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Inside the Sagrada Familia: Tips for Your Visit
Arm yourself with this ultra-practical guide for your Sagrada Familia visit. Allow me to unpack the whats, wheres, and hows: the best time to visit, how to buy tickets, which tower to go up, and other discombobulations eating your brain. As a Barcelona resident, I usually visit once a year. Read on to know everything you need to know about the Sagrada Familia: tips for your visit!
HERE’S MY PICK FOR THE BEST VALUE TO SEE THE SAGRADA FAMILIA
Now, let’s talk about why the Sagrada Familia is a big deal. You may be asking…
Should I see the Sagrada Familia interior?
My answer is obviously “yes”. Here’s why:
- The Sagrada Familia is one of Spain’s most prized cultural sites, like the Alhambra in Granada or the El Prado Museum in Madrid. The Nativity Facade and the Crypt are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- La Sagrada Familia the most unique Roman Catholic church you’ll probably ever visit. It’s every aspect of Jesus’ life told within the structure of the church. For that, historians say Gaudí was decades beyond his time. Every architectural detail is symbolic and very intentional. For example, the interior mimics a heavenly forest of tall trees and branches, representing life. The 18 spires represent Mary, the Evangelists, the Apostles, and Jesus. The Nativity Towers represent the symbols of the bishops: the top is the headpiece, the trunk is the bishop’s staff, and the middle part is the bishop’s ring. There are hundreds of these puzzles and symbols that are fun to unpack.
- You can witness the Sagrada Familia monument as it’s being built. Think about the most famous landmarks in the world: Great Wall of China – already built and completed. Roman Coliseum – already built and completed. Eiffel Tower – already built and completed. Sagrada Familia – in progress. Imagine when it’s finished in 2026, it will be a gargantuan moment when that last brick gets laid. And you can brag: “I SAW THE SAGRADA FAMILIA BEING BUILT.” (Unless it takes longer of course. Because they’re not completely committing to the completion date.)
- It also has a well-curated and highly informative museum inside, which is included in your ticket. You could spend a good hour here as learning about Sagrada Familia facts, timelines, studying plaster models, etc. You can also see the architects and engineers at work: brainstorming, cutting, whatever engineer-y things they do – all seen through a glass mirror. (Yeah, how fun is that – working like a highly functional lab rat?) I’ve got to hand it to the Sagrada Familia marketing team – the whole visitor experience makes you excited and feel like you’re part of it.
Here’s why you shouldn’t go in:
You detest the Catholic Church. You hate culture. You hate art. Therefore your heart must be made of cold stone. Okay, seriously. Don’t go in if you don’t have time. Or if you just don’t care that much about churches. Or maybe if you’re on a very strict budget. The minimum basic ticket is 26€, so it’s not cheap. No judging. See it on the outside and move on.
Is going up the Sagrada Familia towers worth it?
In my opinion, yes. NO, they are not the best views in Barcelona. If you’re looking for great views of Barcelona, head to Bunkers del Carmel or Tibidabo. BUT if you want to see the Sagrada Familia details up close, I recommend it. You get to spy on all the workers too. Skip below to read more about the towers
Okay, let’s say you decide that you want to go up a tower. Depending on which entrance ticket you buy (we’ll get to that soon), you can decide on two different sets of towers…
Nativity Tower or Passion Tower
It’s an age-old question. Both are excellent. Here’s a breakdown:
Towers of the Nativity Facade – The Nativity Facade is the only facade designed by Antoni Gaudí before his death. So if you go up, you can see the intricacies and details of his work. The towers have has a small bridge, which you can cross and get interesting views. You can also access the small balconies. It faces the north-east, so you can see the cityscape of Barcelona and the sea. The staircase going down is a little narrower than the Passion Facade.
Towers of the Passion Facade – It faces the south-west of Barcelona. You’ll get a view of the city, some of the mountains, the shoreline, and the Mediterranean Sea. The Passion Facade is, of course, the work of the newer architects and not Gaudí’s original work. I visited the Passion towers recently, and the experience was still breathtaking. This is your view:
I talk more about the towers later and in the FAQ. Click here to skip below and experience going down the towers in my video.
Which Sagrada Familia tickets to buy
Learning how to buy tickets to Sagrada Familia can be overwhelming. First of all, there are different ticket outlets out there. 1) You can buy tickets to La Sagrada Familia through the official website, which is run by Clorian, 2) or you can go through a third-party vendor.
Whichever way you choose, I highly recommend you buy your tickets ahead of time. They charge 3-4 euros more if you buy them at the door. PLUS, you have to wait in line – with the exception of winter. The people of the Sagrada Familia are begging you to buy your tickets ahead of time! You can buy them starting at two months in advance.
Buying through the Sagrada Familia website
You have four options:
- Sagrada Familia Basic Ticket – This is a ticket that allows you to go inside and explore on your own. You get an App with an audioguide that you download to your phone. It’s 26€ for adults, 24€ for those under age 30. Kids ages 11 and under are FREE!
- Sagrada Familia with Guided Tour. This includes the entry ticket and a 50-minute guided tour offered in 6 languages. Guided tours are limited, so book early! For example, I tried booking a guided tour in English for this week (October 10), and there is no availability until next week. You can be in a group to up to 20 people. 30€
- Sagrada Familia with Towers. It includes the entry ticket, tower access to one tower only, and audioguide. In this case, you get to choose exactly which towers you want to go up. 36€
- Sagrada Familia with Guided Tour and Towers. This includes the entry ticket and a 50-minute guided tour offered in 6 languages. Book at least a week ahead to snag the guide in English. And you have to also make sure the tower you want to go up has availability also. 40€
Buying through the website is cheaper. BUT, they do not have free cancellation. We know how important that is post-Covid.
Buying La Sagrada Familia tickets through a third-party website
Alternatively, you can buy through third-party websites. Now, there are hundreds of vendors out there. I’ve had positive experiences with Get Your Guide and Tiquets. There are benefits to buying through these sites:
- Free cancellation, up to 24 hours in advance
- better, longer, more in-depth tour guides
- Saving 5-10 euros with a discount travel card (i.e. buy a bundle of Barcelona attractions)
When choosing your tickets, here are my suggestions:
Best values to visit the Sagrada Familia
Entrance + guided tour with live guide + tower access
First of all, if you want to maximize your time, money, and sheer value of visiting the Sagrada Familia, it’s best to get a thorough explanation. It would be a shame to miss the meaningful elements that make the basilica unique. I also feel that going up the towers is a must-do. To see the church from this altitude, you can appreciate the details and the level of details that go into the tower architecture. Check out my pick:
A 2-hour guided tour with a multilingual tour guide. You get instant confirmation. PLUS!! It has a free 2-day cancellation fee, or a 24-hour cancellation fee for a small fee. So if you’ve got commitment issues, this tour is for you. (Click through the image and it’s the first one highlighted in blue) Book your Sagrada Familia Guided Tour with Tower Access
NOTE! You cannot choose which tower you want to go up. It depends on availability. If you’re dead set on going up the Nativity Tower, the most economical way to do it is to buy from the Sagrada Familia website, where you can choose your towers. Also, read what you’re buying carefully. Be sure that you book for BOTH the tower and the guided tour. Sometimes it gives you the option for the tour without the tower access.
Best value if you’re visiting other Barcelona sights
If you’re visiting other Barcelona sights, the best value for your money is to buy a discount tourist card, specifically the Barcelona Pass (formerly Barcelona City Pass). It includes the skip-the-line general entrance fee AND a guided tour with a licensed guide. You’ll have to pick your dates and times to visit the Sagrada Familia and the Park Guell. The card also includes:
- Entrance + guided tour of Sagrada Familia with fast track
- Entrance and audioguide of Park Guell with fast track
- One-day Hop-on hop-off Tourist bus
- 10% off Picasso Museum, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera (Casa Milà) and much, much more!
The Barcelona City Pass with a guided tour is 86.50€ , and it’s one of the best Barcelona attractions deals if you’re planning to stay at least 3 or 4 days and want to visit many museums and attractions.
Best value for a guided tour with no towers
The best value for a guided tour is to buy it through Tiqets. The tours are 90 minutes long – as opposed to Sagrada Familia’s 50-minute tours. That’s a whole 40 minutes more of guided exploration! You’ll visit the interior, the exterior, and also the museum section to learn more. Read the reviews here, where it says the Sagrada Familia tour was “Our tour guide was friendly, personable, fun, and most of all extremely knowledgeable!” Don’t take my word for it. Read the glowing reviews here: Buy your Sagrada Familia entrance and live guided tour for 48€
Best value for a 3-hour guided tour with no towers
If you really want deeply explore the Sagrada Familia, you have the option to take a 3-hour tour. You get a live headset so that you can hear your guide better (it can get crowded!) You’ll zip in quickly with fast track tickets, then will learn about Gaudí, the history, and architecture. Reviewers say it’s the “Best tour ever” and call guides “passionate”, “knowledegable”, and even “funny”. Be sure to select the “3-hour” option when purchasing. Click on the first section highlighted blue in this link, “Sagrada Familia: Tour”
Check out this in-depth 3-hour tour for 63€
Cheapest for Sagrada Familia basic ticket (entrance and audioguide)
Let me save you time going from website to website. The cheapest way to see the Sagrada Familia is to purchase a basic ticket with an audioguide (no towers, no live tour guides) is through the Sagrada Familia website. The tickets are 26€.
If you want to buy group tickets for more than 9 people, buy through Group Sightseeing. They’ll take your information so that it’s easy booking a time slot together. Fill out a form, and they’ll arrange your visit for you. Book here to buy group tickets for the Sagrada Familia.
What to expect when you arrive: Tips and Photos
So now that you’ve bought your tickets, here’s what you can expect when you arrive. (Jump down to know how to get to the Sagrada Familia. It’s easy.)
Once you’ve booked your tickets, go to the Carrer Marina (Marina Street) side. This is where the general entrance is once you have your tickets. (If you’re buying your tickets on-site, the ticketing office is on the other side parallel to Carrer Marina on Carrer Sardenya.) The group entrance is on the left by the gift shop. Go on the right-hand side for the general entrance.
Once you walk inside, you’ll have to go through heavy security. Employees are there to guide you as if you were in LaGuardia Airport – yay! Your belongings go through a scanning machine, and you walk through a metal detector. Once you get through security, you’ll step outside, and you’ll be on the side of the Nativity Facade.
Next, it’s time to navigate your way around the Sagrada Familia. They will NOT give you a handy pamphlet about the Sagrada Familia to carry around. But, you can download one of these informative information booklets on the Sagrada Familia website. There are 10 info-packed booklets that explain the meaning, history, Gaudí, the architecture, and facade. They’d be very handy to read on the plane before your Sagrada Familia visit.
Also, if you want, you can get info on the official Sagrada Familia App here.
If you have tower tickets, head to your tower! See the map below. “Façana Naixement” is Nativity Facade, and “Façana Passió” is Passion Facade. You’ll go through the basilica to get to the Passion Facade.
For both towers, you go up via elevator. There are only about 5-7 people who can fit inside, including an elevator attendant. As I mentioned, I went up the Passion Towers. This is the Passion Tower experience mapped out:
Note that the Sagrada Familia towers are not a place to hang out for long. It’s like 20-30 minutes – TOPS. You literally go up in an elevator, enjoy the views and take photos, then you head back down. There’s no dilly-dallying or sitting on benches or anything. The space up there is not that big. I spent about 25 minutes there and arrived at 9:30 am. There were just a few people, so I didn’t have to fight for spots for photos. Overall, the experience was exciting and exhilarating – just like my other visits to the towers in the past!
Also, note that go up the towers, you take an elevator up, but you have to climb down some 400 spiraling steps. It is not for the faint of heart nor for people with knee problems. Also, kids 6 years and younger are not allowed. Need to know what it feels like? Check out my video of the last one-third of the descent:
After your visit, you can stay inside the Sagrada Familia for as long as you like. I spent about 3.5 hours there, and I could have easily wandered around for an hour more. But I had adulting responsibilities awaiting me at home.
The audioguide is 45 minutes, so it’s best to follow it in order according to the map. It’s fun to compare the intricate and old designs of Gaudí with the new designs of the following architects.
As I mentioned, the Museum of the Sagrada Familia is fascinating. The people of the Sagrada Familia keep their construction plans like an open book! Tourists get to watch the workers create mini-models of the upcoming sections of the church.
Useful and interesting facts
- The Sagrada Familia is designed by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. However, Francisco Paula del Villar was the original architect who resigned after a year into the project. His plans were to make it a Gothic revival church.
- Construction started in 1882. It’s expected to be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death. It’s taking decades and decades to build because it is privately funded as the government is NOT funding the church. It costs 25 million euros a year to build.
- Gaudí, who was an extremely devout Catholic, started the project when he was 30s. He knew that the church would not be finished in his lifetime, so he created plaster models for future engineers to follow. Sadly, he was run over by a tram in Barcelona in 1926.
- The architect is also buried inside the church, and a small organization is trying to canonize him a saint. How does Saint Antoni Gaudí sound?
- After Gaudí died, his plans were saved. But many were destroyed in a fire in the 1930s. Subsequent architects took over and recreated some their own designs, trying to stay true to Gaudí’s vision. The designs have been controversial as they say they deviate too much. But the show went on.
- This church is NOT called “Sagrada Familia Cathedral” but a basilica. A cathedral is a bureaucratic term. (In this case, the main cathedral of Barcelona is the Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter.) A basilica is an architectural term. The full name of the Sagrada Familia is Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family).
- Many historic folks hated the Sagrada Familia, like George Orwell and Pablo Picasso.
- Antoni Gaudí believed that no man-made structure should surpass the height of what nature can produce. That’s why it will be 172 meters, one meter shorter than the Montjuic mountain in Barcelona.
- In the end, the basilica should have 18 spires and three facades: Nativity Facade (original by Gaudí), Passion Facade, and Glory Facade. As we speak, there are 8 spires and two facades: Nativity and Passion.
So there you go. More questions? Maybe I’ve hit them below:
What’s the best way to see the Sagrada Familia?
It’s a personal opinion. For me, it would be a guided visit AND a visit up the Nativity Towers. For now, I think this is the best value.
Is the Sagrada Familia staircase of the tower dangerous?
I’ve gone down the staircase a few times. The thought of winding down the towers had me in the sweat the morning before my visit. I thought, “What if I have a panic attack inside? How will they get me down if I break my leg?” But, honestly, it’s not like you can’t EVER use the elevator down in case you break your leg. If you feel like pausing, there are small spaces where you can retreat and let people behind you pass. I’ve never had a claustrophobic attack, so I don’t know what that’s like. But I can assure you that, once I was there, I was much calmer than I expected.
If you have any doubts, take the Passion Facade towers vs the Nativity Towers because it’s newer and wider. The first 2/3rds don’t have an exposed hole down the middle, so you’re just concentrating on the steps. And the steps aren’t tiny or difficult to go down. Also, consider going in the morning when there are fewer people. A lady behind me asked to pass me because I was taking photos. She barely squeezed by. Like I said, every 30 steps or so, there are small “inlets” where you can tuck yourself in and let another person pass. So it’s not like you’re completely stuck!
When will the Sagrada Familia be finished?
The Sagrada Familia is expected to be completed in 2026, which would mark the 100-year death anniversary of Antoni Gaudí.
How far ahead can I buy tickets?
About 2 months ahead of time. In the winter, it’s pretty easy to get tickets. You can probably get them the day of your visit. However, the last ones around 5 and 6pm (when the sun sets and the light comes through the colored glass) may be sold out weeks in advance.
Can I buy tower tickets, or any additional services, when I’m inside?
Yes, but they’re subject to availability. It might be possible in the winter, but they may be available at another hour. For example, let’s say you arrive at 10am, and decide to buy tower tickets. The next available time might be at 3pm. You’d have to stay there or for 4 hours, or attempt at buying another ticket! The smartest thing to do is to buy all the services (tower or guided tour, etc.) ahead of time all on one ticket.
What’s the dress code?
The Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic church. According to the official Sagrada Familia website, it’s shoes required, no see-through clothing, shoulders covered, modest neckline, no exposed backs or bellies, mid-thigh length skirt or shorts, no swimwear, and no special clothing to draw attention for artistic, religious, promotional or any other purposes.
CHEAT SHEET: How to prepare for your visit
- Decide in-depth how much of the Sagrada Familia you want to see. Do you want a tour guide? An audioguide?
- Buy your tickets ahead of time. Cheapest ticket: Via the official ticket website with no commission. Best value: guided tour with tower access. Best value if you’re seeing other sights like Park Guell, La Pedrera, and Casa Batlló: Sagrada Familia ticket included with Barcelona Pass. BE SURE TO READ THE RULES ON YOUR TICKET CAREFULLY.
- Map out where you’re supposed to meet so you don’t arrive all discombobulated. Bring your camera / and your smartphone for photos.
- Day of: Bring extra headphones if you’re doing an audioguide. Bring water if you get thirsty. Dress respectfully.
- Give yourself some leeway when arriving: Try to be there at least 15 minutes ahead of time. You do NOT want to be late and miss your time slot! You also have to go through security which can take ridiculously long.
- Enjoy your time learning about the Sagrada Familia!
Sagrada Familia location: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, www.sagradafamilia.org
Sagrada Familia hours:
- November to February: 9 am to 6 pm
- March & October: 9 am to 7 pm
- April to September: 9 am to 8 pm
How to get there: Metro L2 and L5 Sagrada Familia stops. Bus 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20, and B24.
Have you been to the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia? What did you think? Anything else you want me to share?