Last Updated on June 7, 2023
La Sagrada Familia is without a doubt one of the must-see places in Spain. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a 135-year-old basilica designed by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. Although I wholeheartedly dislike the city of Barcelona, I would go there simply to visit La Sagrada Familia. I should warn you that this basilica is a tourist-packed behemoth. It’s a good idea to prepare for your visit. To help with that, I figured it would be easier to tell you what NOT to do. Here are 5 mistakes you don’t want to make when visiting La Sagrada Familia.
This post may contain affiliate links as explained in my disclosure policy
Know Before You Go
La Sagrada Familia is a historic Catholic church located in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, it is arguably the most important building in the entire city of Barcelona. The church is one of the most iconic buildings not only in Spain, but also the world. As such, there is a process in place for visiting. Don’t worry though. It’s a straightforward process, and I’ll explain everything in this post.
How to get to La Sagrada Familia
First, let’s get some logistics out of the way. Located in the center of Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia is easily accessible by metro or bus. These are the metro and bus routes you can use to get there.
- By Metro: L5 and L2 – Get off at Sagrada Familia station
- By Bus: 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 and B24.
Hours of operation
Luckily, La Sagrada Familia is open every single day of the week. According to the La Sagrada Familia website, the basilica is open according to this schedule:
November to February – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
March – 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
April to September – 9:00 am to 8:00 pm
October – 9:00 am to 7:00 pm
December 25, 26, January 1 and 6 – 9:00 am to 2:00 pm
Avoid These 5 Mistakes When Visiting La Sagrada Familia
1. Not buying your ticket online in advance
When I first visited La Sagrada Familia, I made the amateur mistake of not buying my ticket online. I just showed up at the entrance and asked where the ticket office was. To my dismay, the worker informed me that they didn’t sell tickets at the venue; all tickets must be purchased online. I ended up going back to my hostel, buying a ticket, and returning the next day. Gone are the days when you could just arrive at the venue and buy a ticket.
Don’t make the same mistake I did! You could buy your ticket online at the La Sagrada Familia website, but you’d still have to wait in line at the entrance. The lines can wrap around the corner! A better option is to purchase a fast-track La Sagrada Familia entrance ticket with audio guide. You get to skip the line and go straight into the basilica with an audio guide walking you through the different parts.
My favorite option to experience La Sagrada Familia, though, is a guided tour with a human. When you have a local guide explaining what you’re looking at, you’ll have a much more meaningful experience and walk away with a greater appreciation for the historic site. I’ve been doing Get Your Guide tours across Europe since 2015. I absolutely love the convenience of skipping lines and the top-notch, knowledgeable, and friendly guides! That’s why I’d highly recommend this this La Sagrada Familia Skip-the-Line tour with a live guide showing you all around the inside of the massive basilica for 90 minutes.
La Sagrada Familia is the most visited place in Barcelona and the second most visited attraction in Spain (after La Alhambra in Granada.) As you can imagine, tickets sell out fast, especially during the peak season – June through August. I’d recommend you book your La Sagrada Familia tour at least a week in advance just to be safe, regardless of when you go.
2. Not using a guide
When I visited La Sagrada Familia for the first time, I walked around, admiring the architecture and taking pictures. The only issue is that I had no idea what I was looking at or the story behind it. Because of that, I left with only a surface-level understanding of this magnificent work of art. That’s why it’s important to use a guide – whether it be audio or a real person.
The best way to see La Sagrada Familia is to do a guided tour. You can do a guided tour with a live guide or a guided tour with an audio guide. With these tours, you also get to skip the ridiculously long lines with a fast-track entrance ticket. Both of the tours mentioned are run by Get Your Guide, a company that organizes high-quality tours of landmarks around the world. I’ve been doing Get Your Guide tours across Europe for years and love how organized and informative they are. Check below to see the availability of my recommended La Sagrada Familia tour with a local expert.
Which of the tours should you choose? With an audio guide, you can go at your own pace and really appreciate what you’re seeing. If you want an actual person to do the narration, then go with the live guide option. If I were to choose between the two, I would go with the live guide option. A human guide is more personalized and, usually, more engaging than a pre-recorded track. You also get to ask the guide questions.
3. Touring only the inside of the church
During my visit, I only toured the interior of the basilica, but there is more to the structure! On the outside, there are 18 towers built in the Gothic style. Each tower represents a figure or gospel from the bible. For instance, 12 of the towers represent the 12 Apostles of Jesus. With this complete La Sagrada Familia tour with tower access, you get a live guide as well as a tour of the towers. From there, you can view the basilica from a different vantage point and also get a panoramic view of Barcelona.
Through this tour, you can see hidden details of the building from a 213-foot tower. Be aware that this tour may not be available due to weather conditions like rain or strong winds. The tour lasts an hour and a half. If you only plan to visit La Sagrada Familia once, I think this is the best option. It’s the complete package.
4. Not wearing comfortable shoes
I decided to wear flimsy sandals to tour La Sagrada Familia. It’s not quite as bad as when I wore flip flops to the Great Wall of China but still a bad idea. I spent at least an hour walking around, observing every detail. The foundation of the basilica is hard concrete so, of course, my feet started to hurt. Wear comfortable tennis shoes or flats and ditch the sandals or flip flops. You will thank me later.
5. Using a low-grade camera
A low-quality camera just won’t capture the brilliance of La Sagrada, neither in the interior nor in the exterior. I learned this by using my old iPhone 5 camera, whose resolution was pretty low. When I go back to La Sagrada Familia, I’m taking my Nikon D3400 camera, the perfect DSLR for beginner photographers. I’ll probably go wild with pictures because every corner of this basilica is like a portrait. If you want to capture high quality, stock photo-worthy images, I would highly recommend you take a DSLR on your visit. Or at least a phone with a high-quality camera.
I took this shot on my iPhone. It looks decent after editing but would have been epic if I used a DSLR.
Tips to prepare for your visit to La Sagrada Familia
There is a dress code for visiting La Sagrada Familia. It is a Catholic church and a place for worship, after all. Follow these guidelines to make sure you adhere to the dress code.
- Don’t wear see-through clothing.
- Trousers and skirts must come down to at least mid-thigh.
- Don’t show up in your swimwear, even if it’s a one-piece paired with a skirt or shorts (this may seem obvious but you’d be surprised that people actually wear their bikinis to a church!)
- Don’t wear special clothing to celebrate any sort of festivities.
- Don’t bring any decorations that may distract or draw attention for artistic, religious, promotional or any other purposes.
Best time to visit
La Sagrada Familia is a busy place all the time, but you can time your visit to avoid the biggest crowds. Ideally, you want to visit from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on a Monday during the months of November to February. That is the earliest time you can visit during the low season, when there aren’t as many tourists. The busiest time to visit is during the months of April to September during the even hours of 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
I can’t emphasize the importance of buying tickets in advance before you arrive at La Sagrada Familia. I made the mistake of showing up at the church without a ticket and was turned away. Be sure to buy your ticket online through the La Sagrada Familia website or through a trusted tour operator like Get Your Guide. I highly recommend Get Your Guide’s guided tour with a live guide to walk you through the church and explain the history and significance of what you’re looking at. Having a live guide makes a world of difference.
Ready for your visit to La Sagrada Familia?
Before you arrive at La Sagrada Familia, let’s make sure you have skip-the-line-access to this famous basilica. You’ll find the most informative and engaging tours of La Sagrada Familia through my go-to tour operator, Get Your Guide. I’ve been going on Get Your Guide tours around the world since 2018. They are seriously the most educational and fun tours out there, with the friendliest tour guides and the easiest signup process. Choose from one or more of these highly-rated tours below. It will make your visit to La Sagrada Familia and Barcelona so much more amazing.
There you have it. Don’t make these 5 mistakes when visiting La Sagrada Familia, and I’m sure you’ll have a marvelous time!
Travel Essentials I Can’t Live Without
The CabinZero 36L Backpack – this trusty backpack has been my go-to luggage for both domestic and international trips since 2018. I’ve used dozens of backpacks over the years and keep coming back to this one. I almost never check in luggage so I need a carry-on bag that is spacious, sturdy, and comfortable, with a laptop compartment. The Cabin Zero 36 L fits the bill. The size makes it small enough for a weekend getaway and big enough for a month of backpacking in Europe. The bag also comes with a tracker in case it gets lost. How convenient! Check out my complete review of the backpack.
Travelwifi Portable Hotspot Device
Travel WiFI Pocket WIFI Device – With portable WiFi, you can say goodbye to ridiculous roaming charges and SIM cards for good. I’ve been using the Travel WiFi Portable Hotspot device for years and love the peace of mind it gives me. The device provides 3G-4G WiFi for at least 6 hours and works in 100+ countries. In my experience, it lasts 9 hours. It also works in a variety of landscapes and terrains. I even filmed a Facebook Live from a boat in the Atlantic Ocean using my device. I can also use Google Maps, request an Uber, call my mom, and do tons of other things I couldn’t do before. Quick tip: turn off the device when you’re not using it so that the battery can last longer.
Booking.com – Booking.com is my go-to website for booking discounted accommodations around the world. What I love most about Booking.com is the variety of properties you can find, from luxury apartments to treehouses to university housing. It’s hard to beat the insanely low prices. The website also has a flexible cancellation policy, which is great if things come up or you change your mind.
For more travel product recommendations, check out my travel essentials page.