A few months ago, I hadn’t heard much about Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926)—something about a modern cathedral still being completed in Barcelona, which was supposed to be cool. Then I began research for our trip and started seeing these images, of columns like trees and doorways like mushrooms, of spaces that just seemed joyful and alive and growing. Gaudi’s architectural works are scattered around Barcelona, famous and yet waiting to surprise the visitor who turns a corner and is confronted for the first time by, for example, Casa Batlló.
Gaudi was hired to refurbish this building (then a personal residence) in 1904. The facade he created, using meticulously positioned pieces of glass, has been likened to the imagery of Monet’s Water Lilies.
Late Friday afternoon, I joined the throngs staring up from the sidewalk. Tours of Casa Batlló are a steep €18, and I wasn’t going for it, even though the photos of the interior were intriguing. Then I saw a sandwich board advertising what turned out to be possibly my favorite experience of the whole trip. This doesn’t seem to be detailed on the Batlló website, but in the summer evenings (might be weekends only) they reopen the house from 21:00 to 00:30. Not all levels are accessible, but you can wander part of the house while enjoying drinks, snacks, and live music. The entry for this (including drinks and snacks) was €25. I was on my own that night and looking for something fun and classy to do, so I returned around 21:30.
If the building seemed imaginative by day, by night it was enchanting. There was a small crowd, but not enough that it felt crowded, which I am certain it is during regular hours. When I walked up the staircase, I felt like I’d wandered into some fairy tale. The rooms I walked through were unfurnished, graced by sweeping woodwork and colorful glass. Out on the back terrace, beach chairs were set up for guests to sip cava and listen to live jazz.
I admit this was an experience that would have been nice shared with someone (solo travel can be odd), but it was worthwhile and completely memorable. I recommend seeking this out if you’re in Barcelona this summer.
Casa Batlló is located at no. 43 Passeig de Gràcia, amidst the “Block of Discord”—modernist mansions of competing visions.
*Gaudi series to be continued with La Sagrada Familia*