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Barcelona - Around Town : Eixample (part 1)

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If the Old Town is the heart of Barcelona and the green mountains of Tibidabo and Montjuïc the lungs, the Eixample is the city’s nervous system – its economic and commercial core. The area began to take shape in 1860 when the city was permitted to expand beyond the medieval walls . Its design, based on plans by Catalan engineer Ildefons Cerdà, comprises hundreds of symmetrical grid-like squares. Construction continued into the 20th century at a time when Barcelona’s elite was patronizing the city’s most daring architects. Modernisme was flourishing and the area became home to the cream of Barcelona’s Modernista architecture, with myriad elegant façades and balconies. Today, a wealth of enchanting cafés, funky design shops, gourmet restaurants and hip bars and clubs draws the professional crowd, which has adopted the neighbourhood as its own.

Ildefons Cerdà

Ildefons Cerdà’s design for the new city, comprising a uniform grid of square blocks, received backing in 1859. Reflecting Cerdà’s utopian socialist ideals, each block was to have a garden-like courtyard, surrounded by uniform flats. Real estate vultures soon intervened and the courtyards were converted into warehouses and factories. Today these green spaces are gradually being reinstated.



Sights

  1. Sagrada Família

    Gaudí’s wizardry culminated in this enchanting, wild, unconventional temple, which dominates the city skyline .

    Spires, Sagrada Família
  2. La Pedrera

    A daring, surreal fantasyland, and Gaudí’s most remarkable civic work .

  3. Mansana de la Discòrdia

    At the heart of the city’s Quadrat d’Or (Golden Square) lies this stunning block of houses. Literally “the block of discord”, the Mansana de la Discòrdia is so-called because of the dramatic contrast of its three flagship buildings. Built between 1900 and 1907 by the three Modernista greats, rival architects Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, the buildings were commissioned by competing bourgeois families. Domènech is represented by the ornate Casa Lleó Morera; Puig makes his mark with the Gothic-inspired Casa Amatller; and Gaudí flaunts his architectural prowess with Casa Batlló. All boast superb interiors: Casa Amatller runs tours of the vestibule but Casa Lleó Morera is sadly closed to the public. The lesser-known houses at Nos. 37 and 39 add to the overall splendour of the block. The Perfume Museum at No. 39 is heaven for scent-lovers.

    • Pg de Gràcia 35–45

    Windows, Casa Battló, Mansana de la Discòrdia
  4. Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau

    Still a fully functioning hospital, it was built in two stages from 1905 by Domènech i Montaner and his son. A tribute to Modernisme – and Domènech’s answer to Gaudí’s Sagrada Família – the sumptuous design comprises eight pavilions and various other buildings linked by underground tunnels. The pavilions, each different, recall the history of Catalonia with murals, mosaics and sculptures. Interlacing the buildings are gardens creating beautiful outdoor oases. The courtyards and gardens are open to visitors. Part of the Ruta del Modernisme .

    • C/Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167

    Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau
  5. Fundació Tàpies

    Paintings and sculptures by Antoni Tàpies (b. 1923), Catalonia’s foremost living artist, are housed in this early Modernista building . For a glimpse of what awaits inside, look up: crowning the museum is the artist’s eye-catching wire sculpture Cloud & Chair (1990). The collection of over 300 pieces covers Tàpies’ whole range of work, including impressive abstract pieces such as Grey Ochre on Brown (1962). Temporary exhibitions are also held here, with past shows by Mario Herz, Hans Hacke and Craigie Horsfield.

    • C/Aragó 255

    • 93 487 03 15

    • Closed for restoration; phone for details

    • Adm

    • DA

    • Free under 16

    Cloud & Chair sculpture, Fundació Tàpies

    Modernista hotel entrance
  6. Palau Macaya

    Designed by Puig i Cadafalch (1901), this palace is a fine example of the Neo-Gothic style in Modernista architecture. A magical, white façade is broken up by engravings and two towers. Of note are the decorative sculptures by Modernista sculptor Eusebi Arnau. The palace belongs to the Centre Cultural de la Caixa is closed at the moment; it is worth a visit to see the outside alone.

    • Pg Sant Joan

    Courtyard, Palau Macaya
  7. Fundació Francisco Godia

    Although Francisco Godia (1921–90) was best known for his prowess behind the wheel – notably as an F1 racing driver – his passions extended to the art world. His once private collection now forms this museum and encompasses a range of art from medieval times to the 20th-century: from Jaume Huguet’s altarpiece St Mary Magdalene (c. 1445) to a range of Spanish ceramics and works by 17th-century fresco-painter Luca Giardano.

    • C/Disputacio 250

    • 93 272 31 00

    • Open 10am–8pm daily

    • Adm

  8. Rambla de Catalunya

    This elegant extension of the better-known Rambla is a more up-market version. Lined with trees that form a leafy green tunnel in summer, it boasts scores of pretty façades and shops, including the Modernista Farmàcia Bolos (No. 77). The avenue teems with terrace bars and cafés, which are ideal for people-watching.

    Fountain, Rambla de Catalunya
  9. Universitat de Barcelona

    Until 1958, this was the only university in Barcelona – today it is one of six. The graceful building (1861–1889) occupies two blocks of the Eixample and has a distinct air of academia. The interior gardens with their fountains and patios make for a cool, shady hideaway on hot afternoons.

    • Pl de la Universitat

    Interior courtyard, Universitat de Barcelona
  10. Museu Egipci

    Spain’s most important Egyptology museum houses more than 350 exhibits from over 3,000 years of Ancient Egypt. Exhibits include terracotta figures, human and animal mummies, and a bust of the lion goddess Sekhmet (700–300 BC).

    • C/València 284

    • Open 10am–8pm Mon–Sat, 10am–2pm Sun

    • Adm

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