I woke up to a gorgeous blue November sky on my last day of leg numero uno in BCN. Let’s note here that I did not wake up early, no, in fact, I actually slept in until 10 AM and then took my time getting ready because I had no schedule, no deadlines – my only plan for the day was to visit Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família.
To get to La Sagrada Família, you can take metro L5 (it’s the blue line on the map) to the “Sagrada Família” stop. When you get off the metro, the basilica is right in front of you. I arrived around 1 PM on a Tuesday in the “off” season (early November) and the line for tickets was about a 15-20 minute wait. Like most of the Gaudí sights, you can book tickets in advance and print them off on these ATM/ticket vending machines that are located on almost every block in the city. One of the things that sucks about traveling alone is when you have to wait in line by yourself for tickets. Even more suck points in a foreign country because I didn’t have the ability to use my cell phone. This is my fault, because even though it was an unlocked iPhone, lazy me didn’t
feel like figuring out buy a SIM card. In retrospect, I probably would get a SIM card the next time I travel abroad, especially alone.
Waiting in line alone without electronic distractions can also be interesting because you get the chance to observe people. Such as the Asian tourists with the chubby little boy who were speaking a mix of some Asian language and English. And all they were talking about was food and being full. I don’t know, I was interested.
Anyways, I bought my ticket with my student ID discount! There are a few options like basilica entry only, basilica entry with audio guide and tickets for assigned times to take the lift up the towers. Just fyi, tower trips are weather permitting and run on the hour-ish. I opted for all the things which cost me 17 euros (it’s 20 euros with an adult admission) – basilica entry, audio guide and the trip to the towers.
Once you enter the basilica, you’re free to roam around, go to the audio tour stations or sit down and contemplate things. You can also make your way to the basement museum and see some of Gaudí’s original plans for La Sagrada Família, pictures of it when construction began and other works by Gaudí. I found the pictures of the basilica in the 1900s really interesting because at that time there were not any buildings around the site. It was just a bunch of land. Over the years, BCN was built up around this giant church.
Another thing that’s really interesting about La Sagrada Família is that it’s still under big time construction and not expected to be complete until 2028. When Gaudí passed away in 1926 (he was hit by a tram, did you know that!?), construction was only 15-20 percent complete. In 2000, the central nave was completed and an organ was added in 2010 (so says Wikipedia). These additions meant the basilica could finally have religious services. When you enter, you’ll see scaffolding and crane lifts, empty windows where stained glass will eventually be laid and uncompleted areas. Construction workers walk around in neon vests (some passed by me and were very smelly, might I add).
I took my time in the basilica; I listening to the audio guide, walked around and looked at the altar and organ, and reveled over the modernist sculptures on the facade of the basilica…something was so magical and awe-inspiring about just being in this awesome work in my own time and having a personal experience. I’m not a huge believer in organized religion as in, I don’t like being told what to believe and how I should act, more importantly, I don’t like told what I’m doing wrong. But I am religious and while I’m Christian, also believe many other world religions have great teachings we should also embrace. I have my own relationship with a higher power and I’m leaving it at that. But I am inspired by the intense devotion to God that is represented in Gaudí’s creation of La Sagrada Família.
As I noted earlier, I purchased a ticket to the basilica towers.
The towers were quite possibly the best part of the visit. You enter at your assigned time at the appropriate tower lift (it will be noted on your ticket) and are hurried up in these small little “I’m claustrophobic” capsules that are supposedly elevators. You are let off on a small open-air walkway that overlooks BCN, and then continue on into the towers where little windows look out over the city. You have the opportunity to get a closer glimpse of the artistic tower details as well as a stunning view of BCN.
Note that there isn’t a lift “down”, so you’ll be taking small, winding and dizzying stairs. Maybe not the best idea if you aren’t able to walk well or get claustrophobic.
Overall, I spent around 2 hours at La Sagrada Família, and would recommend visitors devote the same amount of time in the basilica, admiring the facade and visiting the basement museum. I might have spent more time, but I got hungry. Food always wins in my book.
So this is how I like to travel. Let me interpret and digest things at my own speed – let me have an experience. I don’t like to be hurried from site to site, with a guide who shares his own narrative of a particular location. Let me take it all in, in the moment. Especially at churches. I know there is a lot of history to many significant places of worship, but shouldn’t we take the time to admire them for what they really are – places of reflection, contemplation and worship. That’s just me. I also understand the importance of schedules and guided tours, especially when one might not want to miss out. Tour groups can also get you into a location normally “off limits” to the public or do the organizing when people don’t have time to plan and read about what they want to see on a trip. This is fine. But I get much more out of traveling on my own terms.