A quick guide to La Sagrada Familia

stunning view of la sagrada familia in the day time

La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona is a city of cathedrals galore, but none is more architecturally stunning, photographed, and talked-about than the La Sagrada Família. It’s one of Catalonia’s most prized landmarks —a bucket-list gem you shouldn’t miss when you visit Barcelona.

Read on to find out more about this magnificent sight in Barcelona.

World famous attraction in Barcelona

What’s La Sagrada Família?

La Sagrada Família is formally known as the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (English: Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family). It’s an unfinished yet fascinating Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona’s Eixample district. In 2010, it was declared a basilica by then Pope Benedict XVI.

The cathedral is regarded as the ultimate symbol of Barcelona by many locals and one of the most visited places in the Catalan capital. It was originally designed to be a simple church dedicated to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, but ultimately transformed into the most prominent example of Spanish Late Gothic architecture and Catalan Modernism.

The brainchild of Antoni Gaudí, La Sagrada Família embodies his architectural philosophy, and that nature is God’s work. The Catalan architect aimed to marry biblical allegories and Christian speech with complex, nature-inspired symbols like geometric, organic shapes that prominently feature in the basilica’s stained glass windows, pinnacles, and columns.

The end result is quite a sight, attracting nearly five million visitors from across the world each year. With its steep-flying buttresses and twister columns towering over the city, the church is an unexpected sight in an otherwise modern industrial setting. And despite being under construction and unfinished for nearly 14 decades, it has become one of the country’s most visited landmarks and can accommodate up to 13,000 congregants.

The area in front of the basilica’s façade often serves as a site for a special programme of traditional celebrations, events, and activities, such as concerts, Christmas markets, etc.

inside of sagrada familia

History of La Sagrada Família

The conception and construction of La Sagrada Família is a truly fascinating and colourful history. It all started in 1882 when a donations-funded cathedral was commissioned to promote Christianity in Catalonia, which was declining at the time. 

Josep Maria Bocabella —a devoted Roman Catholic and local bookseller —wished to construct an expiatory temple dedicated to the Holy Family. He originally assigned the construction to the Catalan architect Francisco de Paula Del Villar, who fronted a neo-Gothic design and started building in 1882.

It wasn’t long before a fellow architect Antoni Gaudí took over the project following intense bickering between Paula Del Villar and Josep Bocabella. Unlike Villar, Gaudí dreamed up a highly innovative and unconventional design that pushed the envelope of all architectural styles known at the time.

Gaudí initially sought to build a cathedral with façades that pay homage to the three life phases of Jesus. He envisioned combining organic architectural symbolism with design elements like stained glass to portray the story of Jesus and highly important biblical stories.

When the construction of the Nativity façade started in 1891, the architect realised that Sagrada Família was such a huge project that he wouldn’t see it completed in his lifetime. Gaudí decided to focus on the construction of the exterior of the cathedral instead of the central nave, fearing the project would be halted once he died.

He was also in charge of constructing Casa Milà at the time. He switched his focus exclusively to Sagrada Família when Casa Milà was finished in 1912. Gaudí worked earnestly on the project until he died in 1926 and was laid inside the church’s crypt. Domènec Sugrañes I Gras took over the architect’s role after the death of Gaudí.

A gang of anarchists set the temple ablaze during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, causing heavy damage to the structure, including a major part of Gaudí’s workshop. Thankfully, a portion of the workshop’s material was restored. Construction of the cathedral resumed in 1954 and has remained unfinished ever since.

the ceiling of la sagrada familia

Visiting Sagrada Família FAQs

What should I expect when I visit Sagrada Família?

Sagrada Família site comprises 4 main sections, namely the towers, the museum, the school building, and the basilica. 

The basilica is made up of 5 naves and shaped like a Latin cross. Its roof is supported by angled pillars that look like tree-column structures, creating the impression of a living forest with streams of filtered light jetting in.

The School Building was designed and built in 1909 by Gaudí to cater to the children of the workers. It has the same design as another of Gaudí’s creations, Casa Milà. The Gaudí House Museum is composed of the replica of his original workshop, along with the architect’s mock-ups and materials.

Each of the three external façades of the cathedral has 4 towers ascending from, together representing the twelve apostles of Jesus. The Gaudí-built Nativity façade was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005. The Passion façade was built by Josep Maria and is often criticised for being overly abstract. The Glory façade remains unfinished, missing its 4 characteristic towers.

How do I get to the Sagrada Família?

The majestic cathedral is located in the Eixample district of Barcelona at C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013. The Sagrada Família station is served by bus lines 19, 33, 34, B24, H10, and D50, as well as Metro line L2 and L5.

If you’re exploring Barcelona on foot, it’ll take around 30-40 minutes to walk to the Sagrada Família from the Old City.

When is the Sagrada Família Open?

The official operating hours of the Sagrada Família are as follows:

  • November through February – It opens Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 6 PM
  • March and October – It opens Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 7 PM and Sundays from 10.30 AM to 7 PM.
  • April through September – It opens Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 8 PM and Sundays from 10.30 AM to 8 PM.

Do I need a Ticket to visit the Sagrada Família?

Yes, you would need to purchase an entry ticket online. An individual ticket with an audio-guide app costs €26. If you opt for a guided tour, the ticket will cost you €30. The latter allows you to explore the site on your own once the 50-minute guided tour is completed.

Both tour options support at least six languages, including German, Italian, French, English, Spanish, and Catalan.


la sagrada familia in the day

That is it for our quick guide to La Sagrada Familia! Please check out more articles from our blog for useful hints and tips while you are in Barcelona! 

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