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What Not to Do in Barcelona

by Suzanne Wales

Don't…
Battle the Crowds to See the Sagrada Familia

When grilled on the tardiness of his life-consuming project, Gaudí famously replied that his client (i.e., God) wasn't in a hurry. And neither should you be when visiting Barcelona's most famous building. Nearly three million annual visitors edge around the exterior of the Eixample block where the basilica stands, breathing in fumes from tourist buses and annoying the pants off residents. Then they all join a line to catch the elevator up one of the towers for a bird's-eye view of the city that you can also get from the parks of Montjuïc. (Note: Those in the know about architecture generally agree that the Sagrada Familia's most interesting feature is the Nativity facade, which can be viewed from the comfort of the sidewalk.)

Instead…
Attend Mass There

If spending time with local devotees sounds more appealing than ducking sweaty tour groups, know that when Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Sagrada Familia in November 2010, His Holiness conducted the first mass to be held underneath the building's soaring, newly completed nave (pictured). The event won't be repeated on a daily basis until more progress has been made (estimated completion date stands at 2026), but what many people don't realize is that mass is held regularly in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia, and has been since 1885. Worshipers take a separate entrance into a shadowy subterranean space where the great architect is entombed. Constructed before Gaudí signed on to the project, the crypt has heavy walls, arches, and columns and a beautiful altarpiece featuring the Holy Family by Josep Llimona, master sculptor of Barcelona's signature Modernista movement.

Mass is held daily in the crypt and approximately once a month in the basilica. For times, check the Web site.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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