The Basílica de la Sagrada Família is probably Antoni Gaudí’s most famous masterpiece in a city full of them. In particular, it is known for still being built, even though the first stone was laid over a century ago in 1882. Gaudí was actually not the original architect, but took over the project in 1883. Construction is due to end in 2026, which means many of us will actually be able to see it finished within our lifetime. I can already sense that it will be a HUGE event in Barcelona (and I want to be there!).
A regular ticket with an audioguide costs €19.50 (~$20.66 USD), but I also added in a visit to the Nativity Tower for €4.50 (~$4.77 USD). This time, I actually ended up buying my ticket online as you need to schedule a reservation time to go into either of the towers and those time slots can fill up quick. The closest metro station is the aptly-named Sagrada Família, which is across the street from the basilica.
My ticket let me breeze through the gates into the monument area, but I still had to wait in a line to get my audioguide. There are thirteen different number posts scattered around the basilica grounds that cover the interior of the church and both the Passion and the Nativity Facades.
I entered on the side of the Nativity Facade, so I started there. The Nativity Facade was the first side to be built and, just like its name suggests, it depicts scenes of baby Jesus and the nativity. Gaudí knew that focusing on this facade first would be a smart choice as opposed to the more deathly and bare Passion Facade, but more on that side later in this post. There are a lot of details and the figures on this side include the three wise men, the shepherds, and the Virgin Mary. There is also the Tree of Life, with the letters “JHS” underneath, representing initials for Jesus. Gaudí used those same initials in his design for Casa Battlo. After spending enough time admiring the work out in front, I headed into the basilica.
THE INSIDE IS INCREDIBLY GORGEOUS. You may think the outside is impressive, but wait until you actually get into the building. There are huge stained glass windows that warm up the room and produce this ethereal glow. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful manmade creations that I have ever seen. The stained glass windows don’t depict scenes like ones you might find on most churches and they just focus on a mosaic of colors.
I couldn’t get over how amazing it felt standing in the middle of the basilica. I’m not a religious person, but I still felt a sense of comfort and warmth being there that I didn’t really feel at Notre Dame or the Duomo.
Gaudí was inspired by the geometry of the natural world and implemented them in his interior design. The columns branch out at the top and skylights are placed in the ceiling to help light flow inside. Shapes like hyperboloids, paraboloids, helicoids, and ellipsoids feature in the building.
The altar area somehow manages to look both more showy and more simple than what you would find in a typical church. There is what I call “parachuting Jesus” hovering in the front as well. The back of the room leads out to the Glory Facade, which is still undergoing construction and not open to the public. The door there contains the text of the Paternoster in Catalan and the phrase “give us this day our daily bread” in fifty different languages.
The Passion Facade is incredibly different from the Nativity Facade. It’s pretty bleak and represents Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is still quite a bit of construction happening on that side too, so you can’t really see much, other than the blocky figures. If you look closely, you can also see a risen Jesus chilling near the top of the building.
It was nearing my scheduled time to go up the tower, so I made my way to the line by the elevator. When you buy your ticket online, you have the opportunity to add a trip up either the tower on the Nativity side or the tower on the Passion side. I believe the only real difference between the two is the view and I ended up just choosing the Nativity side since I felt like more people recommended it online. The elevator is pretty small and takes up maybe a group of five or six at a time. Once in the tower, you follow a tight path of stairs back down.
There are a lot of great views of the city and it was such a nice day too.
Being up in the tower also allows you to look closer at some of the exterior details, such as some of the building’s pinnacles. The pinnacles look like grapes and wheat, which I believe is meant to represent the bread and wine of the Eucharist. There are various words like “dei” (God) and “gloriam” (glory) on the building. One window lets you catch a glimpse of the word “sacrifici” (sacrifice) and I guess just seeing the word has coaxed (or maybe guilted?) enough people to drop money onto the other side of the glass.
As you continue back towards the bottom, you can also see into the actual church.
Even after seeing the Nativity Facade, the Passion Facade, the interior, and the tower, there were still a few other areas to explore. On the site is a school that was built to provide lessons for the kids of workers at the church and other local children. It is still set up as a classroom.
Nearby is a museum that gives you some insight as to the process of planning out the creation of La Sagrada Família. There are examples of prototypes of what the building might have looked life before its final design was decided. There is also information focusing on other architectural aspects of the building (such as the aforementioned hyperboloids) and some details about Gaudí’s life.
Speaking of Gaudí, the architect died in 1926. Whoah, I just realized that having the building completed in 2026 is pretty symbolic since it will be 100 years after Gaudí’s death. Anyway, after he died, Gaudí’s body was interred in the chapel of La Sagrada Família. You can still catch a glimpse of his tomb through a small window (or, I guess, if you are in the chapel itself).
There is a lot of symbolism that I didn’t go into (such as how there are eighteen towers that represent different things, from Jesus himself to the gospels and the apostles). Whether you are into religion or not, La Sagrada Família is a special place that is a little like entering a new world. That’s really a consistent theme with Gaudí’s work and why I love his style a lot.
According to the basilica’s website, Gaudí once noted that color was the expression of life. I really like that. We should all make efforts to make our lives more colorful.