Things to Do in Sagrada Familia and Park Güell (Barcelona)
The two masterpieces of the Catalan modernist architect Antonio Gaudí are some of the most visited places in the city of Barcelona. Both have been recognised as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Do you want to discover what to see in the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell?
Plan your stay in Sagrada Familia and Park Güell
Visits to some of the world’s most iconic monuments should be well planned, as they are open every day of the year. The Sagrada Familia is open from November to February from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The months of March and October from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. From April to September from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are some days of restricted access: December 25 and 26 and January 1 and 6 (from 9 am to 2 pm). It is essential to buy tickets in advance online. One option is on the official website (it is a donation for the pending building and its maintenance)
Park Güell also changes its opening hours. From January to March and from 25th October to 31st December you can enter between 8.15 am and 5.30 pm (you must leave at 6.15 pm). From 1 April to 3 May, and from 7 September to 24 October, you can enter from 8 am to 7.30 pm. From 4 May to 6 September, you can enter from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is no problem to buy tickets on the spot.
Located in the Eixample district, we recommend that you stay and eat in this area. Also, to access the best plans in the whole province click here.
The beginning of the construction of the Sagrada Familia was an initiative of the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of St. Joseph. It initially commissioned the project to the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. But it would be Antonio Gaudí who, from 1883, separating himself from the initial neo-Gothic project, took charge of the work over the years. The interruptions of the works due to lack of money gave him time to look for new structural solutions.
He took advantage of his experience in other projects to incorporate innovations to the Sagrada Familia, such as those in the crypt of the Colonia Güell. Also the architectural solutions based on hyperboloids, paraboloids and helicoidal columns of viaducts in the Park Güell. Similarly, the towers of the Sagrada Familia were inspired by a project not carried out for a Catholic Franciscan Mission in Tangiers (1892).
Gaudí died in 1926 and ten years later, at the beginning of the Civil War, a large part of the original plans and models were destroyed by looters. The work was to be resumed from 1943 and continues to this day.
The church has been built from donations since its origins. Gaudí himself said: “The Expiatory Temple of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is reflected in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and in the will of the people”.
As for Park Güell (1900-1914), it was designed by Antonio Gaudí with the support of the businessman Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi (1846-1918) as a residential district. It was located in an irregular terrain of 15 hectares of extension. It was conceived as an English garden city, far from the city.
As Güell lived as a young man in the Jardin de la Fontaine in the city of Nîmes, he also contributed his aesthetic, political and religious ideals to the project. Concepts from political Catalanism and the Catholic religion are discernible in the whole. An example of the former is the access staircase where the Catalan Countries are represented and of the latter the Calvary Monument, conceived at first as a chapel.
Despite its artistic interest, the project was a commercial failure. Of the sixty plots that were put up for sale to build residences, only three were built, two of them by Gaudí and Güell themselves. This failure began to be seen around 1906 but work continued on the common areas of the development until 1914.
Between 1900 and 1903 the fence surrounding the park, the entrance pavilions, the carriage shelter, the access staircase, the paths and viaducts and the sewage system were built. Between 1904 and 1906 the sample house, now the Gaudí House-Museum, was built. In 1905 the Trias House was built.
The Hypostyle Room was built between 1908 and 1909. Finally, between 1907 and 1913 the Greek theatre with the wavy bench was built. After the death of Count Güell, his heirs would sell it to the Barcelona City Council to turn it into a public park.
Everything there is to see in the Sagrada Familia is fascinating. The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, in the Eixample district, kept the architect busy from 1883 until his death in 1926. The work continues on the basis of the plans and sketches preserved by the architect. However, they were reinterpreted by different hands, amidst a controversy over the suitability of continuing the work with the confusing sketches and models that have remained.
In 2005, the part built by Gaudí (crypt and Nacimiento façade) was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. In addition, since 2007 it is one of the twelve Treasures of Spain. An essential part to see in the Sagrada Familia.
It has the typical Latin cross floor plan and on each of its arms there are two facades. To the east is the Fachada del Nacimiento (Nativity Façade), the only one completed during the architect’s lifetime. It is decorated with sculptures by Carles Maní and Llorenç and Joan Matamala on drawings by Ricard Opisso.
To the west, the Fachada de la Pasión, somewhat more austere and simplified than the Sagrada Familia. It was started in 1954 -according to Gaudí’s drawings- and has been highly criticised for the personal interpretation given to it by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirach. The sculptor has a more abstract style than Gaudí’s.
A third monumental façade was planned for the southern side, the Fachada de la Gloria, the main entrance to the temple, of which many original sketches have been preserved and the work is still going on.
The part directed personally by Gaudí is formed by the crypt, the wall of the apse and the aforementioned Nacimiento entrance. The first two elements are neo-Gothic, heirs to the original project. They have a naturalistic ornamentation of vegetable and animal forms carved in the stone that you can see in the Sagrada Familia.
Another of the infrastructures that can be seen at La Sagrada Família is the Crypt (1882-1891). It was designed by Francisco de Paula and transformed by Gaudí, who added the capitals with naturalistic motifs on the pillars and vaulted it. The crypt is made up of seven chapels dedicated to the Sagrada Familia de Jesús and arranged in a rotunda. In front of it there are five other chapels in a straight line, the central one dedicated to the Holy Family. The architect himself is buried in one of these chapels in the crypt.
Above it stands the apse with the high altar, surrounded by seven side chapels that can be seen in the Sagrada Familia. In front of the altar there is a transept with three naves and the main body with five. The apse has in its central part the Capilla de la Asunción. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, for whom Gaudí had a special devotion. According to the architect’s project, this space would have the shape of a stone litter. Therefore, an essential part to see in the Sagrada Familia.
The central nave, with its forest of columns in the shape of a tree trunk, would be crowned by an immense dome 170 metres high. It is a symbol of Jesus Christ and is surrounded by five towers as symbols of the Virgin and the Four Evangelists.
It is worth visiting some of the Eight Towers that have been built to date (only one finished during Gaudí’s lifetime). Initially the architect envisioned eighteen. Four in each of the three facades, dedicated to the twelve apostles. One in the centre of the dome tower that would represent Christ, and four around it as a symbol of the evangelists, as well as another one over the apse dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Finally, the complex is surrounded by a cloister, situated four metres above the ground (still under construction).
Next to the church they built several outbuildings that can be seen in the Sagrada Familia. First, the Casa del Capellán (1887 and renovated between 1906 and 1912), a simple brick construction. To it were attached several spaces destined to Gaudí’s office, a model workshop, a photography laboratory and an assembly hall. Second, the Escuelas de la Sagrada Familia (1909), a small building that was used as a school for the workers’ children.
Within what you can see in La Sagrada Família there is a space fitted out as a museum located in the basement of the temple, in the lower part corresponding to the transept, where the workshops were formerly located.
Contrary to what you might see at La Sagrada Família, Park Güell (1900-1914, opened in 1926) is located in the district of Gràcia. It was conceived as a garden colony, with a perimeter completely protected by a wall. The park is based on the organic forms of nature. The walker enters a forest of winding paths, arcaded galleries with tree-like columns, animal-shaped fountains, etc.
In the lowest part of the mountain (Olot street) the architect designed a monumental entrance that was never built. In its place, in 1965, a wrought iron door was placed. It represents palm leaves from Casa Vicens, one of his first works. The park has six other entrances. We are talking about two sides at each end of Olot street, where the main entrance is located, two in the Coll del Portell Avenue and another one in the Carmel road.
At the Main Entrance, on both sides of the gate, two pavilions were erected as medieval defensive towers. In one of them the keeper lived and in the other one the reception was installed. Only a part of the wallto envelop the whole enclosure was built; with local rustic stone and finished off with ceramics. The medallions with the inscriptions “Park” and “Güell” stand out.
The roof of both pavilions has a spectacular ceramic covering that anticipates the collage or trencadís technique (use of irregular tile fragments). This technique dominates the ornamentation of the park. Its vegetal forms, like mushroom-domes, are singularly attractive.
Also fascinating is the polychrome salamander on the main staircase, with three fountains, which leads to the central square of the complex. On one of the sides of the staircase is the Baldiri Reixac School (formerly the home of Count Güell). On the other side is the Jardín de Austria, designed in the 1960s by Lluís Riudor i Caroll.
The Park Guell Interpretation Centre has been installed in the caretaker’s house. It is an information point where plans, models, photographs and other materials are displayed.
The central area of the Park Guell consists of two squares. First is the Hypostyle Room, which supports part of the second square. The 86 columns, with Doric features, form a curious space that was originally designed as a market.
This colonnade ends in a kind of cornice with sinuous shapes and decorated with polychrome ceramics. It forms the back of the continuous bench that closes the Upper Square. It contains on the outside a frieze covered with gargoyles to drain the rain. This popular bench is decorated with trencadís ceramics, by Josep M. Jujol. As for the upper square, it is an oval space of 300 m2 that should be a Greek theatre.
Many buildings inside
To walk around the Park Guell we can take advantage of the viaducts that save the unevenness of the mountain. They are inspired by the Gothic (Viaducto del Museo), the Baroque (Viaducto del Algarrobo) and the Romanesque (Viaducto de las Jardineras).
In the highest part of the Park Güell there is a monument in the shape of a Calvary. It has a circular floor plan, with two stairways and three crosses, and resembles a megalithic monument. It was not designed by Gaudí.
Inside the Park Güell, the Gaudí House Museum, which was his home between 1906 and 1925. Built by his collaborator Francesc Berenguer as a pilot building for clients, it contains a collection of works by Gaudí and some of his collaborators, such as the sculptor Carles Maní. The first floor shows furniture designed by Gaudí. On the second floor Gaudí’s office and bedroom have been recreated. Finally, in the house’s garden, the parabolic arches pergola, also designed by the artist, stands out.
Carnival (variable). Holy Week. Festival of Sant Jordi (23 April, patron saint of Catalonia). Easter Granada (20 May). Saint John’s Day (24th June). Also the Feast of the Assumption (August 15th). National Day of Catalonia (11 September). Festivals of La Mercè (24 September). El Pilar (12 October). Santa Lucía (December).