Barcelona is structurally an incredible city, thanks in much part to Antoni Gaudi.
As time moves forward, manifestations of changes in era, monarchy and religion are present in every corner of Barcelona, from the size of the stones used in buildings to the public artwork on display. As one brilliant tour guide put it to us, you can veritably time travel in one just city square, which juxtaposed a public exhibit of Picasso’s against medieval brickwork. Just a few moments away on foot was the city’s oldest building – in its day, a secret Jewish synagogue running under the city to conceal its true size, dating back to around the third century. What a time to be alive.
If Barca is a magical kingdom of weird and wonderful buildings, than Gaudi is its chief wizard. My impression of him is somewhat like a Spanish architectural version of Roald Dahl – both gentlemen’s imagination and creativity were undoubtedly limitless, both revelled in bringing phantasmagorical ideas to fruition and both left an indelible legacy upon the world – Dahl on the minds of every one of the children who have read or will read his books and Gaudi on the very heart of Barcelona.
Regrettably, to lay your eyes on Gaudi’s works across the city is undoubtedly expensive. Even if you take the cheapest options available, to enter Gaudi’s four most iconic structures in Barcelona will set you back close to €100. For us, this simply wasn’t an option. That’s a week’s accommodation! So, for those watching their pennies, here’s a quick guide for getting down and dirty with Gaudi, cheaply and quite cheerfully.
La Sagrada Familia
Use the Metro to get to the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. It literally has its own station named after it – couldn’t be easier.
If you can’t help yourself and you have to get inside (and believe me, everyone I’ve spoken to has recommended taking a look if you can afford it – I’m almost wishing we did) then a ticket online for an audio tour will cost €22. However, if you are going to lash out, you might as well pay €29 and get access to the towers of the Sagrada Familia for one of the best views of the city to be had. You can find a full price breakdown and purchase tickets here. Word on the street is you must pre-purchase tickets online prior to lining up at site, which allegedly can take hours.
If you simply can’t afford to head inside, screenshot on your phone or print this self-guided tour of Gaudi in Barcelona, which includes the Sagrada Familia before you head out for the day. You might not be getting inside for a full audio tour but at least reading this whilst you’re walking the perimeter will lend some context to your visit.
Lastly, whatever you do, don’t go when the sun is high in the sky. Early in the morning or late afternoon is best. Why? Well, the structure is absolutely massive and shoots straight up into the sky. Trying to get a glimpse of the upper towers when the sun is high will mean you’ll be squinting directly into it. This should be obvious but for us and a whole of other tourists it apparently wasn’t. See ya, retinas. Not like we needed you anyway.
Casa Batllo is a glorious house Gaudi built for a wealthy family on Passeig de Gracia, inspired by the Catalonian patron saint St George, who killed a dragon terrifying a village in return for the populace’s conversation to Christianity.
Join the hordes and snap your own shot of the “house of bones” exterior. You can also skip around to the hardware store’s second level on Carrer d’Arago should you wish for a back view of the home.
To get there from the Sagrada Familia, input the directions into the Maps app you’re using and enjoy a walk down this gorgeous avenue, considered the most expensive street in Spain. You can take a quick preview of your route here.
For €22.50 (€19.50 for students) you can take a walk through the entire house with an audio tour.
If you’re in Barcelona between June and September, you can also lash out and purchase the Magical Nights option, which includes your tour of Casa Batllo, then access to the Dragon Roof Terrace on top of Casa Batllo for €36 for a sunset view of the city with live music and two drinks included. Interested? More information here.
Last but absolutely not least, we have the most budget-friendly Gaudi exhibit you’ll find – Park Guell. This was originally intended to be a gated community but during its construction it became clear to Gaudi and the project’s commissioner this wasn’t viable. It then came into the hands of the Barcelona City Council and was opened it to the public in 1926.
The rest is history. Today, you might do battle with an army of fellow tourists wielding selfie-sticks for the best shot, but it’s a must-see. To avoid the crowds, hit the park early – it opens at 8.00 am, or for a view of Barcelona with pastel skies, head there for a late night viewing like we did.
Again, you can access Park Guell easily on the Metro. Once off the Metro, you’ll see signs pointing visitors to the park (white with blue writing). If you’ve got a little time to waste there is an amazing Jesuit monastery en route covered in random bursts of anarchic graffiti we would have loved to explore – but instead we were rushing for our timeslot (we’ll explain this more in a second).
There’s a range of options available for Park Guell. If you’re on your last dime, you can enter one section of the park completely for free. However, this doesn’t give you access to the Monumental Zone, which is the most iconic, well known, and beautiful area of the park. It’s €7 for a ticket to the Monumental Zone, and take it from these cheapskates, it’s worth it. If it was good enough for Beyonce to visit on the Formation World Tour, then it’s good enough for you goddammit!
Monumental Zone Timeslots
Tickets can be pre-purchased to Park Guell’s Momental Zone for a certain “timeslot”. You have half-an-hour from the start time to enter the park, and can then stay within its boundaries as long as you like (there’s even a cafeteria). For example, we purchased our tickets to the Monumental Zone for 8.30 pm, and had until 9.00 pm to access the Monumental Zone. Had we not entered by 9.00 pm, our tickets would have been void.
Gaudi’d out yet?
If by some miracle that’s a no… then you can still visit La Pedrera. After that, you’re on your own, kiddo!
Final word of warning + Disclaimer
The one thing we found when visiting Gaudi’s incredible monuments in Barcelona was that they were very overcrowded – this is tourist central we’re talking about here. We did struggle to get photos we were happy with, and also it’s slightly difficult to appreciate the beauty of his art when you’re doing so with hundreds of other people, some of whom will literally shoulder past you to get ahead in line without even looking back.