Walking Tour 4: Moderniste Route (L'Eixample)

Start: Plaça Urquinaona (Metro: Urquinaona).

Finish: Plaça de Catalunya (Metro: Plaça de Catalunya).

Time: 2 to 3 hours.

Best Times: Any sunny day or early evening, although some shops close in the afternoon.

This stroll explores the wide-laned, 19th-century-inspired Eixample (or "extension") of the city, where fine moderniste buildings stand alongside some of the city's most elegant shops and cafes.

Start at Plaça Urquinaona and head down to Carrer Sant Francesc de Paula to the:

1. Palau de la Música Catalana 

This haven for Barcelona music lovers, designed by Domènech i Muntaner and tucked away just above La Ribera, is well worth a slight detour before you begin your meander up into L'Eixample. Ornately extravagant, its highlights include busts of Palestrina, Bach, and Beethoven; multicolored mosaics and columns; and a large allegorical frieze of the Orfeó Català (Catalan Choral Society) by Lluis Bru. The thing to do, of course, is to come back one evening to enjoy a concert in the magnificent interior.

Return to Urquinaona and walk right along Carrer Ausiàs March to no. 31, where you'll find:

2. Farmacia Nordbeck

Built in 1905, this is one of the best examples of pharmacies built in a complete moderniste style, with stained-glass windows and dark mellow wood. Throughout L'Eixample you'll notice similarly exotic chemists -- such as the Argelaguet in Carrer Roger de Llúria -- emphasizing this balm-like link between curing the body and satisfying the soul.

And three buildings down the street (on the same side), you'll see:

3. Cases Tomàs Roger

This duo of houses at nos. 37 and 39, designed by Enric Sagnier at the end of the 19th century, is noted for its fine archways and well-restored sgraffito on the facades.

Return to Plaça Urquinaona and head north up Carrer Roger de Llúria. At no. 85 you'll find:

4. Queviures Murrià

Run by the same family for more than 150 years, this marvelous grocery store is also an impressive work of art. The array of goodies inside is complemented by a lavish exterior by the moderniste painter Ramón Casas.

5. Take a Break --  Café Baume

Roger de Llúria 124. tel. 93-459-05-66, is a traditional cafe where you can put your feet up on one of the old-fashioned, well-worn leather chairs and enjoy a morning coffee or tea during the exhausting business of checking out the area's artistic attractions. On Sundays it's particularly popular with locals, who come to relax and browse the latest scandals and spats with Madrid in La Vanguardia.

Continue up Roger de Llúria to Carrer de Mallorca. Turn right and proceed to no. 291 to find:

6. BD Barcelona Design

One of the classiest interior-design shops you'll find anywhere, this stylish building -- known as Casa Tomas -- was designed by several key moderniste architects, including the great Domènech i Muntaner. Browse through the (expensive) selection of chic reproductions and furnishings based on work by the likes of Dalí and Gaudí.

Continue farther up Roger de Llúria and then turn right onto the wide Avinguda Diagonal. On the opposite (north) side of the road at nos. 416 to 420 is the:

7. Casa de les Punxes (Casa Terrades)

Known locally as the "House of Spikes" because of its sharply pointed turrets, this neo-Gothic, castle-like eccentricity built by Puig i Cadafalch in 1905 has four towers and a trio of separate entrances (one for each of the family's daughters). Its ceramic panels have patriotic motifs. Controversial in the past (a then-prominent politician, Alejandro Lerroux, called it "a crime against the nation"), it's regarded today as one of modernisme's great landmark facades.

Farther along the Avinguda Diagonal at no. 442 is:

8. Casa Comalat

Designed by the Gaudí-influenced architect Salvador Valeri i Popurull, this unusual house has two different facades, formal at the front, more playful at the back. The former has a dozen curvy stone balconies with wrought-iron railings; the latter, which opens onto Carrer Corséga, features polychrome ceramic work and wooden galleries. It's not open to the public but well worth a look from the outside.

Now walk left along the avenue to:

9. Palau de Baró de Cuadras

Built in 1904 to a design by the ubiquitous Puig i Cadafalch, this mansion features a unique double facade that combines Plateresque and Gothic styles on the Diagonal-facing side; the more staid rear facade reflects the fact that the building was essentially a mere block of apartments overlooking Carrer Rosselló. Inside, the decor is predominantly Arabic, with a wealth of mosaics, sgraffito, and polychrome woodwork. It houses the Casa Asia exhibition (tel. 93-368-08-36; www.casaasia.es), which aims to foster cultural and economic relations between Asia and Europe.

Continue to Passeig de Gràcia and turn left to reach:

10. La Pedrera (Casa Milà) 

Created between 1905 and 1910, this building is, after La Sagrada Família, Gaudí's most extraordinary work. Casa Milà -- the building's original name -- may baldly be a block of apartments, but it's like none other on earth. The highly sculpted, undulating limestone facade earned the place its nickname, La Pedrera (stone quarry), while its stunning wrought-iron balconies, parabolic arches, and gnarled, fairy-tale chimneys evoke a fantasy. The rooftop is spellbinding, even more so than the views it affords, and concerts are held here on summer weekends.

The fourth floor comprises an entire moderniste apartment, the Pis de Pedrera -- pis means "apartment" in Catalan -- where rooms are laden with wondrous knick-knacks and antiques. In the attic you can see the Espai Gaudí (Gaudí Space), which comprehensively summarizes Gaudí's style of working.

Continue a few blocks left down Passeig de Gràcia to:

11. Manzana de la Discordia 

This small zone of L'Eixample is the highlight of any moderniste enthusiast's visit. Here you have, almost on top of each other, works by not just one great architect but three. (Manzana, incidentally, means both "plot of land" and "apple" in Spanish, so its double meaning hints at the Greek myth in which Paris has to choose which beauty wins the coveted Apple of Discord.)

If there is a single victor here it's generally acknowledged to be Gaudí's exotically curvaceous Casa Batlló (no. 43). Permanently illuminated at night, it's known affectionately by Catalans as the "Casa dels Ossos" (House of Bones) -- and sometimes alternatively the "Casa del Drach" (House of the Dragon) -- and it features an irregular blend of mauve, green, and blue fragmented tiles topped by a bizarre azure chimney-filled roof, which is also open to the public.

Next comes Puig i Cadalfach's cubical-style Casa Ametller (no. 41), with its gleaming ceramic facade, Flemish Gothic pediments, and small, bizarre Eusebio Arnau-sculpted statues of precociously talented animals (one of them blowing glass). Finally, there is Domènech i Muntaner's Casa Lleó Morera (no. 35), whose dominant turret resembles a melting, pale-blue wedding cake atop a sea of esoteric ornamentation that includes models of a lion (lleo) and mulberry bush (morera).

From here it's a 5-minute stroll right down the Passeig de Gràcia to Plaça de Catalunya and the Metro stop.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.