14 Best Works of Modern Architecture in Spain

14 Best Works of Modern Architecture in Spain

Masterpieces of Modern Spanish Architecture that have revolutionized the country

Kasper Christiansen
Text & photos: Kasper Christiansen
2. July 2021 (revised version)

A large number of spectacular buildings have been built in Spain over the last decades and today Spain is one of the countries in the world with most exciting modern architecture.

The movement of modern architecture can be said to have started in the year 1929 with the construction of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion. And through the 1990s and 2000s and during the last decade, still more interesting modern architecture has been built.

In Bilbao the construction of modern architecture meant a profound change, widely known as the the Bilbao effect. The the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, has had a huge influnce on the city and how it is conceived nationally and internationally. Later a number of other projects: buildings, bridges, metro and cultural centers designed by architects of Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, Carlos Ferrater and Philippe Starck.

In Barcelona, urban planning has been made through the Barcelona model - a model that thinks architecture and urban development as a unit that benefits both citizens, businesses, and visitors.

No less than 8 Pritzker-winning architects have erected modern architecture in Barcelona, including them Richard Rogers, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

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La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia - Antoni Gaudí's church


The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is by many considered the most spectacular building in Europe made during the past 50 years. The building has had an enormous impact on Bilbao as a city: Bilbao has gone from a small, almost unknown provincial town, to a place that people are dreaming about visiting.

Before the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, let than 100.000 people visited the city yearly. Over the next decades, this number multiplied by more than 10.

The Guggenheim Museum
Abandoibarra Etorb 2
48009 Bilbo (Bizkaia)

The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum - Frank Gehry's masterpiece - together with other important modern architecture - has turned around the situation of Bilbao


The Sagrada Familia

This fantastic building is far from an ordinary church. Antoni Gaudí made the design and started on the building in 1883 (after the first architect Villar was fired in that year after starting in 1882).

Gaudí worked 43 years on the church - but had finished only one church tower when he died in 1926. Today, the church is getting closed to finish, but because of Covid-19 there are further delays on the construction, that will not be finished before 2030.

The Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca 401
08013 Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona, by antoni Gaudí
The Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona - Antoni Gaudí's famous - but unfinished - church


Bodegas Ysios

The winery Bodegas Ysios was designed by Santiago Calatrava. The winery is located in the Rioja Wine Region in northern Spain. Ysios is one of several wineries that have relied on modern architecture during the past decades in order to increase interest for the winery's brand and wines.

Other wineries like Viña Tondonia (their winery was designed by Zaha Hadid), Bodegas Protos (winery by Richard Rogers), Ferrer Bobet (winery by Espinet / Ubach Arquitectes) and Antinori (winery by Archea Associati), Il Borro (winery by Elio Lazzerini) and Petra (winery by Mario Botta) can be mentioned.

Bodegas Ysios
La Hoya Bidea s/n
01300 Araba

Ysios winery, Rioja, by Santiago Calatrava
Ysios - a interesting winery in Rioja. The building was designed by Santiago Calatrava


MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona)

Richard Meier's building in the center of Barcelona, which has left its mark on the Raval district. Richard Meier is another Pritzker winner - the architect won the prize in 1984 is especially known for the white museum buildings (in addition to MACBA, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles), which designed exciting architecture in Barcelona , and the building has helped lift the neighborhood and made it more expensive to live in the northern Raval.

However, it has also had negative consequences for the residents who have had to move out of the neighborhood, since prices have risen after the construction of the museum.


Plaça dels Àngels 1
08001 Barcelona

The MACBA Museum
The MACBA Museum - Richard Meier's museum building is located right in the center of Barcelona


The Atocha Station

The Atocha train station was originally built in 1851 and rebuilt in 1892 after drawings by Spanish Alberto de Palacio Elissagne (who worked with Gustave Eiffel).

But what most people who visit the train station today remember is Rafael Moneo's new building with a tropical garden with palm trees and turtles. The Spanish Pritzker winner Moneo has left his mark on Spain with a large number of exciting buildings across the country.

Atocha togstationen
Plaza del Emperador Carlos V
28045 Madrid

The Atocha Train Station
The Atocha Train Station - The Atocha train station is a mix of old and modern


Santiago Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences

A beautiful - but also very expensive art and science museum in Valencia. A series of polemical buildings by Santiago Calatrava - today a world famous architect who was born and raised in Valencia. Over the last decades his design studio has designed groundbreaking buildings all over the world.

The building came to cost four times as much as the original budget, with a total cost of € 1.2 billion (the buildings was supposed to have had a price of € 308 million).

The City of Arts and Sciences (Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències)
Av. del Professor López Piñero 7
46013 València

The City of Arts and Sciences
The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia -Santiago Calatrava's City of Arts and Sciences is built on an impressive scale


The Barcelona Pavilion

One of the most important buildings in the history of modern architecture. The building was built for the 2nd International World Exhibition in Barcelona, where most of the other buildings were erected in the neoclassical style of the time that were in vogue during the period.

Mies van der Rohe's building, must have looked like a UFO landing from outer space, compared with the other buildings designed for the World Fair. Its straight and proportional lines, were very much unlike the many ornaments used in the other buildings in the area, and Mies van der Rohe's building was characterized by simplicity and a sparse interior design where only a single sculpture reflecting the water of a pool inside the building.

The building, which can be visited today (it was rebuilt from the original drawings in 1986), seems very modern even today, and is an absolute must-see in Barcelona.

The Barcelona Pavilion 
Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia 7
08038 Barcelona

The Barcelona Pavillion by Mies van der Rohe
The Barcelona Pavillion by Mies van der Rohe - a ground breaking work made in 1929.


Hotel W

Hotel W in Barcelona was designed by the local architect Rocard Bofill, who has also designed Barcelona's new airport terminal at the Prat Airport. The hotel has close to 500 rooms and most of the rooms have sea views.

Maybe Bofill was inspired by the Burj al-Arab Hotel in Dubai? At least there are several similarities.

We can also recommend experiencing the hotel's sky bar on the 26th floor, where you can enjoy both a wide selection of drinks and a fantastic view.

Hotel W
Plaça Rosa Del Vents 1 (Passeig de Joan de Borbó)
08039 Barcelona,

Hotel W
Hotel W - Ricard Bofill's hotel in Barcelona is a spectacular modern building


The Oceanogràfic

The Oceanografic Aquarium in Valencia was designed by Mexican-Spanish architect Felix Candela. The elliptical shapes fit nicely with the aquarium and the many pools.

The building was built in 2003. It has a popular restaurant of the same name in the interior. Oceanography is part of the Valencia Museum of Science, where most of the buildings were designed by Santiago Calatrava (see above).

Carrer d'Eduardo Primo Yúfera 1B
46013 València

The Oceanografic
The Oceanografic - designed by Mexican-Spanish architect Félix Candela


The Alamillo bridge

The bridge crosses the Alfonso XIII canal, which is part of the Guadalquivir River. The bridge thus connects Seville with Cartuja Island. The bridge was designed for the World Expo in 1992. The bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava. Construction began in 1989 and was completed in 1992.

A large steel structure that is connected to the bridge via 13 cables, which thus acts as a counterweight for the bridge.

The Alamillo bridge

The Alamillo Bridge in Seville, by Santiago Calatrava
The Alamillo Bridge - a spectacular design by Santiago Calatrava



The Caixa Forum in Madrid was designed by Herzog & de Meuron, and the building is owned by the large Spanish bank CaixaBank. The museum is free for the bank's customers (you enter by using a credit card from the bank), but costs just € 5 for others.

The museum has exciting exhibitions, and although the competition is fierce from the nearby museums in Madrid, the Caixa Forum has its raison d'être due to the exciting architecture and interesting and very cheap exhibitions.

Caixa Forum 
Paseo del Prado 36
28014 Madrid

Caixa Forum in Madrid, by Herzog & de Meuron
Caixa Forum in Madrid - designed by Herzog & de Meuron


The T4 terminal in the Barajas Airport

Many of those arriving in Madrid first see the Terminal 4 at the Barajas Airport east of Madrid. A stylish terminal designed by renowned American architect Richard Rogers.

The terminal is functional and modern. The airport had over 61 million. passengers in 2019 before the corona crisis.

T4 Aeropuerto Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas
28042 Madrid

T4 Terminal in the Adolfo Suárez Barajas Airport
T4 Terminal in the Adolfo Suárez Barajas Airport - One of the most beautiful terminals in Europe


Bodegas Marqués de Riscal

The hotel by the Marqués de Riscal winery was designed by Frank Gehry - and the winery can for many months seem like a 'mini-Guggenheim'. It is not difficult to see that the same architect is behind both buildings - and yet it is highly recommended to visit both places:

Marqués de Riscal is more than just a supplement to Gehry's famous museum in Bilbao. Frank Gehry did the work for the historic wine house Marqués de Riscal, one of the oldest wineries in all of Spain (the wine house was founded in 1858) and an institution in the wine world. Therefore, it is obvious to stay at Gehry's hotel and also visit the winery in the historic buildings.

Bodegas Marqués de Riscal
Calle Torrea Kalea 1
01340 Eltziego (Álava)

The Hotel at the Winery Marqués de Riscal
The Hotel at the Winery Marqués de Riscal - Frank Gehry has made this design in the Rioja Wine Region


Metrosol Parasol

The Metrosol Parasol combines terraces, market, a Roman Museum and viewpoints. The structure is made out of wood - it is the largest wooden structure in the world - and it was designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer.

Enjoy the beautiful views of the city from the top and get a view of the cathedral, the bridges and beautiful buildings in Seville. Afterwards, you can visit the local market and the interesting Roman Museum in the basement.

The Metrosol Parasol
Pl. de la Encarnación s/n
41003 Seville

The Metrosol Parasol by Jürgen Meyer
The Metrosol Parasol - a new iconic building in Seville
Expert Travel advise on Group Tours

Private Group Tours

Whether you are traveling with a group of friends, with family or a corporate group, we offer a wide range of tours in and around Madrid, Bilbao, Barcelona or Seville
Expert Travel Advise on Wine Tours

Wine Tours in Spain

Get out of the city on a wine tour to one of the wine regions south of the city, like Ribera del Duero or Priorat.
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