I recently visited Barcelona for the 3rd time. The first time was 15 years ago in May 2001, then again in February 2011 and just now in June 2016. Each visit was very different. The first was JF’s and my first time away from our baby, let loose for an adult weekend away. Ten years later we were back with two children for a short break en famille and this time I was accompanying my son’s school trip in a group of 55 kids and 25 adults for 5 days! Really, I don’t think it’s possible to experience the city in 3 more different ways and I can vouch that it’s both a wonderful place for adults only and a great place to take children. I’ll go into more detail about what we got up to with 55 ten and eleven years olds another time but for now I just want to show you how the Sagrada Familia has changed since 2001.
I’ll start with a very brief history of the church. The Sagrada Familia is a Catholic church in Barcelona designed by Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. Construction started in 1882 and Gaudi became involved a year later taking over and revising the plans bringing his unique genius to it. However it is not finished as Gaudi was killed by a tram in 1926 and construction all but ground to a halt after his death, relying on private donations (as it does to this day). The Spanish Civil War then added to the complications and many of the original plans were lost. By the 1950s building had started again, but very slowly and in 2010 it was considered halfway done. In that same year it was consecrated as a “minor basilica” by Pope Benedict XVI. Together with 6 other buildings by Gaudi, the Segrada Familia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site despite being unfinished. The projected completion date is 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
So you can see that when I visited in 2001 it wasn’t even half completed, there was no roof and it really was a building site. I’ve scanned some of my original photos from then, the quality isn’t great as this was the pre-digital age! It’s a sign of the times that back then as photos were shot on film I only took about 10 in total. This visit I probably took nearer 100 using my phone and regular camera.
I was absolutely bowled over by the difference in 15 years. We didn’t go inside in 2011 owing to mismanaging reservations online but we did spend a “fun” afternoon in Carglass just opposite getting a window repaired on our car which had been broken into. We had a great view and “free” parking! We haven’t forgotten that particular experience…but getting back to the 15 year changes….
The inside is now almost fully completed, there was just one hoarding in the middle blocking off an area under construction. Being with a school group I didn’t have an audioguide and I haven’t done any research for this post, I’m just sharing my observations. The stained glass windows today are sublime; the colours that pour into the church are mesmerising. Last time there was dust, concrete and steel.
The hoarding blocking off the only works inside in 2016
In 2001 we climbed up a tower. (This time it wasn’t possible in such a big group). I couldn’t make out which staircase we used as they all looked so different. The detail everywhere is phenomenal.
I realise 15 years is a long time and these days enormous skyscrapers go up in less than half the time, but when you consider this is all being funded by private donations (even the entrance fee goes towards the build) and the amount of artisanal handicraft and attention to detail going on then it becomes understandable.
Have you been to the Segrada Familia? Have you been more than once and seen changes taking place? I’d love to hear from you.
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Thank you Phoebe for this retrospective! My husband, mother-in-law and I visited in May 2001 as you did and just visited again in 2022. Gobsmacking! It made me cry. I couldn’t quite remember what stage everything was at in 2001 so seeing your photos was super helpful to refresh my memories. We also got to climb up the bell tower stairs in 2001. Something not accessible during our latest visit. Thanks again.
My pleasure; it’s such an incredible place isn’t it!
A lot has happened since I was there. Time for a new visit 🙂
I was so pleased that I could find them as they weren’t digital.
Next time you must take a look inside Jackie, it is so beautiful.
Yes it was fascinating. We’re lucky living so relatively close.
Oh you must go back Nell, you’ll see such a massive change.
That sounds like a miserable trip, you must go back, Barça is one of my favourite European cities and I’m sure you’d love it if given another chance.
I’m pleased you enjoyed my photos Jim!
It would have been such an early stage building site that perhaps it wasn’t visitable back then, I don’t know. Shame you didn’t get there last year, and I’m glad you enjoyed my tour.
So glad you found my blog Alison 🙂
Hi Verena, I’m afraid I really don’t know, I’m not an expert on Spain at all, I’ve just spent 5 days there with 55 ten year olds, it wasn’t very condusive to observing breast feeding habits! I’m sure you can find a parenting blog for Spain to help. Good luck.
Sounds lovely – what is breastfeeding like in Spain? Are people open and welcoming to breastfeeding mothers? I am thinking of visiting but want to make sure we don’t have to go and hide everywhere!
Lou I am so thrilled to find your site, what a find. Very excited to be visiting in September 2016.
Thank you and hope to meet you soon.
Alison from New Zealand
We stayed very close to the Sagrada Familia in the early 70s but didn’t go inside – at least, I don’t remember. I think I would have, right? I’ve been itching to go back and came close last year but couldn’t fit it in so thanks for taking me along on your tour.
I loved seeing your 2001 shots of the cathedral! IT is so different from what it looks like now. We were there in 2104 and hope to go back this year or next. I’m not sure how much noticeable difference we’ll see after only a few years but it is an ever-changing work of art. Thanks for linking up with us at #wkendtravelinspiration!
Oh, I think my first comment might have vanished – loved reading this post, and how amazing to see it developing over the years. Barcelona is somewhere I definitely want to go back to after a less than successful short break: not entirely Barcelona’s fault, it was a rainy January and my husband came down with a bug and spent it all in bed! I did get to see the Sagrada Familia myself though and it was amazing, lovely to see your photos of how much it has already changed in half a dozen years. #citytripping
We’ve been to Barcelona three times and have yet to visit this amazing place. Loved your retrospective post as it helps one appreciate the work that has taken place in a relatively short period of time.
I visited the Sagrada Familia in 2012. It’s an awesome structure. It’s very interesting to see your pictures of it under construction from 2001.
I visited La Sagrada Familia in 2013 and loved it. How cool it is to have visited over a period of years and see the changes.
I last went to Barcelona in 1997, and I didn’t visit La Sagrada Familia. I hadn’t realised it was still under construction – what a beautiful, inspirational place. I’ll definitely have to pay the city another visit soon.
Funny that we both had 15 year gaps, you were just a couple of years ahead of me both times. I’d love to see your photos Clare.
I don’t know either Coventry or Liverpool cathedrals and nor do I have your architectural and art knowledge Richard and remember Gaudi’s plans were lost in the Spanish Civil War so this is just an interpretation of how it should be but despite all that I love it! As you say chaqu’un son gout!
Yes you really do need to go inside, just remember to book online a LONG time in advance or you’ll be disappointed.
I agree it’s amazing even unfinished.
Not the beginning of the 90s Ruth, the beginning of the 2000s!! The inside is so unlikely from the outside I think.
Next time you must go in Elizabeth!
Amazing to see the inside Phoebe. I went around 10 years ago and I didn’t go in but admired what had been done from the outside. Its a stunning building and so interesting to see the development and Gaudi”s vision gradually taking shape in the 15 years since you went. Thanks for linking to #citytripping
This is awesome! I visited for the first time in 2003 as a college student. I didn’t get inside that time. I went back last year with my husband. The inside is so different from the outside. I have enjoyed your photos on how it used to look at the beginning of the 90s. I wander how it would look if I visit again.
Great post Phoebe! The cathedral has changed a lot since I was last there in 2010. Even unfinished I think it is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing
We skipped it last year but we are heading back to Barcelona later this year so i think we will definitely go in this time. Its just one of those things you need to do in Barcelona
To me it looks more Gormenghasty or even Disneyesque than properly “modern”, and it doesn’t appeal to me anything like as much as a truly modernist church such as Coventry Cathedral or Paddy’s Wigwam (the Catholic cathedral) in Liverpool. But chaque a son gout.
I’ve been really looking forward to reading your post about the Sagrada Familia, Phoebe. I’ve had the same experience – visiting the Sagrada in 1999 and again in 2014. I was so overcome with the transformation on my second visit, almost in tears at the sheer beauty and magnificence of the interior. Love your photos!
It’s such an interesting place to revisit…let’s hope you get back again Lolo
So you went the same year as my first trip Tanja. You’ll see huge changes if you go again.
It pretty much feels finished inside Swags. Next time you’re in Barca, do go in (your money will help pay to get it finished!)
Wow! Love the pre-digital photos 😀
I opted not to go inside to wait until it’s “more finished.” At least we have a good chance of it being finished in our lifetimes! Those stained glass colors really are incredible! #citytripping
loooks great! I’ve been only once, a long time ago. in 2001:) now it looks a lot different:) #city tripping
How interesting to see that the ceiling wasn’t even completed in 2001! I was just there in 2012 for Christmas and the roof was finished. I hope to see it again in a few years and see the changes! #CityTripping
I love being a tourist in my city (Nice). Lucky you living in Barca Sarie!
It’s one of my favourite cities Bailey.
No I have never been but it does look amazing. Thank you for sharing this.
My adopted city really is one of the best. Must make a mental note to be a tourist in my own city a bit more! xx