Legendary fairy tale wordsmith, Hans Christian Anderson, once wrote of Barcelona, “We crossed spacious streets, with building resembling palaces, in La Rambla promenade; the shops were well illuminated and there was movement and life. I did not decide to go to sleep, even though I wished to, so I could rise early and contemplate, in daylight, this city, unknown to me.”

Although Barcelona has quickly become of the most popular tourist destinations for people throughout the globe, many would probably point to the world class food and drink, the fútbol, and the nightlife as major points of entry which drew them to the Catalonian capital in the first place.

However, once inside the city, the majestic beauty of centuries old buildings jutting from the ground – as well as more modern construction that adds to the fairy tale-like charm – certainly leaves an everlasting impression on visitors that Barcelona is truly one of the architectural gems of the world.

For those whom have never visited before, or others who are looking to go back, here are 10 destinations that should definitely be on your design bucket list.

Casa Batlló

Architect: Antoni Gaudí
Opened: 1907

Antoni Gaudi’s name is synonymous with all things “architecture” when it comes to the skyline of Barcelona thanks to his distinct style which led to him being crowed the “Godfather of Catalan Modernism.”

Located in the center of Barcelona, the Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously designed structure which was worked on and completed between 1904-1906.

A combination of stone, glass, mosaic fragments and ceramic discs – which gives the exterior a wavy shape – the ornamental top is composed of huge spherical pieces of masonry in colors which change as you move along the roof-tree from one end to the other and are inspired by reptile

The Palau de la Música Catalana

Architect: Lluís Domènech i Montaner
Opened: 1908

The Palau de la Música Catalana was originally built as the home for the Orfeó Català – a choral society based in Barcelona.

Designed around a central metal structure covered in glass, the nature of the construction allows the musical performers inside to bathe in natural light which radiates off other decorative attributes like sculpture, mosaic, stained glass and ironwork. It remains the only auditorium in Europe that is illuminated during daylight hours entirely by natural light.

In 1997, the Palau de la Música Catalana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site which recognizes institutions which promote peace and security.

La Sagrada Família

Architect: Antoni Gaudi
Opened: 2010

Antoni Gaudi worked tirelessly on La Sagrada Familia for 43 years – actually living and sleeping on site – until his untimely death on June 10, 1926 after the legendary architect was struck by a trolley car in Barcelona only a few weeks shy of his 75th birthday.

Built as an expression of his own Christian faith, each one of the 18 towers reflects various facets of the religion – including the middle and surrounding four towers dedicated to Jesus Christ and the Gospels, the tower above the apse, crowned by a star, representing his mother the Virgin Mary, and the remaining 12 towers representing the 12 Apostles.

“The temple as a whole, as well being a place for divine worship, will artistically represent the truths of religion and the glorification of God and His Saints,” Gaudi said.

La Sagrada Familia is scheduled to be completed in 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Antoni Gaudi’s passing.

Torre Agbar

Architect: Jean Nouvel
Opened: 2005

Although most of the architectural wonders in Barcelona are steeped in centuries old traditions and hard labor, the Torre Agbar is one of the newer additions to the skyline that will certainly be talked about in a glowing manner when the structure has had time to mature and grow on people.

Housing the headquarters for Aguas de Barcelona (Agbar), the municipal water company, those that witness the structure in person will notice a multicolored facade of transparent and translucent aluminum panels, behind glass louvers, in 25 different colors.

Architect Jean Nouvel said of the project, “This is not a tower. It is not a skyscraper in the American sense of the expression: it is a unique growth in the middle of this rather calm city. But it is not the slender, nervous verticality of the spires and bell towers that often punctuate horizontal cities. Instead, it is a fluid mass that has perforated the ground – a geyser under a permanent calculated pressure.”

Casa Amatller

Architect: Josep Puig
Opened: 1900

Along with the aforementioned Casa Battló as well as Casa Lleó-Morera, Josep Puig’s Casa Amatller makes up the legendary Illa de la Discòrdia (“Block of Discord”) which got its name because the three structures were built in sharply contrasting styles.

As the first to be built and be refurbished, Puig’s Casa Amatller was forged during the architect’s “rose” or modernista period – which included buildings like the Casa Macaya and the Casa de les Punxes.

Aesthetically, the structure fuses Catalan influences with German and Dutch inspiration – while also incorporating whimsical medieval attributes like busts of dragons and knights.

Diagonal ZeroZero

Architect: Enric Massip-Bosch
Opened: 2011

Home to Telefónica, S.A, a Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider, Diagonal ZeroZero is a testament to imagination and proficiency. Although it stands 360 feet tall (the fifth tallest building in the city), the structure took only eight months to build thanks to a workforce of 450 who worked three shifts a day and seven days a week to complete the build.

The most striking attribute of Diagonal ZeroZero are the white, aluminum curtainwalls which give the structure the feeling of being a paper cutout.

Mercat de la Barceloneta

Architect: Josep Miàs
Opened: 2007

The Mercat de la Barcelona was rebuilt between 2005 and 2007 and is based on Antoni Rovira i Trias’s original 1884 structure which was gave Catalonian’s local goods from the fishing communities.

Combining old-world materials like steel – which contribute to the modern wing-like extensions – solar energy is also prominently harnessed to power 30 percent of the entire market.

Park Güell

Architect: Antoni Gaudi
Opened: 1914

Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell was to serve the interests of wealthy entrepreneur Eusebi Güell who had come to admire the architect’s work after having his own home built by him.

The intentions were to create a whimsical garden city that would be home to 60 villas. Inevitably, that project never was fully developed and abandoned for a more playful and public exhibition of Gaudi’s tastes which register like a playground for the mind – complete with gingerbread gatehouses, ceramic dragons, and a world-famous serpentine bench.

Museu Blau de les Ciències Naturals

Architects: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron
Opened: 2004

Designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the Museu Blau de les Ciències Naturals is another relative newcomer to the Barcelona skyline. Distinct due in large part to its triangular shape which fills in the negative space formed by Avenue Diagonal, Rambla de Prim, and the Ronda Litoral, the structure itself features auditorium seating for 3,200 people while the exhibition hall covers nearly 5,000 square meters.

Hotel Porta Fira

Architect: Toyo Ito
Opened: 2010

Japanese architect Toyo Ito says of his Hotel Porta Fira, “The project consists of two differentiated towers that engage in a subtle dialogue. Despite the clear contrast between the buildings in terms of form, the relationship they establish is harmonious and complementary. The buildings (each 110 m high) play a highly symbolic role as they pay tribute to the historical Venetian towers that stand at the entrance to the exhibition centre located near Plaza España in Barcelona.”

In 2010, the building was chosen from 300 worldwide skyscrapers by a jury made up of architectural experts from 67 countries as the winner of the Emporis Skyscraper Award and was/is applauded for its aesthetic beauty and urban integration.

Words by Alec Banks
Features Editor

Alec Banks is a Los Angeles-based long-form writer with over a decade of experience covering fashion, music, sports, and culture.

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