Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família should be at the top of any Barcelona itinerary.
Its intricately carved exterior is topped by 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.
I love it so much that I have visited Sagrada Família twice.
In this guide, I will share all you need to plan your visit to the Sagrada Família. This includes essential Sagrada Família tips, how to get there and how to buy tickets.
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About La Sagrada Família
The Nativity Façade and Crypt of the 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.
The Sagrada Família is not a cathedral but 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.
It 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. Whilst still unfinished, it looked very different on my return visit in 2021.
Top Tips for Visiting the Sagrada Família
Buy your ticket for La Sagrada Família in advance
The main mistake people make when visiting the Sagrada Família is not buying their ticket in advance.
As the most popular tourist attraction in Spain, pre-booking your ticket in advance is essential. Tickets can currently be purchased roughly two months before your visit.
More about buying tickets for Sagrada Família later (-> here).
Use the included audioguide (or join a guided tour)
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.
Allow enough time to visit
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.
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.
Do some 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:
The Sagrada Familia: Gaudí’s Heaven on Earth (Gijs van Hensbergen)
Part guidebook, part historical account but mostly the story of one man’s aspiration towards the divine.
Antoni Gaudí: The Life and Legacy of the Architect of Catalan Modernism (Charles River Editors)
An examination of the life, triumphs and obsessions of Gaudí, and how his faith and love for nature shaped his work.
What You Can See at Sagrada Família
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.
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 Christ. In November 2022, the towers of the evangelists Luke and Mark were completed. The towers of John and Matthew were finished in September 2023. The Tower of Jesus is scheduled for completion in 2026.
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.
Attending Mass at La Sagrada Família
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 at 9 a.m. and on Saturday at 8 p.m. This lasts for an hour and is said in several languages to accommodate locals and tourists.
Attending Mass is a free way to visit 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.
Where is the Sagrada Família?
The Sagrada Família is located in the Eixample Right district of Barcelona. Its full address is Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain.
It’s a pleasant 30-minute walk north of Plaça de Catalunya at the edge of Barcelona’s popular Gothic Quarter. A short detour will allow you to take in two of Gaudí’s other buildings: Casa Milà and Casa Batlló.
How to Get to La Sagrada Família
If you don’t fancy walking, here are your options for getting to the Sagrada Família.
1. By metro
Sagrada Família is served by Barcelona’s easy and efficient metro system. The L2 and L5 lines have stops close to the basilica.
A ticket for an individual journey costs €2.40 in 2023.
If you intend to take more than five journeys on the metro or buses, consider buying a T-Casual ticket. For €11.35 you can take ten journeys with Zone 1 of Barcelona’s public transport system.
Alternatively, a Hola Barcelona card is a tourist travel pass that gives you unlimited travel over 48, 72, 96 or 120 consecutive hours.
2. By bus
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.
3. Using the hop-on-hop-off bus
La Sagrada Família is also one of Barcelona’s attractions served by the hop-on-hop-bus.
You can choose from a one or two-day ticket and access two routes with stops that include stops in this Barcelona itinerary and more. There is also an audio commentary available.
La Sagrada Família Opening Hours
The opening hours of the Basilica of the Sagrada Família are seasonal.
From November to February it is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm; Sundays from 10.30 am to 6 pm. It remains open until 7 p.m. from March to October, and until 8 p.m. from April to September.
On 25 and 26 December and 1 and 6 January, opening hours are from 9 am to 2 pm.
You can check the opening times here.
Tickets for the Basilica of the Sagrada Família
You need to buy a ticket to visit the Sagrada Família. I strongly recommend that you book your ticket as soon as you have confirmed your dates in Barcelona.
How much does it cost to visit La Sagrada Família?
In 2023, it costs from 26 EUR to visit the Sagrada Família. There are two types of tickets available:
– Sagrada Família ticket – includes downloadable audioguide (€26)
– Sagrada Família with guided tour (€30)
How to buy tickets
1. The official website (the cheapest option)
I bought my ticket from the official website.
You can purchase tickets up to two months before your visit. As a general rule, no ticket exchanges or returns are permitted.
2. Third-party websites (the most flexible option)
Another option is to book your ticket via a reseller. La Sagrada Família tickets are offered by GetYourGuide here.
As this is a more expensive way of securing your spot, it wouldn’t be my first choice. However, as GetYourGuide tickets usually allow you to cancel for free up to 24 hours before your visit, this is worth considering if you need to keep your plans flexible.
3. Bundled with a tour (the value-added option)
A third way to buy Sagrada Família tickets is bundled with a tour. Like 3rd party websites, this is a useful option if tickets are sold out for the day you want.
Joining a tour also allows you to see more of Barcelona in a time-efficient way that benefits from the knowledge of a local guide. Excursions are also an excellent way to meet other travellers if you are travelling alone
Many resellers market their products as “skip-the-line tickets,” which is a little disingenuous. Since the closure of the onsite ticket office, the only queue at Sagrada Família is for security control. All visitors have to pass through this, regardless of where they bought their ticket and there is no priority line.
Below, I have listed a few highly-rated day tours that are worth taking a peek at.
- 1.5 hours
- Ticket included
- Live guide
- 4 hours
- Tickets and live tour guide for both sites
- Bus transfer between sites
- 5 hours
- Walking tour includes the Gothic Quarter and Montjuïc Hill
- All transportation between sites included
- Ticket for Sagrada Família and 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.
Is La Sagrada Família included in the Barcelona Pass?
La Sagrada Família is one of the many attractions included in this Barcelona city sightseeing pass. You will still need to book your reservation slot for the basilica.
The Go City® Barcelona All-Inclusive Pass can save you money if you are planning to visit the city’s main attractions.
Visiting the Sagrada Família’s Towers
You can visit the Sagrada Família’s towers with or without a guided tour. The jury is out on whether the Sagrada Família’s towers are worth it.
– Sagrada Família and Towers ticket – includes downloadable audioguide (€36)
– Sagrada Família with Towers and guided tour (€40)
You take the lift up but have to walk down. Because of this, the towers are not suitable for those with reduced mobility or those who suffer from claustrophobia
Tours are available in 6 languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian and German (although these may vary by season).
Two towers are available: the Nativity Tower and the Passion Tower. You pick your tower at the time of booking.
Some people consider the Passion Tower is the better tower at Sagrada Familia as it is 20 meters higher than the Nativity Tower. It is the newer tower and offers views across the city out to the ocean.
The Nativity Tower is on the Nativity Facade side of the building and was built during Gaudí’s lifetime. As the tower’s stairs down are a bit wider, this may be for you if you suffer from claustrophobia.
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.
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.
Tripods are not allowed.
When Will La Sagrada Família be Finished?
The Sagrada Família is expected to be finished in 2026, the centenary of Antoni Gaudí’s death.
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.
Many have debated 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.
His plans were burned in the Spanish Civil War and critics maintain that ongoing work is based on conjecture. Furthermore, he had an organic process, adjusting his buildings as he went along.
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, makeSagrada Família a priority.
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Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.
Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.
To get in touch, email her at email@example.com or follow her on social media.