On our first morning in Barcelona, we booked tickets to tour the Sagrada Familia. Like utter novices we figured we'd be up early the morning after the welcome drinks of a wedding....(face palm)....but dragging ourselves out of bed after basically blinking was one. hundred. percent. worth it.
If you don't know what the Sagrada Familia is, it's a cathedral in Barcelona designed by a chap called Antoni Gaudi - who was, by all accounts, one wild banana. A church like no other in the world - with towers stretching hundreds of meters up into the sky, multi-coloured stained glass, chaotic facades and turtles clambering it's columns, it's a wonderfully unique architectural masterpiece.
This was the third time I'd visited the Sagrada Familia and it's looked different every time - that's because although Gaudi spent over 40 years working on the church, by the time he died it was only 25% complete, and 90 years later it still isn't finished. Not even close. (Fun fact: it's taking longer to build than the pyramids in Egypt!)
It's a tourist magnet and the most visited attraction in Spain so it's a good idea to book tickets online in advance and avoid having to wait in big queues. Getting there early in the morning is a bonus too if you want to avoid the crowds.
Approaching from the surrounding streets, the Sagrada Familia is difficult to miss. Suffice to say it's an odd looking building and it's knobbly exterior looks almost dirty, like mud. Up close you realise that the two main facades are intricately sculpted - the Nativity facade with curvy figurines and the Passion facade with contrastingly angular, straight lines. To be honest, it's not what you'd call "beautiful" but t's certainly impressive!
The inside however... well that's just plain incredible.
The first thing you notice is the sheer height of the ceilings inside the nave and the light pouring in through the windows. Giant pillars dwarf humans shuffling around them and the stained glass throws rainbows of colour around the walls. It's breathtaking.
We took about an hour listening to the guided tour, wandering around and taking it all in before having a look around the museum in the churches basement. It gives you a fantastic insight into the influences Gaudi sought when designing the basilica, including his fascination with nature. According to Gaudí, straight lines did not exist in the Nature, and this is why the temple –which reflects the Nature, life and death- is not be constructed with any straight lines. As a symbol of Nature, the columns of the Sagrada Famlia are built in a tree-shape to support the whole monument.
An upside down model is also on display which shows how Gaudi calculated the angles he'd need in each arch to support the whole structure using bags of lead on pieces of string. It's mind-blowing.
Emerging into the sunshine we all agreed that the fairly steep entry fee was worth every penny and we were delighted to contribute to the Sagrada's future construction.
If you're going anywhere near Barcelona, be sure to book a ticket and get ready to be blown away.