Simple elegance shines out of the majestic masterpiece which welcomed the world to the brilliance of Antoni Gaudí.
Casa Vicens was the first of Spanish architect Gaudí’s impressive works and probably the least visited of his great pieces in Barcelona.
Visitors to this wonderful city are missing a trick if they don’t take time out to tour the summer house which Gaudi designed for the Vicens family, because it is astonishingly beautiful.
Oh, to have been alive between 1883 and 1885 when the gem was built and to have been invited to spend time in this wonderful haven with its brightly coloured floral tiled exterior and its magnificent interior.
Nestled in the former village of Gràcia, now a heavily built up suburb of the city, as you close your eyes and wander around with an audio tour, it’s like you are back in time when the house was surrounded by fields and nature.
It’s still an oasis of calm today with a Japanese inspired porch looking out onto a Mediterranean garden and marble fountain to emphasise a cool spot.
The house is full of rooms covered in plant motifs and art inspired tiles, with a smoking room for men only, a stunning oriental delight with multi-coloured plaster mocarabes on the ceiling replicating palm trees.
Upstairs a sitting room with a false gold dome has an optical illusion of flying birds and plants. The bedrooms lead to an intimate terrace and on the rooftop, there are small cupola crowns and identical brick structures which acts as caps to the home’s chimneys and match the façade with their green and white ceramic tiles which nod to Gaudí’s love of Islamic and Asian architecture.
All of Gaudí’s works are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage sites and show how the architect became more flamboyant in his designs, as his career grew.
His most famous is the Sagrada Família, the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world. Gaudí first started work on it in 1883 and devoted the rest of his life to creating this magnificent building. He knew he would not finish it before he died and today, building is still going on, following his art nouveau and gothic style and a completion date of 2026 has been earmarked.
It’s a fabulous building and most impressive at night when lit up. A great way of seeing the exterior close up is by the hop on, hop off Barcelona Bus Turístic which passes by as it takes you around the important landmarks of the city.
To see inside the church’s beautiful interior, stained glass and Gaudí created wooden furniture is by getting a timed ticket, and a great way of skipping the queue is to use the online booking service Tiqets which offers good deals to help save time and money on all the city’s main attractions.
Barcelona is truly cosmopolitan and capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. Full of wide streets, elegant shops and charming restaurants, it is a great city for a short break.
Hospitality is high and impeccable service is a must at the Allegro Barcelona Hotel, a 10 minute stroll from the main avenues.
Part of the Barceló Hotel group, it’s a great wee place to stay with 56 trendy bedrooms and a penthouse suite complete with a private pool.
Friendly staff, great buffet breakfasts and comfy bedrooms, complete with Spotify playing showers, and all in a fashionable neighbourhood, make it the ideal base.
From here you can visit Gaudí’s other main beauties, including Casa Batlló, on the busy Paseo de Gracia. Designed as a home for the Batlló family in the early 1900’s, it is a true piece of art.
Sculptured stonework and ornate wooden doors and windows in beautifully designed rooms make this an impressive building, whose mosaic façade at night twinkles with light.
With a roof arched like the back of a dinosaur, it really is magic, as is the nearby La Pedrera – Casa Milà, the last private residence designed by Gaudí and perhaps the most flamboyant.
The casa has a real swish about it with a courtyard to allow you to gaze up at the beautifully coloured balconies, which front the exquisite rooms and a secret attic. The rooftop is the masterpiece with a garden of warriors, ceramic tile covered chimneys to guard the house.
Just a short hop from Casa Vicens is Park Güell, which Gaudí created during his naturalist phase. Using inspiration from organic shapes, he designed individual garden terraces and a staircase of monuments with a bench to replicate a sea serpent as the centre.
Inside the park, the terraces feature stone bird nests and is also home to the Gaudí House Museum, containing furniture he designed, and the Porter’s Lodge, another of his simple but beautiful designs.
Barcelona is a city inspired by artists and two of the best museums are the Picasso and Moco, very different in style, but equally wonderful.
The Picasso Museum houses some of his lesser seen and unfinished paintings and ceramics, with temporary exhibitions of artists he worked with and who adopted similar styles. The independent Moco Museum is full of modern art from Andy Warhol to Banksy which reflect on today’s society, a world away from Gaudí times, but just as weird and wonderful, and no doubt he would have loved himself!
Getting there: Direct flights are available via low cost airlines and www.holidayextras.com can help with airport parking, lounges and transfers.
Tourist Information: Turisme de Barcelona is an excellent way to discover the city with expert help at their information points around the city or via www.barcelonaturisme.com.
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.