Tourist attractions in Barcelona can be divided into those that you must see and those that are not only a must-visit, but which are simply worth adding to your list.
The Sagrada Familia (full English name: Basilica of the Holy Family) belongs to the latter category. This extraordinary basilica is probably one of the most iconic buildings not only in Barcelona, but in all of Spain. For many foreigners, it is a symbol of this country, and 50% of the souvenirs that you will find in the capital of Catalonia present this building.
FUN FACT: Sagrada Familia is the abbreviated name of this church. Its full name is Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia (cat. Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, English: Penitential Temple of the Holy Family).
History of the church
Even though the Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church, it’s not really all about religion. The architecture and history of this amazing place also play a dominant role.
Its construction began in 1882. It was then that the architect Francisco Paula de Villar presented his original idea for this temple. The idea, one could say, was banal – to create a simple church on a cross plan for the poorest. The architecture of this place did not assume anything unusual. But not for long…
Francisco Paula de Villar was not the only architect involved in building the church. Just a year after the first project was created, Antonio Gaudí took over the works on it. It was thanks to this artist that the initial appearance of the temple was completely changed. Gaudí used his own ideas and architectural solutions that combined, among others, elements of Art Nouveau and Catalan modernism. The artist modified the design many times, also during the temple’s construction. He did all of this to reflect his vision best and meet the functional requirements of the building.
Even though Antonio Gaudí spent 40 years on this project, the Sagrada Familia was not built during his lifetime. Moreover, its construction is still not complete, which makes it one of the longest-built structures in the world! Let’s make a comparison: it took the Romans 10 years to build the Colosseum, the Parthenon was being built for 17 years, and the Egyptians needed 20 years to build the Great Pyramid of Giza…
Over 130 years of construction
And there must be a reason for it. However, it is not the only reason why the Sagrada Familia has been under construction for over 130 years. After the architect’s death in 1936, the construction works were interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Gaudi’s designs, models and the entire workshop were destroyed, and his successors had big problems with reconstructing the artist’s vision.
The second reason for which the construction has been taking so long is because of the projects themselves. Gaudí’s intention was to make sure that the Sagrada Familia did not consist of any duplicate elements, on the contrary – that each of them was different. As a result, the same casting molds cannot be used repeatedly, and this significantly lengthens the construction process.
The last reason, however, is perhaps the most important of all. The construction of the basilica is not financed by any political authorities or church institutions. Initially, the Sagrada Familia was “sponsored” by private donors. It is similar today. The only difference is that the additional funds for the construction are also partially obtained from tickets sold to tourists wishing to visit the site. This means that by going to this place and buying a ticket, you are also contributing to its further construction.
Currently, the Sagrada Familia is in the final phase of construction, and its completion is scheduled for 2026-2028. And here is what it will look like then…
Visiting the Sagrada Familia
Some say that the Sagrada Famila is, in a way, a testimony of Antoni Gaudi’s faith. Even though we are talking about a building, it actually resembles one large complex of sculptures that represents the life, teachings and death of Jesus Christ.
If you take a closer look at all the details, you will quickly understand that there are plenty of Bible-related symbols here. Take the towers, for example. Unlike other Catholic temples, the Sagrada Familia does not have one, two or three towers … Ultimately, there will be as many as eighteen of them, each of a different height. The twelve towers are to symbolize the apostles, four others – the evangelists, and the other two – Jesus and his mother Mary.
Three facades of the church arouse great emotions:
Nativity Façade (Fachada del nacimiento)
The joyful symbolism of the Nativity Façade is associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. Here we find about 40 species of different animals, which refers to the richness of nature created by God. There are also references to the Old Testament, e.g. a snake from a biblical paradise or the Flight into Egypt. This part of the church, as well as the crypt, were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005. It is also the only facade which was completed during Gaudi’s lifetime.
Façade of the Passion (Fachada de la Pasión)
As the name of the façade suggests, its sad and moving symbolism refers to the Passion of Christ, from the Last Supper to his crucifixion. One can say that it is one great representation of the Way of the Cross. If you are observant enough, among the details of the Passion Façade you will find the so-called magic square. It consists of 16 fields, each with a number given. Adding four numbers in either direction will give you 33, the age at which Jesus Christ died.
The Facade of the Glory of the Lord (Fachada de la Gloria)
The Facade of the Glory of the Lord is not fully visible yet, as it is still under construction.
FUN FACT: The helmets of the soldiers on the Façade of the Passion bear a striking resemblance to the chimneys on the roof of Casa Milà.
The interior of the Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece not only from the outside, but also from the inside. And it is not only about the blaze of colors illuminating the interior with colorful stained glass windows. The row of columns looks a bit like a forest. This is particularly noticeable when we look up to see a beautiful vault that may be associated with tree crowns.
During the tour, you can visit the crypt where Gaudi is buried and the museum dedicated to this architect. You can also take the lift to one of the towers – it is a perfect vantage point over the Barcelona skyline. There are actually several towers to choose from, so it is worth considering in advance which one you want to visit. According to some, you can enjoy the best views from the tower at the Nativity Facade.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Due to its popularity, the Sagrada Familia is often called a cathedral. This is unfortunately a mistake; in fact, this church was only given the title of a minor basilica. Perhaps it will change one day, but for the moment, it is worth remembering that there is only one cathedral in Barcelona and it is the gothic Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia (trans. St. Eulalia’s Cathedral) built from the 13th to the 15th century.
- It’s best to buy tickets to the Sagrada Familia in advance. You will then avoid standing in a long queue and avoid the risk that all tickets have been sold out, which happens very often in the case of this monument.
- Opening hours: November to February from 9 AM to 6 PM. In March, between 9 AM to 7 PM. From April to September from 9 AM to 8 PM. In October, from 9 AM to 7 PM. December 25 and 26 and January 1 and 6 – from 9 AM to 2 PM.
- Address: Carrer de Mallorca 401, 08013 Barcelona
- Buy Tickets on GetYourGuide
- Buy Tickets on Tiqets
- Buy Tickets on Musement
Hotels in Barcelona
Discover CataloniaEach region of Spain is divided into provinces. Their names often coincide with the names of their main cities. Catalonia is divided into four provinces, each of which has different tourist attractions and interesting places to offer:
|Province||Tourist attractions and interesting places|
|Barcelona||Gothic Quarter Barri Gòtic, La Rambla, Montjuïc, cable railway Telefèric de Montjuïc, Magic Fountains (Font Màgica), La Boqueria, Laberint d’Horta Park, Poble Espanyol, Camp Nou, Torre Agbar, oceanarium in Barcelona, Barcelona Zoo, Tibidabo Amusement Park, Palace of Catalan Music, National Art Museum of Catalonia, Picasso Museum, Catalan Museum of Archaeology, Miniature Park - Catalunya en Miniatura, MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, Generalitat Palace, Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy (La Mercé), Cathedral of Barcelona, remains of the temple of Augustus, Els Quatre Gats Cafe, Erotic Museum, Santa María del Mar Church, Port Vell, Plaça de Catalunya, Parc de la Ciutadella, Parc de Collserola, Casa Amatller, Palau Güell, Passeig de Gràcia - luxury street in Barcelona, Montserrat Monastery. Barcelona's neighborhoods and districts (El Raval, El Born, Sant Pere, Les Corts). Gaudi's Monuments: Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, Pabellones Güell, Bellesguard, Casa Vicens, Casa Calvet. Popular cities: Barcelona, Torrelles de Llobregat, Hospitalet de Llobregat, Tarrasa, Badalona, Sabadell, Mataró, Santa Coloma de Gramanet, San Cugat del Vallés, Cornellá de Llobregat, San Baudilio de Llobregat, Rubí, Manresa, Villanueva y Geltrú, Viladecans, Casteldefels, El Prat de Llobregat, Granollers, Sardañola del Vallés, Mollet del Vallès, Gavá, Sant Antoni de Vilamajor|
|Girona||Salvador Dali Museum, Museum of Miniatures and Microminiatures Micro Mundi, Sausage Museum. Popular cities: Girona, Figueres, Besalú, Blanes, Lloret de Mar, Tossa de Mar, Olot, Salt, Palafrugell, San Felíu de Guixols, Rosas, Bañolas, Palamós, Santa Coloma de Farnés, Castellón de Ampurias Torroella de Montgrí, La Bisbal del Ampurdán, Ripoll, Castillo de Aro, Calonge, La Escala, Cassá de la Selva, Castellfollit de la Roca|
|Lleida||Popular cities: Lleida, Tárrega, Balaguer, Mollerusa, La Seo de Urgel, Cervera, Solsona, Alcarrás, Guisona, Almacellas|
|Tarragona||Amusement and theme parks: PortAventura. Popular cities: Tarragona, Reus, Vendrell, Tortosa, Cambrils, Salou, Valls, Calafell, Amposta, Vilaseca|