The streets of Barcelona are like a museum in their own right. With a modernist masterpiece on just about every street corner, it is easy to while away a day or two just gawking at the city’s architectural wonders.
Gaudí’s buildings may be the most famous but Barcelona boasts plenty more lesser known architectural … [+]
While the mind-bending works of Antoni Gaudí may be the most famous pieces of architecture in the Catalan capital, the city boasts plenty more lesser known gems. Lovers of eye-popping Art Nouveau facades will be especially enthralled by the Eixample neighborhood.
Literally translated as “extension,” Eixample refers to the feat of urban planning that enabled the severely overcrowded city of Barcelona to expand beyond its medieval walls in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The result was a sprawling new urban grid characterized by long straight streets, octagonal city blocks intended to facilitate the flow of traffic, and modernist townhouses and apartment blocks with breathtakingly colorful facades.
Aerial view of Barcelona’s Eixample district and its famous urban grid system.
Barcelona-based architect and photographer Roc Isern spends his free time photographing the vibrant facades of Barcelona’s buildings and sharing them on his immensely popular Instagram page.
“When I discovered Instagram almost eight years ago, I could not have imagined how it would change my relationship to photography, architecture and my city, Barcelona,” says Roc Isern, who curates two accounts, @barcelonafacades and @stoptheroc, the latter of which takes a broader approach to architecture and design. Both accounts highlight Isern’s passion for geometrical shapes, patterns, colors and shadows. “Since then, I’ve developed a renewed interest in revisiting and exploring my city in a more curious way, focusing especially on its architecture.”
Here are some of Barcelona’s most beautiful facades, as selected by Roc Isern:
This residential building from 1888-1910, located in Rambla Catalunya in Eixample, was designed by Josep Majó i Ribas. It has balconies on every floor, and is adorned with sgraffito, which changes color on the top floor.
Casa Josep Creus Aymerich.
This residential building from 1912-1914 is located in the Poble Nou district and was designed by Josep Masdeu Puigdemasa. The colorful façade with floral sgraffito and the balconies with forged-on railings make it a remarkable example of the Art Nouveau style (known as Modernisme in Catalonia). The proximity of the trees and its branches made shooting this facade a challenge.
Casa Enric Ribalta.
This residential building from 1911-1929, located in Carrer de Pàdua, was designed by architect Jeroni F. Granell Manresa. It is characterized by its red and green colors and floral sgraffito on the symmetrical facade. The narrow street requires an ultra-wide-angle lens to capture the whole building in a single shot.
One of the most famous buildings in Barcelona, designed by Antoni Gaudí and built between 1906 and 1912, the structure features forms drawn from nature. It was Gaudi’s last work of civic architecture and represented a break with the conventions of his time.
Suites Avenue Apartments.
This building by Japanese architect Toyo Ito is noted for his signature work on the undulating steel façade. It is an allegorical reinterpretation of La Pedrera, which stands opposite it, and whose architect, Antoni Gaudí, was one of Ito’s sources of inspiration. The curved lines, inspired by the shapes of nature, capture different hues and tones of the light, changing color according to the time of day.
La Vanguardia building.
This building, designed by Josep Majó i Ribas and constructed in 1903, was the former headquarters of newspaper La Vanguardia. In 2007, it was completely refurbished on the inside to serve as a hotel, while maintaining its original facade.
Casa Pere Brias
This residential building from 1903, located in Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, was designed by Julián García Núñez. The work of a less-known architect of the time, it stands out for its beautiful facade in soft green with richly ornamented balconies and undulating stone moldings.
Interior facade of a residential block in Eixample.
This is an example of the interior facade of a typical Eixample city block. A glimpse of everyday life in Barcelona, with laundry drying in the sun.
Màrius Torres School.
This is a side facade of a school built in 2011 by local architects Ferran Pelegrina i Associats. It stands out for its simplicity and the geometrical and color play of the randomly situated windows. It was one of my first inspirations for creating @barcelonafacades back in 2014.
This residential building from 1906, located in Plaça Lesseps in the Gràcia district, was designed by architect Jaume Torres i Grau. Like other Modernist buildings, it boasts impressive ornamental details inspired by the natural world—like the bees on the main façade, which lend the structure its colloquial nickname, “house of bees”. Its beautiful interiors have provided the setting for various movies and TV shows. These days, you can also book a stay here on Airbnb—if you can afford it!
Having grown up in Sweden and studied in the U.K., I moved to Barcelona in 2010 and have never looked back. I write about travel, with a particular focus on all things