Barcelona: Portal to the Fantasy World of Gaudi

In this guest post from Beth Davidson, we explore the fantastical Gaudi world of Barcelona, from the fairytale atmosphere of Parc Guell to the fantastical architecture of La Sagrada Familia

Before I went to Barcelona, I had certain expectations stemming from what I had been told from friends and family and experiences I had had in other parts of Spain with their colonial architecture and typically Spanish landscapes.

When I landed, however, it was like I had stepped into the pages of a colourful children’s book or a highly descriptive fantasy world; the bubble of Barcelona. From Gaudi’s impressive buildings to the street performers that lined La Rambla, there is something awe-inspiring at every twist and turn. It felt like my eyes had been opened for the first time to a place so colourful and new yet so historic and cultural at the same time.

Parc Guell in Barcelona Photo:  Sarah_Ackerman of Flickr

Parc Guell in Barcelona

Parc Guell

The place that emanated this theme the most was Parc Guell, with its quirky Hansel and Gretel like architecture, winding paths, and lively buskers. Walking through this natural haven offered a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city that was visible from atop the hill, and even the crowds couldn’t diminish the magical atmosphere that swathed the urban park.

Whilst it is a hugely popular attraction, there were still nooks and crannies here and there that offered much needed seclusion. I could have spent hours just meandering amongst the vibrant tropical plants, stopping every now and again to marvel at the cute buildings that popped up.

It wasn’t just the park itself that instilled a storybook vibe, but the journey there too. Entering through the top means a lengthy trawl up an aggressively steep hill or the much more comfortable option of taking the outdoor – yes, outdoor – escalators.

Parc Guell Photo: Sarah_Ackerman of Flickr

Parc Guell in Barcelona

As I rose higher and higher past quaint ice-cream shops and rustic houses, it felt as if I was ascending to a different world. When I reached the top, my feelings were confirmed as I was greeted by spectacular views across the city; the Sagrada Familia a toy version of itself in the distance. I was like a giant looking over the city that never sleeps.

Inside the park I made my way to the bottom, the scenery around me getting more and more fantastical the lower I went. The lower section is where you will find the hub of visitors swarming around Gaudi’s work; the topsy-turvy tunnel, the seating area shaped like a sea-dragon, the bubbly white steps leading down to the edge of the park. On either side of the exit sit two beautifully designed buildings that look as if they have been copied from a Dr. Seuss book and pasted into the centre of Barcelona; the perfect way to leave the dream-like world of Parc Guell.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Photo: deming131 of Flickr

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

Gaudi’s handprints are all over Barcelona and this is one of the reasons for its fantasy feel; he didn’t believe in straight lines so everything has a higgledy-piggledy exterior like psychedelic versions of their normal forms.

La Sagrada Familia is no exception. Queuing to get inside was an experience in itself – not a particularly pleasant experience in the midday Autumn heat. But, when you’re standing next to a building as magnificent as this, it is hard to be annoyed.

The exterior is an amalgamation of architectural aspects that in theory shouldn’t work well together, but in fact complement each other superbly. This mix of old and new, elaborate and sleek serves to impart a dream-like state over the building – one that doesn’t disappear upon entering.

Inside, the vibrant stained glass windows and smooth, glossy columns felt like yet another world; like a bubble inside a bubble. The elaborate, intricate details that adorn the exterior do not prepare you for the highly modern – albeit still unfinished – interior. It was almost as if two worlds had collided within the same building.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Photo: LaPringle of Flickr

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

It isn’t just Gaudi that has characterised Barcelona as a page from a children’s book. The evidence is everywhere, including the highly touristic La Rambla. Walking down the wide boulevard is like entering into a comical theatre display with costumed performers providing entertainment against a backdrop of tapas food and souvenir shops.

The streets of Barcelona are at once a stage, a museum, and an art gallery with a dash of fantasy provided by the eclectic architecture, architecture which I can’t wait to go back and see. After all, everyone needs to escape now and again!

Author Bio:  Ever since she can remember, Beth Davidson has had a fascination with art, design and travel. After being bitten by the travel bug, she has been to numerous countries spanning three continents and is particularly interested in the way a places’ art can teach us more about its culture and history. Find out more about Beth and her interests at her World Art and Travel Blog.

More things to enjoy in Barcelona

Montjuïc in Barcelona – the hill that has it all
Where to find truly great tapas in Barcelona

Photo credits: Parc Guell by Sarah_Ackerman and Sagrada Familia by deming131 and LaPringle.

This article by is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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  • Reply
    January 20, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I am very glad I got to see La Sagrada Familia. But I must admit that queuing to get inside La Sagrada Familia was an unhappy experience for me too, in the midday July heat. The local authorities HAVE to improve the waiting space on the street so that orderly queues can form.

    My recommendation to tourists:
    1. ensure you go via a tourist company so that the tickets into La Sagrada Familia are pre-booked.
    2. opt for an early morning or late afternoon visit so that you are not waiting around in the heat of the day.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 20, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      @Hels Thanks for those tips. It’s some years since I was there and although it was the summer I dodn’t remember it being such a long wait. Obviously it has become way more popular and it’s worth knowing to pre-book.

  • Reply
    January 20, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Oops I forgot to agree that Parc Guell was wonderful and I wished I had allocated more time there. In particular Gaudi’s own home, inside the park, is well worth every minute of waiting time.
    Hels´s last blog post ..Women Against the Vote: 1908-1918

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 20, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      @Hels I also visited Parc Guell but I didn’t realise that Gaudi’s home was there or that you could go inside. My kids were quite young at the time so I expect we just wanted a nice picnic

  • Reply
    Greg Prohl
    January 20, 2013 at 3:02 am

    While admiring the photos and info here, I also have to admit, reluctantly, to my own lack of knowledge about Gaudi, Parc Guell or La Sagrada Familia. But after reading and viewing your article I can see it’s a gap I’ll have to fill in should I ever get to Barcelona…even though I have to say my own interests would tend more toward attending a match at Camp Nou to see Lionel Messi score a couple of goals.
    Greg Prohl´s last blog post ..The Pacific Northwest Coast of Washington and Oregon

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      @Gred Gaudi is a big hero and a tourist draw for Barcelona, and I love his work although I think my husband and sons would probably be attending that match with you if they could

  • Reply
    David Wall
    January 21, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    What’s also interesting is that the Gaudi architecture was all build in the late 1800s/early 1990s – and the La Sagrada Familia church is still being worked on today.

    If you ever return to Barcelona, check out Gaudi’s Casa Battlo and Casa Mila. Both were designed as residential properties but today can be toured.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 21, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      @David Thanks for the tip, I think I saw Casa Mila when I was last there but I didn’t know about Caso Battlo

  • Reply
    LG Intuition VS950
    January 22, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Barcelona is one of the most interesting and beautiful cities around the world. It offers a multitude of sights, night life, and experiences for every visitor.
    LG Intuition VS950´s last blog post ..Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 N5100 GPS For Off-Road Day Tours

  • Reply
    Beth Davidson
    January 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    @Hels – the queuing is a problem, I agree. I queued for almost an hour and, whilst this was in September, the temperature was still very high.

    @Greg – I was the same before I went to Barcelona. I wasn’t that interested in Gaudi after friends and family had told me it was a bit of a disappointment (La Sagrada Familia in particular). I’m so glad I chose to go though as the topic is extremely interesting and, well, the architecture is amazing!

    @David – Due to lack of time, I didn’t get the chance to see Casa Battlo or Casa Mila, but that just means I have a reason to go back 🙂

    @LG – Barcelona is a lovely city!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Barcelona as a fantasy coloring book, is spot on! Looks like you had fun 😉

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      January 28, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      @Destination BCN Thanks, I loved my stay in Barcelona

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