In Barcelona, Finding Deals With Gaudí as Guide

Which means you’ll have to fork over an entrance fee of 22 euros to Casa Milà — that’s for a ticket for a particular time. (The fee is 29 euros for the freedom to come when you please.) Some Gaudí exteriors can be viewed at no charge, including Casa Milà, a huge structure on the corner of Carrer de Provença and Passeig de Gràcia, which is shaped like a giant sea creature. Or maybe a spaceship. Or maybe a mysterious ancient quarry, as indicated by its nickname, the Pedrera. I did pony up for the admission, and it was worth the price — the building was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Commissioned by an industrialist and built when Gaudí was in his creative prime, the structure was designed as apartments. Aspects of the natural and unnatural coexist in a symbiotic paradox: While wholly artificial and flashy in certain aspects, the facade resembles a piece of coral smoothed by the ocean, and the sea-creature-like figures adorning the rooftop made me feel as if I were inside an aquarium. A promotional video suggests that the house wasn’t created by Gaudí, but rather by nature itself, and it’s difficult to disagree. Don’t forget to make use of the informative audio tour, which is free with admission.

Another Gaudí creation I visited, the Güell Palace, preceded Casa Milà by about 20 years, and it shows. Again commissioned by a wealthy industrialist, the mansion lacks the whimsy and playfulness of some of his later works, with parts of the mansion seeming downright gothic and cathedral-like (religious services were once held in the palace). The entrance fee is lower than that of Casa Milà, 12 euros. Down the street from the palace is a 365 Cafe, a convenient pit stop for a quick coffee (1.15 euros) and a minicroissant (35 cents).

But one does not live by architecture alone. Finding a good cheap place to stay is the challenge. Among the worn, labyrinthine streets of the Ciutat Vella (Old City),…

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