During my time in Barcelona last year, I kept myself pretty busy going from La Mercè festivities to seeing all of the essential sights. By my last day, I was overloaded on modernisme architecture and parades.
I had one last thing on my must-see list before taking the train out of town: Palau de la Música Catalana. I read a description of the enchanting building, and saw photos of the incredible stained glass ceiling in the performance hall, I figured I should at least attempt to see it. Rushing around town on a Sunday afternoon, I was running short on touring time, so I made a deal with the universe. If I was meant to see it, there would be a tour I could join when I arrived at the ticket booth.
I probably should have been more specific with the universe, as it seems to enjoy putting me in comedic situations. When I arrived at the Palau, the last tour of the day was gearing up. In Castellano/Spanish. After a week of bludgeoning Catalan, I had yet to begin mangling Spanish, so this was going to be interesting.
The short version: the tour was amazing. Our guide was animated (in the most helpful way possible) and used plenty of small words, numbers, and gestures. It was also hysterical. After very slowly explaining a detail and miming out the numbers, the guide would look to me for confirmation that I understood her. It was easily the best Spanish lesson of the trip.
The long version: the building is simply extraordinary. No surface goes unadorned. The ceiling of the performance hall is covered in ceramic roses, symbols of Sant Jordi, patron saint of Catalunya. There was countless Catalunyan symbols at every angle. Three-dimensional muses start as tiled mosaics, trencalis, then emerge from the wall as sculpture. It was so overwhelming and I was so disappointed by the Palau’s no-photography policy, that I splurged on the official picture book.
Fun fact: The feast day of Sant Jordi, April 23, is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Men give women roses and women give men books. I am all over holidays involving the exchange of books, let’s make it happen, North America!
The centrepiece of the performance hall is an amazing skylight, which pours colour and light on to the spectators below. Since visitors aren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the building, you’ll have to make do with this interior image from the Palau’s website.
Such a view really betrays the beauty of the hall. It is the richness of the detail, the combination of the elements, which makes the building a truly remarkable sight. I remember being so overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to look at that my notes summarize the tour as: “So worth it, even if I only understood about 50%. It looked like music come to life.”
If your time in Barcelona doesn’t permit a full tour, even though it should, at least find time to go to the Sant Pere neighbourhood and walk around the exterior. There’s enough detail on the outside to give you a vague idea of what is waiting for you inside.
As one example, the roses on these pillars are like the ones on the ceiling of the performance hall. Imagine a carpet of ceramic roses overhead, over 2,000 in all over the building. The glass tubes along the railing line the interior staircase. It’s simply a lot going on, everywhere, which, somehow, still manages to work together.
The exterior also reveals some of the Catalan symbols on display throughout the building, like this flag.
See for yourself:
Palau de la Música Catalana, Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt (off Via Laietana). Ticket office is around the corner on Carrer del Palau de la Música. Metro: Urquinaona