Things to do in Barcelona – Visit Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia

The multi-spired Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, easily the most recognizable structure in Barcelona, is also the symbol of the city. Not to be confused with the Barcelona Cathedral, La Sagrada Familia Basilica is definitely one of the most unique Modernist churches and reportedly the most visited site in the city.

Construction of La Sagrada Familia began in 1882 under the supervision of diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar, but it would be the master of Catalan Modernism, Antoni Gaudí whose name would come to be synonymous with this architectural wonder. His work here on the Nativity façade and Crypt are included in the ‘Works of Antoni Gaudí listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, though maybe not to everyone’s liking, the design and decorative elements of the Basilica are impressive. Look closely at the details and you’ll see Gaudí’s unique flare for organic architecture and symbolism.

The interior is a vast open space, brightly lit by natural light from tall windows, some of which contain beautiful colored glass. One eye-catching feature that was greatly inspired by nature is the forest of tree-like columns, branching out and rising up to the ceiling. The exterior is decorated with reliefs of fruit and foliage, as well as various religious scenes, and when completed will have 18 towers reaching up to the sky. La Sagrada Familia is a phenomenal structure and the complexity of the design can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to capture the details and intricacies well enough on camera to convey how spectacular it all is.

Visitors are allowed to climb the towers and we were fortunate to be able to do so on two separate occasions. The first time in 2003 was wonderful and the views of the decorative elements on the exterior were clearly visible. On our most recent trip, however, the experience wasn’t quite as nice and the features visible not nearly as impressive. This may have been due to the ongoing construction work. Luckily, though, these days there’s an elevator that takes you up into the tower allowing you to descend via the stairs.

Gaudí spent over 40 years of his life working on the design and construction of La Sagrada Familia. He would remain devoted to this project until his death in 1926 and he is buried in the Carmen Chapel in the Basilica’s crypt. Funded solely by ticket sales and private donations, the Basilica remains a work in progress; the final phase, the Glory Façade, is scheduled to be completed sometime within the next few decades. If all goes according to plan, we hope to see it finished during our lifetime.

La Sagrada Familia is located in the Eixample district just north of the Barri Gótic neighborhood, easily reachable by Metro (Mallorca/Sardenya).

Ticket Info:

Basilica = 14.80€, includes the museum, schools and cloisters.

Basilica + Towers = 19.30€, includes the museum, school, cloisters and visit to one of the towers; your choice of the Nativity Façade towers (height = ~180 ft.) or those of the Passion Façade (height = ~246 ft.).

Other ticket options are available. Check the La Sagrada Familia website for up to date prices and opening times. Since the Basilica is such a popular site, the line for tickets can at times be very long, wrapping around the church, and the wait in line can take hours. To avoid a long wait, consider purchasing your tickets online in advance. Note: an additional fee applies for online purchases and you’ll be required to select the date and time you wish to visit.

Travel tips:

The entrance for individual ticket holders is located on Carrer Sardenya. If you’ve purchased your ticket online, Metro: Sardenya will get you closer to the main entrance.  If you haven’t purchased your ticket in advance, Metro: Mallorca may get you closer to the end of the ticket line.

Be mindful that this is a construction site and access to some areas may be restricted at the time of your visit.

In our next post, we’ll take you underground to visit La Sagrada Familia Museum.

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