Sagrada Familia: Tips for Visiting Gaudi’s Masterpiece

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 your 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.

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-afternoon when sunlight strikes the windows directly.

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

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.

If you’ve already purchased your flight to Barcelona, you might as well buy your ticket online now!

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

My plans have changed, can I cancel my tickets to the Sagrada Familia?

Unfortunately it’s not possible modify or cancel tickets once they have been booked. If you are unsure when you will be visiting you will either have to risk leaving it until the last minute or purchase the tickets and risk not using them.

Alternatively, Viator offer guided tours which can be cancelled up to 3 days before your scheduled visit. If you cancel at least 7 days in advance there is no cancellation fee.

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 Top Views 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.

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

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 reasons). T-shirts are allowed as long as they cover the shoulders. Trousers and skirts should cover to below the knees. 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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