Nouveau and his own geometric style.
For many years the building work continued very slowly , but now construction is running at a faster pace. There are more spires still to be completed, each symbolizing an important Biblical figure in the New Testament. The central spire is the tallest of all, representing Jesus Christ. Eventually it will be topped by a giant cross, reaching a height of 170 meters (560 ft), standing at just one metre less than the height of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona. This is deliberate because Gaudí believed that his creation should not surpass God’s creation. When you enter the cathedral, one of things that strikes you is the quality of the light. The light enters through the stained glass windows and bathes the interior in colour.
One of my stand out, must-sees for Barcelona is the Casa Batlló. The Casa Batlló was created from the total restoration in 1904 of an old conventional house built in 1877. It was a very radical design that shocked many who saw it, but despite this in 1906 the Barcelona City Council awarded it the recognition of being one of the three best buildings created in that city in that year. There’s barely a straight line to be seen as the building is full of curves. Colour performs a key role too as much of the façade is decorated with a colourful mosaic, known as trencadís, which is made of broken ceramic tiles.
While it’s officially known as Casa Batlló, the local name for the building is actually Casa dels ossos, or the House of Bones, due to the almost skeletal nature of the design. Many of the columns look like bones on the facade, especially those in front of the irregular oval windows. The roof is arched and scaled like the back of a dragon. Some think that the rounded tower crowned with a turret and cross represents the lance of Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia) plunged into the back of the dragon. Whatever the truth, the Casa Batlló is well worth an extended visit.