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Palau Macaya, an Unknown Modernist Gem

On the beautiful Passeig de Sant Joan, we find a nice but often overlooked modernist building by Puig i Cadafalch. It’s the Casa Macaya, also known as Palau Macaya due to its grandeur, although you might not say so from the outside. A visit to the inside is highly recommended, as, besides being free, you’ll discover a beautiful hidden gem that not many people know about!

A Palace in Modernist Style

Modernism was the Catalan version of the movement that forever changed the architectural and cultural world between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, also known as Art Nouveau or Jugendstil. The Casa Macaya, built between 1898 and 1901 by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, is a fine example of this.

An entrance to pause at
An entrance to pause at

All elements that define Catalan Modernism can be seen in Casa Macaya, with a clear influence of the Gothic style. The white façade is adorned with flower sgraffitos and various sculptures in Gothic style. Once inside, you are surprised by beautiful colorful tiles with natural motifs and a fantastic courtyard with a staircase leading to the first floor and crowned by a beautiful light dome. Especially the latter deserves your attention! The decorated walls and ceiling of the arrival hall, where carriages and cars used to enter, complete the picture.

The beautiful light dome of Palau Macaya
The beautiful light dome of Palau Macaya

The best craftsmen, such as sculptors Eusebi Arnau and Alfons Juyol or Joan Paradís for the sgraffito, collaborated on this project, and this is evident in the quality of the finish and the beautiful result.

A fun detail is the statue of a man on a bicycle that you can find at the entrance. This is said to be a nod to Puig i Cadafalch, as he constantly cycled back and forth between all his projects in the city during the construction of Casa Macaya.

Notice the man on the bicycle!
Notice the man on the bicycle!

Tip: Puig i Cadafalch was, alongside Gaudí, one of the founders of Catalan Modernism. Discover other beautiful buildings by the same architect, such as Casa Amatller, Palau Baró de Quadras, and Casa Terrades (Casa de les Punxes).

The Macaya Family

From the name of the house, it’s clear that it belonged to the Macaya family. Romà Macaya Gibert was a businessman in the textile industry. As a good visionary, he invested his money in this large plot in the still-to-be-built Eixample district (the new district that emerged in the mid-19th century after the removal of the old city walls). He commissioned Puig i Cadafalch to build his family home there. A house where he and his wife, their two sons (and their respective families), and staff would live. This happened around 1900. The owners lived on the first floor, also known as the “planta noble”. The second floor was for the first son and his family, and the third floor for the second son, who was single at the time. As a good businessman, Macaya sold the rest of the land that was not built on and made a nice profit.

The family Macaya's abode
The family Macaya’s abode

Casa Macaya Today

Since 1947, Palau Macaya has belonged to the bank La Caixa. Here, this organization started its cultural program, which has led to several cultural centers (called CaixaForum) in multiple Spanish cities. Palau Macaya also temporarily served as a museum for science, but since 2012 it has been a knowledge center. Due to the changes over time, almost nothing of the interior of the old house has been preserved, except for the beautiful entrance, the courtyard, and the light dome. The part you can visit for free is therefore limited to these three sections.

It’s nice to know that there are several audiovisual presentations and informative brochures in the hall to learn more about this building. And since it’s located outside the most touristy area, you will hardly encounter other people here (unless there is a certain event or something similar) and you can enjoy all the beauty for free for as long as you want.

Visiting Palau Macaya
Visiting Palau Macaya

In short, a very interesting place to visit when you are walking along Passeig de Sant Joan. Other interesting buildings you’ll come across on Passeig de Sant Joan are the Arc de Triomf and the Biblioteca Arús.

Practical Information

  • What: Visit Palau Macaya or Casa Macaya
  • Where: Passeig de Sant Joan, 108
  • Metro: Verdaguer (L4 and L5)
  • When: Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 14:00 and from 16:00 to 20:00. Closed on weekends and holidays.
  • Price: Free

Tip: This building and cultural center is accessible to wheelchair users, the deaf, and the blind.

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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