The House that Chocolate Built

Balcony Detail

Other than sex, there seems to be no stronger temptation in this world than chocolate. That luscious, dark confection can bring strong men to their knees and make smart women swoon.

“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace
 is to finish what I start. So far today, 
I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake.
I feel better already.”
— Dave Barry

The Barcelona Quest
The last thing I had on my mind that day was chocolate. We were in Barcelona, thrilled to be seeing Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces of architecture. The Sagrada Familia and Park Güell were first on our checklist. Done!

Now we wanted to see some residential architecture, so we headed to the “Block of Discord” – featuring three adjacent houses on the fashionable boulevard “Passeig de Gràcia” designed by the foremost modernist architects at the turn of the 20th century. They also happened to be rivals with very different styles. Hence the “Block of Discord!”

Our target was the Casa Batlo designed by Gaudi.

Casa Batlo

I stood there studying the signature “no straight lines” of the Gaudi house and loved it, as I do all things Gaudi. But I found my eyes constantly drawn to the house beside it.

It was gorgeous!

Casa Amatller Front

Casa Amatller
When chocolate baron Antoni Amatller bought the house, he engaged architect Puig i Cadafalch to re-envision the structure and work his magic … so he did. The result: Gothic meets Flemish, becomes Modernist Catalan.

CasaAmatller-Full Balcony

This playful building is one of Puig i Cadafalch’s finest creations. Inspired by17th-century Dutch townhouses, it has a distinctive stepped Flemish pediment covered in shiny ceramics, while the lower façade and doorway are decorated with lively sculptures by Eusebi Arnau. These include chocolatiers at work, almond trees and blossoms (in reference to the family name) and Sant Jordi slaying the dragon.”  –Time Out Barcelona

St George and the Dragon


Although I have encountered beautifully patterned buildings before, Casa Amatller took my breath away. I think the whimsical blue shutters sealed the deal … I was smitten and just stood there smiling.

Window blue shutters

I was dumbstruck because I’d never seen a building that instantly reminded me of a Flemish tapestry. My first thought was of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, housed in the Musée de Cluny, with their backgrounds of “mille-fleurs” (thousand flowers) similar to the flower tiles that coat the house. There were also the parallels of mythical beasts, and of course, a heroine.


Double window

Back to the Chocolate … What We All Came For!
Chocolates Amatller, founded in 1797, is one of the oldest chocolate brands in Spain. When Antoni Amatller followed in the footsteps of his chocolatier father, he inherited a high-quality product, so he modernized production lines, embraced marketing, and BAM! … increased sales!

One of his best decisions was to commission Czech artist Alphonse Mucha to create a seductive container for his chocolates. From that moment forward, Amatller has used Art Nouveau to heighten the appeal of its chocolates by designing alluring wrappers, gorgeous tins, and eye-catching posters. These branding techniques turned the chocolates into presentation-worthy gifts … a tradition that continues today.

Chocolate 1

I must admit that after discovering Casa Amatller and its history, we did feel it was important to field test the “product” … you know, to be certain it was safe for consumption and that we could recommend it. We can gleefully report that Amatller Chocolate is delicious … try the chocolate leaves.

“Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, 
as far as chocolate is concerned, 
there is no need to involve your brain.”  
–Dave Barry

Sweetly Yours,

Gargoyle window

Photo Credits:
3. By Elena Stromberger via Wikimedia Commons
4. By Amadalvarez via Wikimedia Commons
5. By Yearofthedragon via Wikimedia Commons
10. Courtesy Chocolates Amatller
11. By Pere López via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

83 thoughts

    1. Hi Terri and Jonathan, Thanks. Isn’t it funny how reading about chocolate makes you want it. I guess it’s kindof like Pavlov’s dog. So how is your planning going for your trip? All the best, Terri

    1. Hi Jessica, I love the photo you took of both houses side by side. Have you been in both of them, or is Casa Amatller still under renovation? Enjoy your chocolate fix! All the best, Terri

  1. OMG, now I absolutely MUST go to Barcelona. 😀

    I thought I’d enjoy the phenomenal architecture (and that would have been enough for me and my camera), but you’re telling me there’s good chocolate and Art Nouveau tins to be had too? Why haven’t people told me about this before?

    Great post – I loved the photos and the chance to see the work of other architects than Gaudi. The quotes were fantastic too and put me in the mood for some chocolate consumption of my own. 😀 Now I only need to see if we still have some…

    1. Hi Swytla, Isn’t it funny how the mere mention of chocolate can start your taste buds tingling! The tins are wonderful collectibles … and the contents are pretty tasty too. Barcelona is definitely a great city to put on your “must-see” list – actually anywhere in Spain is a joy! All the best, Terri

  2. I love those two chocolate quotes!
    I went to Barcelona in 1974 and remember seing the Sagrada Familia and thinking it was fabulous. I also seem to remember them saying that it would be finished in about 40 years – but somehow I don’t think that’s going to be happening.

    1. Hi Elaine, Dave Barry always seems to nail it – this time for sure. I just read that the most current projection for completion of the Sagrada Familia is 2026, but I’m with you – doubtful! It would be fun to see it without all the cranes just once! ~Terri

  3. Loved this post. Somehow I missed the Casa Amatller AND the chocolates when I was there oh-so-many-years ago — like 38! Beautiful photos and great commentary, Terri.
    You guys should travel and write about it! Oh, wait — you do!

    1. Hi Susan, and thanks so much. We definitely would have missed Casa Amatller if we hadn’t been going to see the Gaudi house. I guess luck counts too! We had the Amatller little chocolate leaves in the tin and they were delish. Wait! That’s what we need – a chocolate tour of the world. I’m in! Love, T

    1. Hi Joyce, Isn’t it funny that there never seems to be chocolate in the house when you really need it! But of course Easter is coming so there should be plenty of opportunities for chocolate bunnies. Love to you and Dascal, T & J

    1. Many thanks, Melanee. I’m with you about being a sucker for great packaging. My Mom always said, “It’s all about presentation. You can serve Kraft Mac and Cheese, – just put it in a beautiful bowl they’ll love it!” Hope you get to go to Barcelona soon. ~Terri

    1. Hi Tia Dia, It looks like we are of one mind when it comes to loving Barcelona. I saw on your site that you’ve been fabric shopping – one of my all-time favorite pastimes. They are all gorgeous, although I did fall in love with the purple knit! All the best, Terri

  4. My Czech neighbor was just saying last night she wanted to visit Spain, and I told her about your blog. Am forwarding to her! Beautiful photos! And I really wish I had a piece of that chocolate right now. 🙂 – Kaye

    1. Hi Kaye, thanks for your kind words and forwarding our blog to your neighbor. I just checked out your new Winter Garden Part lll show and it looks great. You’ll be glad to know I have green onions planted on my balcony. And as for the chocolate, I think we’ve burned through every piece in the house today! Oh well. ;~} Terri

    1. Thank you so much! I love your photos of the Bogor Street Carnival – such a wonderful city. We were there a few years ago and enjoyed it tremendously. All the best, Terri

      1. Actually I do not like the environment of the cities here since they are fully with billboards, small advertising and wires. Thank you very much, Terri. Best wishes

  5. Something as delicious as chocolate deserves such exquisite packaging, even if it doesn’t need it! You find the most amazingly designed and decorated buildings. I always love to come here for a visual treat.

    1. Hi Catherine, what a cool comment. In addition to chocolate, I’m also a sucker for interesting architecture – at least that doesn’t impact my waistline! LOL! All the best, Terri

  6. This is why my husband and I must see Spain – the architecture and the chocolate. Believe it or not, he will probably prefer the chocolate while I savor the buildings. Lovely post!

    1. Hey Anita. We lived in England for 3 years and it’s our favorite in Europe. However, Spain is my favorite country on the continent, hands down. The north of Spain feels more like southern England, and the south feels more like Africa. It has amazing variety, and is a wonderful destination, no matter where you go. Given your musical predilections, I’m thinking that Flamenco in Seville may be just your cup of tea. It’s awesome to hear and see. BTW, did you tell your husband about sangria? ~James

  7. Jeesh, Vances: We only have three months in Spain! Now you’ve added yet another must-see in Barcelona. Ah, well: it’s a good thing there’s a new, high-speed train between Girona and Barcelona (37 minutes!). Nine days to departure (and counting)…

    1. Hey Tom, we just see it as out job to keep adding to your already overflowing “Spain Dance card” with all the goodies we can think of. I did not know about the high-speed train – how perfect! So this weekend is your big sale. Are you and Louise ready for it? You must be so excited. If you’re like us, by the time you get on the plane you just melt into the seat with relief! ;~} Terri

    1. Hi Gayle, we didn’t know a thing about it before we went. We discovered a little sign on the inside edge of the front door, but still didn’t appreciate the significance until we looked it up online. Fortunately the Amatller Foundation has now updated signage and displays. Guess we’ll have to go back. Yay! ~Terri

  8. Oh, Dave Barry…”there is no need to involve your brain [adding…when chocolate is made in sumptuous architecture]. Enjoyed the post 🙂

    1. Thanks Winnie and Jeremy! Barcelona definitely offers amazing things everywhere – that’s one of its great joys. I love your post “A Tale of Two Travelers.” You two have found the key and you’re so inspiring. All the best, Terri

    1. With your wonderful photographer’s eye you would be in heaven. Barcelona is filled with so many fantastic sights that you’ll take thousands of photos. All the best, Terri

  9. I’ve seen so many photos of Gaudi’s Casa Batlo but this is the first time someone thought to include the magnificent house next door. What a beautiful building.
    Though I was in Madrid last summer I didn’t manage to get to Barcelona. Next time.

    1. Hi Rosie, I just love these “happy circumstances” where I’m determined to look at one thing and end up liking something else better! I guess “luck counts too.” We hadn’t been to Barcelona for several years and we’re so glad we went back … but we missed Madrid. Next time. All the best, Terri

    1. Thanks Carolin. As you can tell from the post, they are two of my favorites as well. The Modernist Architecture in Barcelona is wonderful, and the chocolate … well it goes without saying. Thanks. ~Terri

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Rhonda. Living in Spain for 12 years must have been a wonderful experience. We’ve visited Spain a number of times, and it’s always one of our favorites. We spent time in Seville, and enjoyed it as well. ~Terri

  10. That tin is just beautiful. I do believe I’d buy just about anything wrapped up in that- even if it weren’t delicious chocolate! Thank you for introducing me to a new artist in Alphonse Mucha!

    1. I’m with you Miranda – I’m a total sucker for the tins! And the contents isn’t bad either! Alphonse Mucha was immensely talented, and now his work lives on. Yay! ~Terri

  11. Thanks for the inspiration as I am working on a post about the facade of a confectionary shop. Hope you’ll get to see it finished soon! And Barcelona… ahh, still on my bucket list..

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words. I would love a link to your post about the confectionary shop … I obviously have a “sweet tooth.” 🙂 And as for Barcelona, it’s always a great destination to keep on your bucket list. All the best, Terri

    1. Thank you Noreen. When we first saw Casa Amatlier I had no idea there was a chocolate connection – I just loved the beautiful tapestry of the house. But when I started researching it and discovered Amatlier Chocolate, well, there was no turning back. Love at first bite. 🙂 So glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  12. How fortunate I found this story about Barcelona (and the others you linked to). It is our good fortune that we will be in Barcelona in a couple of weeks. Your photos and descriptions are my favorite guidebook. – Mike

    1. That’s great Mike. So glad that you found them helpful. We both really enjoy Barcelona, so it’s hard to go wrong with just about anything you decide to do. Have fun! ~Terri

    1. Wow Miranda, you certainly captured the wonderful essence that is Casa Batlló. In addition to the undulating facade, I just love the roofline. And I didn’t know the story of what it is said to represent. Brilliant! And thank you for the lovely shout-out for The House That Chocolate Built. It’s hard to believe there are 2 such interesting houses (and their stories) sitting next door to each other. I was in heaven. Fabulous post! All the best, Terri & James

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