I didn’t have much time in Barcelona, but I knew I needed to soak up as much of Gaudí’s architecture as I could while there.
In order to get the most out of his bizarre masterpieces, I decided to take Discover Walk’s FREE Gaudí Tour. Meeting outside the Casa Batlló, I was blown away by its appearance.
I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Gaudí before the tour, or even what most of his buildings looked like, but now I sure do. #Obsessed.
The tour didn’t just focus on Gaudí, our guide BL, a native to Barcelona, did a fantastic job explaining the history behind many of buildings we saw and also the culture of Barcelona.
Like did you know that the symbol of Barcelona is a dragon? You’ll see many forms of dragons adorning buildings all around the city.
Sant Jordi, the Catalan equivalent of Saint George, is the city’s Patron Saint. Catalonia even has a Saint George Day on April 23rd– celebrated like a Valentine’s Day of sorts. On this day girls have to give a book to the guys and the guys have to give roses to the girls.
The rose motif stems from the myth, since after Saint George killed the dragon, a rose came up where the dragon’s blood was spilled. While the book comes from being International Book Day: both Shakespeare and Cervantes died on April 23rd, both in 1616.
That explains the subtle dragon motifs even on the three gem houses (Casa Lleó i Morera, Casa Amatller, and Casa Batlló) that make up the Illa de la Discòrdia (“the block of discord”) along Passeig de Gràcia.
So just what’s with Casa Batlló anyways?
It actually started with the house next door. The owner of Casa Amatller was a chocolate maker, so he decided to redesign the top of his house to resemble buildings in the Netherlands or Belgium– areas known for their chocolate and dairy. He thought that this would be the perfect way to advertise his business and wealth to all of Barcelona.
Casa Batlló used to be a plain house, but once the owner realized they were richer than their chocolate-making neighbor, they hired Gaudí to add a floor so that their house would be taller.
The problem is, you can only hire Gaudí and let him work– you can’t give him directions.
So instead of simply making the house taller, he changed the entire façade.
I mean, can you imagine coming home to your house and seeing this?? Especially in the conservative days of the early 1900s. I can’t even imagine the reaction of the owner! But hey, at least it’s still the tallest house on the street.
While the other houses on the block all have dragons outside their front doors, Casa Batlló is the only house that does not. Why? Well, Gaudí never explicitly explained his art, it’s pretty easy to interpret that the entire house is a dragon.
With its scaly appearance and huge mouth-like window, it’s not your mind playing tricks on you, yes, those are skulls on all of the balconies. Said to be the victims inside the belly of the dragon, it’s no wonder why Casa Batlló is also nicknamed “the Bone House”.
Even the inside of the house is fantastically done. See how the blue colors looks so uniform? If you look closely, you’ll notice it’s actually a gradient. Gaudí designed it knowing that the light dispersed unevenly through the house. By making it a gradient, it actually looks as though it’s all uniform in color. Pure genius!
Other elements inside the building also reminded me of the overarching dragon motif. Especially once we got up into the attic– you felt like you were right in the belly of the beast.
Walking to the subway we quickly stopped to admire Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, with its famous chimneys that supposedly inspired George Lucas’s storm troopers.
BL explained how this house was meant to be a symbol of Gaudí’s devout Catholicism. It was said that he put a giant statue of Mary on the roof, but the owner’s wife complained because they weren’t Catholic and didn’t want to look at it.
Gaudí argued that they wouldn’t even see it being on their own roof, but she claimed she didn’t care and that it needed to be removed. So Gaudí did as she asked and gave it to their neighbors for them to put on their roof so that she’d still have to look at it! Remember what I said about not taking directions? You’ve gotta love him!
Hopping on the subway we headed to our last stop. The grande finale if you will.
BL asked how many of us had seen La Sagrada Família before, only one or two from our group raised their hands. He was so excited that it would be new for most of the group, and said his favorite part is just watching our reactions when we see it in person for the first time.
So of course as everyone stepped out of the subway, I snapped a few photos of their reactions before turning around to have one of my own.
It was so much larger than I expected.
Gaudí joined the construction of La Sagrada in 1883. Again, incredible for the time period. The church was built in an area that at that time was very poor. Around the outside it depicts Bible stories so that the illiterate living in the area could still understand and enjoy the stories.
Today the construction of the church is funded solely by tourism (which explains the high admission price) and private donors, which is why it’s taking forever to complete. While a completion date has been set for the mid 2020s, most locals will tell you not to hold your breath for it to ever really be finished.
Right now there are four towers, but when it’s finished there will be a total of 18, one for each saint.
Now the outside was certainly impressive, but really, pay to go inside. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, the line is long. But go.
Not only will your money go towards the completion, but the inside was absolutely stunning. I can’t believe I almost didn’t bother going inside! With light flooding in through all of the stained glass windows, it was the most breathtaking thing I saw in all of Europe. 100% gorgeous.
I can’t wait to go back someday to see it in its completion.
Whether you think Gaudí was crazy or a genius, you can’t deny that his architecture has become the symbol of Barcelona. Love it or hate it, sure Gaudí’s architecture might be gaudy, but I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO BARCELONA? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GAUDÍ?
A special thank you to Discover Walks for informing me of their amazing Gaudí tour and providing me access to inside Casa Batlló. I’d also like to thank the press departments of La Sagrada Família and Casa Milà for allowing me complimentary access to both of these masterpieces. All opinions and love of Gaudí, as always, are my own.