First off let’s make sure you’re not confusing the Barcelona Cathedral with its more famous, spiky counterpart the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia – Europe’s most unique and fascinating church.
Sure, the cathedral may not be as sexy a choice but it certainly warrants a visit.
Visiting the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia gives you a greater understanding of Barcelona’s history via some pretty bad-ass Gothic stylings… and it’s free as well 😉
Here’s all you need to know.
1 – Sagrada Familia or Barcelona Cathedral?
2 – General information
3 – What to See
4 – Prices and opening hours + free visit times
5 – Dress codes
6 – How to get there
7 – What to do in the area
8 – Barcelona Cathedral hacks
Sagrada Familia or Barcelona Cathedral?
What is the cathedral in Barcelona called?
Again, many people make this mistake so don’t feel bad.
The architectural giant and saw-like super structure that you see on all the postcards is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. And the Sagrada Familia isn’t a cathedral (the seat of a bishop) at all.
In all its greatness it’s actually a minor basilica.
Those looking for the cathedral? Let’s begin.
Barcelona Cathedral General Information
- A massive Gothic Revival Church.
- Broke ground in 1298.
- Finished in 1420 (facade and central tower completed in 1913).
- Famous for its gargoyles, other mythical animals, and resident geese.
- Measures 90 meters (300 feet) long by 53 meters (174 feet) high.
- Dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona (co-patron saint of Barcelona).
What to See at the Barcelona Cathedral
It’s impossible to miss the stunning facade walking through Cathedral Square (Pla Seu).
You’ll be drawn to the main door and the huge Gothic arch above. A stone sculpture of Christ keeps watch over the entrance while the 12 apostles occupy either side of the doors. In all you’ll find 75 figures and 8 stained-glass windows that run the gamut from Renaissance to Modernist.
You’ll see two side towers (constructed between 1896-1898) flanking the dome of the church which is crowned with a statue of Saint Helen.
The Door of Sant Ivo (on the left hand side of the church when in the main square) was the church’s main entrance for over 500 years. It was made using marble from Montjuic. Look for inscriptions here marking the commencement of construction in 1298.
In all you’ll find monuments and chapels dedicated to more than 140 saints at the Barcelona Cathedral.
Aside from the highly-represented Virgin Mary you’ll find heavy attention paid to Santa Eulalia, a local girl martyred in Barcelona during Roman times who became co-patron saint of the city. You’ll find the Crypt of Santa Eulalia in front of the main alter.
One of the most impactful features of the interior is the choir. One of the best examples of Catalan Gothic sculpture can be found in its stalls. The wooden pulpit carved by Pedro Çanglada in 1403 is a highlight.
Tickets for the choir are €3.00.
The Chapter Hall Museum used to be a soup kitchen for the poor. Today it’s home to some pretty cool items like the baptismal font of the original 11th century cathedral.
Lepanto’s Chapel is decorated with paintings honoring Santa Eulalia and pays homage to a crucial naval battle where the Holy League defeated the Ottoman Empire. It’s here where visitors can pray in silence.
This secluded inner courtyard is probably the most popular part of the cathedral.
You enter the cloister via a white marble door which is said to be a leftover from the original Romanesque cathedral built on the site in 1046.
The rectangular cloister made up of four galleries show pillars depicting scenes from the Old Testament while the vault keystones show scenes from the New Testament.
The central garden is filled with palm trees, an orange tree, magnolias, and a 15th century fountain. It’s also the site of the pond where 13 white geese reside – representing the 13 years of life of Santa Eulalia.
An absolute must for those visiting the Barcelona Cathedral is taking the elevator to the roof.
From here you’ll be offered spectacular 360-degree views of the city. Here you get a closer look at the detail of the bell towers and the legendary gargoyles. The fresh air is also great relief in spring and summer.
Roof access is from one of the chapels on the left hand side of the church – just follow the signs.
Tickets for roof access are €3.00.
Barcelona Cathedral Prices and Hours
The Barcelona Cathedral is free to enter without tickets during the following times:
- 8:00 am to 12:45 pm (Mon-Sat).
- 8:00 am to 1:45 pm (Sundays/holidays).
- 5:45 pm to 7:30 pm (weekdays).
- 5:15 pm to 8:00 pm (Sat/Sun/holidays).
With your free entrance you’re given access to the cathedral floor and the cloister – the inner courtyard/garden home to the famous 13 white geese.
During free entry times you’ll need to pay €3.00 to access the roof or choir (€6.00 for both).
The cloister typically closes 15-30 minutes before so leave plenty of time.
Children under five go free on the rooftop and choir.
Doors close five minutes before closing time.
Paid Entry Tickets
Paid entry at the Cathedral is done by ‘donation’ though the €7.00 is absolutely mandatory.
The paid hours run at peak times and are designed to raise money for the church, offer visitors a more intimate look at the cathedral without massive crowds, and tickets give access to parts not normally reserved for the public.
- 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm (weekdays).
- 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Saturdays).
- 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Sundays/holidays).
With paid entry you get access to the cathedral floor, cloister, choir, roof, Chapter Hall Museum, and Lepanto’s chapel – plus a free brochure filled with a ton of information.
Unlike many Barcelona attraction tickets that can be bought online the cathedral is strictly walk up – expect to wait no longer than about 15 minutes at peak times.
I’m also told they are not very handy with giving change so try to bring exact change if possible.
It’s so darn old we can’t fault the Barcelona Cathedral for being a bit traditional on dress.
Make sure you enter with your shoulders covered and dresses/shorts/skirts at knee length. You’ll also have to remove any caps or head wear of any sort to get in.
If you don’t want to go all the way back to the hotel there’s a woman selling shawls for a couple of euro right outside the entrance – just make sure your shorts are long enough or you’re not getting in anyway.
How to Get to the Barcelona Cathedral
The Barcelona Cathedral is right in the heart of the Gothic Quarter at Pla Seu, 3.
It’s about 150 meters from Jaume I metro station (yellow line L4) and about 350 meters from Liceu metro station (green line L3) and the chaos of La Rambla.
Expect about a 3-8 minute walk from either station.
It’s also a 2 minute walk from the Barri Gotic stop on the red line of the Bus Turistic.
What to do in the Area
With the cathedral in Barcelona being so central you’ll have virtually unlimited options.
At 1 Carrer del Bisbe one you’ll find one of the most photographed things in the city: Pont del Bisbe (‘Bishop’s Bridge). This neo-Gothic bridge unites the Palau de la Generalitat (home of the Catalan government) with the Casa dels Canonges (‘Canon House’).
Legend has it that architect Joan Rubió i Bellver was so disappointed the city wouldn’t approve some of his other projects that he placed a skull and dagger on the bridge in protest – try and find it!
Equally macabre is nearby Plaça San Felip Neri. It was in this hidden square in 1938 that 42 people (mostly children) lost their lives during a bombing in the Spanish Civil War.
Today you’ll find a small fountain and a haunting quiet.
For something a little more upbeat there’s always the super-cool Catalan Music Palace.
Tourists also won’t want to miss the Picasso Museum.
Barcelona Cathedral Hacks
- Go really early or really late for smaller crowds.
- Leave about an hour for the visit.
- The Barcelona cathedral facade faces north-west so photos are best taken in late afternoon.
- Getting to the rooftop for noon treats you to some amazing bells.
- Especially during free entrance periods, use the side entrance for shorter lines.
- Wander around nearby back alleys for some great guitar or opera performances.
- People with reduced mobility get access via the Carrer del Bisbe entrance.
- Women wanting to wear dresses but stay cool otherwise: pack leggings and put them on just before visiting.
- There’s a free performance of La Sardana (a traditional Catalan dance) every Sunday from 11:45 to 1:00 in cathedral square.
- For further information the cathedral website can be found here.
Get Your Holiday in Motion in the Comments Below
If you’re still starving for Barcelona Cathedral information then make sure you harass me in the comments below – I’m always looking to improve the blog so if anything is missing please let me know.
Also know that any question you have about your Barcelona holiday will be answered ASAP.
Happy travels 🙂