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Barcelona is a city defined by art and architecture — a walk through its streets and galleries transports the visitor through an array of breathtaking creations of human artistic endeavor. Artists have long been in love with this Mediterranean city, and Barcelona continues to inspire art lovers and visionaries alike.

Above the crowd stand two titans in the world of Spanish creative expression: Pablo Picasso and Antoni Gaudí. And the works of both are well represented in Barcelona.

Pablo Picasso

An icon of the modern art movement, Pablo Picasso helped introduce cubism and collage and was a revolutionary force in early 20th century art. Picasso is one of the most recognized names in the world of art, and he amassed fame and fortune almost unheard of at the time.

In his early years, Picasso fell in with a group of European intellectuals, radicals, and artists who gathered at the Barcelona café El Quatre Gats (The Four Cats). It’s believed this group influenced Picasso’s turn toward the experimental, away from the more classical forms of training he had been exposed to previously. Today, you can visit El Quatre Gats, where one of Picasso’s illustrations is still used on the restaurant’s menu cover.

The best place in Barcelona to take in Picasso’s genius is at none other than the Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum), located at Montcada 15-23 at the edge Barcelona’s Gothic neighborhood. The museum is housed within five gothic-style buildings, some dating back to the 13th century. The permanent collection, of which there are over 4,000 pieces, are arranged chronologically. See sketches from his childhood as well as works from the artist’s formative years, including the famous Blue Period. Be sure to devote at least a few hours and up to a half a day to properly enjoy this unique opportunity to get so close to the genius that was Picasso.

Antoni Gaudí

Few architects and designers have had as much of an influence upon a city as Antoni Gaudí. Barcelona was his canvas, so it is home to several of his works including perhaps his greatest, the Sagrada Família.

Gaudi’s style defies classification; it is so personal and unique. His free-form, organic designs evolved into almost abstract representations of the buildings they were meant to be. For instance, the estates of Bellesguard and Güell Park, both in Barcelona, make use of piers and columns that tilt in diagonal thrusts — a design that uses no internal or external bracing. Perhaps the two most famous apartment buildings in the city are Gaudi creations: the Casa Batlló and the Casa Milá. Both are designed in homage to the region’s most profound natural influences, the ocean and the mountains.

It is the Sagrada Família (Holy Family) church in Barcelona that stands as his unfinished masterpiece. Gaudi worked on the project throughout his career (from 1883 until his death in 1926), and his imaginative use of tree-like pillars and geometric hyperbola and paraboloid vaults and roofs is like nothing seen in religious architecture. Work continued after his death, and in 2010 the still uncompleted church was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI. The basilica is expected to be completed in 2026, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Experience Barcelona’s unique art & architecture on a cruise to Europe with Holland America Line.