The Sagrada Família is a one-of-a-kind temple, for its origins, foundation and purpose. Fruit of the work of genius architect Antoni Gaudí, the project was promoted by the people for the people.
This church is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s probably Gaudi’s most famous masterpiece in Barcelona and it’s still not yet finished, 90 years after Gaudi’s death. The architectural style is a mix between Gothic and Art Nouveau with splashes of colour on the mosaic-covered domes. The symbolism in the architecture is immense. There are eighteen spires representing religious figures such as the twelve apostles and Jesus, and when completed, they will make the Sagrada Familia the tallest church building in the world. The east, south and west sides of the church represent the different faҫades of The Nativity, The Passion of Christ and The Glory of Christ. There are many other symbols to be discovered and Gaudi added a variety of animals and plants into his creation. The inside of the church is magical with stained glass windows creating magnificent hues under the spectacular roof of the nave that was designed to mirror tree branches. This is an absolute must-see when you are in Barcelona.
We had the opportunity to visit the Sagrada Familia back in 2010 during our grand tour of Europe and were excited to see what had changed in the last seven years. As with all constructions of this size, it takes a long, long time to complete. The ground was broken in 1882 under the guidance of the architect Francisco Paula de Villar, until 1883 when Gaudí took over as head architect and transformed its design into the most extraordinary gothic creation. The construction work has been hampered by funding (it is privately funded) and wars but even after Gaudí’s tragic death in 1926, his conceptual designs have been faithfully followed by his successors. The Sagrada Familia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, giving it the status of a ‘minor basilica’ (there is nothing minor about it!)
I am not a religious person but visiting the Sagrada Familia is a truly spiritual experience and would move even the most hardened and cynical atheist. The outside of the building is stunning with incredible spires reaching skywards. The façade of the building is typical Gaudí, with ornate shapes and a design that looks like it has been hewn from a single giant rock. We passed through the entrance dedicated to the Nativity, the carvings surrounding this entrance are the most classic features to be found anywhere in the building.
If the outside does not take your breath away, then the inside is guaranteed to do just that. It is an incredible space! The huge stained-glass windows allow light to flood into the basilica. On the east-facing wall, the glass is shades of blue, casting a cool freshness with the morning rays. The west wall is made up of windows with yellows and reds. During our visit, the sun was in the west and the whole of the nave was bathed in a warm, soothing light. The space is vast and feels endless. The unique columns that hold up the distant roof look, by design, like a forest. They have different girths and are made of different materials, chosen for their physical properties, with a variance of colour, making them all the more interesting.
We had tickets to go up one of the towers. During our last visit we had to climb the stairs, but this time they had installed lifts, at least on the way up. The views from the towers are amazing and you get to see closeup some of the stunning decorative elements that make the Sagrada Familia so unique. We left the casement of the towers and crossed several walkways high-up above the terraces below. As a person who does not particularly like heights, this was a bit of a nervy experience. I felt better on the way down, with the long, spiral case enclosed in a column of stone, only passing the occasional windows through which you can see that you are still a long way up. The one disconcerting thing was looking down through the spiral all the way to the bottom of the staircase – eek!
The exit to the basilica is through the newly opened Passion entrance. The façade to this entrance is totally different from the Nativity. In stark contrast to the fanciful elements and uplifting message of the Nativity, Gaudí wanted the Passion façade to convey Jesus’ suffering (The Passion) and the bleakness of his death. He wanted it to be cold and without ornamentation. The Passion was completed by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs in 1990 from Gaudí’s drawings and notes.
Subirachs’ style is angular and rigid, which is the opposite of Gaudí who did not believe in using straight lines. The stark lines evoke a sober feeling for the end of Jesus’ life from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion. Jesus’ story is told in the shape of a “Z” from the bottom to the top. The Last Supper is on the bottom and the Crucifixion is on the top.
With the tour complete we headed down to the crypt of the Sagrada, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to the history of this wonderful building. There were pictures showing the complete history of its construction, descriptions of the techniques employed in the architectural design and structural models.
Getting to Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is pretty easy to get to, thanks in part to Barcelona’s premier public transport network and to the landmark’s legendary status and the massive number of tourists it attracts. Here are the popular options you can choose from to get to Sagrada Familia.
- By Metro: Both the L2 or L5 line trains stop at the Sagrada Familia station. Pick the one closest to your place of accommodation.
- By Bus: Take any of 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 or B24 buses and get down at the Sagrada Familia stop.
Best time to visit Barcelona
The best time to visit the Barcelona is from May to June when balmy temperatures in the low to mid-70s mesh with a flurry of festivals that trumpet the advent of summer. The actual summertime is sticky with humidity – locals leave their beloved city in droves to catch a breeze somewhere else. They come back for the fall when the average highs drop back into the 70s. Winter is mild compared to other Spanish destinations, with highs in the high 50s. And while coming during the spring may seem like smart idea for avoiding crowds, April sees frequent showers, which may put a literal damper on sightseeing plans (most of Barcelona’s top attractions are experienced outside). Keep in mind that no matter what time of the year you’ll visit, there will be tourist crowds: Barcelona is the most-visited city in Spain.
Where to stay in Barcelona
1. MH APARTMENTS
We have stayed at with MH Apartments twice when visiting Barcelona.
The apartments work well for us when we travelled as a family and as a couple. The apartments were spacious and well equipped. We like to eat some of our meals in when we travel so having a full kitchen is very handy.
The checking in procedurehas been easy both times we stayed. If you travel by car then parking might be a challenge. It is likely you’ll have to find street parking (not easy) or a close by car park.
2. LIVE AND DREAM
Live & Dream features a minimalist white design throughout with bursts of color in bedding and furniture. This stylish guest house offers free Wi-Fi and internet connection throughout.
Sants Station is 8 minutes’ walk away and from here you can get the highspeed AVE Train or the train to the airport. Located 650 feet away, Plaça de Sants Metro Station offers direct access to the Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and the Ramblas.
The rooms at Live & Dream come with air conditioning.
3. BARCELONA CENTRAL GARDEN HOSTEL
BCG is an attractive middle sized hostel located just 3 blocks away from Plaça de Catalunya. It is a safe, friendly, clean and relaxing home away from home for genuine travelers and families. It is the perfect place to enjoy the city, with opportunity to meet new people and feel truly at home. This is not a party hostel’.
There is a comfortable lounge and kitchen area that faces onto a beautiful outdoor garden terrace.