Palau de la Música Catalana

Top choice architecture in La Ribera

This concert hall is a high point of Barcelona’s Modernista architecture, a symphony in tile, brick, sculpted stone and stained glass. Built by Domènech i Montaner between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeo Català musical society, it was conceived as a temple for the Catalan Renaixença (Renaissance).

The palau (palace) was built with the help of some of the best Catalan artisans of the time, and since 1990 it has undergone several major changes.

Like a peacock, the palau shows off much of its splendour on the outside. Take in the principal facade with its mosaics, floral capitals and the sculpture cluster representing Catalan popular music.

Wander inside the foyer and restaurant areas to admire the spangled, tiled pillars. Best of all, however, is the richly colourful auditorium upstairs, with its ceiling of blue-and-gold stained glass and a shimmering skylight that looks like a giant, crystalline, downward-thrusting nipple. Above a bust of Beethoven on the stage towers a wind-blown sculpture of Wagner’s Valkyries (Wagner was top of the Barcelona charts at the time the building was created). This can only be savoured on a guided tour or by attending a performance – either is highly recommended.

The original Modernista creation, now a World Heritage site, did not meet with universal approval in its day. The doyen of Catalan literature, Josep Pla, did not hesitate to condemn it as 'horrible’, but few share his sentiments today. Montaner himself was also in a huff. He failed to attend the opening ceremony in response to unsettled bills. In 2009 the palau was at the centre of a fraud scandal, as its president, who subsequently resigned, admitted to having syphoned off millions of euros of funds.

Unless you're here for a show, admission is by guided tour; tickets can be bought up to a week in advance by phone or online. Tours last 55 minutes and are conducted in English, Spanish, Catalan, French or Italian.