What to know before visiting La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona [updated]

Antoni Gaudí’s temple is reopen for visits (with restrictions)

Barcelona is still on top of world tourism. The charming capital of Catalonia, Spain, beat the record of nearly 12 million tourists in 2019. It is only behind London and Paris in the number of tourists in Europe. More than 75% of these visitors are from out of Spain, mostly from France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the United States.

What makes Barcelona so attractive is a wide variety of attractions: history, arts, gastronomy, a whole set of hidden gems, beaches, and even mountains, all in one single place with a well-connected network of public transportation. With so many interesting attractions, there is one big favorite that is also the most crowded one to visit: Basilica La Sagrada Familia, an unparalleled monument in architecture’s history, and a Unesco World Heritage site.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, La Sagrada Familia was closed for more than a year. It reopened to visitors and events last May.

sagrada familia view barcelona

What is La Sagrada Familia?

La Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s precious Modernist jewel. Barcelona’s most visited attraction is an astonishing creation by architect Antoni Gaudí and is the biggest exponent of the so-called “Catalan Modernism”. Its construction started in 1882, stopped for the Spanish Civil War, and is still ongoing. La Sagrada Familia, a Catholic temple, will be the tallest church in the world when finished.

La Sagrada Familia comprises the central nave, three façades (Nativity, Passion, and Glory), 18 spires (8 are already finished), crypt, museum, and some other areas.

What inspired Antoni Gaudí to create La Sagrada Familia?

Nothing, absolutely nothing, at La Sagrada Familia is ordinary. It is a breathtaking monument and certainly one of the most impressive temples in the world. Antoni Gaudí was a man of great faith and his premise to create La Sagrada Familia was very simple: If nature is God’s masterpiece and architecture is primarily based on nature, then the best way to honor God is to design buildings based on His creations. Gaudí thought that originality meant going back to the origin, which leads to the idea of nature as the source of all living things. The biggest lesson by the genius is to look back to nature in order to create the future.

When will La Sagrada Familia be finished?

La Sagrada Familia will not be finished by 2026, as initially thought. The Basilica’s completion date had to be delayed due to the pandemic. Sagrada Familia’s general director Xavier Martinez, in an interview with Reuters, said that the temple could be finished by 2030, 2035, or 2040. The reason is that the resources have plummeted as the temple had to be shut down for nine months and the main source of financing the construction comes from tourism.

How many tourists visit La Sagrada Familia each year?

La Sagrada Familia is easily reachable as it’s in a very centric area (Eixample Dreta, metro Sagrada Familia). It is within walking distance of the other famous Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces (La Pedrera and Casa Battló) at Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s chic boulevard.

In 2017 La Sagrada Familia had 4,5 million paying visitors, according to Barcelona’s official tourism authority. Other 13,5 million got to the temple’s doors, took their pictures, and turned away. Some of the main blockers for getting there and not getting in are the huge lines and crowded spaces.

La Sagrada Familia tickets

interior la sagrada familia barcelona

In pre-pandemic times, La Sagrada Familia used to have huge lines to buy tickets. Now, tickets are only sold online.

  • Buy a fast-track ticket to La Sagrada Familia

This is the best-seller ticket to the Basilica. It includes the entry to the temple, entry to the museum, a free Barcelona city guide, and an audio guide (a recommended resource as La Sagrada Familia is a very complex monument). This ticket doesn’t include entry to the towers. And finally, there’s no need to print the ticket as you can save it on your smartphone.

Price: from 31.60€ (there are discounts available) and free for children under 11

Where to buy: here.

  • Buy a fast-track ticket to La Sagrada Familia with a guided tour

If you are the kind of traveler that enjoys knowing everything and a bit more of the monument you are visiting, so a guided tour may be the best option for you. This ticket allows you to skip the line, gives access to the temple’s museum, and includes the invaluable support of an official guide. The guided tour lasts one and a half-hour in English, Spanish, German or French. It doesn’t include access to the towers though.

Price: from 48€ (discounts available)

Where to buy: here.

Can I attend service inside La Sagrada Familia?

Yes, anyone, of any faith, can attend a mass inside La Sagrada Familia, and more. The temple has 2 kinds of religious celebrations: the international masses and special ones.

Every Sunday and on holy days there is an international mass at La Sagrada Familia at 9 am. It is in an area separate from the touristic visit and is free of charge. The mass is celebrated in 5 languages: Catalan, Spanish, Italian, English, and French. Besides, there are priests available for confessions.  The doors are open at 8:30 am and the entrance is made on the Nativity façade (Marina street). Groups are allowed but if they are bigger than 25 people, the temple should be informed.

The other kind of celebration is extraordinary masses or events. It’s not open to everyone, and attendance is by invitation only. However, these masses are often streamed live.

La Sagrada Familia inside and outside

The temple is the culmination of Antoni Gaudí’s genius. It synthesizes his architectural evolution and offers an amazing challenge to the curious visitor as there are a lot of details in each part of the temple. Check these out:

  • If you choose to go up the Nativity towers, you’ll have a view of the city’s mountains.
  • If you choose the Passion towers, you’ll have a view of the Mediterranean sea.
  • The tallest of the 18 spires will be the one dedicated to Jesus Christ: 172,5 meters. It is the majestic central one.
  • The project wasn’t originally delivered to Gaudí. Its first architect was Francesc de Paula Villar. Due to disagreements with the City Council, the project ended up in Gaudí’s hands.
  • Gaudí knew he wouldn’t be alive to see the end of the construction. He left detailed documentation for it to be finished after his death.
  • Gaudí spent his last 15 years fully dedicated to the temple, even living there. His death was on duty. He was run over by a tram while observing the temple and fully absorbed by his work.
  • In his last years, Gaudí, who was a man of great faith, simply didn’t care about his appearance. When he was run over by the tram, his poor looks made him unrecognizable by the accident’s witnesses. It took a while for people to realize that that poor “vagabond” was the respected genius.
  • In the temple’s interiors, there isn’t one single straight line. All the design honors the richness of nature’s shapes.
  • The Nativity façade was the only one finished when Gaudí was still alive.

Practical information about the visit to La Sagrada Familia

How the visit works: when you buy your fast-track ticket online, you have a time window of 15 minutes to enter the temple at the time of your choice (i.e. 12h-12:15). Once inside, forget the outside world for at least one and a half hours.

Opening hours: Due to Covid-19, regular opening hours have changed. La Sagrada Familia is open from Monday to Thursday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and Friday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

When La Sagrada Familia is closed: it is partially closed on December 25th and 26th, and January 1st and 6th, when entrance is over at 2 pm.

Last entrance permitted: 30 minutes before closing

When to buy your Sagrada Familia ticket: at least the day before.

Not to forget: it is a religious temple. Go dressed accordingly.

Covid-19 rules to visit La Sagrada Familia

  • All visitors must wear a mask all the time.
  • Visitors must keep a safe distance of 2 meters from others.
  • Visitors will be provided with hand sanitisers at various points along the tour.
  • Visitors are asked not to bring bags or rucksacks in order to speed up the process.
  • In order to ensure visitors’ safety, some spaces will remain closed as it is not possible to guarantee proper distancing, like the towers.
  • Visits must follow the route in one direction only, entering on Carrer de la Marina (Nativity façade) and exiting on Carrer de Sardenya (Passion façade) or through the museum (Nativity façade).