La Sagrada Familia. Unfinished, unashamed, unbelievable. Barcelona’s most ostentatious cathedral and Gaudi’s most prolific work of art. A trip to Catalunya’s capital is not complete without visiting this place.
Situated right in the middle of the city, with its own metro stop, La Sagrada Familia Barcelona is a world famous landmark. Built from 1882, it has been a labour of love and one of the only cathedrals built entirely from donations. Expected to be finished in 2026 on the 100th year anniversary of Gaudi’s death, it will be his greatest legacy.
I went early in the morning to beat some of the crowds and it began to get busy after 9am. I picked up an audio guide which I would recommend. There is so much history and symbolism to understand in La Sagrada Familia; its worth paying for the audio tour.
Just approaching the front entrance, you get an idea of the massive scale and extensive detail of this cathedral. The sculptures are full-sized humans and animals and a mixture of very traditional gargoyles and ultra modern contemporary figures. Religious words and phrases are carved into each section and every inch teams with layers of art.
Then you walk inside.
The space is unbelievable. My eyes were drawn up the tree-like column structures to the ceiling and I felt so small in the cavernous central nave. Despite the number of people already gathering and tour groups, it was very quiet. You can find yourself alone looking at one of the many piece of art or stained glass windows and it was a very relaxed atmosphere. The cloisters you walk through on the outside protect La Sagrada Familia from any sounds from the city. It is a strange calm, like being in a man-made forest of stone.
I adored the stained glass against the white of the interior. Such a wonderful contrast. Modern yet religious, it is perfect for the space and when the light hits, colours dance all over the side naves.
The structure has been built to mimic nature therefore has few straight lines. Gaudi was against straight lines in his work, favouring curves and spirals but these were mixed with geometric designs. It was like nothing I had seen before and possibly the most unusual and distinctive cathedral I will ever see.
After walking around the interior and listening to the audio guide on history, symbolism and the construction, I headed to the Nativity Tower. This was the tower I had picked to go up and explore. Tickets have various options and you can choose between the Nativity facade or the Passion facade when you book at this link.
Please go up one of the towers if you do visit La Sagrada Familia. The views are phenomenal and you get up close to all of the design details on that side of the cathedral. It really is worth the extra few euros.
In the original designs by Gaudi, there were 18 spires planned for La Sagrada Familia Barcelona. These would represent the 12 apostles, 4 Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and the tallest at 170m would represent Jesus Christ. I would love to see La Sagrada Familia finished but this has been an extremely controversial topic among the residents of Barcelona and even the whole of Spain.
Plans and part of the interior of the cathedral were destroyed by anarchists. Many critics believe this is far from the vision Gaudi had for the people’s cathedral and others say it is a monstrosity in the city and the real cathedral of Barcelona should not have competition. It certainly is a dominant feature of this part of Spain and one of the most famous religious buildings. Whatever your views, it is unmissable.
Back inside at the museum exhibit, there is further explanation about the shapes and construction of Gaudi’s work. These elements are found not only in La Sagrada Familia but in his houses throughout Barcelona. Casa Mila, Casa Batlló and Park Güell all have beautiful examples of his style.
So why visit here? Is it worth the price of the ticket?
It is expensive. I’ve travelled through a lot of Europe and live in the UK which has some expensive tourist attractions but La Sagrada Familia is one of the top for price. At 15.00 Euros basic entrance, you need to decide whether this is for you. If you commit to visiting, I think you might as well get entrance, go up one of the Towers and get an audio guide for 24.00 Euros. The audio guide gives a really good amount of detail and takes you to various parts of the building as well as details on the tower, Gaudi and construction progress. It was my must-see attraction so I felt it was worth spending a bit extra as a value traveller.
The architecture, art and scale of La Sagrada Familia are further reasons to explore this place. It is a gigantic work of art and labour of love.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited places in Spain.
It was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI and you can attend mass (not regular weekly/monthly) and there are places for prayer and reflection. Check updates for live mass details at La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is open from 9.00 until 20.00 with the crypt open from 9.00 until 10.00 then 18.00 until 21.00 most days
The towers have a lift up but descent is on foot down spiral staircases. Wear good shoes or supportive sandals
It is a religious building therefore dress respectfully.
Any bags you carry will be checked before entry. No food is permitted and you must have the print out of your ticket
Check out the small school Gaudi had built for worker’s children and go into the park opposite and get views of the outside from different angles. I would recommend La Sagrada Familia to everyone. A very unique cathedral in Barcelona.
Have you visited La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona? What did you think?