La Sagrada Familia is the most iconic attraction in Barcelona and draws in millions of visitors every year who are all interested in the phenomenal piece of architecture that made Antoni Gaudi so famous. (For more things to do in Barcelona see my guide to free activities).
However, Gaudi wasn’t the original mastermind behind the church, despite working away at it until his death in 1926. It was in fact Francisco de Paula del Villar, a diocesan architect, who began the design and construction in 1882 before handing over the commission to Gaudi a year later. Since Gaudi’s death, many other architects have picked up where he left off. Today, work is constantly being carried out on La Sagrada Familia and a visit there won’t be void of any scaffolding.
For some, seeing the exterior of La Sagrada Familia is enough to satiate their interest in Barcelona’s best attraction, but still many queue up, sometimes for hours, to get a peak inside.
During my time in Barcelona, many people asked me whether it was worth queuing and paying to go inside when the most iconic feature of La Sagrada Familia is outside and free for all to see. So, here are my thoughts.
The cheapest price is €14.80 which only allows you entry into the Basilica. This was the option I chose. An audioguide will set you back another €5-ish(€19.30 altogether). If you plan on visiting the Gaudi House-Museum as well, you can get a ticket that allows entry to that and the Basilica for €18.30. The prices aren’t cheap and I often wonder whether this alone is enough to put people off going inside.
N.B – Updated 11th November 2014 with current prices
Stupidly, I visited La Sagrada Familia at around lunctime. Bad move. The queues snaked all the way around the block and I ended up waiting almost an hour just to get to the ticket desk. Staff suggested that the best time to visit was either in the morning or around an hour before it closes (6pm in October-March or 8pm in April to September). Alternatively, tickets can be bought online making queuing time considerably less lengthy.
The queue also attracts a lot of persistent beggars who see the large quantities of tourists as a perfect opportunity. I was approached on four separate occasions whilst I waited.
Appearance and Atmosphere
This is what I think makes it worthwhile. Personally, when I think of churches, I think of dark, cold spaces filled with a thick atmosphere. It might have been the time of day I visited, but this certainly wasn’t the case for La Sagrada Familia. The bright sunlight pouring through the stained glass windows cast an ethereal glow over the interior, and the pale fixtures and fittings provided a refreshing change from the heavy gold and dark colours of ‘traditional’ churches. Despite the queuing time, it wasn’t particularly busy and most of the photo opportunities were above head, making it easy to snap the perfect tourist-free shot. In some ways the interior offers a complete contrast to the exterior, where the outside displays more intricate architectural examples whilst the inside is home to a clean-cut, smooth aesthetic. In my opinion, this contrast alone is well worth checking out.
So, is it worth it?
I resented queuing for so long, but what did I expect, really? I also think the prices are steep considering how little time is needed actually exploring the inside.
If someone says the inside is not as impressive as the outside, I’d have to disagree. However, this completely depends on what you are interested in and what you want to get out of your La Sagrada Familia visit. I’m a huge fan of all kinds of art and architecture, so for me going inside was almost necessary. But I do think that even those who don’t have an interest in art or religion in any way should still consider visiting the interior just to simply experience the sheer magnitude of the building from a different perspective.
Have you been inside the La Sagrada Familia? What did you think?