Casa Vicens in Barcelona: Anton Gaudí’s first masterpiece
The Casa Vicens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, is a treasure hidden in a small street in the pretty neighbourhood of Gràcia.
A true prelude to Catalan Art Nouveau, Gaudí’s first major piece of work inevitably catches the eye of passers-by. Although it is part of a less well-known chapter in Gaudí’s impressive architectural career, it is well worth including in your schedule of visits.
History of Gaudí’s Casa Vicens from 1883 to the present day
Construction of the Casa Vicens
- 1883: Gaudí was only 31 years old when Manuel Vicens i Montaner entrusted him with his first major project: the construction of a vacation home in La Vila de Gràcia, a village at the time far from the centre of Barcelona. The urban expansion of Barcelona has turned this village into a central district of the Catalan capital.
- 1883-1885: These years correspond to the construction period of the Casa Vicens. Gaudí was inspired by oriental art and surrounded himself with prestigious craftsmen to create his first large-scale piece of work where straight lines prevail over curved lines, unlike his later masterpieces.
Casa Vicens: extensions and alterations
- 1899: The property was sold by Dolors Giralt, widow of Manel Vicens, to Dr. Antonio Jover i Puig, who decided to turn it into his main residence.
- 1925-1927: Gaudí, being completely absorbed by the construction of the Sagrada Familia, recommends the architect Joan Baptista Serra de Martinez. The latter directs the extension of the house and construction of a small temple dedicated to Santa Rita.
- 1935: Architect Ortenbach Bertran takes over and in turn directs the new extension of the Casa Vicens.
- 1946: Casa Vicens is divided in two and the waterfall designed by Gaudí is demolished.
- 1963: The temple dedicated to Santa Rita is also demolished.
Casa Vicens: classified as a historical monument and World Heritage Site
- 1969: Casa Vicens is classified as a historical and artistic monument of national interest by the Spanish government.
- 2005: Casa Vicens is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, as are other Gaudí masterpieces such as the crypt of Colònia Güell, Casa Batlló, and the façade of the nativity of the Sagrada Familia.
- 2014: The Herrero Jover family sells the Casa Vicens to the Andorran bank MoraBanc, who plans to restore it as authentically as possible and turn it into a museum. Their objective is to restore the essence of the house originally created by Gaudí as much as possible.
Casa Vicens: restoration and opening to the public in 2017
- March 2017: A team of architects and craftsmen began to work hard on this major project. The works designed by Gaudí are restored but not modified. The entire team was careful to preserve or recover as much as possible of the original work from Gaudí’s time. Thus, for example, Gaudí’s waterfall demolished in 1946 is faithfully reconstituted.
- 16 November 2017: La Casa Vicens opens its doors to the public for the first time.
Casa Vicens Barcelona: description
Nature, Gaudí’s main source of inspiration
Gaudí always drew his inspiration from the wonders of nature to create his masterpieces. Casa Vicens, one of his earliest works, is no exception.
Thus, from the street, palm leaves adorn the wrought iron gate of the Casa Vicens (identical to those of the Park Güell) and carnations decorate the tiles of its façade.
This reference to nature is also present in all the rooms of the house. In fact, Gaudí was careful to create a constant dialogue between nature and architecture and harmony between all the interior and exterior spaces of Casa Vicens.
The façade of Casa Vicens
In oriental and Mudejar style, its red and cream façade covered with green and white ceramic tiles decorated with flowers, offers rectilinear and geometrical forms to the eye of passers-by, uncommon in Gaudí’s later works.
The originality of its main façade comes from the fact that it does not face the street but the garden. At the time of its creation, this façade had a much wider perspective, the original garden being much larger than now.
The garden of Casa Vicens
The garden has been reduced many times. The team that worked on the restoration of the Casa Vicens tried to recreate as much as possible the vegetation and the welcoming atmosphere of the exterior space of the house at the time of its creation.
At the end of the garden, filled with magnolias, palms, and climbing plants, there is a pretty cafeteria.
The interior of Casa Vicens
The ground floor
The ground floor is the noblest part of the house. This is where the living rooms were located. It has an entrance, a large dining room, a covered gallery, and a very nice smoking room.
The first floor
On the first floor, there are two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room.
The walls and ceilings of the various rooms are covered with plant motifs. Always concerned with the smallest details, Gaudí made sure that the floral motifs in the Vicens’ room differed according to the space dedicated to each of them.
He also designed a nice little orientalist-influenced terrace from which it is possible to peacefully admire the exterior without being seen.
The second floor
The second floor is an exhibition space that provides its visitors with information about the history of the house as well as the revolutionary techniques and materials used by Gaudí and the craftsmen who participated in its construction.
The roof terrace
Gaudí created the first roof terrace of his career. He chose to decorate it with small domes of oriental inspiration that echo the ceramics of the façade. A sentry walk borders the four inclined planes covered by tiles that allow rainwater to be collected.
The bookstore is located in this space that used to house the coal cellar.
Is the Casa Vicens worth a visit? Our review
Yes, especially if you are passionate about Gaudí’s work
Gaudí’s first masterpiece is of a very different architectural style from the other houses of the architect (such as the Casa Batlló, or the Casa Milà) that he erected later on the elegant Passeig de Gràcia.
For a first stay in Barcelona, I would recommend you visit the Sagrada Familia and the architectural treasures that are more representative of Art Nouveau such as the Casa Batlló, the Pedrera (or Casa Milà) or the Music Palace of the architect Doménech i Montaner.
But if like me, you are passionate about Art Nouveau and want to discover other facets of Gaudí’s artistic creativity, don’t hesitate to visit Casa Vicens.
The advantage of this visit is that it can be done in small groups, like that of the Torre Bellesguard or the Palau Güell, and it allows you to understand the incredible architectural evolution of this genius artist. Casa Vicens is well worth a visit, especially if you want to get off the beaten track.
My impressions during the visit
I had the chance to discover Casa Vicens a few days before its opening. I was able to witness the last hours of restoration work on this incredible house. The excitement and passion were palpable.
I was able to see, for example, how artists recovered the original deep blue and gold of the smoking room, this little oriental oasis for which I had a real crush.
Knowing Gaudí’s obsession with natural light, which he always made sure to bring in abundantly in his works of art, I was surprised at how dark some of the rooms in the house were. This is because the original garden was much larger than it is now. Natural light was therefore abundant at the time. This is no longer the case because buildings have, unfortunately, surrounded the Casa Vicens over the years.
When I went back again after its opening, I found that the information given in 3 languages (Catalan, Spanish, English) on the explanatory panels of the exhibition room was clear, concise, and very instructive. It is a pity, however, that there are no texts written in French.
I was very impressed with the aesthetics of the new staircase, its clean, contemporary lines, the work of Elías Torres, José Antonio Martínez Lapeña and David Garcia. I think that the team that restored this incredible house was able to combine modernity and history with great elegance.
Casa Vicens: address, accessibility, opening hours, and entrance tickets
Address: It is located at Carrer de les Carolines, numbers 20-26, in the district of Gràcia (metro Fontana).
Accessibility: La Casa Vicens is accessible to people with reduced mobility.
Opening: It can be visited every day of the year except 25 December and 6 January. From 10 January to 18, Casa Vicens is closed for maintenance and restoration work.
- Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm
- Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 7pm
- 31 December from 10am to 3pm
Admission tickets: Rates and discounts
The full price ticket to enter the Casa Vicens normally costs 16 euros. However, it is possible to get it cheaper and there are reduced rates.
Visit Casa Vicens for free
The visit is free for the following people:
- children under 11 years old
- companions of persons with reduced mobility
- super3 club members
- members of ICOM (International Council of Museums).
Happy visiting to all who wish to discover a lesser known chapter of Gaudí’s work!
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About the author
Valérie, the creator of Barcelona Top Travel Tips, loves discovering new places, finding the words to describe them, and coming up with little illustrations for the website. Her favourite thing in Barcelona is the unusual, curvy architectural features of some of the city’s buildings. Some say she’s a dreamer… in any case, a city full of works by Gaudí is a great place for her!