It's one of the most iconic sights in Barcelona, one of its most famous sites: the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Literally, that's the Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, but we know it best in English as just the Sagrada Família. It's not Barcelona's cathedral, that's a different monument in the centre, instead it's formally as "minor basilica", as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

As it happens, there's still significant building work to be done before it's finished, even over a century after construction started. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to visit, anything but. Here's everything you need to know to plan your trip.

Where is the Sagrada Família?

When building work started in 1882, the location for the temple wasn't even officially within the city of Barcelona. That doesn't mean, however, it's miles away from anywhere. Indeed, you could walk there in just over half an hour from plaça Catalunya.

As you might expect for a main tourist attraction, it's very well connected by public transport. On the metro, your best bet if you've arrived by cruise ship, it's on the L2 (purple on maps) and L5 (blue) lines. It's also on the hop-on-hop-off Barcelona tourist bus if you take the blue route. As for normal buses, there are all sorts of options depending on where you're coming from - your best bet is to see what Google Maps suggests.

Should I go inside?

Not immediately. There is a small park on either side; they're pleasant and allow you to get a feeling for the scale of the building and the architectural collage it represents.

When you do want to go inside, you might find yourself confronted with quite a queue for tickets. Even worse, when you get to buy them, you might find yourself waiting again: tickets for the Sagrada Família tend to come with a fifteen minute window during which you can enter. Your best bet by far is to buy online ahead of time from the official website. You'll still have to show up in a certain time window, but at least you'll be guaranteed to get in; plus, buying online works out cheaper. You then get a PDF ticket you can either print out or show on your smartphone or tablet. I'd recommend mid-morning or mid- or late-afternoon, when, if you're lucky, the light through the stained glass windows is at its most impressive.

What type of ticket should I buy?

There are various types of ticket, based on whether you want to go up one of the towers or not and whether you'd like a tour or audio guide. Personally, I would recommend some form of guide: the building is chock full of symbolism and imagery and having it all explained adds a lot to a visit. Obviously, however, it's up to you based on your interests and your budget. At time of publication, entry prices for adults range from 17€ for a basic ticket (£15; $19) up to 32€ if you want access to one of the towers and an audioguide.

vista des de sagrada familia sergi alcazar

Photo: Sergi Alcàzar

Whatever you decide, you should allow a good two hours for your visit, and arrive a few minutes before the time on your ticket to find the entrance, which has moved recently due to the building works. Luckily, although you might have to enter in a specific time slot, there's no limit on how long you can spend once you're inside. As for the process of going inside itself, bear in mind that the basilica is now one of those attractions where they've had to add security checks and bag scans. There are no lockers for bags, except while you're going up the towers, for safety reasons. Also, it is officially a church, so "visitors must dress appropriately".

What are the opening hours?

At the time of writing, the opening hours are:

  • November through February: 9am to 6pm
  • March: 9am to 7pm
  • April through September: 9am to 8pm
  • October: 9am to 7pm
  • 25th and 26th December, 1st and 6th January: 9am to 2pm

These are subject to change on occasion due to special events. Note that last entry is half an hour before closing time.

Is it accessible?

The metro station Sagrada Familia is accessible for those with reduced mobility. Upon arrival, disabled visitors should go to the Groups Services Centre on carrer de la Marina or the Visitors Services Centre on carrer de Sardenya. The website says that "official proof of the disability must be provided". The basilica can also provide wheelchairs: "to request one, contact Visitors Services on [+34] 935 132 060 or at".

What about visiting for mass?

Mass is held in multiple languages at the Sagrada Família every Sunday and on holy days of obligation. They normally start at 9am, with congregants allowed to enter from carrer de la Marina from 8:30am until capacity is reached. Whilst entry for mass is free, you can't then explore the rest of the basilica without buying a normal ticket.

Sagrada familia missa per la pau - Sergi Alcàzar

Photo: Sergi Alcàzar