Are you visiting Sagrada Família in Barcelona? Here are essential tips and all the relevant information that you will need before your visit.
Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família is a masterpiece of the post-modern world.
Its intricately carved exterior is topped by totemic honeycomb Gothic towers, which have become a symbol of the city of Barcelona itself. Inside, it’s an explosion of colour amongst columns shaped like tree trunks rising to the canopy of a trippy, psychedelic forest.
Gaudí’s magnum opus should be at the top of any Barcelona itinerary. Make the most of your visit to the Sagrada Família with these essential tips and things that you should know before you go.
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Visiting Sagrada Família, Barcelona: Tips & Relevant Information
1. It is a UNESCO-listed building
The Nativity Façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Família are amongst the properties built by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) in or near Barcelona that are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
The other six UNESCO-listed Gaudí properties in Barcelona are Parque Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, Casa Batlló and the Crypt in Colonia Güell.
2. La Sagrada Família is famously uncompleted
La Sagrada Família has been a work in progress since 1882. Gaudí was still working on it in 1926, aged 73 and living on-site, when he died after being hit by a tram.
I first visited the Sagrada Família in the 1990s. Back then, it was little more than a building site. It looked very different on my return visit in 2021.
The Sagrada Família is slated for completion in 2026, the centenary of Antoni Gaudí’s death.
3. The narrative is on the outside
Most churches portray and explain religious beliefs through the statues and sacred artworks that they house. In a break with this tradition, the Sagrada Família conveys these messages through its extraordinary facades.
The Nativity Façade, completed in 1935, is dedicated to the birth of Jesus facing the sunrise to the east. Intricately designed and influenced directly by Gaudí’s style, it also shows elements related to nature and the creation of life.
Its three portals are called Faith, Hope and Charity, the three pillars of Catholic dogma.
The second one, the Passion Façade, is directed to the West and faces the sunset as a symbol for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. This is less elaborate and less faithful to Gaudí’s style.
The third and largest façade – the Glory Façade – is still under construction. This will represent the eternal glory of Christ and the road to divine salvation – or Hell! – through death and the Last Judgment.
4. Each of its towers is symbolic
Antoni Gaudí envisioned La Sagrada Família having a total of 18 towers. Each of these towers has a special significance.
Twelve of the towers are situated on the three façades of the Temple and are dedicated to each of the Twelve Apostles. To date eight have been completed; the towers of the Glory Façade are currently under construction.
The remaining six central towers are dedicated to the Four Evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Chris. Once completed in 2022, these will be the tallest of them all, standing at over 170 metres.
5. The inside is extraordinary
In some ways, you can’t blame people for simply admiring La Sagrada Família from the outside. Surely it can’t get any better than this?
Think again. This will be unlike any other church you will have visited.
Gaudí also wasn’t a huge fan of convention.
Gone are the traditional Gothic-style buttresses. In their place, there are huge columns of basalt and red porphyry. These are crafted in the shape of tree trunks, branching out to give an illusion of palm trees as they work their way up to the ceiling.
Antoni Gaudí is renowned for his use of natural light and colour. In this respect, his hand is also very much evident in the cathedral in Palma de Mallorca.
Sunlight streams through the stained glass windows casting ethereal shafts of light across the basilica’s vast interior.
It can feel like you have been transported into a psychedelic forest.
6. Late afternoon is the best time of day to visit La Sagrada Família
The interior of the Sagrada Família is at its best in the late afternoon when the basilica is bathed in warm sunlight. In theory, it may also be less busy but don’t bet your house on it.
7. Buy your ticket for La Sagrada Família in advance
This is my most important tip for visiting Sagrada Família.
As the most popular tourist attraction in Spain, buying your ticket in advance is essential. Tickets can currently be purchased roughly two months before your visit.
Book your Sagrada Família ticket via the official website here.
But what if you have left it too late and there are no tickets left? Don’t despair. You may be able to get around this by buying a ticket from third-party vendors who are able to reserve spaces months in advance.
8. Use the included audioguide when you visit the Basilica of the Sagrada Família (or take a guided tour)
You want to get the most from your visit, don’t you?
La Sagrada Família is a complex structure, stuffed with symbolism. Without knowing its secret meanings and the stories that have shaped it, your visit could be a little more than gazing at pretty architecture.
My other top tip for visiting the Sagrada Família is to use the informative and entertaining guide which comes as part of your entrance ticket. Make sure that you download the official app before your visit and you’re good to go.
Alternatively, you can book a ticket that includes a guided tour. My preference is to go at my own pace but you may prefer a live guide.
9. La Sagrada is a consecrated space
La Sagrada Família was consecrated as a basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2010. As such, it is a functioning Roman Catholic church.
Mass is held every Sunday morning at 9 am and Saturdays at 8 pm. This lasts for an hour and is said in several languages to accommodate locals and tourists.
It is free to attend Mass at Sagrada Família and places are on a first-come-first-serve basis. To make sure of your place, arrive at the main entrance on Carrer de la Marina at least half an hour before Mass starts.
10. It is not a cathedral
That honour belongs to The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.
The Sagrada Família was built as an expiatory temple. This is a place made to commemorate the reparation of sins made against God or the laws of the Church.
When it is complete, the Sagrada Família will be the tallest religious building in Europe, soaring 170 metres above Barcelona. However, as Gaudí stated that he didn’t want to compete with God’s creation, it will remain one metre shorter than Montjuïc mountain
11. The Basilica of the Sagrada Família is controversial
The key artistic debate centres on whether the completed basilica will ever truly reflect Gaudí’s vision. It’s no accident that UNESCO status has been conferred only on the sections of the basilica completed during the architect’s lifetime.
Gaudí’s detailed plans were burned in the Spanish Civil and critics maintain that ongoing work is based on conjecture. Furthermore, he had an organic process, adjusting adjusted his buildings as he went along.
So will the finished thing really be a Gaudí?
12. La Sagrada Família is the burial place of Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí is one of only two people buried at the Sagrada Família. He is joined by Josep Maria Bocabella i Verdaguer, the Barcelona-born book merchant who initiated the construction project.
13. Do a little background reading to make the most of your visit
My one regret is that when I visited Sagrada Família I didn’t know much about its history or about Gaudí. To make the most of your visit, you won’t go wrong with a little background reading
Here are a few books that have been recommended to me.
Tips for Visiting La Sagrada Família: Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Sagrada Família?
The Sagrada Família is located in the Eixample Right district of Barcelona. The entrance is on Carrer de la Marina.
How do you get to La Sagrada Família?
It’s a pleasant 30-minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya to La Sagrada Família. A short detour will allow you to take in two of Gaudí’s other buildings: Casa Milà and Casa Batlló.
Sagrada Família is served by Barcelona’s easy and efficient metro system. The L2 and L5 lines have stops close to the basilica.
A number of buses stop close by. Catch the 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 or B24 bus and get off at the Sagrada Família stop.
La Sagrada Família is also one of Barcelona’s attractions served by the hop-on-hop-bus.
What are the opening hours of La Sagrada Família?
The Basilica of the Sagrada Família is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. On 25 and 26 December, and 1 and 6 January, opening hours are from 9 am to 2 pm.
How much is a ticket to visit the Basilica of the Sagrada Família?
In 2022, it costs 26 EUR to visit the Sagrada Família. There are two types of tickets available:
– Sagrada Família ticket – includes downloadable audioguide
– Sagrada Família with guided tour
Can you buy tickets at the Basilica?
You can buy tickets using the direct purchase QR codes around the Basilica. Currently, there is no ticket office at the Sagrada Família.
Can you visit the Sagrada Família’s towers in 2022?
Due to COVID-19 safety measures, the Sagrada Família’s towers are temporarily closed. In better times, access to these towers is included in your entrance ticket.
Is there a dress code for visiting La Sagrada Família?
This is a Catholic church and both male and female visitors must dress appropriately.
These are the stated restrictions:
• No see-through clothing.
• Tops must cover the shoulders.
• Trousers and skirts must come down to at least mid-thigh.
• Visitors may not enter in swimwear.
• Visitors will not be allowed to enter wearing special clothing to celebrate any sort of festivities, nor with any decorations designed to distract or draw attention for artistic, religious, promotional or any other purposes.
How much time do you need at Sagrada Família?
As a bare minimum, allow two hours to visit the Sagrada Família but preferably spend between two and three hours there. Trust me; there’s a lot to see and learn, inside and out.
Can you take photographs inside Sagrada Família?
Cameras are allowed inside the Sagrada Família. Crane your neck and point your lens upwards, the wider the lens the better.
Is it Worth Visiting Sagrada Família?
Visiting Sagrada Família is an excellent use of your hard-earned travel budget. Getting close up and personal with the work of Gaudí is one of the main reasons to visit Spain, let alone Barcelona.
This is not the place to count the pennies. Whilst you walk around the basilica to enjoy its architecture, you can’t get close-up to admire the detail, and entering the Sagrada Família elevates your experience to another level.
Even if you only visit Barcelona for a day, make Sagrada Família a priority.
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