Gaudi's Crazy Project
This is probably the most famous architectural works of the great Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí on the planet. Sagrada Familia is one of the top 3 must-see spots of Barcelona, as mentioned in my previous post.
Located in the city centre, this church has been in construction since 1892, and it’s not expected to be finished until 2026. The architect showcased the epitome of the relationship between man, nature, and religion through its architecture and façade sculptures. Climbing one of its towers will give you a unique view of Barcelona, if you are not afraid of heights. I would highly recommend taking the audio tour as it is very informative, allowing you to understand the design details and the reasons behind them. And also, look up when you get in there! You might feel like a tiny ant inside a huge jungle, when you see these tree-shaped pillars around you (I did a flip to take this photo, keep scrolling):
The construction on La Sagrada Familia, the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, began in 1882. Over the course of 130 years of continuous constructions, the ambitious religious building remains unfinished. Here are a few facts for you before you visit the jaw-dropping structure:
1. The lasting building site
It has recently been announced that La Sagrada Familia will finally be completed by 2026, on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The architect lived to see only one tower erected, but construction carried on according to the designs and models he created.
2. Lost designs
In 1936, anarchists fighting in the Spanish Civil War stormed the building and destroyed the workshop – so plans had to be pieced together from surviving notes. This continues to court controversy, as many have argued that the completed Sagrada Família will be nothing like what Gaudí envisioned.
3. God's architect
Antoni Gaudí – who once quipped that his client, God, was in no hurry to see the basilica finished – devoted more than 40 years to La Sagrada Família, believing it was a divine mission. When not working, he lived a life of poverty and fasting. After the 74-year-old died in 1926, from being knocked down by a streetcar, his body wasn’t identified for days as he was thought to be a vagrant.
4. The completed image
Although there are only eight completed now, it is intended for La Sagrada Família to have 18 spires (the tallest of which will be 170 metres). The 12 smaller ones symbolise Christ’s apostles, four are the writers of the Gospels and the two largest represent the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
5. Seen from above
When Gaudí was asked why – as no one could see them properly – he was putting so much time and effort in making the tops of the spires so elaborate, he responded, “The angels will see them”.
6. Nativity Facade, a UNESCO site
It was completed in 1905 and Antoni Gaudí was directly involved in its construction. The Nativity façade and Crypt of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, together with another six works by the Spanish Catalan architect Gaudí.
Gaudi poured all his fantastical ideas into the Nativity façade - included shapes from nature, from rounded rocks reminiscent of the Montserrat massif, to human figures and plants. Its outstanding feature is the elaborate decoration, completed with Christian symbols. The sculptures extend from the bottom of the façade to where the bell towers start to rise. Through them, the façade depicts the birth of Christ. The images appearing there include the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary under the invocation of the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity, the Star of Bethlehem, the Three Wise Men, the shepherds and the Tree of Life. The sculptures were made by various artists and perfectly incorporated in the façade’s Gothic design.
When to visit
It is best to visit the city during summer time, between June and October. Sun is shining long hours, from 6am to 9pm, so you can make the most out of the "day time" to explore the city. You will probably forget about dinner until 10pm, which is normal for the locals. Restaurants serve dinner from 8pm to 1am, but between lunch and dinner, there is normally off-hours from 3-7pm.
For Sagrada Familia, long queues are common due to the site’s popularity, so it is a good idea to pre-book tickets. Of the 18 towers Gaudí planned for the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia there are presently eight completed; four on the Nativity facade and four on the Passion facade.
Tickets for visiting the towers are not included in the basic entry price and can be purchased online as part of the combination ticket “top views”. The facades are not joined, and have separate access points. The top of the towers can only be accessed by lift, one on each facade. You can choose to go up either the tower on the Nativity facade with views over the east of Barcelona, or the tower on the Passion facade facing the city centre. Visitors must take the stairs down from the towers, both on the Passion façade and the Nativity façade. I personally suggest you to go up the Nativity tower, as you can see some of the delicate details of the building originally designed and crafted by Gaudi and his team.
Time required: 2hrs
Tickets: pre-book here
Where to stay
1. Design Oriented
(Photo credits to the hotel)
Alma Barcelona is for those who likes to submerge into some Spanish coolness. It is set in an attractive building just off Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia. The rooms feature smart, modern décor, leather armchairs and are equipped with a flat-screen Loewe TV and Punkt phone. The Alma’s spa features an indoor pool, a Hammam and a sauna. There is a gym, and massage is also available.
Although it is not entirely close to Sagrada Familia site, it is a nice hideaway from the busy city's main streets. It is just one block from Gaudí’s La Pedrera and a 5-minute walk from Casa Batlló, which are also must-see sights. You can walk to Diagonal Metro Station in 5 minutes, while Plaza de Catalunya is just over 1 km away. It is 5mins cab ride and 17mins walk away from Sagrada Familia. Book the hotel directly here.
2. Pool with a view
(Photo credits to the hotel)
Hotel OMM is located right across Casa Mila, as you can see it from the roof terrace bar. And if you are a big fan of Sagrada Familia and would like to see it from the hotel, this is the perfect spot for you. Chill on the roof pool and have as much Gaudi as you wish. It is 6mins cab ride and 18mins walk away from Sagrada Familia. Book here.
What to pack
Going up to Sagrada Familia, you would probably want to take lots of photos and carry light (you will walk the whole day!). And as Barcelona might not be the safest city, it is best to bring less with you. I have a few friends getting mugged around the site, so beware and be smart! Here are a few items I would suggest you to bring, after my experience up in the tower:
Don't do backpacks, you might want to keep all your stuff (especially camera) accessible, and less likely to be a stealing target. This limited edition GLUSH/ Camo Grassy Tote is light-weight, with a relatively stiff grassy bottom catered for carrying heavy stuff like cameras - I designed it in a structure to do heavy-lifting in a lighter way (not for tons of bar bells, but you know what I mean, more heavier things than your daily work bag). And it looks fun and cool but doesn't look expensive for you to be an object for robbing.
2. All-in-one DSLR camera
Unless you are a professional photographer, you can survive without a 20lbs camera. Try this Panasonic TZ70/ZS50 for a fraction of the normal DSLR weight, with an electronic viewfinder, a big 30x zoom, auto and manual controls and the ability to shoot raw files – a big bonus for keen photographers who want the best quality from a small camera.
3. Walk-friendly shoes
4. Breezy top
See this map below for all the places mentioned above (download and sync with your Google Maps here).
If you wish to know more about my itinerary, personal tips, or other suggestions, feel free to email me or leave a comment below!