By Regina W Bryan in Barcelona—
The Sagrada Familia or Holy Family, is one of Barcelona’s “Oh-My-Gawd” sights and is a real must-do. It’s impressive, it’s wacky, it’s Gaudí’s last project, and it’s a basilica now, thanks to the Pope. If you see no other Gaudí buildings in Barcelona, see this one.
Due to the fact that it is awesome, in the true sense of the word, everyone and their mother wants to go see the Sagrada Familia, which is to say it gets as packed as Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Here are some tips to view the Sacred Family without losing your mind.
1. Go early or at off times
First of all, Barcelona is packed with tourists in the summer months. People come from May to late August in droves, filing off cruise ships and popping off cheapo flights from northern Europe. These months will always be more crowded at the Sagrada Familia.
Like most monuments, if you go early, you beat the rush, as not too many people get up to go sightseeing at 9 a.m. I went at about 3 p.m. on a Wednesday recently, and while there were plenty of people there I didn’t see long lines to get tickets and there was no pushing and shoving inside (a plus, considering this is the House of God, right?).
Hours: The basilica is open October to March from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and April to September 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. While the Sagrada Familia is impressive in the dark, lit up against the night sky, it really should be viewed during the day.
When inside the Sagrada Familia you’ll see tour groups. Do not follow them. If they go left, you go right. Stay clear of them to have a better experience and the chance to take nicer photos.
3. Consider an official tour (in English)
There are tours in English every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. If you want to go on the tour, which I have not done but would LOVE to do, you have to buy a more expensive ticket.
For €16.50 you can either get an audio guide and show yourself around, or go on the group tour and have a real person explain why there are turtles on the façade.
4. Pay to go inside
A normal ticket to get in to the basilica is €12.50, and €10.50 for students and seniors. For €14.50 you get into the Sagrada Familia and into the Gaudí up at Park Güell, which is the one I’d recommend.
As you can see, glimpsing the Holy Family’s awesomeness is not cheap (wait, isn’t this a church?! You could go to the Mass if you’re Catholic), but I do think it’s worth chucking over a few bucks to get in. While you can appreciate the building from the outside, the main nave is inspiring and like nothing I’ve ever seen. Think of a grove of massive trees inside a church; it’s like that, sort of.
5. Notice nature
Gaudí grew up in the countryside in southern Catalonia. Like many who grow up around nature’s bounty, Gaudí was impressed by the natural world and used it as his muse throughout his life.
Look for nature’s mark in plant, animal and mineral form throughout the Sagrada Familia. Clearly the trees in the nave are a good example, but also notice mineral forms on the capitals crowning the temple, spirals like snail shells, vines on the Nativity Façade and gargoyles, amphibians and reptiles from the Mediterranean on the neo-Gothic apse.
Read more about the Sagrada Familia on its official Web site.
Also in our guide: Planning a trip to Barcelona? Read our reviews of the best budget hotels in Barcelona, all centrally located, clean and budget friendly. Our editors have inspected, photographed and reviewed hotels all over central Barcelona, including some close to the Sagrada Familia.