Sagrada Familia: Tips for Visiting Gaudi’s Masterpiece

Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. In this post we answer some common questions and share some tips that will help you make the most of your visit. Including how to avoid the queues !

Tourists inside the Sagrada Familia, light passing through the stained glass windows on the left bathes the columns on the right hand side of the photo with a rainbow of clours

Mid-afternoon sunlight bathes the nave with colour

The Sagrada Familia receives approximately 4.5 million visitors each year. To avoid overcrowding at peak times, the number of tickets are limited and they have fixed entry times.

The downside is that the queues to buy tickets can be extremely long. Worse still, after enduring the queue, you might find that there are no time slots available until the following day.

How can I avoid the queues at the Sagrada Familia?

In an attempt to reduce the queues, the basilica sells tickets online via its website. The basic ticket price is currently €15. When booking online you download your tickets as a PDF file which you can print out.

Alternatively you can purchase fast track tickets from this website and receive them directly in your phone via email or SMS. You can then show your ticket directly on your smartphone without having to print it out.

You could also buy the Barcelona City Pass which includes fast-track entry to the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour and airport transfer.

By purchasing your ticket online you completely bypass the queues at the ticket booths and can go directly to the ticket holders entrance on Carrer de la Marina (see map below). I recommend you arrive 15 minutes before your chosen time slot. This will allow plenty of time to find the entrance and take a few photos before entering.

Tickets are allocated based on a system of 15 minute time slots. Due to the popularity of the site and the high number of people who visit every day, it’s essential that you arrive on time.

Once inside the basilica you can stay for as long as you like. You should allow approximately 2 hours for visiting the Sagrada Familia including the small museum in the basement.

Close up of the bell towers of the nativity façade of the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona. Tou can see the Christmas tree with 12 doves as well as part of 4 bell towers.

Bell towers and part of the nativity façade

What is the best time of day to visit the Sagrada Familia?

One of the most beautiful features of the Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s use of light. The church has large stained-glass windows which bathe the naves with colour. The effect is most striking mid-morning and mid to late-afternoon when sunlight strikes the windows directly.

How far in advance should I purchase tickets for the Sagrada Familia?

Tickets are available online up to 2 months in advance. To ensure that you can visit at your preffered time of day, I recommend that you purchase your tickets at least 3 to 5 days before you plan to visit. Generally there is more availability in the afternoon because most tours visit in the morning.

Check availability

Help! All tickets are sold out, what can I do?

If you are flexible and aren’t bothered about visiting the Sagrada Familia at a particular time of day, It’s often possible to purchase tickets online 24 hours in advance or even on the day.

If there are no tickets available, it’s still worthwhile visiting the Sagrada Familia from the outside, without going in. You can get good photos from the small parks either side of the basilica. I also recommend that you visit the Sant Pau Art Nouveau site which is a 10 minute walk from the Sagrada Familia and where you don’t need to pre-book tickets.

The ceiling of the Sagrada Familia and the tree like columns which support it

No picture can prepare you for the beauty of the Sagrada Familia

Is it worth paying extra to visit the towers?

The most memorable part of visiting the Sagrada Familia is, without doubt, the view inside the naves. Looking up at the 45m high vaulted ceiling while surrounded by slender tree-like columns bathed in coloured light from the basilica’s stained glass windows.

Tickets to visit the towers cost almost twice as much as the basic entrance ticket (€29 instead of €15) so, if you’re on a budget, I think that it’s better to spend the extra money on visiting another attraction.

Having said that, the fast track towers ticket includes an audio-guide and, if you can afford it, lets you see parts of the church which aren’t visible from ground level as well as the ongoing construction work.

If you decide to visit the towers I recommend you choose the Nativity Façade. These are the oldest of the Sagrada Familia’s towers and the only ones that Antoni Gaudí worked on. Unlike the Passion Façade, the towers of the Nativity Façade include a small bridge which affords better views and a close-up of parts of the façade.

Is it worth paying extra for the audio-guide?

If this will be your first visit to the Sagrada Familia then the audio-guide is well worth the extra cost. It’s interesting and informative and explains Gaudí’s design and vision as well of the history of the building. Alternatively you might consider booking a guided tour.

Which discount cards and sightseeing passes include entry to the Sagrada Familia?

Standard entry is included in the price of the Gaudi Pass and the Barcelona City Pass. A guided tour of the basilica is one of the many options available if you purchase a Barcelona iVenture card.

The popular Barcelona Card also includes a €1 discount on the ticket price however it is only valid when you purchase your ticket at the ticket office. As we have already seen, this is not a viable option due to queues and availabiliIty. It isn’t worth wasting precious holiday time in order to save just €1.

What other discounts are available?

Children under 11 and disabled people can visit the Sagrada Familia free of charge (including foreign nationals, proof needed).

Students, under 30s and senior citizens (over 65) are also entitled to a discount.

How can I get there by public transport ?

The easiest way to visit the Sagrada Familia from most parts of Barcelona is by metro. The Sagrada Familia metro station is on the L2 (purple) and L5 (blue) metro lines.

There are pictograms on the platforms indicating which exit you should take for the basilica. In fact both exits are approximately the same distance from the ticket holders entrance so I suggest that you use whichever is nearest when you alight the train.

Tip: If you will be visiting Park Güell immediately before visiting the Sagrada Familia (a popular choice) the most convenient way to travel between the two is to take the number 92 bus.

The Bus Turistic city tour buses stop right outside the Sagrada Familia (blue route).

Is the Sagrada Família accessible to wheelchair users?

Yes, the Sagrada Família is accessible in a wheelchair. The accessible entrance is in front of the Passion Façade (see map below) where there is a ramp leading up to the entrance to the nave. There is also a ramp down to the small museum in the basement of the church.4

The towers are not accessible in a wheelchair due to the short flight of stairs up to the lift.

Wheelchair users plus one companion are entitled to free entry which should be booked in advance on the official Sagrada Familia website. Upon arrival, you may be asked for documents accrediting your disability.

The Sagrada Familia metro station is also wheelchair accessible. When you alight the metro there are pictograms indicating where the lift up from the platform is located. There are two entrances at street level, one of which has a lift.

All of Barcelona’s public buses are fitted with ramps for wheelchair access.

The nativity façade of Antoni Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona bathed in early morning sunlight. This photo was taken from a park and there are trees and a palm tree in the foreground.

The nativity façade

How can I attend mass at the Sagrada Familia?

The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church and mass is held every Sunday morning at 9am. The service lasts approximately 1 hour and is conducted in several languages.

Spaces are limited and entrance is on a first come first served basis. If you want to attend mass you should be at the entrance in front of the Nativity Façade before 8:30.

Other church services take place on special dates throughout the year. More information on the Sagrada Familia website.

When attending mass it is essential that you dress and behave appropriately, see dress code below.

What are the Sagrada Familia opening times ?

The basilica is open to the public 365 days of the year, times may vary.

March
09:00 – 19:00

April to September
09:00 – 20:00

October
09:00 – 19:00

November to February
09:00 – 18:00

25 Dec, 26 Dec, 01 Jan & 06 Jan
09:00 – 14:00

When can you visit the crypt of the Sagrada Familia?

Catholic Mass takes place in the crypt on weekdays at 09:00 and 20:15. The crypt opens from 09:00 to 10:00 in the morning and from 18:00 to 21:00 in the evening. Additional masses take place at weekends and on public holidays.

What is the dress code for the Sagrada Familia Basilica?

According to the basilica’s official website you should adhere to the standard dress code for Roman Catholic churches which is the same for both men and women:

Hats and caps should be removed before entering the basilica (unless required for religious or medical reasons). You should wear an appropriate shirt, blouse, T-shirt or jacket which covers your shoulders as well as back and midriff. Trousers and skirts should cover to below mid-thigh. Transparent clothing or plunging necklines are not allowed and you may not to go barefoot.

In reality the dress code is not strictly enforced and it’s common to see people wearing singlets and shorts. The only exception is the crypt, which is only open when mass takes place. Personally I think that it’s best to follow the rules and comply with the dress code rather than risk getting turned away.

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2 thoughts on “Sagrada Familia: Tips for Visiting Gaudi’s Masterpiece

  1. Rania

    Do you have any tips on where to visit while in Barcelona. One adult and 4 teenagers. What can you do? Any culture, food or attractions you have to see or try? We are there 6 days, in October. We´re going to an FC Barcelona match. Where is the best place to buy tickets, online or there in place?

    Reply
    1. Richard Post author

      Hello Rania,

      The best place to buy your FC Barcelona tickets depends largely on who they will be playing against.

      If it’s a minor league match then the cheapest tickets will be available on the official FC Barcelona site between 1 month and 2 weeks before the match or at the ticket office at the Camp Nou or from FC Barcelona stores in the city.

      For more important league matches or champions league you will be better off buying tickets in advance from a reputable ticketing site such as ticketbar because the only tickets which are likely to be available on the FC Barcelona site are the VIP packages which are very expensive.

      Top sites to see in Barcelona with teenagers include: Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló. I’d also recommend taking the cable cars up to the castle on Montjuïc and spending some time exploring the Gothic Quarter. Since you are obviously interested in football, a tour of Camp Nou should also be on your list.

      Also check out this post which has a lot of ideas for things to see, many of which are free. If your teens are interested in street art then this walking route which is slightly off the beaten track would also be a good choice.

      Reply

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