Monday, July 21, 2014

La Sagrada Familia: A Stunning Work in Progress

La Sagrada Familia.  The most recognizable landmark of Barcelona, and a majestic unfinished church.  Antoni Gaudi's creation interrupted by his death in 1924.

You're all thinking - another church in Europe, I get it. Europe is in no shortage of churches and cathedrals, but I'm telling you, this one stands out.  It's unlike any other church I've seen - in size, architecture, and originality.

In Barcelona's skyline, this is the structure that stands out - not only because of its size but the massive construction that goes along with it.  When I first went to Barcelona last year, this was what everyone recommended to me as the top historical site to visit.  Because of time restrictions and the huge array of places to visit, I ended up not going...making it go right to the top of my list when I went back this year.

Walking around the building, it really is a site to behold.   There is extraordinary detail in every square foot of the church, and inside it is completely magnificent.  The most unique aspect of this church is its history and legacy - construction began in 1883 and was interrupted when the chief architect and designer, Antoni Gaudi, died in 1926.  It wasn't until the late 1940s that construction began again...and it still is not finished.  I believe that construction isn't supposed to end for at least another decade, making it a still a work in progress, over 100 years after it began.

If the outside looks magnificent, it is nothing compared to the interior.  The interior of La Sagrada Familia is full of geometric genius and beautiful personal interpretation.  I believe he designed the columns so that they when you look up, it's like looking up from a forest. Standing in the middle of the church and looking up  gave me a completely differen't feeling than just standing in a regular Gothic or Romantic style church so common in Europe.  Its design is original and timeless, but ahead of its time at the same time, especially when you think about the fact that it was designed in the late 19th century.

The detail of this place is absolutely amazing, and it would take hours if not days to really look at each square foot of it in detail.  Below are just some highlights, and I'll let the architecture wow you on their own...

 Click to see a TON more pictures so I don't clog up my home page as well as some important tips for visiting La Sagrada Familia:

Nativity Facade telling the story of Jesus - too big to actually capture in one photo!

Also, since I can never seem to get enough of the color the details on the buildings in Barcelona, I took this quick snapshot of the street next to La Sagrada Familia:

Even if you aren't religious, the sculptures on the exterior facade of the church is striking and powerful.  If you're on a tour of Europe and already sick of seeing cathedrals and churches, make an effort to see this one anyway.  It' worth your time and money to stop for a couple hours to admire some brilliant architecture and design.  Under the church, there is also a little museum that used to house Gaudi's workshop where you can also look at the mathematics and logistics behind building the museum.  Even for someone as math dysfunctional as me, it was fascinating!

Now for some advice for visiting....this is one of the most popular and well-known sites in Barcelona, meaning there are TONS of people trying to visit everyday.  If you want to avoid being in line for at least an hour or two (especially during the summer).....

  • Buy tickets in advance!!!!!!!!!! On the day that I went, there was a line wrapping all the way around the block.  Although it seemed to move pretty steadily, it still looks like a 1-2 hour wait just to get in.  Without any shade.  I bought tickets just a couple nights in advance and went straight to a different entrance where there was no line, showed the guy my ticket that I screenshotted on my phone (or print them out if you have access to a printer) and walked right in.  
  • To buy tickets in advance, you go to the La Sagrada Familia website, and you choose what type of ticket you want.  There are many different options, but I recommend the "Sagrada Familia with audio guide" option so you can walk at your own pace.  I actually just bought the basic ticket for reasons unknown to me now, but I imagine that the audio guide would be far more informative, especially if you have a few hours to explore.
  • Prices: The basic ticket is also the cheapest, at 14,80€, while the audio guide tour is 19,30€.  You can also choose to visit one of  the towers for a  view of Barcelona (with an audio guide) for 23,80€, or without the audio guide for also 19,30€.  While it seems expensive, it's well worth the money too see this stunning piece of work that is still yet to be finished.
  • Dates and times: Once you find an option that you want, you choose a time to go and visit.  This is where it might get a little tricky to buy tickets in advance.  If you want to have a set schedule, then go ahead an buy tickets a couple weeks before you go, meaning you also have more flexibility as to what time to go because they won't be "sold out."  Since I wasn't sure exactly what day I wanted to go, I bought tickets just a couple days in advance so I had to choose a different time to go than I originally wanted to, and I couldn't buy tickets for the towers during those times, either.  However, I would still recommend buying tickets in advance to save some uncomfortable long hours waiting in line.   

Lastly,  if you ever end up returning to Barcelona in a few years, visit La Sagrada Familia again.  I know that I will be visiting again in another 5 years or so to see the new construction.  The best part of it being a work in progress is that it will keep changing for at least another decade!   

If any of you have been there, what do you think of it??  This wraps up all my sightseeing in Barcelona, but stay tuned for my tips for traveling to and around Barcelona!


  1. Beautiful pictures! I am rather envious of you, since I have always wanted to visit La Sagrada Familia!!

    1. It took me awhile to get there, but it's definitely worth the trip!