The World of Gaudi
Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) was a native of Catalonia and lived in Barcelona all his life. He was an original architect, who based his designs on nature, decorating his buildings with plants, flowers and animals – palm fronds on the Casa Vincens fence, bones on the front of the Casa Batllo, towers of the Sagrada Familia like gigantic sand drip castles. Gaudi's buildings are timeless creations, just waiting for kids to be surprised by what they see.
Casa Batllo - This is our absolutely favorite Gaudi house, it's a dazzling experience for kids, and a "must see" in Barcelona. From the moment you see the outside of the house, with hobbit-house windows and pastel tiled roof like the back of a dragon, this is no ordinary house. Inside, wander through the living spaces for the Batllo family, a cozy fireplace and nook to curl up in, carved wooden doors with an air of magic, painted columns, colored glass windows. Take the stairways going round and round up to the roof, and step out into a fantasy world, where it seems like the chimneys might dance and sing. The Casa Batllo is very popular, so come early in the day, when it opens.
Casa Mila (La Pedrera) - Casa Mila, nicknamed "La Pedrera," is not a single house, but two blocks of apartment buildings joined by a shared lightwell and a unified wavy facade, (the facade looks like something out of a tidepool). Inside, take the elevator up to the attic for scale models of all his buildings and exhibits about Gaudi's design (he also made chairs, furniture, door handles). Step out onto the roof into another world, filled with chimneys like people's heads or swirling soft ice cream - it's a world for the kids to fully explore and let their imagination run wild, so take your time up on the roof.
Parc Guell - Kids will feel right at home in the Parc Guell, a large park with one of Gaudi's most beloved creations, "draco," the mosaic dragon. At the main entrance to the park on Calle Olot, pass though the gate flanked by two gingerbread-house buildings. On the left is a children's preschool and elementary, so there might be kids at recess. On the steps is the mosaic dragon, kids can touch it all they like. From there, explore the hall of columns (like an undersea world), grottos of stone pillars dripping with plants, and paths up the hill for great views. The huge wavy ceramic bench on the terrace is a perfect place to have your picnic lunch and also, get lots of ideas for your next arts and crafts projects.
La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) - The basilica, La Sagrada Familia, was Gaudi’s most ambitious project, but he only completed the Nativity Façade and one tower. Work has continued for over a hundred years, implementing his designs and creating new ones, for the interior, facades and towers. When the basilica is finished, it will have eighteen towers, the tallest one 560+ ft high. Work on the cathedral is ongoing, so you’ll see cranes lifting things, sounds of construction, this is a living church.
The current entrance to the Sagrada Familia is through the Nativity Facade – it’s like a separate building in itself, telling the story of Christ's birth and life on three separate portals. In the central doorway, look for sculptures of the Bethlehem nativity, baby Jesus surrounded by Three Wise Men, shepherds, angels playing music.
Interior of the basilica is amazing – supporting columns are a forest of trees, flooded with natural light and glowing stained glass windows in blues and greens, orange and reds.
With older kids, take the elevator up either the tower on the Passion or Nativity Facade and then walk down. It’s a heady experience, about 300+ steps going down, but kids will get a real appreciation seeing the towers close up and being high in the sky. Towers are for kids 6 and up, spiral stairs have few landings to rest while going down.
Visit the Museum (underground) for hands-on exhibits about Gaudi's love of nature and his innovative architectural designs, and workshop with models for new construction.
Don't miss the Passion Facade on the other side of the church from the Nativity Facade. Created by a modern artist, here is the story of Christ's Last Supper, crucifixion and resurrection.
Tip: In summer months, be sure to reserve timed tickets
for the church and elevator up the towers well in advance.
There are two playgrounds
on the east and west sides of the church - Placa de la Sagrada Familia and Placa de Gaudi, playground has climbing structures, slides, swings, snack bar, trees and benches.
Palau Guell -The Palau Guell, just off Las Ramblas, was the family home of the Guell family. Start at ground floor, once a stable with columns topped like mushrooms. Following the curving ramp up to the main floors, where the family lived (don't miss the children's bedrooms). Climb up all the way to the roof, decorated with twenty different chimneys, covered in mosaics. Pick up the audio guide with children's tour.
Casa Vincens - The Casa Vincens, one of Gaudi's early projects, was built for a tile merchant and the exterior is a riot of tilework. It's not possible to go the inside of the house, but if you're in the neighborhood, check out the outside - yellow and green flower tiles cover the surface, window rails swirl like octopus tentacles and the iron fence is spikey as a palm frond.
Gaudi pavements - All over Barcelona, street pavements are embellished with Gaudi designs, designs that he used on the floors in his houses. On the Passeig de Gracia, look for hexangonal shapes with sea motifs. In other parts of the city, keep your eyes peeled for square pavement tiles with stylized flower designs.