La Sagrada Familia: Spain’s Most Visited Towering Edifice
The wind was perfectly cold to my liking when I looked out over my hotel room veranda at Hotel Del Mar (hotel info). I woke up earlier than usual. It was the day when I was finally getting the chance to visit one of the most iconic buildings in Spain—the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia.
I went down to the lobby of the hotel after a few minutes to meet with Maria Martinez, our English-speaking tour guide. She too, was punctual. She each gave us a Barcelona Press Card, which gives us free access to tourist transport and 18 local landmarks. It was unfortunate that we were only scheduled to spend two days in Barcelona. But it’s a good thing that the Barcelona Press Card has no expiration, which means that I can still use it the next time I visit Barcelona. I certainly have a lot of destinations I want to check out.
Local life in the Santa Caterina Food Market
We headed out of the hotel afterwards. The nearest bus stop was located just across our hotel, but since it was a bit early, we decided to have a short, early-morning walking tour. We passed by narrow streets and appreciated the peaceful cityscape like locals. We stopped by the Santa Caterina Food Market, which was already beginning to host a crowd.
The Food Market is a huge covered complex with brightly-painted roof and well-maintained surroundings. It is the must-go-to destination for vegetables, fruits, raw meat and seafood, cheese, bread, as well as cooked food. It had a really pleasant atmosphere and the local way of life was very observable amongst the people.
Architectural brilliance in the Casa Batlló
After visiting the market, we returned to the bus stop across our hotel. We hopped on the tourist bus after a while. Before our grand destination for the day, we dropped off at Casa Batlló. Casa Batlló is a building that is a masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí, the same architecture genius behind the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia. Our short stopover served like an appetizer to our main course for the day. We were guided by an audio tour.
The Casa Batlló is originally just a very large house owned by the Batlló family. It is said that during then, the house was very unattractive, but it was bought by the Batllós because of its location. In the early 1900s, the head of the Batlló family, a renowned textile producer, hired Gaudí to renovate the home—and lo and behold, the house was transformed into the unique, eye-catching building that it is today: colorful ceramic roof, a very interesting façade, stained glass designs, and interior furnishings that only Gaudí would have thought of. The entire house is now a tourist attraction, and houses a museum that is open to the public.
We left Casa Batlló and proceeded to the major destination of the day, the main course on our traveler table—the grandiose Basilica of La Sagrada Familia.
La Sagrada Familia
The La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) is one of Spain’s most visited and most monumental attraction. It looks over the city with its towering spires, and even from afar one would shrink from its size. It is an ongoing project but it is the most famous of its kind both inside and outside of Spain.
The construction of the La Sagrada Familia initially began in 1882. During then, the church was just a mere apse crypt. Two years later, Gaudí took charge of the construction, and the crypt rose into a church.
The church slowly took form under Gaudí’s direction, and in turn, it became one of the most iconic, unfinished buildings in the world. Gaudí combined Gothic, Modernism, and Art Nouveau forms of architecture.
It was unfortunate that Gaudí passed away before his greatest masterpiece could be fully realized. His death in 1926 left the La Sagrada Familia less than halfway completed. Although his initial plans for the church implied that the span of the construction will last longer than his life, it was still a great loss to the project.
In 1940, the architects Francesc Quintana, Isidre Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Gari, and Francesc Cardoner resumed direction of the church’s construction, and although it proved difficult to continue Gaudí’s rare architectural brilliance, his legacy continues to live on.
The La Sagrada Familia is currently still under construction. It is not funded by any organization or even by the local government; its operations are funded solely by private donations, as well as by the entrance fee paid by the millions of tourists who visit the site. The entrance fee costs €12.50 and discounts are available for students, minors, and retirees.
The church has an intended capacity of 9,000 to 10,000 people, but the number might increase anytime soon. It is also planned to have 18 towers, one dedicated to Jesus Christ, another to the Virgin Mary, four to the evangelists, and 12 for the apostles. The church is also planned to have three facades, one of which, the Nativity façade, was completed under Gaudí’s supervision. The two others that are yet to be finished are the Passion façade and the Glory façade, facing west and south respectively.
The construction of the church is planned to be completed on 2026, 100 years after Gaudí’s death. This is to honor Spain’s greatest architecture.
The La Sagrada Familia is open from 9 AM to 8 PM. Its gates close two hours earlier during winter and autumn. The Chapel of the Holy Sacrament and Penitence, the visitable area of the church, is open to the public as a place of worship. Near the exit is a souvenir shop where tourists can purchase crafts and other items.
The La Sagrada Familia is an unfinished project but it is certainly undaunted. Seeing it under construction was an honor for a traveler like me, and it amazing how one church can have so many stories to tell. I am looking forward to seeing its completion a few years from now… and hopefully I still have my Barcelona Press Card with me!
To know more about Barcelona, check out VisitBarcelona.com. Follow them as well in their official Facebook page (facebook.com/VisitBarcelona), Twitter (@VisitBCN_EN), and Instagram (@visitBarcelona) for more updates.
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This Spain Street Photography and Food Tour was made possible by Spain Tourism Board, Turkish Airlines, Madrid Tourism, Visit Barcelona, La Rioja Tourism, Donostia San Sebastian Tourism and Convention Bureau and Turismo Bilbao.