Tucked away down the winding streets of La Ribera in the northern part of trendy El Born, the Palau de la Música Catalana paints a rich picture with its exquisite modernisme façade.
The best part is that you’re very unlikely to miss it, no matter how lost you get wandering the narrow laneways.
Thanks to its prominent exterior with ornate detailing and intricate sculptures, the Palau has remained an important part of Catalan culture – both for its high-end musical concerts and its place in architectural history.
It was designed back in 1905 by Lluis Domenech i Montaner for the Orfeo Catala, a choir group renowned for their major role in Renaixenca (a cultural movement known in English as the Catalan Rebirth).
Inside its redbrick walls and behind the floral stained glass windows, hundreds of classical concerts and performances take place every year, welcoming in well-heeled members of society with a firm hand shake and a hat tip.
At its time of opening, the Palau was reserved for local composers and artists in order to promote Catalan talent to the rest of Spain (and the world).
Today, it offers a varied array of musical performances, from choir groups and opera shows to classical music concerts and orchestral performances.
Whilst you’re more than welcome to don your best tie or dress and climb the grand staircases with the best of them for an evening concert, you can also pop in and look around without having to purchase a concert ticket.
This is especially good if you’d rather join the mosh pit at the local club than sit and marvel at classical musicians all evening, but it’s also great if you simply want to check out the architecture.
And if you’re an architecture lover, you really should check it out.
Guided tours start every hour, taking culture-loving groups from room to room to admire and inspect the incredible skill that’s gone into designing the building. From the dynamic shapes and rich ornamentation, to the floral decoration and natural forms, it goes hand in hand with other buildings from the modernisme era.
But, unlike others, it also places a heavy emphasis on functionality, with each room specifically designed with acoustics and music in mind.
As you wander round you’ll be greeted by Arabic and Spanish elements from numerous different arty periods, mosaics that sprawl out across high-ceilinged rooms, and huge stained glass windows that shine with an ethereal light.
In the main concert hall, where the bulk of the high-end shows take place, there is a beautiful glass roof and more than 2,000 seats – a spacious but intimate venue.
Then there’s the Petit Palau, a smaller concert hall that seats only around 500 people. This boasts a more modern décor but sadly doesn’t ooze the glitz and glamour of the main hall.
There’s also the Chamber Music Hall, the Lluis Millet Room, and the Segle XXI Area, which are predominantly used for private functions and smaller events.
Away from the concert halls and the promise of moving music, there is an on-site restaurant which reflects the elegant charm of the building, and the Palau shop (the Botiga), which is perfect for picking up a non-tacky souvenir for friends and family.
Whether you’re visiting the Palau de ka Música for the music or amazing architecture, you’ll find yourself swept up in the luxurious décor and the high-brow cultural charm of the place – all of which is tucked away down the non-assuming streets of El Born.