The construction of Barcelona's Gothic cathedral began in 1298. However, thanks to civil wars and plagues, building dragged on at a pace that makes the Sagrada Família project look snappy: although the architects remained faithful to the vertical Nordic lines of the 15th-century plans, the façade and central spire were not finished until 1913. Indeed, the façade continued to cause problems into the 2000s, and although it was one of the newest parts of the building, it was crumbling, and roughly a third of it was taken down and painstakingly rebuilt with the same Montserrat stone that was used for the original.
Inside, the cathedral is a cavernous and slightly forbidding place, but many paintings, sculptures and an intricately carved central choir (built in the 1390s) all shine through the gloom. The cathedral is dedicated to the city's patron saint Eulàlia, an outspoken 13-year-old martyred by the Romans in AD 303; her remains lie in the dramatically lit crypt, in an alabaster tomb carved with torture scenes from her martyrdom (being rolled in a nail-filled barrel down what is today the nearby street Baixada de Santa Eulàlia, for instance). To one side, there's a lift to the roof; for a few euros you can take it for a magnificent view of the Old City.
The glorious, light-filled cloister is famous for its 13 fierce geese – one for each year of Eulàlia's life – and half-erased floor engravings, detailing which guild paid for which side chapel: scissors to represent the tailors, shoes for the cobblers and so on. The cathedral museum, housed in the 17th-century chapterhouse, includes paintings and sculptures by Gothic masters Jaume Huguet, Bernat Martorell and Bartolomé Bermejo.
The timetable is intended to keep tourists and worshippers from bothering one another. Entry is free, except from approximately 1pm-5pm, when you'll pay an obligatory donation; however, ticket-holders have the run of the cloister, church, choir and lift, and can enter some chapels and take photos (normally prohibited).