Palau de la Música Catalana: one of the world’s most spectacular concert halls
The Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music) is one of the masterpieces of Art Nouveau architecture (or modernism), for which Barcelona is famous.
It was constructed between 1905 and 1908 and designed by Domènech i Montaner. This renowned architect, also responsable for the Hospital de Sant Pau, taught other famous names in the history of modernist architecture, including Puig i Cadafalch and a certain Antoni Gaudí… His influence on Barcelona is, therefore, immense.
In 1997, the Palau de la Música Catalana was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites, and it’s easy to see why!
Discover the Palau de la Música with a guided visit
You don’t have to go to a concert to discover the Palau de la Música: guided visits are held every day.
- Independent visits aren’t permitted – you have to take the guided tour.
The tour lasts for around 50 minutes, starting with a short explanatory film of around 10 minutes. The guide then takes over for the rest of the visit. Guillem, our guide, was enthusiastic and funny, and we had a great time.
One advantage of the guided visit is that you’ll get to see the building in full daylight, when it’s at its best. Light floods through the stained glass windows, illuminating the concert hall.
You’ll also be treated to tales from the history of the Palau, and explanations of some of the decorative details which are so typical of Catalan modernism.
Climbing the palace’s magnificent staircases, you’ll visit the saloon and its magnificent, colonnaded balcony, before moving on to the concert hall proper, which you’ll be able to view from both the stalls and the upper balconies.
One thing the guide is unlikely to mention is the Palau (or Millet) affair, in which the former president of the Orfeó Català-Palau de la Música foundation and some of his co-workers were implicated in a major corrpution scandal. The President was accused of using the foundation’s funds to finance his daughters’ extravagant weddings at the Palau, luxury holidays, and renovation projects on his own properties. In 2014, Millet and Montlull, his closest accomplice, where found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison, along with a hefty fine.
- The guided visit lasts around 50 minutes, and is available in Spanish, Catalan, Italian, English and French.
- Tours in English are held once an hour.
- Groups are generally big, but well-managed. When we visited (in early October), there were around 60 visitors on our tour.
- The visit costs €20 per person. Entry is free for children under 10.
- We recommend booking your tickets a few days in advance, especially in high season!
See a concert at the Palau de la Música
A memorable experience
The Palau de la Música is an architectural gem. One of the great things about the building is that it hasn’t been converted into a museum, but continues to serve its original intended purpose. Seeing a concert or a show at the Palau is a truly magical experience! The spectacular, colourful but sophisticated décor and the exceptional acoustics all help to create an atmosphere which you’ll remember for a long, long time.
- Note: When booking concert tickets, make sure that the event you want to see is held in the Sala de Conciertos. Otherwise, you may find yourself visiting the Little Palau, an utterly charmless modern extension.
An eclectic programme
In spite of appearances, the Palau de la Música is not exclusively reserved for “highbrow” events, and plays host to artists from a wide variety of backgrounds and genres. In addition to classical music, the programme includes jazz, flamenco, guitar music, latino rock and more.
Depending on the event, spectators don’t always stay in their seats, either – people have been known to get up and dance, despite the limited space available in the seating areas.
Ticket prices vary as widely as the programme, depending on the show in question – from €25 to around €150.
Concert or guided visit?
It can be hard to choose between a concert and a guided visit. Here are a few more elements to help you make up your mind:
- Guided visits are held in the daytime, when the concert hall is at its most spectacular, thanks to the sunlight streaming through the windows. Almost all concerts at the Palau are held in the evening, offering the chance to spend a memorable evening in a unique setting.
- Tours are held every day, whereas there are only around 300 concerts a year. Depending on the date and duration of yur stay, you may not be able to see a concert.
- Going to a concert at the Palau is a magical experience, far more than a simple guided visit, although the tour is still impressive.
- Given that the cheapest concert tickets cost €25 and the guided tour will set you back €20, you might feel that the concert option offers more for your money – although we did enjoy the tour, and our guide was great.
Now, it’s up to you to decide – we suggest you take a look at the programme for the coming season to see if anything catches your eye!
To be perfectly honest, we couldn’t decide and ended up doing both – something we don’t regret, as both experiences were amazing!
Bonus: see works by the Catalan scupltor Jaume Plensa
Don’t miss the chance to discover a sculpture by Jaume Plensa, a talented local artist.
Carmela (4.5m tall) has been on display since 7th April 2016, looking down on visitors from the outside of the Palau. Initially, the sculpture was only intended to stay for a few months, but the period has been extended to 8 years. Fantastic news for Barcelona!
Take us with you!