Barcelona 3.2: Gettin’ Sagrada

Not Photoshopped and not a souvenir photo. Behold, the selfie stick.

During our third visit to Barcelona, we finally saw one of the most iconic symbols of the city: La Sagrada Familia.

Although we also discovered the works of another master architect during our April trip, we just couldn’t let a visit go by without seeing something created by our favorite Catalan modernist, Antoni Gaudí. And boy, was it something – many people (probably most) consider La Sagrada Familia his unfinished masterpiece.

Yes, it is still a work in progress.

Construction of La Sagrada Familia, or The Church of the Holy Family, began in 1882, and Gaudí took over the project a year later. Even though he was completely devoted to the project in the last years of his life, it still was less than a quarter completed when he died in 1926. It’s expected to be finished in 2026: 100 years after Gaudí’s death.

It is every bit as dominating and impressive as you would gather. As you get closer, details begin to emerge, revealing more and more intricacies until you can get no closer to the stone work. To say it’s ornate doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.


The Nativity Façade, which retells the Christmas story, was also the first to be built, so its stone is considerably darker from weathering compared to the newer Passion Façade.

We were fortunate enough to buy 7 p.m. admission tickets, just before the last tour at 7:30. Towards the end of our visit, it seemed as though we practically had the place to ourselves. Packed with thousands of visitors when we arrived, the structure really breathed toward the end of our visit, when we could finally walk around freely. The observation deck in front of the Nativity Façade was empty! Needless to say, we got some very impressive selfies.

…and one without us in the picture.

The Passion Façade, which narrates the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, is Gaudí incarnate. The figures look like works of his we have seen before, albeit this time not in chimney form.

Chiseled body of Christ.

The enormous interior – meant to remind us of nature and inspire us to look inward – is equally breathtaking.

Mirror for admiring the ceilings.
Pillars bearing the names of the four gospels, in Catalán of course.

So much of the interior is inspired by nature.

Doer really liked the spiral staircases built into the four corners of the cathedral.

And then, right in the center, we find Jesus under an umbrella!

Lord, make it rain!

In the crypt of the church is a museum devoted to Gaudí and the construction of his master work.

1915 model of a bell for the towers of the Nativity Façade.
How catenary arches are made.
Machines for making plaster models. Gaudí always preferred working off of models rather than plans. Workers are still restoring some models lost during the Spanish Civil War.
Real model used for sculpting the Christ figures.

The structure’s unique helical columns were highlighted.

To the side of the church on the main floor are some Gaudi-designed artifacts, too.

Movable pulpit used in the crypt.
1897 sacristy designed by Gaudí.

And, finally, Gaudí’s old workshop has been moved here and reconstructed in a building that was formerly used as a school for the workers’ children. According to information on site, it was meant to be a temporary structure, but “its constructive simplicity, geometry, functionality and formal beauty have made what was meant to be an ephemeral structure a hallmark of modern architecture.”

Reconstruction of Gaudí’s desk with plans and even his dinner (hanging in the sack there).

As we were leaving, we exited around the back side and saw another entrance with a security guard. As we looked confused, he made a slight gesture to usher us in. We are glad we complied, as this turned out to be the most emotional part of our visit. This entrance led to the sanctuary in the center of the crypt, where a mass was taking place. We had seen this from above, but didn’t know how to get there.

As we rounded the room with the other tourists – being cautious not to disturb the worshippers too much – we suddenly remembered: Gaudí is buried here. It brought tears to both of our eyes, truly.

On our way out, still full of emotion, we snapped one more photo of this courtyard lit up at night.

In the subway stop. Pretty clever.
We stayed close by and this was our view at breakfast one morning. Note the looming cathedral in the distance.

We finally got around to taking a walking tour this trip as well. Our guide introduced us to several historic sights we hadn’t discovered yet.

Roman cemetery.
Roman walls.

This statue ought to be called, “Boobies and Ice Cream.” Lady really knows how to enjoy herself.

We finally made it to the waterfront this trip, too.

Looks like: carwash. Is: bridge.
Doer found a taste of home.
Dreamer by the iconic statue of Christopher Columbus.

As usual, we encountered plenty of unique shopping and dining experiences in Barcelona. We started on Saturday morning at the Mercat de Santa Caterina, which is famous for its colorful, undulating roof. Luckily for us, the rain quickly dissipated.

Kinda goes with Dreamer’s brolly!

Like most Spanish markets, there were lots of delicacies on display.

This vendor was very proud of their fresh rabbits, a meat which is commonplace here even if the presentation is not.
Fresh fish!
Doer’s first loquat! We have had countless many since this trip, as they are a staple of Valencian springtime farmers’ markets. Try one if you get the chance – they taste kind of like starfruit.

We went back to a second location of a favorite Barcelona restaurant, La Paradeta, to order as much fish as we could eat… or not eat, in this case. Surprisingly (!), we over-ordered and felt bad not finishing.

Who ordered all this food?
Dreamer waving the white flag.
No, you can’t see what’s inside 🙂 Come visit!

We also bought a really nice piece of art that nearly didn’t make it back on the train. It is a quintessentially Spanish piece that spoke to both of us and will be right at home in our future kitchen or living room – that, we will say! Luckily, Doer found a place for it in the train car after the train people said they didn’t care too much (we also offered to put it in our seats if all else failed). Try doing that on an airplane!

There were the usual litany of fun stores as well.

Why are these mannequins so excited?
We’re going to let you look this one up in a Hindu dictionary. But who knew it was a Spanish clothing chain? And what woman would brag about buying her clothes there?

There’s just so much of this city we still haven’t seen. We crossed a few things off our to do list this trip, but added just as many more.

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