A day in Barcelona with Gaudí

Barcelona is one of my favourite European cities and it has something for everyone. If you’re just a little interested in architecture, there are several places in the Catalan capital that you must not miss. Many of them bear the mark of the famous architect Antoni Gaudí and during one of our recent visits, we dedicated an entire day to the works of Gaudí.

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

We stayed at Hotel Nextto on Carrer del Rosselló, which had a great central location. In fact, our room even had a patio facing Gaudí’s Casa Milà, also know as ‘La Pedrera’. So we started the day early with a visit to this fantastic building. Since it was early in the day, lines weren’t too bad and it’s always nice to get into these must-see places before they get too crowded.

la_pedrera

Inside there are two amazing courtyards, one when you enter the tour and one at the end of the tour. You continue up to the roof with the odd shaped chimneys and a great view of the city. You continue down to the beautiful attic (pictured above) and further down where some apartments have been saved as a museum.

Park Guell

Park Güell

From La Pedrera we headed up to Park Güell, but a word of warning here. Upon arrival we found out that the central part of the park was sold out, not only on that day but also the day after. This part is called the Monumental Zone (main entrance, terrace, and the parts containing mosaics) and has only had an entrance fee since late 2013.

Now we didn’t worry too much about that because you can see a lot from the public spaces that don’t require a ticket. Also, we had an appointment later on in the afternoon, so we were in a bit of a hurry anyway. But if you are visiting Barcelona for the first time and really want to see the Monumental Zone up close, my advice is to book tickets well in advance.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família, or as its full name is, The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, is the most astonishing piece of architecture you will probably be able to see anywhere in the world. This masterpiece has been under construction for 134 years and it is still not completed. However, a steady flow of tourists have contributed to the financing of the project and it is estimated that the church will be completed in the next 10 years.

Since most tourists in Barcelona visit the church, it is strongly recommended to buy tickets online in advance. We bought tickets before our trip and we also added the tour up in one of the towers. When you do this you have to select a time for entry to the church and a time to enter the tower.

Anyway, you simply cannot visit Barcelona without seeing Sagrada Familia. And don’t just see it from the outside, you really must see the beautiful interior.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló

Another of Gaudi’s masterpieces is Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia, the same street as La Pedrera. The building was actually not built from scratch by Gaudi. Instead he renovated an existing building. During our “Gaudi day”, we stopped by Casa Batlló but we didn’t go inside. That’ll have to wait until next time 😉

If you want to read more about the works of Gaudi, there are several pointers in the Wikipedia article.

Architecture in Stockholm open to the public for a weekend

KTH School of Architecture
KTH School of Architecture

From 25 stories up, to 25 meters under ground, this weekend Stockholm opens up spaces that normally are off limits to the general public. ‘Open House’ is a concept that started in London in 1992 with the aim of “showcasing outstanding architecture for all to experience, completely for free”. During two days, Oct 7-8, the public is invited to take part of guided tours of some of the most exciting buildings and places in Stockholm, all for free.

I managed to visit four different spots during the weekend. On Friday, I went to see the former lamp factory Luma in Hammarby Sjöstad, south of Södermalm. Architects from Link Arkitektur guided us round the iconic building which was designed by Artur von Schmalensee and Eskil Sundahl in 1929-30.

The former LUMA light bulb factory

Nowadays, the building houses offices and conference spaces. At the very top of the building, there is a room with large windows with views of Stockholm in all directions. This room was previously used to test light bulbs but is now a conference room that can be booked for meetings or parties.

Former light bulb testing room with spectacular views

On Saturday I got the chance to visit another Stockholm landmark building, Wenner Gren Center. This 25 story building was once the tallest building in Europe with a steel framework. The view from the top floor is of course spectacular.

View of Sveavägen from the top floor at Wenner Gren Center

KTH School of Architecture

This new and exciting building by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter (pictured above in this post) in pre-rusted steel was finished in 2015. It has already won several design awards, among them the prestigious Kasper Sahlin Prize. Inside, some 600 students study architecture in a building that has a concrete structure, but inside most walls are covered with wood panels for a warmer feel. The stairs up to the top floor are quite cool too.

The stairs in KTH School of Architecture

My final stop was located nearby on the KTH campus and it is the reactor hall R1, Sweden’s first nuclear reactor. You had to walk stairs down to the hall which is about 25 meters below street level. In the center of the hall is a pit where they used to test nuclear reactions and radiation. The reactor was active between 1954 and 1970 and the grid in the ceiling and on the walls was used when the reactor was shut down and they needed to measure levels of radiation in the room.

R1, Sweden’s first nuclear reactor

There are many interesting places to visit and since they are spread around Stockholm it’s impossible to cover more than a few during two days. So I hope that Open House Stockholm will be a recurring event that I can revisit next year.

Pula Arena

The Pula Arena in Croatia is the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world. It’s as impressive as the Colosseum in Rome and it retains its complete curcuit of walls.

Today the arena is used for gladiator “fights” and concerts. There has even been a hockey game inside the arena! 

When we visited in July there was a film festival in Pula and the arena was one of many venues used for film screenings.

If you get a chance to visit Croatia, be sure to plan for a stop in Pula, it’s a beautiful place.

pula arena

The streets of Belfast

I think that one of the best ways to get to know a new city is to walk. That way you get a better sense of what life looks like in the city and how everything is connected. And you can take some great photos.

I took a series of black and white photos last weekend in Belfast and here are a few of them.

Image above from the area near Windsor Park, the national football stadium.

Above: beautiful building across the road from City Hall.

McHughs is a classic pub and it is located in what is claimed to be the oldest building in Belfast. And of course, we visited the pub to grab a Belfast Lager!

The Bank Buildings in Belfast

I spent the weekend in Belfast with a friend and had a great time. This is a thriving city with a nice mix of both old and new architecture.

We really didn’t have much time for shopping so we just walked by this nice old building called the Bank Buildings.

Originally it was home to a bank, and because the four founders of the bank all had the first name of John, the bank was called The Bank of the Four Johns.

Now the building houses a slightly less prominent business – a Primark store.