The extraordinary unfinished church designed by a world-known architect Antonio Gaudi is a symbol of Barcelona.
The majestic Temple of the Sagrada Familia (Temple of the Holy Family) was started in 1882, though Gaudi was not the first architect to work on this project. The temple was conceived as a conventional Gothic-style church, but when Gaudi at the age of 32 started to work on it (at the end of 1883), he was given free rein and his unconventional ideas changed the building considerably.
By the time Gaudi died only one bell-tower had been completed and 10 years after architect’s death during Civil War his plans for the Sagrada Familia were destroyed, so it is impossible to be sure what the finished church would have looked like.
However, in 1952 the work on the building started again and nowadays it is still on though at quite a slow pace.
The current plan is to finish the temple by 2026 for the centenary of Gaudi’s death. La Sagrada Familia has always been an expiatory church, which means that from the outset (125 years ago) till now it has been built from donations.
The Nativity Façade was begun in 1891 and was finished during Gaudi’s life time in 1904, thus bears plenty of his hallmarks. At first sight the quaint façade may seem to be a jumble of molten wax: figures of saints, different species of birds and plants (from both Catalan and Holy Land), angels and the Holy Family are depicted in a very special manner.
The Passion façade causes lots of disputes, because it was completed by another architect and evidently doesn’t bear many of Gaudi’s hallmarks. The figures on this façade are harsh and angular and they were designed by a Catalan sculptor Joseph M. Subirachs. You may like it or not, however take a look at this façade to see the difference with your own eyes.
The crypt of the church in neo-gothic style was actually designed by Francesc de Villar, the architect who first started working on the building. Now there is a museum devoted to La Sagrada Familia, where some original sketches and Gaudi’s drawings are displayed. As a mark of respect, Antoni Gaudi’s body is entombed in one of the chapels of the crypt.
There are now 4 towers above each of the Nativity and Passion façade (8 in total), but it is envisaged to built a total of 18 towers, dedicated to 12 apostles, the four evangelists, Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. The spires are covered with ceramic mosaics and there are words in Latin - Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Hosanna in Excelsis (Holy, Holy, Holy, Glory to God in the Highest) written on the top.
The towers can be reached by climbing the spiral staircases; either you can take an elevator which will get you to the top of the spires. The views of the city and a close-up view of the spires and central nave are breathtaking and worth-seeing. So don’t forget to take your camera with you to take a couple of stunning pictures.
There are lots of souvenir stalls and gift shops in the area around selling all kinds of souvenirs, books, postcards etc. with the views of Sagrada Familia.
April to September Daily 09.00 – 20.00
October to March Daily 09.00 – 18.00
25-26 December, 1st and 6th of January 09.00-14.00
Admission fees: Adults 11 euros, children under 10 free, reduced 10 euros, for students and seniors – 9 euros. Lift to the towers - 2,50 euros per person. Audioguide 4 euros
Address: Mallorca, 401
How to get there:
By metro: Violet Line L2 and Blue Line L5 - Sagrada Familia stop
By bus: 19, 33, 43, 50, 51 and also Tourist bus
Some useful tips:
• Better come to see it in the morning hours, first, because it gets crowded very fast and second, because there are plenty of things to view.
• At night La Sagrada Familia is lit up, and the scene of that gorgeous church is fascinating.
• Be sure to take with you some documentation if you plan to use the audioguides, you will be asked to leave it as a security deposit.
• Be sure to dress appropriately – no sleeveless shirts, no shorts.
Start your personal sightseeing tour in Ciutat Vella.
Cuitat Vella, Barcelona’s “old town” is right in the middle of the city … a perfect starting place to begin your personal tour. This area, which long ago was separated from Barcelona’s other villages by ancient Roman walls, includes four districts (Barrio Gotico, Raval, El Borne and Barceloneta), each of which includes sights worth visiting.
Make Barrio Gotico your first stop. Considered to be the most heavily Gothic area on the European continent, it is also the oldest part of Barcelona, an intriguing and dense maze of shops, cafes, open and inviting squares and buildings dating back several hundred years, many of which were actually constructed over a two hundred year period between the 13th and 15th century. Interestingly and amazingly, many of these buildings remain surprisingly intact … a wonder to see. Barrio Gotico is flush with many interesting sights that need to be seen. These include …
Catedral de la Seu - this ancient cathedral is one of the most impressive and very best examples of Catalan Gothic architecture.
Plaza del Rei (Royal Square) - dating back hundreds of years to medieval times, this charming, “must-see” square is a true architectural wonder.
Conjunt Monumental de la Place del Rei - here, in the heart of Ciutat Vella, is the museum that artfully and completely recounts Barcelona’s long and fascinating history. A walk through this remarkable museum will give you access to the most extensive collection of underground Roman ruins available anywhere in Europe.
Plaza de Sant Jaume - here, for your personal enjoyment, is one of the grandest and most magnificent squares in all of Barcelona – home to the Palau de Generalitat (Cataluna’s stately Government Palace) and Casa de la Ciutat (the Ajuntament de Barcelona, also known as Barcelona Town Hall).
Museu de Calçat - If you’ve never been to a “shoe museum,” this is one stop you can’t afford to pass up. It’s fascinating, unusual, different and totally enjoyable.
Take A Break …
Stop and Enjoy Las Ramblas.
Your personal tour should lead you directly to the tree-lined tourist mecca of Las Ramblas, a very pleasant part of town that stretches all the way down to Barcelona’s trendy harbor from the Plaza Cataluna.
This is the perfect time to take a break at an outdoor café and enjoy the passing pedestrian scene as you sip a coffee or eat a light lunch. But, don’t sit too long. You still have lots to do and see … beginning with your next destination – Raval.
Many locals think of Raval as the real Barcelona. You can decide when you get there … because you will find much to see and do. For instance, in Raval, you can visit …
MACBA (Barcelona’s Contemporary Art Museum) and CCCB (Barcelona’s Contemporary Art Center) … this is “heaven-on-earth” for those who love and appreciate the best in contemporary and avant-garde art. And you can make both stops in a single visit.
Gothic Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu - Gothic architecture is dominant in many parts of Barcelona. And this is one of the most stunning and noteworthy examples of this unique architectural art form.
Here, in Raval, you will also be able to see the spectacular and visually-splendid Palau Guell, one of Antonio Gaudi’s earliest works. It is located in a prominent position for all to see on Nou de la Rambla Street. Don’t miss it.
Make El Borne (La Ribera) your next stop. This district, which also dates back to medieval times, and once extended almost to Barcelona’s harbor, features many sights worth seeing, such as:
Santa Caterina Market - built way back in 1848, renovated and renewed in the 1990s, it is a huge fresh produce market and a fun and fascinating destination for every visitor to the city. What is particularly noteworthy about Santa Caterina Market is that the archaeological remains of the ancient Santa Caterina convent were discovered here when renewal took place in the 1990s. This was a very important archaeological discovery.
Museo Picasso - Barcelona’s most visited art museum and home of one of its very best art collections features some of Picasso’s very best works. You won’t want to miss it.
Parc de Ciutadella - tucked away from the hustle and bustle of El Borne, the Park offers a green respite and a pleasant retreat from the rigors of sightseeing. There is a lot to do and see – and enjoy – for the entire family, especially the children.
Santa Maria del Mar - after you leave the park, stop at church. But, keep this in mind: it’s not just any church. In fact, Santa Maria del Mar is probably the most beautiful Gothic church in all of Barcelona. Your visit there will be memorable.
Believe it or not, there are still many sights to see in Ciutat Vella. Continue your walking tour with a stopover at Barcelona’s beautiful port area.
The beneficiary of a major renovation project in the 1990s, the port today is trendy and features museums and activities that make it especially fun to visit for children. It also gives you an insight into the city’s long and proud maritime history. There are many sights worth seeing. These include:
L’Aquarium - a magnificent water-borne museum for oceanic mammals and sea life, it is also one of the world’s most important Mediterranean-themed aquariums.
Museu d’Historia de Cataluna - stop here and take a fascinating tour back through Cataluña’s long and interesting history.
Museu Maritim - this is one of the city’s finest museums … and it’s where you will learn all about Barcelona’s nautical history.
Platja de Barceloneta - if you enjoy sun, surf and sand, you won’t have to go far to find it. Barcelona’s most popular – and populous - -beach is within easy walking distance of all major hotels and vacation apartments.
Barcelona has often enjoyed spurts of heavy architectural development throughout its long history. Excellent examples of this can be found in Eixample district.
As you begin to leave Ciutat Vella and venture inland, you are likely to encounter the incredible Sagrada Familia, Antonio Gaudi’s magnificent and memorable unfinished church. One of the most extraordinary sights in all of Barcelona, it must be seen to be appreciated.
It’s time to move on to Montjuic.
Nicknamed “the mount of museums,” Montjuic is well-known for its many sport complexes (built expressly for the 1992 Olympic Games), its exhibition pavilions, its trade halls and its spectacular gardens (which were planted for the 1929 Universal Exhibition). There is so much to see and do here, you will need to set aside an entire day just to explore and enjoy. Here are the main sights:
MNAC - this is the National Musuem of Art of Cataluna and it is where you will find truly outstanding exhibits and examples of Roman and Gothic Cataluña art.
Fundacio Joan Miro - Spain’s “other” 20th century titan of the art world, and a Cataluña “favorite son” is well represented here with an unrivalled collection of many of his finest works of art.
Poble Espanol - Spain’s remarkable architectural achievements are well represented in this enjoyable open air museum. Visitors will also enjoy the museum’s craft workshops.
L’Anella Olimpica - Barcelona proudly hosted the 1992 Summer Olympic Games and this site is the historical reminder of that unforgettable event.
Jardin Botanic - stop here for a pleasant, relaxing - and visually stunning – break from the day’s sightseeing. It’s a welcome respite.
If you think you’re finished … you’re not.
Estadi Camp Nou - this is the modern stadium of Barcelona’s world-class football (soccer) club – Barça - and a must-see for those who enjoy the game. Located in Les Corts and no more than 20 minutes from downtown Barcelona, the stadium is one of the largest in Europe.
Parc Guell - far from downtown Barcelona, but well worth the trip, this playful, fairy-tale park, situated on a large tract of land, is one of Antonio Gaudi’s best-loved and finest contributions to Barcelona and its people. It’s magnificent and a wonderful place for parents and children. Plus, visitors can take the time to buy traditional Catalan souvenirs at very affordable prices.
There are many more sightseeing treasures located in and around Barcelona, something to please every taste. All you need to do is decide what you like …. then arrange to go and see it.
From historical museums to art museums … Roman ruins to Gothic churches … open air squares to fun-filled theme parks – Barcelona is a sightseer’s dream destination. Come here … visit our best sites … enjoy. It’s definitely worth the trip.