Helping visitors understand the Sagrada Familia

Helping visitors understand the Sagrada Familia
Country: Spain
City: Barcelona
Institution Type: Art, Historic/Heritage, Sacred/Solemn
Exhibition Type: Permanent
Content Type: Audio
Players: GT3
Language: Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Russian, Cantonese, French, Italian, German, Hungarian, English
Client profile
The Basílica de la Sagrada Família is a Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.  While construction began in 1882, the building remains under construction, due for completion in 2026. The basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
Challenge - providing an experience suitable for all visitors to a sacred site
The Basílica de la Sagrada Família receives up to 12,000 domestic and international visitors every day. Sagrada Família collaborated with Antenna International to:
  • Help visitors understand and appreciate the cathedral, and enjoy the best possible visitor experience
  • Engage visitors of all ages, from different countries and cultures and with a wide range of faiths or no faith.
  • Ensure the smooth flow of visitors around the cathedral, and avoid the creation of bottleneck areas, especially when moving between inside and outside sections of the tour.
Solution – thoughtfully planned tours developed in deep collaboration with SagradaFamília
Antenna International has been collaborating with Sagrada Família to develop engaging educational audio tours since 2001, for adults, children, and groups. There are over 30 Antenna members of staff working at Sagrada Família. Antenna worked with educational departments and marketing and tourist departments in the development of the tour.
The tours bring Gaudi’s masterpiece to life through the exploration of the basilica’s history, architecture, and sculpture. Visitors can explore the Christian liturgical role of the building as a place of daily worship and religious symbolism.
Antenna has also created web-audio content for the nativity façade, the symbolic tour, the oldest and most highly decorated façade of Gaudí’s basilica.  By selecting a hotspot on an image, visitors can discover the symbolic meanings behind its profuse ornamentation through related materials, including images, literary quotes and biblical passages in Catalan, Spanish and English.
The cathedral wanted the children's tour to convey the idea that Sagrada Família is a religious building and open to every denomination.  The first walkthrough revealed several challenges. Catholic children are familiar with many of the images and stories while children from other religions or backgrounds are less so. Also, the visitor's itinerary could not be altered, the tour would have to tell the story chronologically with outdoor and indoor stops alternating, which could result in grown-ups inadvertently letting children out of sight. The subject matter had to be interpreted in a respectful way that was still engaging.
Antenna produced the children’s tour based on storytelling and spirituality while catering to an international audience.  The script is a short play with two characters: A boy and a young woman who provide opposing points of view in an amusing way. The tour is dynamic and interactive. With sound effects, a few games and directions to touch specific objects and places, children are encouraged to become active participants.  And, just in case they are having too much fun and wander away, special instructions warn young visitors never to go in or out of the building without letting their grown-up know first.
The children's tour has since been integrated with the adult's tour. This allows adults to hear what their children are listening to on the same device, which is helpful with such a sensitive subject.
For the group tour, the priorities were maintaining the appropriate ambience while controlling visitor flow. Groups can include up to thirty people so it is necessary to keep them moving through the building and grounds. For this reason, the group tour only has five stops compared to the seven stops on the adult tour.
Antenna introduced universal group tour system (GTS) equipment and provide staff to operate the equipment at multiple distribution points. The distribution staff worked with Sagrada Família guides, group leaders and teachers to effectively and easily use the GTS; working together with the booking and group services staff and security staff, Antenna streamlined the tour process and the entire experience is now easier.
The tours are available in eleven different languages. Deep consideration has been given to the levels of existing familiarity that visitors are likely to have with the subject matter. For instance, Catalan visitors are more likely to have prior knowledge of the cathedral and Catholicism than visitors from China, and this is subtly reflected within the content and the translations of the tours.
Outcome - the largest audio guide operation in Spain
Collaborating closely with Sagrada Família, and taking the time to find the right balance for their content, has resulted in engaging tours that satisfy visitors from all backgrounds and support a smooth flow of visitor traffic around the venue.
People move through the tour quickly, and sidewalks and public spaces are kept clear. Furthermore, the introduction of the GTS has lowered the sound by 90% and reinstated the sacred ambiance that the institution wanted to preserve.
It is the largest audio guide operation in Spain, with 1200 devices on site and 1600 group tour system units.