Whether your time in BarcelonaÂ 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 thereâ€™s still much more to do (the planned completion date is currently 2026, the centennial of Gaudiâ€™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.
Â 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 Gaudiâ€™s design, and will be the tallest church in the world.
Â 2 – You’ll never see a church like it
Although many presume the Sagrada Familia is a cathedral itâ€™s actually not. This is because a cathedral is the seat of a bishop, so there can only be one in a city. Barcelonaâ€™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 â€˜minor basilicaâ€™, making it the most impressive church youâ€™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, itâ€™s open, welcoming and the magnificent stained glass windows flood the pale aisles with beautiful, warming light.
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 didnâ€™t ask how much, but Iâ€™m guessing itâ€™s not cheap!
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 facadesâ€™ intricate designs cover the walls in their entirety, with different styles being embraced in the telling of Christâ€™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.
5 – The views
Sadly I havenâ€™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 Iâ€™ll book ahead!
My top tipÂ 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!