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BlogTravel buzzEverything you need to know about the ethereal La Sagrada Família & amazing trips that will take you there
Travel buzz

Everything you need to know about the ethereal La Sagrada Família & amazing trips that will take you there

Aug 02, 2023 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

La Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí’s architectural marvel, is one of the most famous stops on any Barcelona itinerary. Impressive on the outside and transformative on the inside, the basilica is first on our list of things to add to your Spain bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know before you visit this cultural landmark and masterpiece of design on one of our Spain tours.

Where is the Sagrada Família?

La Sagrada Família is located in the central ​​Eixample district in Barcelona, Spain. The bustling district is full of shops, restaurants, and cafes and is laid out on a grid, making it exceptionally easy to get around. Although the area is very walkable, we think that the best way to visit Sagrada Família is on a guided tour since tickets sell out in advance and admission lines can be long. That’s why we’ve included a visit to the church on all of our guided tours of Barcelona

What is La Sagrada Família in Spain known for?

La Sagrada Família, Barcelona’s famously unfinished basilica, is considered to be the personal masterpiece of famed architect Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí was a pillar of the Catalan Modernisme movement, a style of art and architecture that relied heavily on the use of vibrant color and organic shapes inspired by nature. La Sagrada Família and the other Gaudí masterpieces dotting the city are some of the many reasons why Barcelona is a strong contender for architecture enthusiasts in the Barcelona vs. Madrid debate. “Gaudi’s work was the highlight of my trip… the reason I wanted to see Spain,” said traveler Joann after returning from our Grand Tour of Spain.

Sagrada Família facts you may not know

It’s easy to see why La Sagrada Família is an essential stop on our Spain tours, even without much context—it’s an arresting and innovative architectural work. However, the more you learn about the basilica, the more intriguing it becomes. Here are some facts you might not know about La Sagrada Família. 

  • The church has been under construction for over a century. Construction on La Sagrada Família began in 1882, a year before Gaudí even signed on to the project. In 1926, Gaudí died after being hit by a tram, leaving only parts of the temple, Nativity facade, and first bell tower completed. Gaudí knew that the church wouldn’t be done in his lifetime, so he left easy-to-follow plans for future architects. He also planned the construction in phases so that his successors could add their own influence to the building. Despite several setbacks, including the burning of Gaudí’s original plans during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, construction continued. So when will the Sagrada Família be finished? Construction is expected to be completed in 2026, marking the hundred-year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. 
  • It’s a UNESCO-listed site. La Sagrada Família, along with six other Antoni Gaudí sites, appears on the UNESCO World Heritage list as “Works of Antoni Gaudí.” Another Gaudí-designed site, Park Güell, is also included—as if you needed another reason to visit Park Güell. (Travel tip: you can add our Park Güell & La Pedrera excursion on our Barcelona tours to avoid waiting in line for entry to the park.)  
  • Gaudí is buried there. Visitors to La Sagrada Família can see the architect’s tomb in one of the chapels on the underground level of the church. The only other person buried in La Sagrada Família’s crypt is Josep Maria Bocabella, the bookseller who initially commissioned the church.
  • The faces on the Nativity facade commemorate real Barcelonians. One of the church’s three facades (and the only one built in Gaudí’s lifetime), the Nativity facade, is covered in sculpted figures. Gaudí used casts of his construction crew’s faces as well as the death masks of everyday Barcelonians to sculpt the figures’ expressions. It was his way of paying tribute to the citizens of Barcelona.
  • When it’s finished, it will be the tallest religious building in Europe. Once the basilica’s central tower is complete, La Sagrada Família will stand 170 meters tall, making it the tallest religious building in Europe. However, Gaudí designed the building to be one meter shorter than Montjuïc, a nearby mountain (and site of the 1992 Olympic Games), saying that nothing made by man should ever reach higher than God’s work.
  • You could spend hours searching for all of the symbolism built into the architecture. Gaudí had a fondness for incorporating symbolism into his work, which is especially evident in La Sagrada Família. When the church is finished, it will feature three facades and 18 towers, each dedicated to the life of Jesus, the holy family, and other biblical figures. There are also many references to nature throughout the basilica, including the nave’s famous tree-like columns and sculptures of a turtle and tortoise representing the sea and Earth. However, one of the most intriguing symbols on the church is the magic square on the Passion facade—a grid of numbers where every row, column, and diagonal adds up to the number 33.

What should you know before visiting La Sagrada Família in Barcelona?

Gaudí’s famous basilica may be one of the best reasons to book that trip to Barcelona, but there are a few tips for visiting La Sagrada Família that you should know before you join us on a tour of Spain

  • The church is still an active construction site. Although La Sagrada Família attracts millions of visitors every year, it is still an active construction site. Be aware of any scaffolding, and note that you might not have access to certain areas within the basilica.
  • Visit when the sun is shining. The best time to go to La Sagrada Família is when it’s sunny. The sunlight shining through the stained glass windows bathes the nave’s tree-like columns in prismatic color, making the Sagrada Família’s inside spaces feel like something out of a fantasy. “What struck me the most was the display of colors streaming in through the abstracted stained glass windows,” said Claire after traveling on our Barcelona, Southern France & the Italian Riviera tour. “It felt wonderfully alive with color and nature references… more like you were standing amid a forest than a church.” Luckily, Barcelona gets around 300 days of sunshine a year, so chances are good that you’ll get to experience the enchantment for yourself.
  • There is a dress code. Like many religious sites, you’ll be asked to adhere to a dress code if you want to enter La Sagrada Família—though it isn’t as conservative as you might expect. Just make sure your shoulders are covered and that your skirt or pants reach at least mid-thigh, and you’ll be fine.
  • Mass is held every Sunday at 9am. Sunday mass at La Sagrada Família is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. If you happen to have a free Sunday morning on your tour of Barcelona, we recommend arriving at the church at least half an hour early to ensure you’ll get a seat. Just keep in mind that you’ll be expected to behave respectfully during the service—that means no wandering off for extra solo exploration.

What are some of the best things to do around La Sagrada Família in Barcelona?

La Sagrada Família is located on Carrer de Mallorca in the busy ​​Eixample district, which means there are plenty of things to do in the area. Here are some of our favorite nearby places to visit and things to do when exploring La Sagrada Família to help you sightsee and dine like a local on your trip to Barcelona

  • Visit Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. These two Gaudí-designed buildings are each a short walk from La Sagrada Família. Casa Milà, known as La Pedrera, was the last private residence designed by the architect. Casa Batlló, nicknamed the House of Bones for its skeletal facade, is one of Barcelona’s most famous buildings. Both sites are excellent ways to discover Gaudí’s Barcelona. “Gaudí’s Casa Mila, La Pedrera, was amazing!” said traveler Angi after our Food & Wine: A Taste of Spain tour. “Like nothing I’ve ever seen before—beautiful and odd. Awe-inspiring.”
  • Enjoy tapas at El Celler del Vermut. Just steps from La Sagrada Família, this Galician-style restaurant is an excellent place to share some free-time tapas and sip vermouth with your fellow travelers. Take a tip from our ultimate food and wine guide to Spain and try the pulpo a la Gallego, or Galician-style octopus, to really dine like a local.
  • Stroll down Avenida de Gaudí. Las Ramblas might be the most famous pedestrian boulevard in Barcelona, but Avenida de Gaudí should not be missed. Stretching from La Sagrada Família to the Hospital de Sant Pau, the street is lined with cafes, shops, and intricate modernist streetlights. It’s a lovely place to stop for a drink and some people-watching during your free time.
  • See the Hospital de Sant Pau. Another stunning example of Catalan Modernisme, the Hospital de Sant Pau, was designed by Lluís Domènech i Muntaner, who wanted to create a beautiful space to help patients heal faster. The UNESCO-listed site is now a museum, and you can use a free afternoon on our Barcelona tours to explore its mosaic-tiled halls and cheerful courtyards.

5 tours you can book to visit the Sagrada Família in Spain

Wondering how to see the Sagrada Família in Barcelona? We think that the best way to visit La Sagrada Família is on one of our guided tours of Spain. These five tours will give you ample time at the famous basilica while showing you the best highlights and hidden gems of Spain and beyond.

1. Barcelona, Southern France & the Italian Riviera

Why you should book this tour: This is the perfect tour for anyone who prefers their culture and architecture be paired with a healthy dose of sunshine and Mediterranean cuisine. The Multi-Country Tour kicks off in Barcelona with a visit to La Sagrada Família before taking you on a sun-soaked journey along the coast. 

Experience Mediterranean magic

2. Grand Tour of Spain

Why you should book this tour: This sweeping tour of Spain allows you to experience all of the art, culture, and history the captivating country has to offer. You’ll travel through exhilarating cities and relax on peaceful beaches before ending your trip with a stop in Barcelona. A trip to La Sagrada Família is just one of the things on the itinerary, but if you want more time to explore our favorite sites to see in Barcelona, add the Barcelona extension to have a few extra days to sip sangria and marvel at modernist architecture. 

Go grand in Spain

3. A Week in Spain: Barcelona, Madrid & Seville

Why you should book this tour: This week-long tour will take you to three of Spain’s most iconic cities. Spend the first leg of your tour in Barcelona, bathing in the colorful curvature of La Sagrada Família and other Gaudí-designed buildings. Afterward, continue on to discover more art and culture in lively Madrid and sunny Seville. 

Spend a week in Spain

4. Spain’s Balearic Islands: Menorca & Mallorca

Why you should book this tour: If you’re looking for a laid-back trip full of stunning scenery, pristine beaches, and some of the best seafood you’ll eat in Spain, look no further. It’s no coincidence that all of this tour’s destinations made it to our list of cities in Spain where you can embrace la buena vida on tour this summer. Start your journey with a jolt of inspiration at Barcelona’s Sagrada Família before heading to the Balearic Islands. 

Island hop around Spain

5. Spain for Solo Travelers: Barcelona, Madrid & Seville

Why you should book this tour: We think that going solo with a group is one of the most empowering and rewarding ways to travel. On this trip to one of the world’s top solo destinations, you’ll tour La Sagrada Família inside and out with your fellow solo travelers, while still having plenty of free time to explore on your own. Plus, you’ll get to participate in a tour-exclusive tapas-making class. 

Travel solo to Spain with us

Ready to explore Antoni Gaudí’s ethereal masterpiece, La Sagrada Família? Join us on one of our Spain tours!

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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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