COVID-19 UPDATED Summer 2021
The most frequently asked question on our Gaudí Free Tour is this one: “Which Gaudí house is better, Casa Milà or Casa Batlló?”. The easiest answer is to visit both if you can as each one is a masterpiece in its own right. However, not everyone has enough time in Barcelona or maybe they prefer to see other attractions to make their visit more varied.
Let me explain the pros and cons of each of these UNESCO World Heritage buildings so you can make an informed decision. At the end of the article, I will also tell you which one is my personal favourite and how you can book official tickets and skip the queues. Don’t forget that Casa Milà has a nickname: La Pedrera.
Casa Milà vs Casa Batlló: a comparative
Many people love the colourful ornate facade of Casa Batlló. It is full of eye-catching tiles that make the house impossible to miss when strolling past. With its bone-like balconies and a curvy reptile roof, this facade is usually preferred to that of La Pedrera. While Casa Batlló certainly followed the fashions of the time, it is not strictly 100 per cent Gaudí. The architect was commissioned to remodel this 1870’s building in keeping with the Art Nouveau fashion of the day.
I always ask guests on my tours to dig a little deeper to see the genius in Casa Milà too. This apartment block was designed from the ground up and Gaudí abandoned colour for form. It is so original and unlike any construction from this period. You will either love or hate the recycled welded iron balconies on its wavy limestone front.
Both masterpieces can be seen from the outside, so, no agonising choices here. However, as regards layout, ingenuity, new construction methods and importance, La Pedrera would get the critics thumbs up.
OUR TIP: Looking at both houses from the outside? Decided on which to enter? Get online and book. It is also cheaper than paying at the entrance.
Let’s discuss the interiors. What do you get to visit? Which one is better?
Entrances, courtyards and patios
In both houses, you see the inside patio (two in la Pedrera), the stairway, an individual apartment, the attic and the roof terrace. I prefer the entranceway to Casa Batlló by far. It is like entering a jewellery box and the carved wooden staircase up to the apartment will blow you away. If you are a tile person the interior patio is all about the decoration. It is beautifully done in shades of blue giving the atmosphere of submergence in the ocean depths.
Casa Milà’s entranceway starts at a modern-looking ticket office where you put your belongings through a security check. But once through to the first patio you can breathe a sigh of relief as it is round and spacious, catering for larger numbers. While the patios are a lot plainer inside, there are some eye-catching painted frescoes around.
OUR TIP: If the queue for the lift to the roof terrace in La Pedrera looks long, ask the staff to show you the hidden stairway off the patio (servants used it in the olden days). It is 8 floors up so make sure you are fit and ready for the climb.
The living quarters of Casa Batlló are not furnished and a lot of rooms (kitchen, servants quarters and bathroom) are missing so it lacks that sense of a real lived-in apartment. Despite this, some people do prefer the interior. Sculpted wooden doors, colourful stained glass windows and the rounded plaster ceilings transport guests to a fairy wonderland. The family terrace is open to visitors affording a view of the back part of the house, a feature which is not available in Casa Milà.
La Pedrera apartment is furnished, giving a great insight into how people lived and decorated their abodes in this era. Wandering from room to room disorientates most as the layout follows the curve of the round patio which is so unusual in any construction. Subtle and brilliant, it does, however, miss that immediate first impression, wow factor of Casa Batlló.
OUR TIP: Both living quarters exhibition spaces can feel quite cramped when busy so try to catch the early morning or late evening visits (about 1.5 hours before closing time).
The white plastered, ribbed walls of the attic in Casa Batlló makes you feel the nickname house of bones is very fitting for this dwelling. In parts, it can be narrow and if crowded a bit claustrophobic, but this impressive passageway must be walked to arrive at the roof terrace.
Casa Milà’s loft has bare ribbed walls and ceilings made from red brick, immediately creating a warm and relaxed atmosphere. It’s an enormous space and is dotted with small windows so one does not feel boxed in or stuffy. Excellent models, videos, charts, furniture and more gives the visitor a fantastic insight to all of Gaudi’s work, a display that Casa Batlló lacks.
OUR TIP: One exhibit not to be missed in Casa Milà’s rafters is the hanging chain model of Colonia Güell. It explains Gaudí’s genius by looking in the mirror below.
The roof terrace
The terrace of Casa Batlló is not as promising as you might think by looking at the roof from below. It houses chimneys, the skylight and the water storage room. While still imaginative and, no mistaking, a Gaudí rooftop, I get the feeling that, after completion, the architect thought to himself: “I can definitely do better in my next house“. And that, my friends, would be La Pedrera.
The terrace of Casa Milà is one of the most magical places in Barcelona and a sculptural masterpiece. Stairwells, ventilation towers and chimneys are the 3 main elements that combine to make a highly original and wonderful space. It is not a flat surface (like casa Batlló) and you will be climbing up and downstairs to see the sights so those with bad knees, be aware.
As a plus, you can actually enjoy beautiful views of Barcelona from La Pedrera’s roof terrace (a classic photopic is the one of Sagrada Familia framed by one of the arches). Even famous film directors like Michelangelo Antonioni found the place irresistible enough to use it as a backdrop for a movie. Check out this scene of his 1975 film “The Passenger” with Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider wondering around Gaudí’s rooftop in a very blackened by pollution Casa Milà (things are quite different now).
The only disadvantage of La Pedrera’s roof terrace compared to Casa Batlló’s is that it will be closed when it rains. So check the weather forecast beforehand so you don’t leave Barcelona without experiencing it.
OUR TIP: On Summer nights both La Pedrera and Casa Batlló offer night shows on their roof terraces. Both are great and I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the atmosphere of these special places accompanied by great music and surrounded by Gaudí’s endless imagination.
Special visits and audio guide
Night visit of La Pedrera
One exciting option is a night tour of La Pedrera. A little more pricey but worth doing as they limit the number of people per group led by a helpful guide answering queries. The roof terrace takes on a magical dimension by the light of the moon, and the house feels eerily quiet. On the downside, one misses Gaudí’s clever use of illumination by natural daylight. Also, as you are on a group tour, you won’t be able to linger long in any location but the free glass of cava at the end will surely make up for it.
In Casa Batlló, a visual audio guide is handed out which tends to keep both adult and child occupied. It is an interactive mini tablet that you twirl around each room and photos of the period decoration appear. In other locations, little animations pop up giving you an insight into the inspirations of the architect (you can check the video below to get an idea). The drawback here is the narration which tends to be a bit boring without many stories, also no photos showing the bedrooms either!
La Pedrera has the traditional earphones, is more complete and less gadgety. It doesn’t need the visual as everything is there for you to see in real life. Again, a little on the dry side, but gives all the basics to understanding the house.
OUR TIP: For those who hate audio guides a good investment is the Visual Guide book series. Casa Batlló and Casa Milà books are excellent with plenty of pictures and simple explanations. A great memory to take home with you too.
There is no way out here: both houses are quite expensive (especially Casa Batlló with the new 10D Experience), although there are some discounts for seniors, children or students. The good news is that the price always includes the audio guide which, especially in the case of Casa Batlló, is quite helpful.
Bear in mind that there is a surcharge of €4 in Casa Batlló and €3 in La Pedrera if you decide to buy your ticket at the entrance. This is one of the reasons why it is advisable to pre-book online. The main one is that you will skip the lines at both attractions (only with the Gold ticket at Casa Batlló). There is not much point in booking La Pedrera Premium ticket as you will also skip the lines with the regular ticket.
There is also a possibility of paying extra for a premium service. Casa Milà offers guided tours and a night projection show while Casa Batlló has an early entrance option and theatrical visits. You can also enjoy live music with a glass of cava at the terraces in both houses during the Summer months.
One word of warning: nowadays there are many websites selling tickets to the Gaudí attractions. Most of them will charge an extra booking fee so you will end up paying more than you should. Even worse, there are even some scamming sites selling fake tickets that, of course, won’t be valid. If you want to pay the official price, always book through an official site. These are official sites where you can purchase the tickets to both buildings without surprises:
The queues and crowds
Casa Batlló is a smaller building and in the high season feels very squashed. Sometimes it is hard to appreciate the interior as there are way too many people inside. A few times on my Gaudí private tours we have got caught in a human traffic jam through the narrow attic that leads to the roof terrace.
The queues are always long to get into this house also, maybe because it is more popular or because it moves slower. I always advise clients to go very early when it opens at 9 am or very late (around 7.30 pm-8 pm) when most people have finished sightseeing and are heading off for dinner.
Casa Milà is a larger space and more able to cater to a larger number of people. Even in the high season, the queues are manageable. However, because of this, tour groups are regularly brought here and it is not unusual to see a tour bus or two parked outside. The group entrance is a separate one to the individual travellers so it will not affect the line to get in.
Organised groups whisk through the building as they are on a schedule so hold back, they will move on quickly. Just don’t get caught in the living quarters on show with a large tour as this is the smallest space and can feel cramped if crowded.
Casa Milà or Casa Batlló? My personal choice
My personal favourite is Casa Milà. As a tour guide bringing people around, there is so much more to dig your teeth into. The building is a leap forward in construction methods. Maybe its modern front is not to everyone’s taste but it is uniquely original for its time. The roof terrace is a winner in everyone’s book while the attic is amazing and has a more complete exhibition space. The apartment on view has a unique layout being cleverly designed by Gaudí and all rooms are present and furnished. If you are in any way interested in architecture, this is the one to pick.
However, one can not dismiss Casa Batlló, even though it was only been remodelled by Gaudí. It is a masterpiece of craftwork and, if not a bit over the top, fuels the imagination. Many clients I have, had preferred Casa Batlló for this reason, especially families with kids. The mini-tablet guide keeps the children well occupied and fires up their interest.
In Casa Batlló there is a new 10-D Experience that started in May 2021. Bear in mind that this is not designed by Gaudí. It consists of a series of eye-catching art installations placed outside the rooms mentioned above. At the moment this is the only option available if you want to see the house. This has pushed up the price of the visit by a whopping 40%! We will keep you informed here if options without this new feature are available again at some point.
My advice is to study this post, look at the photos of both houses, think about what you want from the visit and decide from there.
Casa Milà a.k.a. La Pedrera practical information
Opening times (COVID-19 UPDATED Summer 2021):
- Thursday to Sunday: 9 am to 6.30 pm / 9 pm to 11 pm
Prices for the general visit:
- Adult: €24
- Children (7 to 12): €12
- Children (0 t 6): Free
- Senior, student & disabled: €18.50
- Catalonia resident: €12
- Catalonia resident children (7 to 12): €6
These are the prices for bookings online. There is a €3 surcharge if bought at the ticket office.
Other options to visit the building are available at different prices.
Only use an official site to book skip-the-line Casa Milà/La Pedrera tickets at the official prices
BOOK CASA MILÀ TICKETS
Casa Batlló practical information
Opening times (COVID-19 UPDATED Summer 2021):
- Wednesday to Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm
- Magic Nights concerts: 6 pm & 8 pm
Prices online for the general visit (10D Experience):
- Adult: €35
- Senior: €32
- Student & disabled: €29
- Children (13 to 17): €19
- Children (0 to 12): Free
- Spanish resident: €15
These are the prices for bookings online. There is a €4 surcharge if bought at the ticket office.
Other options to visit the building are available at different prices.
Only use an official site to book skip-the-line Casa Batlló tickets at the official prices
BOOK CASA BATLLÓ TICKETS
If you are looking for other activities here, don’t forget to check the very complete guide for What to do in Barcelona. You definitely won’t be short of things to do!
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