If you are going to pre-book anything in Barcelona, make it the Sagrada Familia. I booked it months before I went and the number of walk ups I saw on the day being turned away reminded me how smart that had been. It is the most astonishing building and not to be missed, so plan ahead.
My visit was booked for early afternoon so my morning was quite relaxed and lazy. I actually allowed myself a sleep in and late start. Before walking up to the Basilica I first visited the Barcelona Cathedral, passing a school festival and an operatic street performer on the way there.
Our guide had explained to us the night before on the food tour that each city can only have one Cathedral, hence why the Sagrada Familia is a Basilica, not a Cathedral. The Cathedral is the home of the Bishop and they also usually have the remains of a Saint interred.
Barcelona Cathedral has a more modern facade but much of the building dates from the 12th century. It is quite beautiful inside.
Again I chose to walk to the Sagrada Familia, despite it being about an hour away. I really do love getting out of the tourist heart and seeing other parts of cities. I was able to take my time and have lunch (more Iberico ham) on the way as my entry time was 3pm.
I knew the Basilica was getting close when the regular shops and offices I was walking past were replaced by souvenir shops. My first glimpse was intoxicating.
The Sagrada Familia is a Basilica that began construction in 1882, but was taken over in 1883 by Antoni Gaudi. He worked on it until his death in 1926 and construction continues today. It is hoped it will be finished in 2026, 100 years after his death. It is still being constructed to his designs as best can be done, a lot of his work was destroyed in the Spanish Civil war. It is certainly still being constructed in his honor. His remains are in the crypt.
The Basilica consists of four distinct facades and many towers.
I had about an hour to spare so I spent some time walking around the perimeter and taking photos. There were people everywhere, but who could blame them. Without even stepping inside you could tell just how incredible this building was.
Finally in, the entrance is through the incredible Nativity facade, and a quick glimpse at the breathtaking interior before taking the lift to the Nativity tower, which was included as part of my ticket. The views from the tower were spectacular, both of Barcelona and of the other towers of the Basilica.
Back in the interior of the Basilica I needed to take time to breathe and collect my thoughts. Nothing prepares you for what you are seeing. I was in the most incredible building ever in my life and it was quite overwhelming. Again, I am not at all religious, this building transcends that. It is a celebration of nature, of light, of architectural genius. His masterful use of windows and color to capture the afternoon sun was breathtaking. I spent two full hours wandering around, taking photos and just taking time to appreciate the opportunity to be in this amazing place. I returned to the same spot several times to take more photos as the light changed and marveled at his genius. Gratuitous photo dump to follow.
The exit is via the passion facade which is much less audacious than the nativity facade but equally beautiful. I finally dragged myself away from the entire building almost 3 1/2 hours after entering. I doubt I will ever again be so captivated by a building.
I walked back to my apartment on a high and found a nearby restaurant for dinner of fried fish and rather spicy bravas, and to watch the Champions League final. Real Madrid winning made the locals kind of happy. A day I will never forget.