I know there are plenty of people who, when traveling, don’t love going to the ‘touristy’ places. I don’t blame them! 90% of the time, I’m the same way. The thing is, most tourist spots are full of people because they are extraordinary in some fashion. They’re beautiful, ancient… noteworthy in one way or another, and, as such, shouldn’t be missed.
Sagrada Família is one of those places.
The massive cathedral, designed by Gaudí, has been under construction since 1882. It is projected to be complete in 2026, just in time for the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
I don’t tend to love giant crowds, and although over 3 million people come through Sagrada Família every year, its such a massive building that it doesn’t feel completely overcrowded. They also have a great system for entrance, where you have to book in advance and you have a specific time to go. This pretty neatly gets rid of any rush hour situations, and lets you better plan your trip.
For real, though, I could write thousands of words about this building, because I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. Legitimately, from my first view of the cathedral, I loved Sagrada Família.
I popped up out of the metro, and there it was.
This massive, incredible edifice, was literally blocking out the sun, although plenty of light was peeking out around the towers. It’s almost impossible to realize the sheer scale of the thing without walking the perimeter of it, which I did, although by accident. I was actually trying to find the entrance, and went the wrong way. No matter, though! I appreciated the chance to come into the building the long way.
Once I found the correct entrance, in I went. I was doing my tour a bit backwards, because I had chosen to book the full access tickets so I could go up into one of the towers. As I had 15 minutes in between my entrance time and my tower tour, I put off the audio tour and did some solo exploring.
There really aren’t any words to describe first walking into the cathedral. It is awe-inspiring in the most literal sense of the words, and simply breath-taking. I am an avowed atheist and honestly for the first time felt something like the presence of god.
The Expiatory Temple, the main room of the cathedral, is monumental, with columns branching like trees up into the geometric ceiling. Massive windows of stained glass allow light and color into the temple. Everything seems to be on a giant’s scale, so huge is the building.
As you walk in, it’s impossible not to stop, wide-eyed, taking in the absolutely gorgeous design. Which is why several people will run into you as you stand, mouth open, and then they too will stop.
The tower was well worth seeing, even though the full tour ticket was twice the price as the basic one. I considered it 29 euro well spent, though, and the tickets help fund the construction. The tower is butt-clenchingly high, though. Even with all the safety measures, it was impossible for me to not be a bit shaky, so high up. At least half of that was the slightly more reasonable thought that if I dropped my phone, it would be toast.
For the tower, you go up to the top of either the Passion or the Nativity façade in an elevator, and then walk down a twisty staircase back to the main temple. I did the passion façade, as I thought maybe it would be more fiery and fun, but I actually think the nativity would have been more interesting. As it turns out, the passion façade is very stark.
Once I got down from that with no mishaps and a much better appreciation for the absolutely massive scale of the building, it was onto the audio tour. It was pleasant, informative, and worth doing if you enjoy historical context with your beautiful buildings.
Finally, I went and explored the museum they have. It’s not huge, but it is interesting, and there’s a giant glass wall, the other side of which is where the architects are still working on the plans for the cathedral. It was pretty fun to watch them, although a bit like being in a human zoo. Hell, maybe that’s your thing, in which case, now you know where to find it.
I wandered through the main temple one last time, unwilling to leave the beauty of the building behind quite yet. I had a thought of going to the area set aside for quiet prayers, which, as an atheist, I’m not usually into. I felt, though, that in such a beautiful place, I could sit quietly and think of what I am grateful for.
Unfortunately, you have to have your shoulders covered to enter that part of the temple and I was wearing a tank top. Undeterred, I went and sat down facing one of the giant stained glass windows and had my moments of gratitude. No matter where you are at Sagrada Família, it is very easy to be grateful.
With that done, I left. I was footsore and ready to eat, but I very much think that the three hours I spent at Sagrada Família were some of the most beautiful ones of my life.
I’m glad I went solo, so I could go at my own pace and think my thoughts. And it’s not like you’re alone there. You’re sharing the experience with so many other people, all of whom are just as awed as you are.
It’s a beautiful experience.