What to do in Barcelona Besides Eat
Gaudi’s most incredible achievement is his design for La Sagrada Familia, the church where he spent the last years of his life. It is still incomplete and the city hopes to have it finished within the next twenty-five years. No one hurries in Europe, but the money has dripped in slowly and is now coming solely from the fees to enter the church and from the tours.
Although there is an amazing amount to see on your own, I recommend taking the tour. The guide will explain why the façade of the building facing north looks like an entirely different building than the one facing south. Inside, the nave looks like a marble forest. Indeed, Gaudi was trying to make everything seem natural, holistic, and like it came from nature. Some, but not all, of the windows are complete. Gaudi’s love of light is so extreme that I had a difficult time taking photos because there was so much light inside.
A visit to the roof yields amazing views. A visit to the basement will allow you into the museum where you see a demonstration of how Gaudi invented a new concept in structural architecture. Instead of using the traditional flying buttress for support (like Notre Dame in Paris), he experimented with chains and weights to see how much arch would support how much weight before the entire thing would collapse. Once he had his dimensions, he flipped the whole concept upside down and made it in concrete, marble and magic. I’m sure there is a better explanation from physical science and engineering, but you get the idea.
The entire cathedral is magical. The complexity of the façade depicting the Nativity is worthy of hours of staring. The Passion façade on the opposite side of the building is, by contrast, stark and certainly doesn’t glamorize the suffering of Christ. There are just so many details to absorb. I’m still pondering the numerology puzzle that adds up to 33 any way you try it.
More than paintings, sculpture, and traditional art, I think architecture is not simply aesthetic, but a lifestyle. Gaudi defined Barcelona, its people, and its lifestyle. I don’t see how you can visit the city and not spend some time learning about him and appreciating all he left behind.