Barcelona’s Top 5 Gaudi Sites

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852–1926), is the Spanish architect heralded as the father of Catalan Modernism. His work is highly stylized, featuring organic shapes and few straight lines. Gaudí integrated crafts such as ceramics, stained glass and wrought iron work into his buildings, often using materials in an unusual manner.

His architectural legacy contains seven World Heritage Sites, including his unfinished masterpiece Sagrada Familia.

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1. Like everything Gaudí designed, Casa Batlló makes a lasting impression. Tour Casa Batlló with an audio guide and marvel at the twisted chimney stacks and dragon’s back undulations.

2. Often referred to as his unfinished symphony, Sagrada Família is one the most visited monuments in Spain. Though construction commenced in 1882, at the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926 less than a quarter of the project was complete.

3. Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera or “the Quarry” for its rock faced façade, looks like a set out of the Flintstones. Take a guided tour through the restored interiors featuring art nouveau furniture. Look for jazz concerts or other opportunities to visit La Pedrera at night. It’s a beautiful way to absorb the authentic beauty.

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ABOVE: Dubbed “the Quarry”, La Pedrera proved controversial to neighbours when it was built.

4. Park Güell is considered a garden complex but the brightly coloured, undulating architectural elements make it difficult to focus on horticulture. High above the city, make sure to bring sunscreen and linger in the unusual setting.

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ABOVE: Casa Batlló.

5. Casa Vicens was constructed with rough red brick, befitting the home’s owner, the proprietor of a brick and tile factory. One of Gaudi’s earlier works, it is remarkable for its Moorish influences and assymetrical plan.

Budapest Shopping: Buda

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ABOVE: Kimberley negotiates with an eager vendor at Ecseri Flea Market.

Ready to give that credit card a workout? The good news is there are fewer temptations than you’d find in larger cities like Paris and New York.

“The bad news is, there is none,” says Dabble’s Editor in Chief Kimberley Seldon. “Arrive early and bring cash. The selection can keep you busy for hours.”

1. “Vintage Herend Porcelain, turn of the century objets d’art and fine oil paintings,” says Kimberley, “are just some of the goods I look for at Ecseri Flea Market.” Visit during offseason when prices are very favourable. However, do be prepared to find busts and portraits of Mussolini and Hitler in multiple stands (though these infamous items are tucked away during warm weather months when tourists are more plentiful). History buffs may appreciate communist memorabilia. The market is open on Saturday. Cash is king, though many vendors take credit cards.

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ABOVE: Herend porcelain.

2. Make sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes and wear sunscreen when you visit Szentendre, just outside of the city centre. It’s easy to lose track of time in this popular destination for visitors and local weekend pilgrimages. Nestled among the hills of Buda, the folksy village-turned-artistrefuge has shopping opportunities galore. Not to mention several museums, colourful restored buildings and restaurants decent enough to make spending four to five hours here a pleasant outing. Look for handmade pottery, jewelry, embroidered linen and hand blown glass to tempt your spending resolve.

3. Although the styles are diverse, Hungary has more than one famous ceramics house. In addition to Zsolnay’s Art Nouveau pieces (which are admittedly an acquired taste) there is the perennially pleasing Herend Porcelain. Founded in 1826, Herend specializes in hand-painted and gilded porcelain for a discerning worldwide clientele. Many of its classic patterns are still in production.

Budapest Architecture: Buda

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Architecture buffs may find Budapest’s range of styles somewhat head-spinning.

Roman amphitheatres, Gothic and Neo-Gothic styled cathedrals, Turkish baths and Secessionist (Art Nouveau) buildings give the city an architectural ambiguity that only underscores its many charms.

1. Though the original Royal Palace with its Gothic and Renaissance foundations was destroyed and rebuilt many times, the Habsburgs built a completely new, small Baroque palace in the beginning of the 18th century. Today, Buda Castle (Kiralyi Palota) houses the largest collection of Hungarian fine art at its Hungarian National Gallery. Explore the gardens and nearby restaurants and make a half day of the visit.

Dabble Savvy: Had history been different, we might know the names of Hungarian artists as well as we know Monet, VanGogh and Picasso. Hire a guide to enjoy the impressive collections.

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ABOVE: Ernst Galeria owner Eleni Koranis strikes a pose beside a 1920s iron rocking chair from Vienna. Her Pest gallery specializes in furniture, paintings and ceramics from the turn of the 20th century.

2. A visit to the lobby of the Hilton Budapest Hotel nets a surprising glimpse into antiquity, as it’s built on top of the ruins of a medieval monastery. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the heart of the Buda Castle district, beside Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. If it’s time for lunch, the Icon Restaurant offers spectacular views of the Danube River, Chain Bridge and Hungarian Parliament building.

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ABOVE: Zsolnay ceramic vase.

3. Like so much of Hungary’s finest architecture, Matthias Church (Mátyástemplom) is a victim of various invasions. Perhaps the most devastating, a century and a half of Turkish occupation, resulted in the whitewashing of ornate frescoes and confiscation of the church’s ecclesiastical treasures. One of the most striking features from the 19th century restoration is the church’s ornamental roof, covered in pyrogranite ceramic tiles developed by Zsolnay.

Dabble Savvy: Father and son, Hungarian natives Miklós and Vilmos Zsolnay, received worldwide recognition for their porcelain and ceramics. The iridescent, frost-resistant tiles were a popular building material during the city’s prolific Art Nouveau period.

 

Budapest Architecture: Pest

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ABOVE: A distinctive onion dome atop the Moorish revival style Dohány Street Synagogue.

1. Admirers say Art Nouveau is stunningly beautiful, with its fanciful forms, shimmering colours and stylistic freedom. Detractors have a different opinion, suggesting the 19th century style is simply dreadful. Regardless of your position, Budapest offers some fine examples of the style which is frequently referred to as Secessionist. The Budapest Zoo is one such example, though some sections veer heavily towards kitsch.

Dabble Savvy: It’s worth a stroll to see the front gates if you’re in the neighbourhood anyway. Budapest Zoo is near the Széchenyi Baths, Gundel Restaurant and Heroes’ Square.

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2. Hungary’s most important church is St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika). The 10th century neoclassic style church is named for Hungary’s first king, Stephen I. Avoid crowds and visit in the evening when the artfully lit exterior shames even a full moon. If you plan to do a daytime tour, there is a small fee.

Dabble Savvy: Fans of the macabre may want to pay an additional fee to have the lights turned on in the ‘Chapel of the Holy Right’, to view the mummified fist of King Stephen.

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ABOVE: Every detail of the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace is memorable. The lobby’s graceful Peacock Gates are in the Secessionist style (Art Nouveau).

3. A stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace is a pampered experience. Every detail is perfection, every service exceptional—staff stand at attention as guests walk the hallway en route to rooms distinguished by carved walnut doors. Located near the foot of the Chain Bridge, the impressive Secessionist building has an illustrious history—first as headquarters to the Gresham Insurance Company, then a girls’ home for etiquette and, during World War II, as barracks for Soviet soldiers who burned the furniture for warmth. Restored in 2001, the renovated staircases, stained glass and mosaic tiles by Zsolnay create a lasting impression.

A Guide to Old Town Prague

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Featuring prominently in Old Town Square is the bronze Art Nouveau fountain, a memorial to protestant reformer, Jan Hus. In the background, the shell-pink Kinsky Palace where Czech native Franz Kafka attended prep school.

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While people watching often takes precedence over sightseeing in Prague’s busy main square, Staromestské Námestí is home to a number of worthy sites. The imposing Gothic construction of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (Tyn Church) with its not-quite-identical towers dominates Prague’s Old Town Square.

Shop

Hit the shops in nearby Ungelt Square which has a branch of contemporary glassware store Material as well as Botanicus, a Czech institution for lotions and potions. Nearby Dlouh Street is one of my favourite shopping destinations.

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Eat

Toasty warm, this traditional Slovakian treat (trdelnik) is dusted with cinnamon, sugar and nuts. Look for open stalls or bakeries selling this perfect late afternoon pick-me-up.

Passersby are tempted by the cinnamon sweetness of trdelnik, a traditional pastry made daily in bakeries across the city.

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Stay

Four Seasons (Veleslav.nova 2A). If perfection is desired, look no further than this renowned chain where the setting, service and amenities are unsurpassed. Book an evening meal at Allegro to enjoy riverside views and the award-winning cuisine.

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Kimberley takes time out from filming to pose before heading out with CityTV’s CityLine cameraman Patrick Reynolds on the unusual seven-seater bike.

Guide to New Town in Prague

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Wenceslas Square
Václavské námestí

A sweeping avenue developed in the 14th century, Wenceslas Square is rarely deserted, but an easy stroll nets a vast selection of shops and restaurants to enjoy. At its apex is the National Museum, seen just behind the statue of Duke Wenceslas on horseback. (It seems the Christmas carol gave him a boost in title.)

Eat

At tea time head to the splendidly restored Grand Café Orient (Ovocný trh 19) to get a feel for 1912 Prague. Or, visit Municipal House Café for a light lunch in an exquisite Art Nouveau setting.

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Sit in the wine bar and soak up the urban contemporary vibe while nibbling contentedly at KOGO’s Slovanský Dum location (Na Pr.kope 22). Or, descend into the cellared depths of Klub Architektu (Betlemske Namesti 5a) for hearty Czech fare at great prices.

Shop

Decorative arts enthusiasts go ga-ga over the tableware, books, furniture and writing papers on display (and in the gift shop) at the Kubistz Museum, located inside the House of the Black Madonna.

The city’s only Moser store, creating the finest Czech crystal since 1857 is their flagship (Na Prikope 12). A must visit.

If you’ve been to Paris you are familiar with shopping passages that house stores and restaurants. Lucerna Pasáž is a popular Czech passage but most of the shops still have a communist-era feel to them. In contrast, Pasáž Slovanský Dum (Na Pr.kope 22), has a branch of the Belgian design shop Flamant Store, clothing stores such as Mexx and Tommy Hilfiger, and a movie theatre with English subtitles.

Prague’s Performing Arts

Attending a concert in Prague is a memorable experience. There are dozens of locations where you can enjoy orchestras, ensembles, theatre and comedy. Performances change frequently so read the literature available at each location.

Architecture in New Town, Prague

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Nové Město

 

Architecture enthusiasts are sure to enjoy a trip to Prague, where they’ll find Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Art Nouveau, Cubist and Communist style buildings on display. New Town is ideal location to start the tour.

Cubism

I realize the word unique is grossly overused, but how else to describe a style of architecture that can be found in only one place on earth? In the 20th century, Czech architects and designers expanded the lessons of Picasso and Braque into architecture and decorative arts. While academia is divided on whether or not this style actually exists, we can contemplate its merits at the House of the Black Madonna Dum u Cerné matky boží. Originally constructed as a department store in 1912, its namesake statue is still firmly affixed behind the golden grill at the corner of this New Town destination.

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Art Nouveau

Follow the signs to Republic Square Námestí Republiky and the magnificent Art Nouveau Municipal House Obecní dum (above) is easy to spot. The landmark building, dating from 1905, is capped by a distinctive half-domed roof and intricate mosaics. Inside, there are murals from Prague’s most famous painters including Alfons Mucha whose style is instantly recognizable.

Dabble Savvy

While there is a dedicated Alfons Mucha Museum, it’s out of the way and strictly for those who love his work. Instead, wander into the public areas of Municipal House to see the Art Nouveau painter’s legacy.

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Neo-Classicism

Behind its lyrical green facade is the smallest of the city’s opera houses. With only 600 seats, albeit clad in luxurious blue velvet, The Estates Theatre (above) is a symbol of Prague’s artistic heritage. This New Town theatre is most famous as the venue where Mozart first performed his “Don Giovanni” in 1787.