The Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar (Saint Mary of the Sea Basilica) is the building that best represents Catalan Gothic architecture in Barcelona.
I first stumbled upon its imposing facade by accident while out for a walk in the El Born district, barely a week after moving to Barcelona.
Of course, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is no accident! So let’s figure out how to pay a good visit.
Santa Maria del Mar Barcelona Tickets and Prices
For your Santa Maria del Mar visit, you’ll find two types of entrance tickets:
- Basic Entrance (€5.00): includes access to the temple, the ancient forum, and the crypt.
- Premium Entrance (€10.00): regular access + roof terrace access with a 360° view of Barcelona.
Looking for free access to the Santa Maria del Mar?
You can visit without paying in the evening from 18:30 to 20:00 and on Sundays before 13:00 or after 17:00.
Guided tours are available in English, Spanish, and Catalan as well – and they also include access to the Santa Maria del Mar roof terrace.
Basilica Santa Maria del Mar Opening Times
The Santa Maria del Mar is open every day from Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 8:30 pm.
From 10:30 am to 5:30 pm you must buy tickets to get access.
From 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm admission is free, with the exception of the towers/roof terrace.
How to Get to the Santa Maria del Mar Church
The Cathedral of the Sea is located in the fashionable Born District of Barcelona.
The address is Plaça de Santa Maria, 1,.
To get there, I suggest looking up the address on Google Maps.
But if you are far from the Born and its beautiful Sea Cathedral, you can take the L3 metro, yellow line: the Jaume I stop is a 3-minute walk from the church, while the Barceloneta stop is a 4-minute walk.
History of the Basilica of the Santa Maria del Mar: Why It’s Worth It
The history of the Catedral de Santa María del Mar is closely linked to the ascension of the Born as one of Barcelona’s best neighbourhoods.
From the 13th Century on, this neighborhood began to grow rich thanks to activities related to maritime trade: from the construction of ships to the import-export of various products.
The narrow streets of the Born began to swarm with artist studios and craft shops.
Wealthy merchants and noble families started building palaces on Carrer Montcada.
It was precisely in those years that authorities, merchants, sailors and all the inhabitants of the Born united to build a Basilica for their neighbourhood.
We could also thank the Catalan conquest of Sardinia, which took place in 1324. “Santa Maria, Santa Maria” was one of the battle cries of the Catalan army and sailors of the time.
In all, similar to the Gothic Quarter, it’s the combination of historical events and religious sentiments that are the engine driving the construction here.
Longshoremen (in Catalan “bastaixos”) helped transport the large stones from the Montjuic Hill to the place where the ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ stands today.
The first stone of the temple was laid on the 25th March 1329 – and the last on November 3rd, 1383.
The church was damaged during the many local wars, but the earthquake of 1428 caused the destruction of the original rose window.
The current rose window was rebuilt thirty years later.
But, the most vivid damage to the Santa Maria del Mar occurred on July 19th 1936, during the Spanish Civil War.
The church was set on fire and burned for eleven consecutive days – you can still see the char from the smoke in some areas.
The Baroque altar was destroyed together with a large part of the liturgical apparatus, an eighteenth-century organ, paintings, and sculptures.
The walls, columns and some windows remained intact… the highest ones where the fire failed to reach.
Santa Maria del Mar Interior
Entering this marvelous Gothic building today, you will be greeted by a solemn light and a feeling of immensity given by the large central nave – to which two narrow lateral naves are added.
The massive buttresses, which support the external thrust of the roof, and the octagonal towers are some of the characteristic elements of the Catalan Gothic style.
In fourteenth-century Catalan churches, such as Santa Maria del Pi located in the Gothic Quarter, smooth walls are preferred to those with superfluous decorations.
This is an attempt to evoke harmony between the various architectural proportions.
Inside the Santa Maria del Mar, the rhythm is stable with the tall columns.
Did you know that no other Gothic church in Europe has columns that are so far apart from each other?
These are 14 meters away from center to center.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Another characteristic of the Catalan Gothic style is to create elongated spaces, where every believer can find the right space and comfort.
Even if the Baroque ornaments of the Santa Maria del Mar were destroyed during the Civil War, the subsequent restoration has focused on restoring the original simplicity of the bare spaces of the interior.
Related: Barcelona Architecture
Where to Eat Near the Santa Maria del Mar Basilica
After visiting the Santa Maria del Mar, don’t forget to get lost in the narrow streets of the Born.
Some call it the hipster neighborhood of Barcelona and I love this neighborhood because it’s one of the best Barcelona shopping areas.
You’ll find many “Made in Barcelona” brands for unique Barcelona souvenirs.
Here’s the best restaurants in Barcelona that you’ll find near the church:
Bodega La Puntual: a welcoming joint that serves authentic Barcelona tapas! It’s right next to the famous Xampanyet – and La Puntual is an excellent plan B if you had opted for the other one which is more famous, and more crowded.
Address:Carrer de Montcada, 22
Xampanyet: you’ll immediately recognize this place by the traditional ham hanging from the ceiling and the swarms of tourists queuing to enter. In this bar you should try specialties like anchoas, (anchovies), typical Catalan cheeses, and of course also the yummy jamon (a cured Spanish ham).
Address:Carrer de Montcada, 22
Bastaix: a restaurant where you will find creative tapas with quality ingredients. Warning: they don’t serve tortillas or patatas bravas here, but if you’re looking for a modern boost to traditional Spanish grub this is a must!
Address: Plaça del Fossar de les Moreres, 5.
Vegetalia: One of the best vegetarian restaurants in Barcelona with a dream view of the Santa Maria del Mar! Don’t miss the libritos de seitan and the homemade hummus with mushrooms.
Address: Plaça del Fossar de les Moreres.
7 Portes: The interior looks like an art gallery and, since 1929, it has welcomed all kinds of famous people (like Picasso and Miro) who visit Barcelona and who want to eat the best paella in Barcelona.
Not only paella, the 7 Portes is a great restaurant if you want to try the local Catalan cuisine! Make sure you make a reservation.
And finally, if you’re in the mood for a drink after visiting the Santa Maria del Mar you’re in luck.
The area is home to two of the best bars in Barcelona:
Paradiso: voted the best bar in the world at the beginning of 2023, Paradiso is a shout out to the speakeasy culture of prohibition America. To access this avant-garde cocktail bar, you enter through a fridge at a pastrami place!
Address:Carrer de Rera Palau, 4.
Dr Stravinsky: this place also made the “World’s 50 Best Bars of 2022”. I’ve been there and drank the best cocktail of my life: they draw you a sort of map of your tastes to create your perfect, custom cocktail.
Address:Carrer dels Mirallers, 5.
What to See Near the Cathedral of the Sea Barcelona
I’ve already talked about the local artisan shops where you can find clothes, works of art, and handicrafts… but if you are still hungry for culture, let’s take a look.
I’m happy to say that two of the best museums in Barcelona are right here.
The Picasso Museum occupies a series of 13th-14th century mansions, converted to house it.
It is one of the most important collections of Picasso’s works in the world, but in the Barcelona museum you will mainly find early works through which you will be able to reconstruct the bond that the artist had with the city of Barcelona.
He spent a very formative period of his life (from 14 to 23 years) here.
The Moco Museum is dedicated to contemporary art.
This museum, also based in Amsterdam, is the most instagrammable museum in the city! You will find works by artists such as Banksy, Andy Warhol. Baquiat and many others!
The Netflix TV Series: The Cathedral of the Sea
Did you know that the Cathedral of the Sea has also become famous thanks to a Netflix television series?
The series is based on the novel of the same name by Ildefonso Falcones which tells the story of Arnau Estanyol, a serf who becomes a free man and even obtain the title of Baron and Consul of the Sea.
In fact, Arnau begins to collaborate in the construction of the church of Santa Maria del Mar, initially as a transporter of stones, and finally as a wealthy banker.
One Sunday morning I was walking through the Gothic Quarter suddenly saw a lot of bodies on the asphalt!
Luckily, they were just reconstructing a scene from the series with victims of the plague that struck the city in the fourteenth century.
Intrigued, I went home and watched it on Netflix: the reconstruction of Barcelona in the fourteenth century is beautiful.
Saint Mary of the Sea Church FAQ
How much are tickets for the Santa Maria del Mar Barcelona?
Basic Santa Maria del Mar tickets cost €5.00, while the premium ticket that includes access to the roof terrace are €10.00.
How long does it take to visit the Santa Maria del Mar?
It takes about an hour to properly visit the Santa Maria del Mar Basilica, though in a pinch it can be done in 30-45 minutes.
What are the mass times at the Basilica of the Santa Maria del Mar
- Monday to Saturday: 7:30 pm in Catalan.
- Sundays: 7:30 pm in Spanish.
- Sundays: 12:00 pm in English.
When is the Santa Maria del Mar free?
Free entry to the Santa Maria del Mar is every evening from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm and on Sundays before 1:00 pm or after 5:00 pm.
Is the Santa Maria del Mar accessible to disabled visitors?
The entire Santa Maria del Mar church is accessible to disabled visitors except for the roof terrace.
Ready to Visit Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar?
My guide to visiting the Santa Maria del Mar Barcelona is finished.
That said, if you’ve got any additional questions please don’t hesitate to write to me in the comments below!
Enjoy the Santa Maria del Mar catholic church 🙂