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Gaudí and beyond: 10 modern buildings to see in Barcelona

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Visitors flock to Barcelona to see the flamboyant architecture by native son Antoni Gaudí and his Catalan Modernism contemporaries that transformed the city in the early 20th century. But Barcelona has experienced several other artistic building booms since then. The first was in 1929 when Mies van der Rohe brought Bauhaus to Barcelona with the construction of his Barcelona Pavilion for the World Exhibition and the contrast to the curvy lines of Catalan Modernism was striking. The next came in the years leading up to the Summer Olympics, which were held there in 1992. During that time, 10,000 apartments appeared, three new highways were constructed, and dozens of parks were designed.

While the construction hasn’t really slowed since then, the turn of the 21st century saw the transformation of historic buildings like the Santa Caterina Market and the bull-fighting ring (now a shopping mall), while recent years have brought fantastical skyscrapers like the Diagonal ZeroZero and the Torre Agbar to the skyline. Here are examples of modern architecture, outside of Gaudí’s omnipresent influence, to see out when in Barcelona.

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1. Museu Disseny de Barcelona

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Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, 37
08018 Barcelona, Spain

Opened in 2014, this angular building is the center of Barcelona’s Institute of Culture and is also home to the collections from four museums that have now been combined: the Museu de les Arts Decoratives, the Museu de Ceràmica, the Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària, and the Gabinet de les Arts Gràfiques. The two-part structure was designed by MBM Architects and has a bulky bottom section with glazed walls and a grass roof, while the upper section is top-heavy and clad with aluminum panels.

2. Torre Agbar

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Torre Agbar
08018 Barcelona, Spain

When in Barcelona, you can’t miss Torre Agbar — literally. The geyser-shaped building rises high above the relatively low skyline of the city around it. Originally commissioned by the water company Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (AGBAR), the tower now sits empty — no one else is brave enough to occupy such an iconic space — and visitors are not permitted inside. But don’t worry, the best way to appreciate Torre Agbar is from the outside. The tower lights up in multicolor hues at night, a beacon that reflects the colors of Barcelona.

Victoriano Javier Tornel García

3. Torre Diagonal

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Avinguda Diagonal, 131
08018 Barcelona, Spain

This avant-garde skyscraper that’s the headquarters of Catalonia Telefonica is a prime example of high-tech architecture. Designed by Barcelona architecture firm Emba Estudi Massip-Bosch and built in just two years, it has an inner tube of concrete and an outer tube of crisscrossing steel. The 25-story building was completed in 2010 and is visible both from the coast and the city, making it the cornerstone of the revitalized Diagonal Mar neighborhood.

4. Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona

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Plaza Leonardo da Vinci, 4-6
08019 Barcelona, Spain

Designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and opened in 2004, this low-slung, indigo-blue building is a triangular shape that echoes the triangular plaza formed by the three streets surrounding it. Originally built as the main exhibition hall for the Forum of Cultures, held that year in Barcelona, it now houses Museu Blau, which is a satellite of the city’s Natural History Museum, as well as an auditorium and exhibition space.

5. Edifici Gas Natural

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Edifici Gas Natural
08003 Barcelona, Spain

Built in the high-tech architecture style and designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, this 22-story building has a distinctive profile due to two lower horizontal blocks cantilevered out from the main tower. Completed in 2005, the building attempts not to overpower its surrounding seaside neighborhood of Barceloneta, which is mostly populated with humble residential buildings.

6. Santa Caterina Market

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Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16
08003 Barcelona, Spain

This covered outdoor food market was originally built in 1845 and was refurbished in 2005 by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. Initially seen as controversial, the design of multicolored ceramic tiles reminiscent of waves that cover the market stalls is now an icon of the city. View it from above from the roof of the Barcelona Cathedral before heading down for a closer look — and some food sampling.

7. Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art

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Plaça dels Àngels, 1
08001 Barcelona, Spain

Art and culture find a home both inside the walls of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and outside in its publics spaces. Weave your way through the sea of skateboarders to head into the collection of contemporary art, or take in the building’s striking architecture from the outside. If you wander to the back of the building, you’ll find a reproduction of Keith Haring’s 1989 mural, “Together We Can Stop AIDS.” Designed by Richard Meier & Partners, MACBA has strong references to modernism and was part of an urban renewal plan for the neighborhood of El Raval.

8. Arenas de Barcelona

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Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385
08015 Barcelona, Spain

This former bull-fighting ring turned shopping compound designed by Richard Rogers opened in 2011. The original Moorish horseshoe-shaped façade from the early 1900s now encircles a modern domed complex housing six floors of eateries, shops, movie theaters, and the Rock Museum (the music kind, not the geological variety). Head up to the expansive rooftop terrace for a breath of fresh air and stellar 360-degree views.

9. Barcelona Pavilion

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Pavelló alemany
08038 Barcelona, Spain

Mies van der Rohe designed this manifesto of modern architecture as the German pavilion for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. Disruptive for its time due to its use of modern materials like chrome alongside classic marble and travertine, the Pavilion was demolished shortly after the exhibition and reconstructed on the same site in 1986. Entry costs €5, and while you can see the whole pavilion in a matter of minutes, it’s worth sticking around to embrace the calm and serenity it imparts. Don’t miss the Palau Nacional right next door (would you believe the two buildings were built in the same year?).

10. Torre de Collserola

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Of all the structures built for the 1992 Summer Olympics, this futuristic-looking telecommunications tower remains as remarkable and innovative as ever. Designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, the needle-like tower features a steel pod consisting of 13 platforms and uses guy wires for lateral support. Situated atop a hill in the Sarrià Sant Gervasi district, its observation deck is 1,837 feet above sea level, providing sweeping views of the city.

This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

1. Museu Disseny de Barcelona

Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, 37, 08018 Barcelona, Spain

Opened in 2014, this angular building is the center of Barcelona’s Institute of Culture and is also home to the collections from four museums that have now been combined: the Museu de les Arts Decoratives, the Museu de Ceràmica, the Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària, and the Gabinet de les Arts Gràfiques. The two-part structure was designed by MBM Architects and has a bulky bottom section with glazed walls and a grass roof, while the upper section is top-heavy and clad with aluminum panels.

Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, 37
08018 Barcelona, Spain

2. Torre Agbar

Torre Agbar, 08018 Barcelona, Spain
Victoriano Javier Tornel García

When in Barcelona, you can’t miss Torre Agbar — literally. The geyser-shaped building rises high above the relatively low skyline of the city around it. Originally commissioned by the water company Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (AGBAR), the tower now sits empty — no one else is brave enough to occupy such an iconic space — and visitors are not permitted inside. But don’t worry, the best way to appreciate Torre Agbar is from the outside. The tower lights up in multicolor hues at night, a beacon that reflects the colors of Barcelona.

Torre Agbar
08018 Barcelona, Spain

3. Torre Diagonal

Avinguda Diagonal, 131, 08018 Barcelona, Spain

This avant-garde skyscraper that’s the headquarters of Catalonia Telefonica is a prime example of high-tech architecture. Designed by Barcelona architecture firm Emba Estudi Massip-Bosch and built in just two years, it has an inner tube of concrete and an outer tube of crisscrossing steel. The 25-story building was completed in 2010 and is visible both from the coast and the city, making it the cornerstone of the revitalized Diagonal Mar neighborhood.

Avinguda Diagonal, 131
08018 Barcelona, Spain

4. Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona

Plaza Leonardo da Vinci, 4-6, 08019 Barcelona, Spain

Designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron and opened in 2004, this low-slung, indigo-blue building is a triangular shape that echoes the triangular plaza formed by the three streets surrounding it. Originally built as the main exhibition hall for the Forum of Cultures, held that year in Barcelona, it now houses Museu Blau, which is a satellite of the city’s Natural History Museum, as well as an auditorium and exhibition space.

Plaza Leonardo da Vinci, 4-6
08019 Barcelona, Spain

5. Edifici Gas Natural

Edifici Gas Natural, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

Built in the high-tech architecture style and designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, this 22-story building has a distinctive profile due to two lower horizontal blocks cantilevered out from the main tower. Completed in 2005, the building attempts not to overpower its surrounding seaside neighborhood of Barceloneta, which is mostly populated with humble residential buildings.

Edifici Gas Natural
08003 Barcelona, Spain

6. Santa Caterina Market

Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

This covered outdoor food market was originally built in 1845 and was refurbished in 2005 by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. Initially seen as controversial, the design of multicolored ceramic tiles reminiscent of waves that cover the market stalls is now an icon of the city. View it from above from the roof of the Barcelona Cathedral before heading down for a closer look — and some food sampling.

Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16
08003 Barcelona, Spain

7. Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art

Plaça dels Àngels, 1, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

Art and culture find a home both inside the walls of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and outside in its publics spaces. Weave your way through the sea of skateboarders to head into the collection of contemporary art, or take in the building’s striking architecture from the outside. If you wander to the back of the building, you’ll find a reproduction of Keith Haring’s 1989 mural, “Together We Can Stop AIDS.” Designed by Richard Meier & Partners, MACBA has strong references to modernism and was part of an urban renewal plan for the neighborhood of El Raval.

Plaça dels Àngels, 1
08001 Barcelona, Spain

8. Arenas de Barcelona

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385, 08015 Barcelona, Spain

This former bull-fighting ring turned shopping compound designed by Richard Rogers opened in 2011. The original Moorish horseshoe-shaped façade from the early 1900s now encircles a modern domed complex housing six floors of eateries, shops, movie theaters, and the Rock Museum (the music kind, not the geological variety). Head up to the expansive rooftop terrace for a breath of fresh air and stellar 360-degree views.

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385
08015 Barcelona, Spain

9. Barcelona Pavilion

Pavelló alemany, 08038 Barcelona, Spain

Mies van der Rohe designed this manifesto of modern architecture as the German pavilion for the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona. Disruptive for its time due to its use of modern materials like chrome alongside classic marble and travertine, the Pavilion was demolished shortly after the exhibition and reconstructed on the same site in 1986. Entry costs €5, and while you can see the whole pavilion in a matter of minutes, it’s worth sticking around to embrace the calm and serenity it imparts. Don’t miss the Palau Nacional right next door (would you believe the two buildings were built in the same year?).

Pavelló alemany
08038 Barcelona, Spain

10. Torre de Collserola

08035 Barcelona, Spain

Of all the structures built for the 1992 Summer Olympics, this futuristic-looking telecommunications tower remains as remarkable and innovative as ever. Designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, the needle-like tower features a steel pod consisting of 13 platforms and uses guy wires for lateral support. Situated atop a hill in the Sarrià Sant Gervasi district, its observation deck is 1,837 feet above sea level, providing sweeping views of the city.

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