Jessica is 24, English-born, California-raised, and living in Barcelona. She works as a translator and freelance journalist. Read about her adventures in Spain at holayessica.com.
Published January 16th 2013
Barcelona's most famous attraction for a reason
Unfinished beauty The Sagrada Familia (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) is the top attraction in Barcelona without even being finished. It's currently about 120 meters tall, but the finished structure will be an astonishing 170 meters tall. Construction began in 1882 and it's supposed to be done in 2026. It's been put on hold many times because of things like designer Antoni Gaudí's death and the Spanish Civil War. But, as the locals say, being unfinished is part of its charm.
This is a little pricey, but it's well worth it. Regular visit: €13.50. With a guide/audio guide: €18. Visit to the Basilica and the Gaudí House-Musuem*: €17 With a guide/audio guide: €21.50 Add a visit to the towers: €4.50
(*Note: the Gaudí House Musuem is at Parc Güell).
Opening hours From October to March, the Basilica is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. From April to September, it's open until 8 p.m. You must 'dress with decorum' to enter. In Spain, this usually means shoulders covered and no shorts.
If you reserve your tickets ahead of time online, you can nip straight to the front of the queue. Print out your entries and show up at your assigned time. You cannot buy guided tours ahead of time.
Free & discounted entry
There's free entry for children under 10, Friends of the Church, and people with certain disabilities plus a friend. Anyone can get free entry to the Sagrada Familia during the La Mercè festival in late September by reserving tickets online.
There are discounts for under 18s, students, and retirees (€2 off entry, €3 off guided entry). Look for online discounts too before you set off.
If your budget is really tight, looking at the outside is free. You can 'see' the inside via a virtual visit on the website. I like the outside better than the inside anyway.
During your visit: look for natural inspiration
The Sagrada Familia might look like it's out of a sci-fi movie, but Gaudí's inspiration literally came from his backyard. Nature influenced lots of the wildest parts of the building. Look closely at the columns - don't they look like trees? Try to find the ordinary inspiration behind this extraordinary building.
Afterwards: who knew architecture was this controversial?
Just because the Sagrada Familia is popular doesn't mean people think it's nice. George Orwell called it "one of the most hideous buildings in the world." Have a lively debate with your friends after seeing it - amazing or awful? Genius or hideous? Did you actually like it? Chances are, somebody will disagree with you!
Last time I was in Barcelona I didn't actually go see this famous site, which felt wonderfully rebellious of me, but during this (my second visit to the city) I felt it was a site that really should be seen. I didn't go inside because I don't think I really like it - I do like Gaudi's other works but I just don't find this one attractive. You're definitely right, it's a controversial and polarising building.