Casa Milá better known as La Pedrera (the Quarry in Catalan) in the district of Eixample is one of the most outstanding creations of Antoni Gaudi. It is situated on the corner site of Passeig de Gracia Avenue and you can hardly take your eyes off this amazing building with its almost wavelike pattern of the stone façade imitating a sand-dune. Its eccentric fantastic roof has a terrace with wonderful views of Barcelona and the building itself still has private apartments.
Casa Milá apartments building was commissioned by the industrialist Pere Mila and his wife in 1906, that time Passeig de Gracia was the most fashionable and trendy place in the city where Barcelona’s bourgeoisie chose to build their residences. Casa Mila was ridiculed at the time and nick-named La Pedrera (the Quarry), because of the usage of vast amounts of stone.
For many years this remarkable building was left to fall apart, till UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1984. Then in 1986 Casa Milá was bought by Caixa Cataluña (one of the most powerful banks in Catalonia) and after 10 years of restoration works, it was finally opened to the public. Most of the 8th floors still have private apartments, but other parts are occupied by a Cultural Centre and there is an exhibition of Gaudi’s works and life in the attic.
The exterior of the building with its soft wavy forms which do not contain even a single straight line or right angle has been likened to everything from an abandoned stone quarry to the ripping waves of the sea. Gaudi was often inspired by marine life forms and you are likely to consider that amazing walls of the building imitate a sand-dune. Balconies decorated with wrought iron balustrades remind a mass of the seaweed.
By taking an elevator you can get up to the attic, where the former laundry has been converted into an exhibition of Gaudi’s life and work. The Espai Gaudi is worth visiting as here you probably get the best overview of Gaudi’s architectural techniques, with sketches and models of the buildings.
On the sixth floor there is an apartment El Pis de la Pedrera, which was carefully restored and which recreates the ambience of the early 20th-century Barcelona, giving you an idea of the furnishings of a typical Modernista apartment.
The original use of each of the room has been preserved (hall, drawing room, bathrooms kitchen etc.) and each has been decorated with furniture corresponding to that period.
The roof terrace is one of the highlights of this impressive building. Its chimneys and ventilation shafts are all shaped as warriors, helmeted centurions made of marble, glass and pottery, one of the chimneys is even made of empty champagne bottles. The panoramic views of the city from the roof top are spectacular, you can also view two circle interior patios, which are unlikely spacious.
Major temporary exhibitions are held regularly on the first floor (principal) and are open to the public free of charge.
Winter: November to February inclusive - Daily from 9 A.M. till 6.30 P.M.
Closed Dec 25-26, Jan 1 and 6, and one week in January (to be announced)
Summer: March to October inclusive – Daily from 9 A.M. till 8 P.M.
Admission fee: Adults 10,00 Euros. Children under 12 free. Audio guide for 3,00 Euros available in English, German, French and Italian.
How to get there: Passeig de Gracia, 92.
By metro: Green Line L3 – Diagonal
By bus: 7, 16, 28, 22, and 24
Some useful tips:
• The queues in high season can be awful, therefore you’d better pre-book tickets by calling Telentrada tel. 902 101 212 and try to avoid early mornings.
• During summer time jazz, flamenco and Latin music performances are often given on the rooftop. For 10,00-15,00 Euros entrance fee you will enjoy the concert, will be invited to a glass of champagne and will be able to visit the Espai Gaudi.
The extraordinary unfinished church designed by a world-known architect Antonio Gaudi is a symbol of Barcelona.
The majestic Temple of the Sagrada Familia (Temple of the Holy Family) was started in 1882, though Gaudi was not the first architect to work on this project. The temple was conceived as a conventional Gothic-style church, but when Gaudi at the age of 32 started to work on it (at the end of 1883), he was given free rein and his unconventional ideas changed the building considerably.
By the time Gaudi died only one bell-tower had been completed and 10 years after architect’s death during Civil War his plans for the Sagrada Familia were destroyed, so it is impossible to be sure what the finished church would have looked like.
However, in 1952 the work on the building started again and nowadays it is still on though at quite a slow pace.
The current plan is to finish the temple by 2026 for the centenary of Gaudi’s death. La Sagrada Familia has always been an expiatory church, which means that from the outset (125 years ago) till now it has been built from donations.
The Nativity Façade was begun in 1891 and was finished during Gaudi’s life time in 1904, thus bears plenty of his hallmarks. At first sight the quaint façade may seem to be a jumble of molten wax: figures of saints, different species of birds and plants (from both Catalan and Holy Land), angels and the Holy Family are depicted in a very special manner.
The Passion façade causes lots of disputes, because it was completed by another architect and evidently doesn’t bear many of Gaudi’s hallmarks. The figures on this façade are harsh and angular and they were designed by a Catalan sculptor Joseph M. Subirachs. You may like it or not, however take a look at this façade to see the difference with your own eyes.
The crypt of the church in neo-gothic style was actually designed by Francesc de Villar, the architect who first started working on the building. Now there is a museum devoted to La Sagrada Familia, where some original sketches and Gaudi’s drawings are displayed. As a mark of respect, Antoni Gaudi’s body is entombed in one of the chapels of the crypt.
There are now 4 towers above each of the Nativity and Passion façade (8 in total), but it is envisaged to built a total of 18 towers, dedicated to 12 apostles, the four evangelists, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. The spires are covered with ceramic mosaics and there are words in Latin - Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Hosanna in Excelsis (Holy, Holy, Holy, Glory to God in the Highest) written on the top.
The towers can be reached by climbing the spiral staircases; either you can take an elevator which will get you to the top of the spires. The views of the city and a close-up view of the spires and central nave are breathtaking and worth-seeing. So don’t forget to take your camera with you to take a couple of stunning pictures.
There are lots of souvenir stalls and gift shops in the area around selling all kinds of souvenirs, books, postcards etc. with the views of Sagrada Familia.
April to September Daily 09.00 – 20.00
October to March Daily 09.00 – 18.00
25-26 December, 1st and 6th of January 09.00-14.00
Admission fees: Adults 11 euros, children under 10 free, reduced 10 euros, for students and seniors – 9 euros. Lift to the towers - 2,50 euros per person. Audioguide 4 euros
Address: Mallorca, 401
How to get there:
By metro: Violet Line L2 and Blue Line L5 - Sagrada Familia stop
By bus: 19, 33, 43, 50, 51 and also Tourist bus
Some useful tips:
• Better come to see it in the morning hours, first, because it gets crowded very fast and second, because there are plenty of things to view.
• At night La Sagrada Familia is lit up, and the scene of that gorgeous church is fascinating.
• Be sure to take with you some documentation if you plan to use the audioguides, you will be asked to leave it as a security deposit.
• Be sure to dress appropriately – no sleeveless shirts, no shorts.
When visiting Barcelona, the Eixample area, to the north and close to the heart of the city, is a must. This is an area of Barcelona split into two parts: the ‘left side’ and the ‘right side’, the sides referring to their position relative to the Paseo de Gracia, one of the city’s two most cosmopolitan avenues. The other is Las Ramblas, also running through Eixample. Traditionally popular with the rich and famous, the district also has a significant immigrant population.
The area was developed in 1859 to accommodate the increasing population of old Barcelona, situated between the old city and the districts of Gracia and Sants, and others that at the time of its development were outlying industrial towns. It is now a modernist commercial and residential area, originally designed by the progressive urban planner, Ildefons Cerda, to allow maximum ventilation and light in the dwellings and streets, while also offering easy transportation with its grid street pattern.
Architecturally, Eixample is famed for its modernist buildings, many designed by one of the world’s most original architects, Antoni Gaudi. His art nouveau architecture is exemplified the delightful Sagrada Familia church, started in 1882 and still not finished, and the entire area is rich in other ‘modernista’ work and a haven for lovers of architecture. You must also visit the Casa Mila, also by Gaudi, designed in the biomorphism style decades before the term was used for this style of architecture.
If you prefer shopping, then the Paseo de Gracia is one of the most important shopping areas in Barcelona, and also, incidentally, the most expensive in Spain for property prices. Practically every fashion house you can think of has a boutique here, including Chanel, Hermes and Yves-Saint-Laurent. The avenue itself is a joy to walk down, in the form of a wide boulevard lined with trees. With upmarket eating places, wonderful cafes and countless luxury hotels, the Paseo de Gracia is a tourist’s dream.
All that in addition to the fabulous architecture - but don’t drive unless you know the area well. You won’t be able to park in the streets, and you are liable to spend more time hunting for a parking space than enjoying what Eixample has to offer. Luckily, public transport is excellent, and the rail service can get you to the El Prat airport in 20 minutes, and the bus 30 minutes. There is also an excellent taxi service and a subway.
Talking of taxis, there is no fixed tipping policy in Barcelona - or Spain in general. The locals rarely tip, even in restaurants, and when they do it’s normally only 30 - 50 eurocents. Generally, however, tips are not expected in bars, restaurants and cabs although are welcomed when given. Most waiters and waitresses do not rely on tips although some illegals are now being employed on low wages. Keep an eye on restaurant bills because they don’t always include the VAT on menu prices, and though the menu should state so, you could get a nasty surprise when the bill arrives.
Restaurant prices tend to be expensive, and the majority serves Mediterranean or Catalan food. The Casa Calvet and El Principal are very good if you can afford it, but if you prefer sushi or sashimi, then head for El Japones on Passatge Concepcion. However, there are plenty of tapas bars and cafes dotted around where you can get very good reasonably priced meals.
Eixample is a bit Jeckyll and Hyde at night with some excellent bars and clubs, but many areas are also dead after 5 pm. The latter are obvious by the quietness, but if it’s fun you are looking for then head for the harbour, and check out the Maremagnum. This offers a mixture of techno bars, Irish pubs, tourist bars and a dozen cinemas, and it’s also a great shopping center during the day.
Port Olimpic offers a range of bars and clubs, and some great seafood to mop it all up. If you are looking for gay bars, you will find a great gay bar area around the Gayxample zone, round the Calle Comte d’Urgell and Rambla Catalunya area. You also will find a good selection of restaurants and modern clothes shops here. Arena, for example, is an excellent gay ambient bar offering a number of dance floors with fabulous music.
Although the hotels can be expensive in Eixample itself, it also offers a good range of reasonably priced vacation apartments, and there is reasonably price accommodation available in other areas of Barcelona. The city center itself is only a mile away and within easy walking distance, so nobody should visit this great Catalan city without visiting Eixample and drinking in the architecture and sheer opulence of the place.