Gaudí's El Capricho in Comillas

Gaudís Sunflower House in the North of Spain

  |   Spain   |   21 Comments

What is your favourite flower? Well, for me it’s the sunflower. I live in beautiful Andalusia and in spring and early summer the fields are ripe with wonderful sunflowers. Like soldiers they stand guard, their faces all directed towards the sun. Their yellow colour is spreading happiness, their oversized heads are not without comic effect. To see whole fields of sunflowers when travelling down a country road in Spain is heart-warming.

Maybe solicitor Máximo Díaz de Quijano held quite similar sentiments towards sunflowers. At the end of the 19th century, he had just returned from Cuba to his small village of Comillas in the Cantabria region of Spain. As a solicitor he had made a fortune in the New World, he was what the Spanish call an “indiano”. Now it was time for Quijano to set up residence in his old hometown. He hired a young Catalan architect who happened to be in the area at the same time. His name was Antoni Gaudí.

El Capricho in Spain

A Playful House Built by Spain’s Most Playful Architect

The house that Gaudí built for Quijano in Comillas in the north of Spain, is today known as El Capricho. A “whim”, as you could loosely translate it, beautifully playful and almost a little bit crazy. Many aficionados of Spanish modernism make the pilgrimage to Comillas to see the villa of Quijano, one of the rare examples of Gaudís work which can not be found in Catalonia.

So what does all of this have to do with sunflowers? The question becomes obsolete as soon as you catch sight of the house. The house front is beautifully decorated with handmade tiles with a sunflower motif. They dominate the whole appearance of the building and are the leading feature of the design. Each tile has been glazed by hand, and each one of them spread happiness in me just like the real flower in the field.

Sunflower tile detail

A Visit to the Sunflower House in Comillas

We are on a road trip around Spain, and when we arrive in Cantabria we decide that it’s a good idea to introduce the kids to the works of Antoni Gaudí. He is, after all, one of the most prominent Spaniards and a genius in his field. We buy tickets and receive maps and pamphlets in English, then we walk up to the house in the shadow of old chestnut trees. El Capricho awaits us at the end of the short path, a stunning butterfly of a building with its colourful tiles, glazed roofs und round shapes. The children are immediately intrigued.

Indeed, the best part of the house is its exterior. Sunflower tiles alternate with warm bricks. Cast iron balconies accentuate the forms, add a delightful playfulness to the design. The round tower in one corner of El Capricho resembles a Moorish minaret. It is right above the corner entrance which continues the circular shape of the tower. We enter the villa from here to explore also the insides.

The interior of the house is empty – furniture of the previous owner long gone. Still, there are a few highlights that we can admire. The emptiness of the rooms bring out the unusual shapes of the building. The floorplan of El Capricho is shaped like an “U” with a conservatory in its centre. Quijano had a passion for botany, and having flowers and plants all year round in the centre of his house must have been very important to him.

Bird cage inside the conservatory

A Bespoke Home for a Solicitor who had Returned From Cuba

The children explore the house in their own time, following their own agenda. We ask them to sit in one of the balconies for an impromptu photo session – the balconies come with in-built benches and make great photo opportunities. We take the narrow winding stairs to the upper story and find here an attic with surprising symmetry. An exhibition shows Gaudís furniture design – fantastical, organic, appealing.

The gardens of El Capricho are small but harmonic. We discover a human-made cave as a playful addition to the garden design, then follow an elevated path along the perimeter which allows new perspectives of the house. A statue of Gaudí is sitting on one of the benches, the head proudly raised to look at his architectonic piece of art in front of him.

We agree that Gaudí had good reasons to be proud of his achievement here in Comillas. Even though El Capricho is considered one of his early works and is still missing some of his signature designs of later years, you can nevertheless see the artist’s mark even with layman’s eyes. A great destination for a short trip when staying in the Cantabria region of Spain, in particular, if you are interested in Spanish Modernism.

El Capricho with the minaret

More Information on Visiting Gaudí’s El Capricho

The fee for adults is EUR 5,00. Children enjoy a 50% discount, and younger children under the age of 7 go free. The building is open daily, though in the off-season the opening hours are shortened (see website for full information). You don’t need to pre-book your tickets. Comillas was the capital of Spain for one day (on August 8th, 1881) and has a beautiful historic centre with quite a few mansions and charming old buildings. The neo-gothic palace which today houses the university is the domineering feature of the cityscape.

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Silke Elzner

AUTHOR - Silke Elzner

Hello! My name is Silke. Happiness and Things is a travelogue about amazing European destinations and beautiful places around the world. I believe that beauty is even in the smallest things and I want to inspire you to see the world differently. Read more about it here.

  • Danijela | Nov 25, 2017 at 19:25

    Oh, this looks stunning! I’m a fan of Gaudi and when ever I think of Barcelona, I always remind myself that the next time I go, I’d have to visit few more buildings that I didn’t manage to the last time I was in the city.
    But, I have to admit that I was surprised as well that there is one of his works outside of Catalonia. El Capricho really looks charming. Just look at that doorway with columns! And you say that there is a statue of Gaudi looking up to the building? I’d love to see that.
    Love how “Indiano” invested his money here. 😉

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 26, 2017 at 20:12

      If you like the works of Gaudíin Barcelona then I think you will find El Capricho in Comillas charming as well. Hopefully, you get to return to Spain soon to have a second look!

  • Anna Faustino | Nov 25, 2017 at 20:52

    Oh wow! I never knew about this place. As usual, the architecture and building designs are so out of this world. Loved it! Did your kids enjoy his work? Can’t think of a better way than to introduce art to children than by going on trips like this.

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 26, 2017 at 20:13

      The kids did indeed enjoy it. It’s not a children’s playground but they have a lot of freedom, and the house on the inside is a bit of a blank canvas. Great to inspire them by putting them in a creative place like this.

  • Melanie | Nov 25, 2017 at 20:58

    Did you have the impression you could live in this house? It looks so cute! Never heard of El Capricho, but it looks amazing. I love the style it looks like in a fairytale but cooler, as it’s real. How did the kids like it? And I liked the intro of your story telling us about your passion and your love for sunflowers. No wonder Gaudí liked them too. Who doesn’t like sunflowers?

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 26, 2017 at 20:14

      The house has very normal dimensions to it. At one stage it also used to be a restaurant, which must have been so charming! I would totally live in this house, it felt very cozy on the inside.

  • Fiona Maclean | Nov 26, 2017 at 9:58

    I love Gaudi and have been to Barcelona and seen many of the Gaudi houses there (and of course Park Guel and Sagrada Familia). I’d never heard of the sunflower house though – it really does look fun!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 26, 2017 at 20:17

      It was fun indeed! Such a playful and creative place. 🙂

  • Sumti Bhadani | Nov 26, 2017 at 19:26

    Another masterpiece from Gaudi. In 2015 when I travelled Barcelona I saw many of this work and all were amazing. Sunflower house too is a great work and show great art and imagination of Gaudi.

  • Cathy | Nov 26, 2017 at 19:43

    I like sunflower too! In the city where I lived before, it’s called the city of sunflowers! Up in the north of the Philippines! The photos here are beautifully decorated with sunflowers, now I understood why sunflower house. They are indeed beautiful flowers and can totally brighten up your day!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 26, 2017 at 20:19

      I had no idea they were growing sunflowers in the Philippines too. It’s a country that I still need to visit. Hopefully one day I will be able to go there. I will make sure I check out your blog beforehand.

  • Jennifer | Nov 29, 2017 at 0:47

    Gaudi’s architecture is so eccentric. This place is covered with tiles with sunflowers on them on the exterior, so I can see why a sunflower lover would enjoy seeing it in person. The detail is incredible. I wonder how long it too to make all those tiles since they were handmade?

  • Samantha Sparrow | Nov 29, 2017 at 2:39

    I’ve just returned from Barcelona where I was fully on the Gaudi trail, but I had absolutely no idea you could find more amazing Gaudi in another part of Spain. I totally want to go know, the building has definitely got shades of Park Guell about it. I adore the sunflowers. It’s absolutely perfect!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 29, 2017 at 2:49

      Hi Samantha, Glad to hear that I was able to add another one to your list! I am sure El Capricho won’t disappoint. Have fun!

  • Paige | Nov 29, 2017 at 15:55

    I’ve never heard of the Gaudi Sunflower House. I’ve heard of visiting the Guadi destinations in Barcelona, but never any outside of there. This house was perfect for you to visit with all of the sunflowers too! This is definitely on my list now. I also want to see what other Gaudi buildings out outside of Barcelona! Who knew?!

  • Brooke Herron | Nov 29, 2017 at 18:10

    Wow I didn’t know about this Gaudi house! I live in Spain and of course have been to the Barcelona Gaudi sites but never this one-thanks for writing about it 🙂

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 30, 2017 at 20:00

      Hi Brooke, Since you live in Spain it will be such an easy visit for you. Nearby village of Santillana del Mar is also worth a visit, I have written about it earlier. Maybe you would like to take a peek?

  • Meg J | Nov 29, 2017 at 19:11

    Oh wow you can definitely tell that this is Gaudi! We were recently in Barcelona and really enjoyed visiting different buildings and sites he created, though didn’t make it to the sunflower house.

    Such beautiful hand made tiles though, and it looks like a wonderland with the quirky style and colorful facade. Will have to add a visit on my next trip to Spain 🙂

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Nov 30, 2017 at 19:58

      Meg, That’s great to hear! I really cannot recommend El Capricho highly enough to anyone interested in Spanish Modernism. Enjoy!

  • Stefan Alexander | Dec 10, 2017 at 2:42

    Wow! This place looks incredible. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of it. The architecture is amazing and I really love the unique design of the house. I actually didn’t even know that there was any of Gaudi’s work outside of Barcelona (shows how much I know). My girlfriend and I are planning a trip to Spain so hopefully we can check this beauty out. Thanks for sharing – your photos are amazing!

    • Silke Elzner

      Silke Elzner | Dec 11, 2017 at 20:10

      Thanks for your message, Stefan! I hope you get to see it too. If there are any questions just let me know. 🙂

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