If you visit Barcelona and do not see these iconic places, it’s like going to Paris and not seeing Eiffel Tower or going to London and not seeing the Big Ben….
Although Gaudí is the best-known architect who worked on Barcelona’s Eixample district at the start of the 20th century, and his architecture is truly the most eye-catching and memorable you will ever see, he, most certainly, was not the only one.
There are numerous beautiful buildings created in the modernist as well as contemporary style lining the streets and squares of this lively city.
Here are just a few monuments and places of interest in Barcelona, that do not attract as much attention as the famous Gaudí masterpieces but are definitely worth your time:
Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site (or Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau).
A short walk away from Sagrada Familia Cathedral, there’s a newly renovated and not so heavily visited Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site.
It’s a former hospital complex known as a jewel of Modernista architecture.
You can spend a good few of hours wandering around its gardens and pavilions.
Although Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site is, apparently, Europe’s largest Art Nouveau complex, it is not crowded at all, as the biggest crowds are drawn to the nearby Sagrada Familia.
I spent the most peaceful afternoon discovering the colorful history of this place, sitting around and admiring the architecture as well as the interior décor, without having to negotiate the crowds in order to take a nice picture…
While it’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance for most touristy places in Barcelona, Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site does not seem to be one of them.
There are no queues and no crowds for a change
A bonus point – as you stroll from Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site towards Sagrada Familia along the Av. de Gaudi, you will see the iconic cathedral from an altogether different vantage point.
Yet another reason to pull out that camera and snap a picture!
Next door to the spectacular Casa Batlló, which was designed by the famous Gaudí and is now one of Barcelona’s main tourist attractions, there’s a less admired and yet no less valuable or impressive building designed in Modernista style, created by another great architect of the era, Josep Puig I Cadafalch, Casa Amatller.
Its façade built in a style reminiscent of the middle ages with numerous fascinating details and symbols, is certainly worth a few pictures on your Instagram feed, or even a more serious closer look.
The building belonged to Chocolatier Antoni Amatller (hence the name Casa Amatller), and there’s a shop and cafe on the ground floor still selling Amatller chocolates – the Amatller chocolate brand is still very much alive and thriving!
These chocolates would make a great Christmas or birthday gift for anyone who dreams of visiting Barcelona one day or simply loves chocolate in elegant Modernista style boxes.
Did you know, you can easily buy Amatller chocolates on Amazon? (See here)
Hint, get these chocolates online if you’ve visited Barcelona and forgot to get souvenirs for some family or friends… oops…
Palau de la Música Catalana.
Another masterpiece of Modernista architecture and created by the famous Lluis Domenech I Montaner, Palau de la Musica Catalana celebrates Catalan Music as well as architectural heritage.
A fascinating place to enjoy exterior and interior decor elements and music, it’s well worth booking a ticket for a concert in order to admire both.
If you plan to only visit the building, book your ticket in advance to avoid your well thought through plans getting ruined – I did not get in this time as, for some strange reason, did not plan this visit ahead…
Santa Caterina Market.
While most visitors and tour guides will rave about La Boqueria market on La Rambla, I found that Santa Caterina Market in the heart of the city and adjacent to the old town offers a much more relaxed (and cheaper) experience.
The produce is equally varied as in the main (extremely touristy) La Boqueria market and the atmosphere is as lively as in any market in the world.
It’s also an architectural statement piece with a striking wavy colorful roof, you can’t miss it!
(although I somehow don’t have a picture to show… but here’s more about it)
Parc de la Ciutadella.
On a sunny day make sure to grab some food in a market and head straight to the Parc de la Ciutadella.
It’s a beautiful place with a vivacious atmosphere and lots of room for sitting around, taking pictures and simply admiring the world go by.
The best part, it’s free!
The atmosphere is really relaxed with gushing water sounds coming from the fountains and pleasant breeze rustling through the trees.
Barcelona’s charm lies not only in its fascinating architecture but also in the city layout and planning.
So if you have some time to spare, it is a must to wander around the Eixample district looking up to admire numerous eye-catching facades.
Just stroll along and feel how pleasantly relaxing it is to wander around the wide promenades discovering the city gems that do not feature in any visitor guides.
You will find that the city is really easy to navigate (well, maybe with the exception of the old town) – one look at the map is all it takes to get an idea for direction for your next destination.
To me Barcelona is a perfect city, it has everything: the architecture, the history, the culture, the art, the sea, the sand the cuisine and a truly pleasant atmosphere.
Yes, it is a really touristy place, but there are plenty of locations for those visitors, who prefer going off the beaten track and finding the hidden gems hiding in plain view.
On a final note:
Before going to Barcelona lots of people warned me about pickpockets and the like. After a week of taking public transport every day and walking in crowded as well as quieter places, I can say that this city is no different to other big cities – you have to be careful with your belongings, but I certainly did not feel that the situation here is somehow worse than anywhere else.
I first visited Barcelona 10 years ago and at that time I was surprised to see that the customer service in restaurants and cafes was not great, with waiters cheating customers out of their change or being rude.
Well, I am glad to say that this time I did not experience anything like that.
On the contrary, I found staff very attentive and willing to help if there was any problem with food or drink. I’d say the fact that we can all give immediate feedback on social media and sites like tripadvisor, certainly keeps businesses on their toes!
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