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Sagrada Familia Church in Barcelona

You wouldn’t expect one of the biggest tourist attractions in a city to be unfinished, especially when it’s been under construction since – get this – 1882. You’ll have to visit the Sagrada Familia church for yourself to see whether all that building time is worth it. As one of the top things to do in Barcelona, the cathedral is a must-see when in Barcelona.

The gigantic Sagrada Familia church, designed by famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, is one of the iconic images of Barcelona, despite remaining under a near-constant state of construction for nearly 130 years. Gaudí, one of Spain’s greatest artists, worked on the church almost exclusively for the last 15 years of his life, but the completion date for the Sagrada Familia is still the year 2026. But even though it’s not done, it’s still definitely worth a visit – at least to see the singular exterior.

Resembling something like a sand-castle or earth building, the Sagrada Familia’s exterior soars into the sky with eight enormous towers (with a further 10 planned for the future), and the church will eventually have three complete facades. At the moment, two are complete – the Nativity facade and the Passion facade. The Nativity facade is said to display the truest Gaudí influence, although both of the existing facades were completed after the designer’s death. It’s the Nativity facade which is most often photographed, and by which the church is best known.

Unfortunately, while the church’s exterior is striking, the interior is little more than a hollow shell at the moment. Well, it’s hollow except for the scaffolding which regularly fills significant portions of the church. It can make for a less-than-wonderful visit to dodge scaffolding and end up with lots of building materials in all your photos. And even if you ordinarily might not mind all of that, the ticket price of €10 might make you think twice.

If you opt to visit the interior and you’ve already committed to paying the €10, you might as well fork over the additional €4 for an audioguide so you can at least make sense of what you’re (not) seeing. The audioguide also covers the exterior, however, so unless you’ve got a really good guide for the church’s symbolism already (or you don’t care), that’s money well-spent.

With your €10 admission you will get to visit the museum in the Sagrada Familia church, which includes the story of the building of the church, photos from early in the construction, and a model of what the completed church is supposed to look like. If you’d like to visit the roof, however, that’s an additional fee of €2.50 for the elevator ride to the top. There are tight spiral staircases in the towers which people used to be able to climb to get to the top, but they’ve closed them “for safety reasons.”

As mentioned the projected date for completing the Sagrada Familia construction is 2026 – the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death – but there are plenty of people who are understandably skeptical about actually meeting this self-imposed deadline. After all, the thing’s been under construction since 1882, and people still flock to it in huge numbers, so what’s the incentive to be done? Plus, because the construction isn’t funded by the government or any church organization – all the money comes from donations and from those €10 admission fees tourists are being charged – things are moving a little slower than they otherwise might.

All things considered, a trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without at least checking out the exterior of Gaudí’s masterpiece (and if you can plan two visits, with at least one at night so you can see it all lit up, that’s even better). But whether you decide to pay the admission fee, pay for an audioguide, and pay to see the view from the roof is entirely up to you. You can easily get a discount off the entrance fee when visiting it as part of a biking tour around Barcelona, or if you have a Barcelona tourist discount card.

Address: C. Mallorca 401, 08013 Barcelona
How to Get There: There’s a subway station right underneath the church, so it’s really easy to get there using public transportation.
Admission Fee: €10 to get in, €4 for an audioguide, €2.50 to take elevator to the top
Hours: October-March – 09:00-18:00; April-September – 09:00-20:00; December 25-26, January 1, January 6 – 09:00-14:00
Last ticket sales are made 15 minutes before closing time
More Information: The church’s official website is here, and parts of it are ironically also “currently under construction.”