Alternative things to do in Barcelona beyond the Gaudi buildings
In Barcelona, October is about architecture. The first Monday of October is celebrated the World Architecture Day, and this is why the month was chosen to celebrate here the 48 Open House Festival, an event that takes place for a whole weekend when architecturally unique private buildings are open for visitors. Many locals take the opportunity to go inside those landmarks where they are otherwise never allowed to go in. And you can do it, too! Just make sure to plan your visits to this hidden treasures carefully , as access to some sites must be booked in advance and in other lines form up really quickly. Or get a Weekend Passport to skip lines – it’s not cheap (considering that otherwise visiting the buildings is free), but it might be worthwhile.
However, if you aren’t in Barcelona during that weekend (in 2017 it’s taking place October 21-22), beyond Gaudi and the other top modernist buildings there are some other almost secret places in Barcelona that most tourists don’t know about but are totally worth visiting if you like architecture and history. Let us take you off the beaten path today!
These are our favorite Barcelona hidden treasures:
Casa Rocamora. If you are an avid collector, don’t miss this private mansion tucked away in the wealthy neighborhoods of the uptown Barcelona. It was owned by an art collector who lived in the early 1900’s and spread his findings around the house. Entering the building is entering a world of fascinating objects from his over 20 different collections including vintage clothing, a library with over 5,000 books, vintage adds, antique furniture, ship figureheads, old letters… A quirky space that you’ll never forget. One of the items they are proudest about is a mobile designed by Picasso when he was young that used to decorate the famous tavern Quatre Gats where the modernist artists used to meet.
Casa Felip. If you are passionate about Art Nouveau, you’ll love this building built by the architect Telm Fernández i Janot in 1901, that now is the seat of the art museum of the Fundació Vilacasas. Besides visiting the art collection, you can join guided tours to discover the gorgeous modernist decoration of the house: magnificent stained glasses, impressive wrought iron pieces, beautiful sgraffiati… During the fascinating walk through the entrance hall and the main floor of the building that lasts around one hour, you’ll also learn about the people who have owned the house throughout the years: from the Felip family, to a community of Salesian monks, a textile company, a business association and finally, the art found that occupies it nowadays. And to round off your modernist day, make sure to book lunch or dinner in the Casa Calvet restaurant just one block away.
Casa de la Seda. The sophisticate traveler shouldn’t miss the headquarters of the Silk Manufacturers Guild, an association created in the 1700’s to protect the rights and interests of the local silk business and that became the most influent guild of its time. The guild’s power shows in the luxuriously decorated rooms, with silk-lined walls and splendid antique furniture. Don’t miss the impressive private library and historical archives, and the superb presidential office and meeting room where deals, agreements and secrets were discussed. The visit lasts around 45 minutes, and it can be easily combined with a visit of the colorful Palau de la Música Catalana concert hall, just across the street.
Palauet Casades. Are you a lawyer? You don’t need to be to enjoy the visit of Palauet Casades, originally the home of a textile businessman from the end of the 1800’s and now headquarters of the Catalan Bar Association. In this one hour guided tour you’ll be taken around the three bodies that comprise the building, all of them designed in an elegant classic style, the central yard with its marble columns and the spectacular library of the Law Society, featuring over 300,000 books and considered to be the most important private law library in Europe. This building is very close to Passeig de Gràcia, so it can be easily combined with a visit to La Pedrera or Casa Batllo.
Arús Library. Well, it seems like books and libraries start to be a trend in todays post, doesn’t it? So speaking about libraries, there isn’t a library with a more fascinating history in Barcelona than the Arús Library. Open in 1895 thanks to the donation of philanthropist Rossend Arús with the aim to educate the working class, it was equipped with thousands of books from the beginning covering all areas of knowledge. Mr. Arús was also a prominent franc-mason, and those initiated will quickly spot mason symbolism all over the place. The library continues to be a public library nowadays, and while you can visit it on your own, we strongly recommend to join one of their guided tours to learn more about the history of the place. By the way, here you’ll find one of the best kept secrets in Barcelona: the 3rd Statue of Liberty in the world, besides NYC and Paris.
AND BONUS! The hidden gem that can be visited at night:
Palau Requesens. The headquarters of the Royal Academy of Letters was once the largest medieval palace in Barcelona. Most of its current structure is Gothic from the 1300’s with later additions and remodels, but its origins are Romanesque, and it was built over the remains of the former Roman city wall. As you get in from a narrow alley, you find yourself in a medieval courtyard from where a staircase takes you to the main floor. The visit, spiced up with commentaries from an audioguide, also takes you to the terrace and the tower of the palace. After the visit, you can also optionally stay for the medieval entertainment show including sword fights, juggling and belly dancing and a dinner consisting of medieval Catalan recipes.
So what about you? Head to the comments below and tells us: Do you know of any other architecture hidden gems in Barcelona?