There can’t be many cathedrals in Europe that jostle for attention from younger, more famous upstarts such as the Sagrada Familia; however, this is the challenge facing Barcelona’s Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia.
The 15th-century Catedral is definitely worth a visit for its impressive Gothic architecture and gargoyles, alone. The shady cloister with fountain, geese and picturesque, surrounding chapels is also a must-see.
Despite its grandeur, the cathedral, which is set in the heart of the city, is very much a functioning place of worship, with frequent masses held in the chapel to the right of the main entrance and a regular stream of parishioners heading into confession. As such, the rules regarding dress are uncompromising, regardless of the heat, so to avoid being turned away on the Cathedral steps, err on the side of caution and dress to cover both shoulders and knees.
• The 13 geese of St Eulàlia (there are 13 because that is how old the co-patron saint of Barcelona was when she was killed by the Romans for her Christian faith; and is also the number of tortures they subjected her to) kept in the Catedral’s cloister are unique and very charming. For morbid fascination, examine the tomb of St Eulàlia in the Catedral crypt, which is adorned with images of her acts of martyrdom.
• The Cathedral is hot regardless of the number of visitors or time of day, and the strictly enforced dress rules render the well-covered up visitors even warmer.
• Misbehaving visitors talking too loudly or who arrive inappropriately dressed clearly exasperate the staff, who do not hesitate to sharply enforce the rules.
• Despite the promise of multi-lingual guides, it seems that only guides in Catalan are actually available, so you may have to seek out your own information if you’d like to know more about the building.
More info: Visits to the cathedral are free between the hours of 8am to 12.45pm and from 5.15pm to 8pm.
For most visitors this will be sufficient as it offers access to the main sights; however if you desire guaranteed entrance to all accessible parts of the building, such as the roof, or wish to avoid the crowds, you can pay €5 for a ‘special visit’ between 12.45pm and 5pm.