Palau de la Música

If you enjoy wandering around foreign cities without an agenda like we do on holiday, there’s a chance you might overlook Palau de la Música in the Old Town neighborhood of Barcelona. That would be a big mistake.

The red-brick exterior features colorful tile work that can easily be mistaken for Gaudí. But the Music Hall is the work of Lluís Domènech i Montaner.  And the music hall is an acknowledged “architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau.” The title is well earned rather than the usual promotional puffery encountered.

While beautiful, this tile work is something you'll blow by in Barcelona if you don't pay attention.
A street level view of the title work outside Palau de la  Musica. Be sure to look up, some of the most intricate tile work is above street level.

The guided tour is a must so that you understand the full concept—from the exterior tile work to the mosaics and busts of famous composers. But, the real gem—the grand finale (and it is a BIG payoff) is the auditorium. Specifically, it’s the ceiling. A massive inverted dome of stained glass, depicting angelic choristers. Below the stained glass lies the audience and stage, with sculptures of Wagner and Clave framing a massive organ.

A longview of the Palau's auditorium, showing the stained glass dome and stage.
A longview of the Palau’s auditorium, showing the stained glass dome and stage.

The thing is, although it’s visually stunning, everything that was done, every element of the overall design had an eye for the ear. And anyone lucky enough to get a chance to attend a concert (tons of artists play this intimate hall) will attest that there’s not a bad seat in the house. Besides, with views like this, who needs to see the stage?

The charm of the auditorium goes beyond the stained glass dome. The concern hall is the only European hall lit entirely by natural light. That may not jump off the screen as you read this but when you visit, the hall is mesmerizing. You can tell there was considerable thought put into designing the building in a way that would maximize light.

These extra large windows help bring more natural light into the concert hall.
These extra large windows help bring more natural light into the concert hall.

Tours are about an hour and a total delight. When you arrive in the concert hall, you do hear an organ recording to demonstrate the acoustics. While this is a bit cheeky compared to a true performance, don’t knock it. Gimmicky, yes? But travelers with open minds will walk away with a deep appreciation for the acoustics and awesome genius behind the design.

More than anything, I would recommend trying to see a performance at the Palau de la Música. It will give you the opportunity to see the concert hall in all its glory. You can check out the performance schedule on their website. Tickets for general tours can be purchased online.

While Palau de la Música has a café and restaurant, I wouldn’t recommend this as a stop for food or drink. It’s overpriced and the service was uninspired. Instead, just a few short blocks away you can visit a little hole in the wall named La Casa del Vermut.

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