When you visit Sagrada Familia for the first time, you immediately understand why it’s the most visited church in Spain.
This breathtaking temple has become the symbol of Barcelona even before being concluded, thanks to its unique design and its incredible beauty.
Every year it is visited by over 4.5 million visitors, so it’s better to book your tickets online before going there, just to make sure to visit it from inside.
1. HISTORY OF SAGRADA FAMILIA
It was the year 1866 when the expiatory construction monument of Sagrada Familia was started after the foundation of the Associació Espiritual de Devots de Sant Josep by Josep Maria Bocabella I Verdaguer.
Bocabella was deeply affected by the increasing secularism, liberalism, and other radical beliefs that immediately followed the industrial development of Barcelona in the late 19th century.
Josep María Bocabella, a devotee bookseller, was the leading force behind the construction. He wished to address these secular trespasses by constructing a church devoted to the Holy Family.
This church would all together convey forgiveness and verify strong family life, of which the Holy Family was the perfect example.
This association started a campaign for constructing a temple for the holy family and purchased the land for the temple in 1881, and on 19th March, the foundation stone was laid.
The construction started after the neogothic structure of diocesan designer Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano, the first designer of the Temple.
Still, after a short time, he decided to step down because of opposing views with the builders, and Antoni Gaudí received an offer for the position.
Gaudí took the project
Gaudí took the project on 1883 and continued working on it until his death in 1926.
At that time, it was predicted that 15% to 25% of the total layout, along with the apse walls, crypt, the tower, and the portal had been completed.
Ever since several designers have tried to continue this heritage and over the last 130+ years, some breakdowns have been witnessed in Sagrada Familia’s building project.
In 1936, the explosion of the Spanish Civil War led to the loss of so many of Gaudí’s designs, plans and models.
After the Civil War, work continued to progress slowly with the aim to respect Gaudí’s projects under the direction of the architect Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal.
In 2010, Sagrada Familia was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI, giving it the status of Basilica even though it’s still under construction.
In the video below, you can see the building process of Sagrada Familia and discover how it will be when finished in 2026.
2. THE FAÇADES OF SAGRADA FAMILIA
Sagrada Familia has 3 main façades: the Passion Façade facing the West, the Nativity Façade facing the East, and the Glory Façade facing the South.
Passion Façade is composed by tormented figures, carved by Josep Maria Subirachs, that have met some of the toughest objections from critics. This part of the project is in contrast with the joy of the other parts because it wants to evoke the sufferings of Christ during his passion.
Glory Façade is still under construction and it will be the largest of the three façades. It is dedicated to the rise to heaven of Christ and, once finished, it will be the one that will host the main access to the interior.
Nativity Façade is the one that symbolizes the birth of Jesus. It celebrates life and creation and it is the only one that was almost finished when Gaudí was still alive.
3. INSIDE SAGRADA FAMILIA
The interior design of Sagrada Familia is really impressive. When you step one foot inside the church, you can feel into a rainbow: Gaudí’s wish, in fact, was to realize “a temple of harmonious light”.
For this reason the natural lights have a relevant role in the work and we can see that, on the building of the three main façades, the architect played with the sunlight to create different sensations.
The interior of Sagrada Familia is also inspired by nature: Gaudí imagined it as a big forest, creating the columns shaped like tree trunks or decorating the vaults with leaf forms. These columns are made up of three different kinds of stones.
4. THE TOWERS OF SAGRADA FAMILIA
When Sagrada Familia will be completed, it will have 18 towers. The ones on the façades are called Bell Towers to distinguish from the 6 Central Towers.
The Bell Towers
The Bell Towers are 12 and they are dedicated to the apostles. Their name comes from the presence of the bells inside them.
There are 4 of the Bell Towers on each of the three façades, always in group of four and always symmetrically.
The Central Towers
Four of the six Central Towers are dedicated to the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
It’s curious that two of the Evangelists were also apostles (John and Matthew), so Gaudí decided to substitute them with Matthias (that took Juda’s place after his suicide) and Barnabas (another disciple that was very close to the apostles). Gaudí also decided not to include Judas because of his betrayal, covering his place with Paul, that wrote so many epistles.
The remaining two towers are the most important: the tower of Virgin Mary (that will be 138 meters high when finished) and the tower of Jesus Christ (which will be the tallest one with 172.5 meters high).
5. TIPS FOR TOURISTS THAT WANT TO VISIT SAGRADA FAMILIA
Sagrada Familia, as we said before, is the most visited church in Spain and it’s one of the main attractions all over the world.
Showing up without the tickets is not the best idea and will force you to wait in long lines to buy your entrance.
We strongly recommend you to buy your tickets online well in advance, just to be sure not to lose this unique masterpiece.
The church is really amazing also from outside, but don’t make the mistake to think that is not worth visiting it from inside. You will regret it.
The best time to visit Sagrada Familia is in the morning. As millions of tourists come to this place each year and the queues for purchasing the tickets are mostly long, so there are fixed entry times and a limited number of tickets for avoiding overcrowding at peak hours.
6. HOW TO ARRIVE TO SAGRADA FAMILIA
The main entrance of Sagrada Familia is in Carrer de la Marina, in the Eixample neighbourhood.
Just next to the church, you can find the metro stop with two lines (purple line L2 and blue line L5).
The area is also served by buses (19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 and B24)
7. OPENING TIMES TO VISIT SAGRADA FAMILIA
In the list below, you can find the opening hours to visit Sagrada Familia. You can check if there are tickets available here.
November – February: 9am – 6pm.
March – October: 9am – 7pm.
April – September: 9am – 8pm.
25-26 December, 1 and 6 January: 9am – 2pm.
N.B. The opening times and days may occasionally be modified by the management due to special events taking place inside the Basilica.
8. WHAT TO SEE NEAR SAGRADA FAMILIA
Sagrada Familia is based in the heart of the Eixample district and it is very well connected with the rest of the city. Here are some other things to visit close to Sagrada Familia:
The Gaudí Avenue (also know as Avinguda Gaudí) is a short diagonal streets that connects Sagrada Familia with the Hospital de Sant Pau.
You can find many cafes and restaurants around this avenue that attract hundreds of tourists every day.
Before the 1980s it was an important road for motor traffic, later transformed in a beautiful pedestrian street.
Hospital de Sant Pau
Sant Pau is the most important work of the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner and it the biggest modernist in the world. In 1997 it has declared World Heritage by UNESCO.
From Sagrada Familia, you can reach the Hospital de Sant Pau in some minutes walking through Gaudí Avenue.
Passeig de Gràcia
It is not really close to Sagrada Familia. You can reach it in aprox 20 minutes walking, but it’s really convenient to go there by metro.
Taking the metro from the Sagrada Familia stop, you can be in some minutes in Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most important streets in Barcelona.