Making our way back across Spain – after walking the Camino and visiting Porto – there was only one stop I really wanted to make and basically it was for only one reason; to visit La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
132 Years of Construction
I think I first heard about the basilica on a 60-Minutes segment and it definitely caught my attention. After all, it’s been under construction for 132 years! There was something so intriguing about it, I just knew we needed to see it and walk in Gaudi’s path.
The Genius of Gaudi
There are not enough descriptive words in the English language to describe La Sagrada, it’s pretty much one of those ya gotta see it to believe it kind of places, so I’m a bit hard pressed to describe the experience. The sheer enormity of the building boggles the imagination and of course the genius of Gaudi goes without saying.
A man of devout faith, he designed the interior of the basilica to resemble a forest where light shines through the tree tops; a forest where one can be closer to his/her God and nature. For me, it was simply to be there. To see this magnificent – albeit somewhat over the top – place of peace and spirituality.
The Essence of Catholic Faith
It’s hard to take it all in. As I understand it, Gaudi pretty much depicts the essence of the Catholic faith in his vision. The details are amazing, you could stand for hours and not see it all. We were there for 2 1/2 hours, trying to make the most of our visit.
I can’t even begin to understand the engineering dynamics of building such a structure, but it was fascinating to learn Gaudi built the trunks and branches of trees to support the weight – rather than buttresses which are seen so often in cathedrals. Also, he chose a particular stone from Iran – reddish in color – to use for the pillars (trees) which support the most weight because of the strength of the stone.
Find the Words
Since I really can’t find the words and pictures just don’t do it justice, I’ll offer some helpful tips just in case you one day find yourself at this ya gotta see it to believe it basilica. Truly, there is no other place like it and the memory will stay with me.
How to Visit La Sagrada
- Buy your tickets online using the La Sagrada website. There are a few daily guided tours but I couldn’t find one available. We bought 1 ticket with an audio guide (19,50 euros) and 1 ticket with audio guide and a tower visit (24,00 euros).
- Our entry was 11:45 a.m. and Abi’s tower ticket was 12:45 p.m. This worked out well because by the time we got in, got our audio guides and took a quick look around, it was time for his tower tour.
- A security person takes 8 people at a time in the elevator up into the tower. You can choose to walk down the spiral staircase or ride down in the elevator. Abi chose to walk down and was very dismayed to see graffiti on the interior tower walls. We will never understand those who feel entitled to deface the property of others. The tower exit is inside, so once down you just resume your tour.
- Tickets have entry times. You cannot enter before your designated time and yes, they do check. This is also why you do not want to stand in line to buy tickets because it doesn’t mean you’re going to walk right in. Once you’re in though, you can stay as long as you like.
- Once inside the gates you have to stand in a line to get your audio guide. The guides actually worked quite well. Although, it took us a while to figure out they had us enter on the opposite side of where the audio guide tour started.
- It is crowded. Crazy crowded. That was the most difficult part for me because there were so many tourists and everyone was looking up and not paying attention to whom they were bumping in to… ahem.
- Hats off, and yes, they will tell you to take off your hat.
- Barcelona has a reputation for being pickpocket central. It’s probably no worse than Paris or Rome, or any other big city tourist destination. We had no problems, but I will tell you we saw 3 different occasions of hustlers trying to do their thing. Because there are so many people in/out and around La Sagrada, pay attention to your stuff.
- There is a museum on site, a chapel in the basement (it was closed the day we were there) and the school that Gaudi built for the children of the workers is on site.
- La Sagrada is a construction zone and offers all the noise that goes along with it. Inside there was massive netting over some of the areas, jackhammers were pounding and on the day we visited they were setting up staging platforms and sound equipment. It was pretty much sensory overload.
Visiting La Sagrada
Visiting La Sagrada was the #1 reason why we went to Barcelona, but it’s a city with a lot going on. We had just 2 1/2 days to get a feel for the city and we liked it. We strolled through the Gracia neighborhood and we took a long walk along the waterfront and made our way back at the edge of the surf. Turns out, Barcelona is clothing optional when it comes to beach wear and we stumbled our way across an all male full monty stretch of beach. No, no pictures.
If you’ve read this far I would encourage you to scroll back up and watch the short 60-Minutes clip, it really is quite interesting and you’ll get a better scope of the size of the basilica. And if you find yourself in Barcelona, do not miss the opportunity to visit La Sagrada. It’s truly special.