Oh. My. Days. If there is one thing the stunning city of Barcelona is known for, it’s the city’s unique architecture, and mostly the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí was the most well known architect of the Catalan Modernism movement which swept across the city at the beginning of the 20th century, and nowadays people flock to Barcelona to see his buildings slash works of art in the form of La Sagrada Família and houses like Casa Milo and Casa Batlló. But in the process of seeing all this gloriousness, there’re many other architectural wonders designed by other architects that get slightly overlooked. The city’s beautiful concert hall- the Palau de la Música Catalana- is one of them.
It took ages for this downright exquisite structure to even make it onto my radar, having spent weeks meandering up and down streets hunting for Gaudí’s buildings, but when I realised that I’d stopped to photograph the same stunning pink mulberry-covered building several times over the course of several months, I thought it was about time I googled what on Earth it actually was that I was looking at. The house in question is called Casa Lleó Morera and occupies a corner of the Passeig de Gràcia near to Gaudí’s very surreal-looking Casa Batlló; it turns out that this particular block of buildings is known as the Illa de la Discòrdia- or the Block of Discord- because it’s home to four buildings designed by Barcelona’s most important architects, the styles of which clashed completely with one another. After googling like there was no tomorrow on the internet to see if I could get inside the building (a few Instagram searches showed me that the inside of the house was just as interesting as the outside), I had to admit defeat that although once upon a time this place was open to visitors, these days they only seem to open the doors for swanky events. Alas. It was a very sad realisation.
But. The house was designed by a guy named Lluis Domènech I Montaner, and as it happens, like Gaudí, this guy was Kind of a Big Deal. He designed not one but two UNESCO World Heritage buildings, both of which aren’t so far at all from the pink marble house on the corner. Good times for me.
The Palau de la Música Catalana was basically like an old-school crowdfunded project, paid for with money from people who felt it was very important, and built basically so that the local Catalan Choral Society would have a place to rehearse and perform. Since those early days, the building has hosted some of the most magnificent orchestras, ballets and choirs from across the world, and it’s easy to see how big the draw to perform on this stage could be. This place is unlike any other concert hall I’ve ever stepped foot in. And as a singer, I’ve stepped foot in a few.
Unlike many of Barcelona’s other architectural wonders sitting pretty on wide open boulevards, the red-brick Palau is on a rather cramped side street with not a lot of space to stand back and appreciate the building in all its glory. But this is something that the architect didn’t seem to have been too bothered about, going ahead to cover the whole thing with ornate sculptures showing off Catalan musicians, along with mosaics and pillars and what looks like a turret perched on the roof. Tiny round windows inlaid in more pastel-coloured mosaics form the old ticket booths outside the main doors, and so whether you’re standing back to take it all in or having a very close-up appreciation session, there is always a new detail to be found that you might not have noticed before.
Similarly, there’s not one surface inside that doesn’t have some form of sculpture, mosaic or other surprising detail on it. If you’ve spent much time on Instagram, you might have seen a few shots of the Palau’s balcony, used for the audience to have a breath of fresh air or a cigarette in the intervals. Usually any Instagram pics of the this part of the Palau feature a random girl in a floaty dress running down the middle of it; check these pictures out if you’ve not seen them yet because it’s quite funny to see so many near-identical shots of various people trying to appear candid. Pillars run the length of the balcony, with each one decorated differently, but all of them contain the patterns of roses or other flowers in beautiful colours, and although it’s pretty hilarious to have seen all these instagrammers running along the very narrow balcony, it’s also easy to see why it’s a popular place. It’s absolutely. Beautiful.
And whilst the balcony is beautiful, the main auditorium is quite simply breathtaking. When I entered, I was literally rendered speechless. There’s so much going on in here, that it’s near impossible to know where to look first. A stained glass ‘sun’ on the ceiling, surrounded by the faces of the first women to be allowed to sing publicly here, lets in beams of natural light, as well as the stained glass windows that run along the length of the room. So, cleverly, what would have been a dark space, is lit by natural sunlight. I mean, guys, what a simple but effective technique!
Sculptures of all sorts frame the stage, and on the back wall stand the figures of 18 muses, each playing a different instrument and dressed in the clothing of a different country, trying to give the message that music is an international language. (Good message, good lad)
After a smog-filled Industrial Age, the people of Barcelona were getting bored of the dreariness of city life, and were craving a breath of fresh air and the influence of nature in their lives. Domènech I Montaner took this craving for nature, and ran with it; and what a good job he did of it too! I genuinely can’t imagine standing on the stage here and singing, without getting distracted by these incredible surroundings. If there’s one place in Barcelona that you need to visit- this is it.
How to visit the Palau de la Música Catalana
- The Palau de la Música is located at the edge of the Gothic Quarter, so easily reachable on foot from the centre of the city. The closest Metro station is Urquinaona (on L1 and L4)
- Don’t get me wrong, the most amazing way to visit is to actually go and experience a concert or live performance. You can see what’s on and buy tickets here!
- Entry without a tour is only available first thing in the morning (timed entrances before 10.15am).
- I visited as part of a guided tour for €20, although if you purchase your ticket far enough in advance you can get a ticket for only €16.
- Guided tours in English run several times a day, normally until 3pm, and in comparison to other guided tours I’ve been on (like the notorious Hungarian Parliament tour which I wasn’t a massive fan of), this one was great. The group wasn’t too massive, there was a real live lady leading the tour who clearly loved the place, and I didn’t feel like they were trying to cram as many people into the building as possible.