Light from the stained glass windows bounced off the Sagrada Famila's organ.
Europe,  Spain

Five reasons why you must visit the Sagrada Familia

Whether your time in Barcelona revolves around a layover, weekend away or a longer break, the one thing you cannot miss during your time in the Catalan capital is a visit to the Sagrada Familia.

One of the most magnificent churches in the world, this amazing creation comes from the mind of the famous architect Antoni Gaudi. As you can see the church is still a work in progress even though construction began in 1882! When Gaudi died in 1926 it was only about 20 per cent complete and ever since, work has been a slow process.

Everything came to a stop when the Spanish Civil War broke out and although when peace returned construction restarted, the work was intermittent due to lack of funds. This is because the work relies entirely on private donations, mainly from the fee paid by the thousands of visitors that walk through its giant doors each year.

I fell in love with Gaudi’s style over a decade ago on my first trip to Barcelona, so it was with great joy that I returned to the Sagrada Familia to see how much it had changed since I first saw it and well…wow!

Dramatic changes have truly brought the building to life and although there’s still much more to do (the planned completion date is currently 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s death) I dare you not to have your breath taken away when you first lay your eyes on it.

So, with no further ado, here are my five reasons why the Sagrada Familia should be on your Barcelona bucket list.

 1 – The size

Towering over its neighbouring buildings, the Sagrada Familia is epic in scale, to the point that when you stand outside and look up you can almost fall backwards trying to see the top of its spires!

When complete it will have an impressive 18 spires, according to Gaudi’s design, and will be the tallest church in the world.

Looking up at the Sagrada Familia.
Looking up at the Sagrada Familia.

 2 – You’ll never see a church like it

Although many presume the Sagrada Familia is a cathedral it’s actually not. This is because a cathedral is the seat of a bishop, so there can only be one in a city. Barcelona’s cathedral stood long before the idea of the Sagrada Familia was ever conceived, established back in the 13th century, and can be found in the beautiful Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter).

Instead the Sagrada Familia has been designated a ‘minor basilica’, making it the most impressive church you’ll ever see. For me the word church conjures up the idea of a dark, cold stone building, beautiful but perhaps foreboding, but the Sagrada Familia is anything but.

Feeling more like a celebration of life than anything else, it’s open, welcoming and the magnificent stained glass windows flood the pale aisles with beautiful, warming light.

Jesus hanging from the cross.
Jesus hanging from the cross.
The nave's columns are designed to look like trees.
The nave’s columns are designed to look like trees.
Sagrada familia.
Zooming in.

3 – The stained glass windows

The stained glass brings the building to life, with rainbows of light showering down onto the walls and columns all around you. They really have to be seen to be believed.

And if you love it enough, you can even pay to have a pane of glass added with your own name on it. I didn’t ask how much, but I’m guessing it’s not cheap!

Light streaming in on a sunny August day.
Light streaming in on a sunny August day.
beautiful stained glass.
So beautiful!
Light from the stained glass windows bounced off the Sagrada Famila's organ.
Light from the stained glass windows bounced off the Sagrada Famila’s organ.

4 – The detail and craftsmanship

The detail of everything in the church is truly amazing, you can spend hours wandering around discovering new stories being told over the walls of the church both inside and out.

Outside the three grand facades’ intricate designs cover the walls in their entirety, with different styles being embraced in the telling of Christ’s birth, life and death. Visitors pass under the tree of life, with animals and wildlife to be spotted wherever you look and throughout the church areas are dedicated to everything from saints to sins.

Inside the columns of the church are designed to look like trees and branches, and the roof is so amazing all I wanted to do was lie on the floor and soak it all in.

West facade - the passion.
West facade – the passion.
 The nativity facade.
The nativity facade.
The crazy detail of the nativity facade!
The crazy detail of the nativity facade!
sagrada familia nave
Zooming in…
The four evangelists get their recognition - in a colourful way!
The four evangelists get their recognition – in a colourful way!

5 – The views

Sadly I haven’t make it up there myself yet, but visitors can pay extra to go up one of the churches towers for great views of the top of the Sagrada Familia and some amazing views of the city from up high. Next time I’ll book ahead!

My top tip for planning a trip to Sagrada Familia

Unsurprisingly the Sagrada Familia is a very popular attraction and often tickets can get sold out for the day by as early as 10am!

With that in mind I recommend planning your visit ahead and booking your tickets online. It’s well worth it!

Sagrada Familia

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)

4 Comments

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    I completely fell in love with Gaudi architecture when I went to Barcelona too but it was well over a decade ago so I too need to return. Back then, it was closed temporarily from the inside because of renovation work so I only saw the exterior but would love to have a snoop inside when I return! The detail of the nativity facade is so intricate!

    • Keri

      Yes I first went around 2002, so coming back this year meant I saw a completely different building! Well worth going back to see inside though Shikha, its oh so beautiful!

  • The Jetset Boyz

    In 2017 it was our third visit to Antoni Gaudi’s fabulous La Sagrada Familia and yet again we were in awe!

    The detail in this cathedral is mind blowing… from a distance, it looks very Gothic in nature but then you get closer and every single element leaves your jaw hanging. From the lighting, the tree-like columns, the sculpture… It’s safe to say we have witnessed a work of art in the making!

    Ironically, the most visited building in Barcelona had been building without a legal permit from the municipality. Only recently permission has been given to La Sagrada Familia, in April 2019, after 134 years of construction working.

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