Believe it or not, there are people who, when they see it for the first time, surrounded by cranes and laborers at work, think they are restoring it. Well no, it is not like that. The Sagrada Familia was never finished, hence all that movement around it.
It all started in 1882, when a neighbor from the area called Bocabella decided to promote the construction of a church in that area, which was not yet part of Barcelona (it was a town outside the city). An architect was hired but he only worked for one year, abandoning the project in 1883.
It is at this moment that Antoni Gaudí i Cornet enters the scene and the history of this temple changes forever. Gaudí wold dedicate almost 40 years of his life to the Sagrada Familia, until his death in 1926. And during so many years of work, he only built one façade and finished the crypt, where he is buried today.
That façade, that of the Nativity and the most famous of this temple, together with the crypt, are today an UNESCO World Heritage Site. And just by looking at them, one can understand why.
But the development of the project and its construction have not been easy. Financing was a problem, since Sagrada Familia had not received money from the State or the Church: it had always been maintained thanks to private donations or aid generated by the neighbors themselves.
Hence the time it took to complete it. Today, the Sagrada Familia can announce its completion date: the year 2026, when the 100th anniversary of the death of its creator, Antoni Gaudí, will be commemorated.
Tips to visit the Sagrada Familia
If you ask us which is the building / museum / attraction of Barcelona that you must visit, we would say that this is it. The Sagrada Familia is unique, its architecture is incredible and the experience of visiting it is unforgettable. So here are some tips for you:
Buying tickets in advance: This is very important, since most of the time, when you arrive at the church, you will discover that the tickets are sold out. To avoid wasting time, queues or stress (especially if you are staying in Barcelona for a few days) we recommend being proactive and buying tickets online. They are also a little cheaper than at the box office.
Since we are talking about buying online,here’s the link to the website where you can do it: www.sagradafamilia.org, the official website of the temple. Only on this website you can check the actual availability of tickets. There are many websites that resell tickets, but they do not always have availability in real time, and they tend to sell them a little more expensive, because they add a management fee. To guarantee that you will not have surprises, make your purchase on the official website.
Among the offers of tickets you will see that the cheapest one does not have any guided tour or audio guide. It only includes admission to the Sagrada Familia. If you are not on a tight budget, we recommend you to visit with a guide (audio guide or with an official temple guide). This way your visit will be complete and you will be able to understand everything that Gaudí wanted to convey with his culminating work.
When making the purchase, you will discover that you must choose an entrance time. It is the best way to avoid queues and also, by doing so, they control the number of people inside the church, as there is a capacity limit . Big advice: get tickets for the morning or midday hours. When the sun is up and through the stained glass windows of the Sagrada Familia, the spectacle inside is wonderful. Especially in winter, the earlier the better, because you will have better natural light.
And now, enjoy the experience of being in front of this work of art, that Gaudí has given us in Barcelona. And, in case you want to have a nice meal or a drink, before or after your visit, do not hesitate to go to RARO (click on this link to see the article).
In the same neighborhood where the Sagrada Familia is located (and the so recommended RARO, about which we talk in this link), a few blocks away, is another of the great modernist works of that period: the Hospital de the Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
This hospital is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the work of another great architect from the Catalan Modernism. His name was Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
The first Hospital de la Santa Creu was located in the Raval neighborhood, and its construction began in 1401, unifying the six hospitals that had been in Barcelona until then, in one. It would be the city’s public hospital for almost 500 years. But by 1926 it was insufficient for a modern Barcelona, so the project of this new hospital began, which today is only a 10-minute walk from the Sagrada Familia.
In 1902 the cornerstone was laid and the inauguration of the new facilities would come in 1930. Sant Pau was added to the original name of the Santa Creu, in this new site, due to the contribution and legacy of the banker Pau Gil, that allowed the construction of this hospital.
In 2009, the sanitary activity moved to more modern facilities, in the far northern part of this architectural complex.
And today the Hospital de Sant Pau, as the locals call it, is a more than interesting museum to delve into the modernist world, but also in the new concepts of medicine of the early twentieth century.
The original project
It was conceived as a space that could house all the services inside of it and be isolated from the city. In fact, at the time of its construction, the hospital was far from the center of Barcelona and this area was an excursion destination on Sundays. That is why it was designed with its own streets, gardens, a church and even a convent.
It was supposed to occupy about 9 blocks, with a central building where the Administration tasks of the hospital were carried out. Then, about 27 medical and nursing pavilions were developed. All the buildings were linked by underground galleries, to transfer the sick, and all of them converged at the center of the complex: the surgical ward.
The architect would also pay special attention to the use of natural light and fresh air, considering that the recovery of a patient is not only related to medical care. It is also influenced by light, color, fresh air and the beauty of a garden.
Hence, the hospitalization wings had delicately decorated ceilings and walls, and a space similar to a winter garden, so that the sick could be surrounded by beauty, even in the midst of their seclusion.
If you are passionate about architecture, medicine, or you just really like to enjoy the beauty of an incredible building, be sure to take a tour of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, so close to the Sagrada Familia, that it would be a shame to lose the opportunity.
Both buildings are connected by Av. Gaudí, a tree-lined promenade full of gastronomic offers, where you will meet many locals who enjoy this public space.
The Hospital de Sant Pau has free visits (not free of charge, “free” means that they are done without a guide), from Monday to Saturday all day, and on Sundays and holidays the closing time is at 3pm. Anyway, as the hours can vary according to the season, we suggest to check out the hospital’s official website. They also do guided tours, on special hours depending on the language. Here’s the website, where you can also check the prices of the tickets.
And this is THE tip: if you are in Barcelona on the first Sunday of each month, you can enjoy this magnificent museum for free (now yes, free of charge!). We only recommend you to reconfirm the schedule (and even book the ticket online, free of charge) on the Hospital’s website, just to make sure there is no changes and that you get your free ticket.
Just over 200 meters away from the icon of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia, is Raro (Carrer de Roselló 407): an antibistro where nicely poured Czech beer, delicious food at a very good price and the extraordinary good vibes of its owners, make this place an excellent stop before or after the mandatory visit to Gaudí’s work.
This finding dates back to the time when we lived near the Sagrada Familia.
It was warm and we were walking back from our jobs, in a very good mood favored by the nice weather and the good vibes of the city; and, adapted as we are to certain Spanish customs, we decided to stop at a bar for a couple of beers before locking ourselves up at home.
And there we saw it. Small, well decorated and with its pretty curious name, especially if we consider that food is served there: “RARO” (means “weird” or “rare” in spanish).
We were immediately seduced by the small bar that overlooked the street, we sat down on the two high stools that seemed to be waiting for us, and ordered what we were looking for: a couple of very cold beers.
What a good surprise
Just arriving at the door, we made an important discovery: the beer was no regular one, here, the beer was Urquell.
The world’s first pilsner. Czech; which is already a declaration of intent (and in this case, with this beer the intent is golden, fresh, refreshing, delicious, excellent).
The experience of drinking an Urquell becomes more intense (if possible) if it is served in that very cold glass, and by a Czech. In this case his name is Radim, one of the owners, who immediately treated us with great sympathy.
As we are chatty people (quite a lot), we soon found ourselves telling each other adventures and misadventures, and so we learned that Radim had lived in Barcelona for years, that they had opened with Rocío, his partner (a charming Argentine girl), this “anti-bistro” they called Raro, just a few months ago.
After having both worked in hospitality for many years, they felt that it was time to start their own project, and we, along with all their clients, thank them, because everything they serve is great.
The name “Raro” comes from the combination of their names; “Ra” of Radim, “Ro” of Rocío. But we believe that it is also a play on words: it is also “Raro” (in this case, “rare”) to find such a good combination of quality, service and good price.
This business was their opportunity to bring people closer to what they knew how to do so well: cook and serve their customers, in their own space, with their own ideas and flavors. Flavors reminiscent of Argentina, the Czech Republic, and also Spanish. All combined to give us tasty, generous dishes at a more than affordable price.
And so it conquered us: with warmth and good beer. In time, we returned to try their meals. And each time they surprised us with fresh products, cooked with dedication and affection, beautifully presented. And they have already become part of our weekly routine. And why not say it, we also became friends.
Raro has a lot to offer: starting with the drinks. Really, it is a pleasure to be able to have a cold poured Urquell in the middle of Barcelona. Care for the quality of the product is key to guarantee a good beer.
But if this is not your thing, there is much more: very good coffee, rich varieties of teas, wines, gin and tonic, a “gazpacho” awarded nationally (which they serve in the summer) and if you take a walk in the middle of winter, a spicy hot wine that takes the cold away and comforts deliciously.
Raro’s menu is not too extensive, nor is it always the same. Its owners seek to discover new flavors and ideas, to bring to their customers.
There is a very good selection of starters, to share or snack. The homemade sweet potato chips with their dressing, or the carrot hummus, are fantastic.
Then come the main dishes: varieties of sandwiches, and its big star: the 200 grams burger, a fresh and fluffy homemade bread, brie cheese, bacon, onion, dried tomatoes, arugula and lamb’s lettuce, accompanied by fried potatoes. In few places we have been able to savor a burger so rich and with such power. And above all, at the price offered by Raro. Amazing.
For those nostalgic Argentines, there is also a variety of “empanadas” and a generous “milanesa” on their menu.
Desserts and farewell
Be careful, do not get full before desserts arrive!
Because the pastries that Rocío makes are amazing and you deserve to try them. It can vary every day: the brownie, a cheescake, cookies, carrotcake or the red velvet … whatever you find available that day, make sure to go for it.
I must confess that sweets are not my forte, I tend to get a little bit sick with them. But Rocío and her sweets have earned a place in my little heart.
The taste of homemade food, especially if it’s made with passion, never disappoints.
And when you think that’s all, that the experience was great and you are ready to take a nap, the best closing comes, shared with its owners. Because that is what makes Raro a very special place: feeling at home, with friends.
Rocío and Radim, generous and careful with their people, invite you to that last shot of a cherry distillate, very Czech and very cold, which makes you fully understand the concept of hospitality, and which invites you to repeat the visit always.
If you want to enjoy this must-see place, just around the corner from Sagrada Familia, here’s their info:
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