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Architecture in Barcelona

General Information

The architectural design of Barcelona is very unique and important. This is part of the city’s identity. Actually, all of Barcelona – its culture, its music and its architect is a combination of Spanish, French, Islamic and international design. This colorful culture is the result of its geographical position. Due to the port on the Mediterranean sea, the city was always connected to the other parts of the world and other cultures. But in spite of the influence of other cultures the inhabitants of Barcelona did not lose their Catalan identity.

Due to the importance of architect in the culture of the city, we suggest that before you visit Barcelona – read a bit about the architectural characteristics of the city.

We can split the city’s architecture to three main generation and each one of them has its own unique characteristics.

Gothic Design

The era of the gothic design arrived a bit late to Catalonia. It was popular during the region’s federation with Aragon, between the 13th and 15th centuries (for additional information – History of Barcelona) when in other European countries the characteristics of Renaissance were already appeared.

When we speak about the Gothic architecture in Barcelona we need to think about a unique version of this stream. It is not the same as the Gothic architecture in other European countries. This style combines usual Gothic elements with motifs from the Romanesque style and from the Catalan, French and Islamic architecture.

The main difference from Gothic design of other nationalities is the less exaggerated decoration and the lake of the seek of extreme height. Additionally, Catalan architects designed more unitary and less compartmentalized spaces. The main motifs of this design are arches, rib vaults, and octogonal elements. One of the main characteristics of Gothic design are the symbols who always has a story (in most of the cases a religious one). Gothic design is much more interesting when you understand this symbols and know what they want to tell you.

Since this stream was popular during the Middle Ages, most of the buildings built in this style are churches, monasteries and other religious constructions. Nevertheless, you can find many non-religious buildings too, such as palaces, castles and universities.

Famous Gothic Attractions in Barcelona

Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic)

The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is the only area in Europe where you can see just Gothic buildings. Though during the Spanish Civil War some buildings were damaged (for additional information – History of Barcelona), most of the constructions remained sound and the quarter can be admired in his original form.

Read more about the Gothic Quarter

Barcelona Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Eulalia)

Barcelona Cathedral is considered to be one of the icons of the city. It is an impressive and fascinating Gothic building and also one of the oldest churches in the city. It is situated in the heart of Barcelona, in the center of the Gothic Quarter. Besides its wonderful Gothic structure, it is full of impressive paintings and sculptures created in Gothic style. Moreover, due to the colored windows – when sunlight enter the cathedral it is lit beautifully.

Read more about Barcelona Cathedral

Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar is one of the oldest churches in the city. It is more simple than the Barcelona Cathedral but it is very unique and we recommend that if you have time – visit this church too. An interesting fact, the structure of the church served as inspiration for Gaudi when he designed Sagrada Familia.

Read more about Santa Maria del Mar

Museu Marítim de Barcelona

Museu Marítim de Barcelona is situated in the port of Barcelona. Its original function was to be a military building. Though most of the tourists miss this attractions, the museum can be considered to be one of the most beautiful Gothic constructions of the city.

Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus)

Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor is situated on mount Tibidabo near Parc d’atraccions Tibidabo (Tibidabo Amusement Park). This is a nice Gothic church, less famous than Barcelona Cathedral, that is why most of the tourists miss it. But actually, it is a quite impressive building and regarding its beauty, it can be considered as a serious rival of Barcelona Cathedral.

Modernista Design

Modernista or Neo-Gothic design was a unique Catalan style in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. It can be considered to be the equivalent of French “Art Nouveau” style. Actually, many architect from Paris visited Barcelona, so it is not surprising that the Catalan architecture was influenced by them.

Modernista design combines Classical and Gothic elements with modern symbols form the Catalan culture and mythology and the nature such as trees, flowers, animals, etc. In fact, Modernista design is full of life and imagination. Another characteristics is the use of curve and colorful lines, and colors were usually bright. For Modernista architects symbolism and ornamentation were indispensable but they avoided symmetrical elements.

The biggest representative of Neo-Gothic style is Antoni Gaudi, one of the most famous icons of the city. But, of course, there were other great Catalan Modernista architects like Lluis Domenech i Montaner or Josep Puig i Cadalfach.

In contrast with the Gothic design, during the Modernista period besides churches and universities, many private and family houses were designed. Since at the end of the 19th century many industrialists and traders became rich in Barcelona and they wanted to show their wealth and power, numerous crazy Modernista buildings were constructed for them. Most of them are situated in Eixample but there are exceptions, for instance Palau Güell (Güell Palace) that is situated in El Raval.

Famous Modernista Attractions in Barcelona


Most of the Modernist buildings of Barcelona are located in Eixample. This is not surprising because the district was built in the 19th century when the city began to develop and many rich industrialists started to construct enormous and crazy Modernista houses (for additional information – History of Barcelona).

Read more about Eixample

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia can be considered to be the main icon of Barcelona and the best Modernista work of Gaudi. It is an impressive church full of Neo-Gothic imagination and vitality. Both the inside and the outside of the building is extremely attractive. Together with many other Modernista buildings, it is situated in Eixample.

Read more about Sagrada Familia

Palau Güell (Güell Palace)

Palau Güell was the first work of Gaudi. In contrast with most of the Modernista buildings that are situated in Eixample, it is located in El Raval. The construction contains many symbols related to the nature and animals and to the ancient Catalan mythology.

Read more about Palau Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell was designed by Gaudi for the wealthy residents of Barcelona. Today it is a popular public park where a nice time can be spent and several work of Gaudi can be admired, for example the Lizard statue.

Read more about Park Güell

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló is a Modernista building of Gaudi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Read more about Casa Batlló

La Pedrera – Casa Milà

La Pedrera – Casa Milà is another unique Neo-gothic building in Barcelona visited by many tourists. This was Gaudi’s last project before Sagrada Familia. Its nickname,“La Pedrera” comes from citizens of Barcelona because at the beginning they were not very enthusiastic about the unusual construction. The meaning of this name is “The Quarry”. Later, due to its extraordinary and colorful design it has become one of the city’s icons.

Read more about Casa Milà

Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music)

Palau de la Música Catalana was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner. It is an impressive Modernista building with dynamic symbols and motifs.

Read more about Palau de la Música Catalana

Saint Pau Hospital

Saint Pau Hospital was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner who earned for this building the title “Best Building”. The building of the hospital is a unique combination of the colorful Catalan architecture and muslim motifs. In addition, you can admire many beautiful statues, like the statue of Paul Gilles and the statues of different Christian Saints related to medicine.

Read more about Saint Pau Hospital

Modern Design

In the second part of 20th century and at the beginning of and in 21st century many buildings in Barcelona were constructed in Modern design. Most of the people who are speaking about architecture in Barcelona think about the Gothic and Modernista styles, but the Modern stream is also interesting and unique.

One of the characteristics of the style is that Modern architects try to use nature and to save energy. This design combines elements from the other two main architectural style of Barcelona but it has its own uniqueness. Actually, we cannot speak about a concrete Modern style, ever Modern work is unique and different,

Famous Modern Attractions in Barcelona

Avinguda Diagonal

Avinguda Diagonal is one of the most famous streets of Barcelona. The avenue is full of attractive Modern buildings.

Read more about Avinguda Diagonal

Torre Agbar

Torre Agbar is one of the icons of Barcelona, you can see it from every place in the city. The aim of the architect was to give the impression of a geiser. The most impressive parts of the building are the colorful windows.

Read more about Torre Agbar

Santa Caterina Market

Santa Caterina Market is a usual food market situated in an unusual building. It is situated in the Gothic Quarter close to Barcelona Cathedral. It is famous for its roof that consists of colorful mosaics.

MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art)

MACBA is an art museum in Barcelona where works of contemporary architects are exhibited. In fact, the building is more interesting than the expositions held in it. The building is designed very interestingly and uniquely, it combines rectilinear and curve components. Moreover, through the big skylights and the huge glass walls sunlight illuminates the whole building in a fascinating way.

Read more about MACBA

Parc del Fòrum

Parc del Fòrum is a unique park situated at the northernmost end of Barcelona. The park was built for the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures that was hosted by Barcelona. It is not a usual park, n fact it is a large area where many popular events are organized.

Torre de Comunicacions de Montjuïc (Montjuïc Communications Tower)

Torre de Comunicacions de Montjuïc is a telecommunication tower near Montjuic. The tower was designed by Santiago Calatrava in order to present the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, which was held in Barcelona, via television. According to his original role it looks like an athlete who is holding the Olympic Flame.

Peix (Fish)

Peix is a fish statue in Olympic Port area which is 56 metres long and 35 metres high. The statue is especially wonderful when the sunlight touches its golden surface.

W Barcelona

W Barcelona is an attractive hotel in Barcelona built in Modern style (for additional information – Hotels in Barcelona). Besides the breathtaking view to the sea and the high-level services provided in the hotel, W Barcelona is situated in a Modern and unique building which shape is similar to a sail.

Barcelona offers many fascinating Modern constructions that are not less attractive than Gothic and Modernista buildings.

Tips and Recommendations

  • Since Barcelona is a city that is famous for its architecture, it is highly recommended to to visit the most famous architectural attractions of the city like Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, La Pedrera – Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. Those who are especially interested in architecture can also take a trip to the less famous but architecturally significant buildings and areas like Museu Marítim de Barcelona, Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), Torre Agbar or Avinguda Diagonal. The main areas of the city such as the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic), Eixample and El Born can be considered to be art museums, so those who do not have enough time or budget to visit the attractions of the city on the inside, can take a tour in the streets of this famous quarters. We promise it will not be less interesting than entering the well-known buildings.
  • It is very recommended to join to an architectural guided tour in Barcelona because these tours helps you to understand better the architectural styles that are present in the city and the symbols related to them. You can choose between general architectural tours; tours that focus on one of the architectural styles of the city such as the Gothic style or the Modernista design; tours that concentrate on a concrete district for example the Gothic Quarter or Eixample and tours that present only one building. According to our opinion every one of them is enjoyable (for additional information – Attractions and Tours in Barcelona).
  • If you are specially interested in the architecture of Barcelona you can find numerous interesting books regarding this topic.


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