What is the Sagrada Família?The Sagrada Família is a Roman Catholic minor basilica designed by Antoní Gaudí. Although work on the Sagrada Familia began in 1882, the building is famously unfinished, with building work being interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and being hindered by a lack of funding. The basilica features three elaborate facades that tell the story of the life of Christ, from the Nativity to the Passion, then to his ascension to heaven in the Glory facade. When completed the church will have 18 towers: 12 to be split between the facades in order to represent the Apostles, four for the Evangelists (writers of the Gospels), one for the Virgin Mary, and the tallest for Jesus Christ. When completed, the Sagrada Família will be the tallest church in the world. While it’s technically not a cathedral (since it doesn’t have a bishop of its own), Pope Benedict XVI declared it a minor basilica when he officiated at its consecration in 2010, and it holds its own unique place in the civic and religious life of Barcelona. The basilica is set to be completed in 2026.
Who was Antoní Gaudí?The architect Antoní Gaudí is one of the most famous Catalan artists, and his style, which combines Gothic and Art Nouveau to create Catalan Modernism, can be seen in several amazing structures within the city. Seven of his works in Barcelona have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Sagrada Familia. The basilica is his last and most ambitious building, though he died before seeing it completed. On his death in 1926, the cathedral was barely one-quarter of the way to being finished. The architect was hit by a tram on his way to confession and, mistaken for a beggar due to his humble clothing, was taken to a hospital for the poor and given only basic care. By the time his friends discovered where he was, he was too unwell to recover. Some historians believe that Gaudí always knew that he wouldn’t live to see the completion of the Sagrada Familia since it was a hugely complex project, with three elaborate facades and 18 towers.
What’s there to see inside the Sagrada Família?The basilica has three facades - nativity, passion, and glory - which tell the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ through different styles of sculpture. While you can see the facades without buying a ticket, you don’t really get a sense of the full majesty of the building without visiting the interior - the incredible stained glass windows and uniquely shaped columns have to be seen to be believed. Following Gaudí’s modernist style, the building is full of color and nods symbolism. There’s also a museum in the basement, where you can see some of Gaudi’s original sketches and models. We also recommend either an audio guide or a guided tour so that you don’t miss any important details.
Should I climb the towers? Which tower is better?You should definitely consider climbing the towers! Visitors can choose between the nativity and the passion towers (the glory towers haven’t been completed yet). A fantastic view of the city awaits you at the top, plus you’ll have the chance to get up close to some of the architectural details which aren’t visible from the ground. There are elevators to take visitors to the top of both towers, so you don’t need to worry about climbing the stairs. However, on the way back down you’ll need to take the stairs, and there are about 500 of them. As a result, the tower climb isn’t recommended for people with reduced mobility or children under the age of 6. The Passion Tower is slightly taller than the Nativity tower, but the views from both are equally fantastic. The Nativity tower can be slightly less crowded, as it’s closed to large groups. It also has an external bridge joining two of its towers, which means visitors can see the exterior of the building up close. The Nativity facade was designed by Gaudi himself, so if you’re all about Gaudi that’s probably the tower you want to see.
Can I take photographs?You’re allowed to take photographs for personal use, but any commercial use needs to be approved by the basilica before your visit. Tripods, selfie sticks, and other equipment isn’t permitted without permission from the basilica authorities. When a service is in progress, please be respectful of the members of the congregation and avoid flash photography.
How long will a trip to the Sagrada Família take?If you’re visiting without an audio guide then it will probably take you about an hour to explore the church and the museum in the basement, with an extra half an hour if you want to climb a tower. The audio guide tour, which is available in 16 languages, takes about 45 minutes, or 25 minutes for the express version. A guided tour with one of the basilica’s guides takes 50 minutes. In total, including time waiting in lines and time spent admiring the facades after you’re done inside the church, you should plan at least two hours for your visit.