There are many reasons why the beautiful city of Barcelona is famous around the world, but one of the most important ones can be found in the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, popularly known as Sagrada Familia. This cathedral, consecrated as a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, is the masterpiece by the most famous architect of Catalan Modernisme, Antoni Gaudí. Modernisme itself is another one of the reasons why Barcelona is famous: this architectural style is characterised by the inspiration in natural elements, both in shapes and colours, with figures and ornamentation.
Not everybody knows the history of the Sagrada Familia, or understands why the two main façades (the Nativity Façade and the Passion Façade) are so different from each other. Part of the work done and the designs were burned during the Spanish Civil War and, since Gaudí had already died at the time, the plans had to be reconstructed by other architects.
What you probably do know, though, is that the beautiful Sagrada Familia is still unfinished. The construction started in 1882, and the current estimate for its completion is 2026 – the centenary of Antoni Gaudí’s death. However, that estimate has changed during the years, and other delays are possible. Luckily, this unfinished status its part of the charm and the legend.
The Sagrada Familia is located in the biggest neighbourhood of Barcelona: L’Eixample. It is a very unique urban plan, studied in architecture schools around the world. The plan, designed by Ildefons Cerdà and built in the 19th century, put what we nowadays know as Barcelona together. It is recognisable thanks to its octagonal blocks of houses. Every block, instead of being square-shaped, has the corners cut into one side. Cerdà’s idea was that those cuts, called xamfrans, would improve traffic and visibility.
L’Eixample is so big that it is subdivided in other neighbourhoods, and if you book one of the apartments near Sagrada Familia you will be in La Dreta de l’Eixample, which means the right side of the Eixample. It is a family neighbourhood, so when you walk around the streets you will see plenty of families with children.
The apartments near Sagrada Familia are located in a real family neighbourhood, so you won’t find too many tourists shopping around - except, of course, the ones around the wonderful monument, which you can count by the thousands! However, if you don’t like to shop in the major fashion brands, it might be a good place to do it, since you will find unique local shops where you can buy clothes, handbags or shoes. Of course, in Avinguda Gaudí you will find several shops where you can buy souvenirs for your loved ones, as you will in the streets around Sagrada Familia.
If you want to do some regular shopping, the city centre of Barcelona, where you will find the main shopping streets of the city (Carrer Pelai, Portal de l’Àngel and Passeig de Gràcia
). If you want to learn how to arrive, go to the Transportation section!
The best way to move around Barcelona is the underground system. The Sagrada Familia has its own metro stop, from which you can take two different metro lines: L2 (purple) and L5 (blue). Both of them will be useful for you. With the purple line, you will be able to go right to the centre of the city: it stops in Passeig de Gràcia, very close to Plaça Catalunya; Universitat, where you will be able to see the beautiful historical building of the University of Barcelona; and Sant Antoni, where you will be able to go to the market (Mercat de Sant Antoni), which is the heart of the old part of the city: there, you will be in the neighbourhoods of Sant Antoni and El Raval, where you can breathe the real atmosphere of the city of Barcelona.
On the other hand, if you take L5 (blue), you will be able to go to places like Sants Station or Diagonal, where you can change to the L3 (green line), that crosses through many tourist attractions of the city. You can also get out of the metro in Diagonal and walk down Passeig de Gràcia, so you can see all the monuments located there.
Of course, visiting the Sagrada Familia will be one of your main purposes if you visit Barcelona. And it’s indeed a good decision! If this basilica is impressive from the outside, it’s even more astonishing inside. You can buy the tickets online, and there are several options. You can just go visit it inside, or choose a guided visit or one that includes climbing to the towers. Keep in mind that there’s always a long queue to enter, so it’s better to go early in the morning.
The Sagrada Familia isn’t in the city centre, but there are other things to do around. If you go south, you will soon arrive to Monumental, and old and beautiful bullring of Mudejar style. Bullfighting is forbidden in Catalonia, so the Monumental is nowadays used as a concert and events venue.
If you take Avinguda Gaudí, you will arrive to Hospital de Sant Pau (Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul), which is like a small city in Modernisme style. It was designed by architect Lluís Domènech I Montaner. Each of the pavilions was destined to a medical specialty, and all of them were connected by underground tunnels to facilitate moving the patients. Nowadays, the hospital is located in an old building and the colourful hospital-city is a knowledge centre focused on Modernisme.
The apartments near the Sagrada Familia are in the neighbourhood of L’Eixample, as we mentioned, recognisable thanks to its similar blocks of houses. However, you will see a diagonal avenue right next to the beautiful church: It’s Avinguda Gaudí, a beautiful pedestrian avenue full of restaurants where you can have lunch or dinner: You will find pizza places and also menu deals, which is something very typical in Spain: For a very reasonable price, you can choose a first dish, a second dish and a dessert, and it includes a drink and bread!
If you’re travelling with children, you will find several fast food chains in the area to cover the needs of the picky eaters: KFC, Burger King and the local Pans&Company are all nearby along Avinguda Gaudí as well, and they will do the trick.
The neighbourhood where the Sagrada Familia is located is a family neighbourhood, but it’s still possible to find a place to go for a drink. There are some nice bars in Avinguda Gaudí, that beautiful pedestrian promenade where you probably went for lunch and dinner, but the best bar around is the Michael Collins Irish Pub, located across Plaça Sagrada Familia (which is the park in front of the Passion Façade of the wonderful monument by Gaudí). There you will be able to have nice typical-pub food and to choose among many different kinds of beers, or other drinks. The atmosphere is really friendly and sometimes you will also find live music. It opens every day until 3 am!