Soñando Sunday: The Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Cataluña)
From where can I plan this day trip? The most logical place is obviously from Barcelona itself but if (for whatever reason) the city of Barcelona is not on your list I would still recommend you see this one-of-a-kind site if you’re in the general area. It would make an easy day trip from other major cities in Cataluña like Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona as well as a worthwhile overnight from further places like Valencia, the country of Andorra, or even Toulouse, France!
What is it? Arguably the most monumental of the famous Spanish (Catalán) architect Antoni Gaudí’s many creations, this remarkable basilica has been in the process of construction since 1866. That’s right—it’s still in the process!! According to the official website, the Sagrada Familia is only approximately 70% complete and is scheduled to finish construction in 2026 to mark the 160th year anniversary of breaking ground. Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (the full name in Catalán) translates literally to mean "The Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family" and the emphasis on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is notable in the incredible detail in the sculptures on every surface of the exterior, each side of which represents a different stage in Jesus Christ’s life (such as his birth shown below).
Even for the traveler who ‘has seen enough cathedrals’ the Sagrada Familia truly is unique and not to be missed (as well as not officially a cathedral). From its overwhelming stature (which has still not reached its full height!) to the impressive way in which the design plays with natural light and creates a feeling of being beneath the foliage of a forest when you’re inside, you will find something that takes your breath away.
How to prepare ahead of time: BOOK YOUR VISIT IN ADVANCE! For most, the Sagrada Familia is the #1 thing to do in Barcelona and experiencing it from outside is just not enough. You can purchase tickets at the ticket box located on the Carrer de Sardenya side of the church or on the official website.
I don’t always splurge for a guided tour but this one of those cases in which it’s absolutely worth the money. There is SO much to take in and the insights your tour guide will be able to provide (and questions they will be happy to answer) are well-worth the extra few euros. My honest advice, even for the traveler-on-a-budget is to skip a meal out and invest in this experience. You can check out options here.
Pro-Tip: Do some research before you choose your tour time as your experience (and your photos) can vary greatly depending on the time of day you visit. The first time I visited was in the morning (perhaps around 11am) and the bright light created the most beautiful rays of colors shining through the stained glass windows and rooftop. The second time, we followed the advice to visit at 6pm and I was honestly a bit disappointed (in comparison to my prior visit).
How to get there:
Finding the Sagrada Familia once you’re in Barcelona will not be difficult—it has its own metro stop! Simply take the Metro Line 2 (purple) or Line 5 (blue) to “Sagrada Familia” or catch one of a plethora of bus lines (19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 or B24) if that’s more convenient for you. Of course, if you’re staying in or near to the Eixample neighborhood walking is great option as well.
Recommended time of year to visit:
For this particular landmark, I do not believe there is a bad time of year. As always, winter (November-March) will be the coldest and summer (June-September) will be the hottest but due to its location in a coastal city, neither season really needs to be avoided. Of course, my same advice about the time of day goes as far as researching the time of year you visit. My 6pm tour was in January and 6pm in June may be gorgeous so simply plan according to what works best for you.