2023 Travel Update: As of 2023, Spain essentially is open for tourism by both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers without Covid-specific documentation or testing. However, be sure to double check the official government site for up-to-the minute details.
Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and under intermittent construction since 1882, the Basílica de la Sagrada Família — Basilica of the Holy Family — is one of the world's most unique churches. It has become not only a famous tourist attraction but also a symbol of Barcelona itself.
After Gaudí was killed in 1926, generations of architects have pushed forward with his original vision to the best of their abilities despite the fact that some of the original plans and models were burned by anarchists during the Spanish Civil War. Sagrada Familia currently is in the diligent hands of lead architect Jordi Faulí, his equally kind assistant Mauricio Cortes, many other architects, and hundreds of craftspeople and laborers.
In a bizarre quirk of history, the building permit requested for Sagrada Familia in 1885 finally was approved in 2019. If you go to Barcelona for business — as travelgasm.com has for multiple visits to the city — you can take comfort knowing that how ever much red tape you encounter, architects working on Sagrada Familia over the decades likely have experienced much more.
Visitors to Sagrada Familia often express mixed opinions. Some find it beautiful; whereas, others find it, well, "gaudy" — which contrary to popular belief — actually is a much older word and unrelated to Gaudí.
Like nature itself, which often can seem busy, chaotic, and messy, but actually can be quite orderly and purposeful on a deeper level; Gaudí's designs can be the same. Gaudí's work often almost looks grown — like the branches of trees in a forest — or shaped by water — like the stalactites and stalagmites in a cave. This idea is expressed in Sagrada Familia and the structures and construction methods very much pay homage to nature. If you take the time to understand it, you likely will have a greater appreciation for Gaudí's brillance. If you really want to dive deeply into Sagrada Familia, the current lead architect has written an entire book — simply titled The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia — that you might like to read. You would need a time machine for a more direct source about the church.
Visiting Sagrada Familia
Although the structure of Sagrada Familia is not expected to be finished until 2026 (with decorative elements completed by 2032), the interior is finished and accessible. As a visitor to Sagrada Familia, you can be happy that your admission charge is a contribution that directly helps pay for the construction of the building, too.
Queues to enter Sagrada Familia often are quite long — particularly in the summer months — and it has always cost less to book tickets in advance, so you should buy tickets beforehand to save both time and money. There are no free general admission days.
If you need to buy tickets in person for a same day visit, there no longer is a ticket office, but you can buy tickets using your mobile by scanning QR codes displayed around the building. Your best bet is to go early — Sagrada Familia opens at 9:00 AM — but it is not uncommon for for the basilica to be sold out at least a few days in advance.
One way to book tickets is through the official website, which generally is the least expensive option. However, third-party services also sell advance tickets and may have additional time slots available. For a guided tour and access to the towers, third-party options sometimes can be slightly cheaper than the official website, too.
Also be sure to double check the official hours because the closing time shifts throughout the year. Sagrada Familia is closed — or portions are closed — for some special events and holidays, as well.
Based on our observation, Sagrada Familia is not as strict about enforcing its dress code as the Barcelona Cathedral, but the formal rules are that no swimwear or see-through clothing is permitted, shoulders must be covered, and "trousers and skirts must come down to at least mid-thigh." You should dress respectfully, as you would to enter any house of worship.
Stroll Avinguda de Gaudí to Hospital de Sant Pau
In addition to taking a peek at the attractive Plaça de la Sagrada Família and Plaça de Gaudí parks to the sides of the basilica, you definitely should stroll the lovely Avinguda de Gaudí to Hospital de Sant Pau. Be mindful of pickpockets in this entire area; we personally have witnessed pickpockets working in these parks and making handoffs in the metro station on several occasions.
Built from 1902 to 1930 and designed by Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Hospital de Sant Pau is a Catalan Modernisme masterpiece in its own right. It was converted to a tourist attraction in 2014 after the opening of a modern hospital nearby.
If it were in another city, Hospital de Sant Pau probably would be swarmed with tourists. In our experience, though, queues are uncommon and there still is a ticket office. You should be able to buy a ticket in person without difficulty if you so choose. We believe that in-person and online ticket prices are the same, too. Nevertheless, if you are the type who would like to be prepared, you also have the option to buy a ticket in advance from the official website.
Eat Near Passeig de Sant Joan
In general, for better food, we recommend restaurants at least a couple of blocks away from Sagrada Familia to avoid those that exclusively cater to tourists. On our first visit to Barcelona years ago, we made the mistake of eating a cheap paella by Sagrada Familia, and it tasted suspiciously like Rice-A-Roni. This isn't to bash the San Francisco treat, but it's not paella.
In our opinion, restaurants tend to be better around Passeig de Sant Joan — four blocks away from Sagrada Familia — because they are not only for tourists. It's also a great excuse to see Passeig de Sant Joan, which is one of the most beautiful walking streets in Barcelona.
Three places that we liked at one time or another include Xurreria Jessy for a morning xurro (churro), Can Josep for Catalan home cooking with an affordable set lunch option, and Cafè Adonis 1940 for tapas, burgers, and salads in a classic old-world ambiance. If you do not have time to eat further away from Sagrada Familia, we suggest eating at one of the bars in the Mercat de la Sagrada Familia (market), which despite its proximity to the famous basilica, mostly is intended for locals. Tourists often to go to La Boqueria before heading to Sagrada Familia, so they tend to ignore other markets.
Below, we have mapped out the direct route to Sagrada Familia from Sagrada Familia Station as well as longer walks that incorporate the previously mentioned Avinguda de Gaudí and Passeig de Sant Joan.
How to Get Here: Take Line 2 (Purple) or Line 5 (Dark Blue) to Sagrada Familia Station. All exits are close to the basilica, but the Provença / Avinguda Gaudí Exit from Line 2 and the Plaça de la Sagrada Família Exit from Line 5 are closest to the entrance. If Line 4 (Yellow) is more convenient, instead of transferring to Line 5 (Dark Blue) at Verdaguer, we suggest leaving at Verdaguer Station via the Passeig de Sant Joan Exit and walking four blocks to Sagrada Familia so that you also can see Passeig de Sant Joan. Sagrada Familia Station is the quickest arrival and departure, but our longest walk option arrives at Verdaguer (Line 4, Yellow) and departs at Sant Pau | Dos de Maig (Line 5, Dark Blue).
travelgasm.com's Sagrada Familia & Hospital de Sant Pau Map (Full Screen)
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Be sure to see our 7 Things Tourists Don't Do in Barcelona, but You Should, too.
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