With its showstopping Modernist architecture, elegant boutiques and cutting-edge restaurants, the Eixample forms the crucible for Barcelona’s image as a city of design. Its extraordinary waffle-iron street layout was designed as an extendible matrix for future growth, gradually coming to connect Barcelona with outlying villages in Europe’s first expansive work of urban planning. The period of construction coincided with Barcelona’s golden age of architecture: the city’s bourgeoisie employed Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch, Domènech i Montaner and the like to build them ever more daring townhouses in an orgy of avant-garde on-upmanship.
Most of the sites of interest for visitors are within a few blocks of the grand central boulevard of Passeig de Gràcia, which ascends directly from the city’s central square of Plaça Catalunya. Incorporating some of Barcelona’s fines Modernista gems, it is the showpiece of the Quadrat d’Or ( Golden District ) a square mile of open-air museum between c/ Muntaner and C/Roger de Flor that contains 150 protected buildings.
A particularly striking Modernista masterpiece is Puig i Cadafalch’s 1901 Palau Macaya at Passeig de Sant Joan 108. Other buildings of interest include the tiled mercat de la Concepció on C/Aragó, designed by Rovira i Trias, and the turret-topped Casa de les Punxes, another by the profilic Puig i Cadafalch, which combines elements of Nordic Gothic with Spanish plateresque. Further down C/Roger de Lluria, the Casa Thomas and the Palau Montaner were both designed by Lluis Domènech i Montaner, while on C/Casp, stands one of Gaudí’s lesser-know works, the Casa Calvet.