The wonderful city of Barcelona is one of my favourite places in the whole world. I may be slightly biased with having a partner from this incredible place, however, I have come to really appreciate the never-ending cultural experience that can be found here. This is a neighbourhood guide to El Born, an area in Barcelona, Spain. If you want to read about other neighbourhoods in Barcelona, check out my other posts here.
As part of the Old City (Ciutat Vella) of Barcelona, the neighbourhood of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera has a lot of charm and history. What’s amazing about this area is though it is in the city centre, it is not as popular as other neighbourhoods. Other areas are perhaps more flashy, like the Gothic Quarter and the Raval. The southeastern part of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera is often called El Born, one of my favourite areas in Barcelona. The area looks just like the Gothic Quarter, but with half the amount of tourists (sounds like a dream, no?).
There’s just something incredibly charming about El Born. Its medieval streets are dotted with boutique stores, hip cafes and modern bars.
Barcelona, being a city, is really fun, interesting and full of activities. But, despite this, it is also a beautiful city because of the greenery. One of the biggest ‘attractions’ in El Born is Parc de la Ciutadella, the largest green space in Barcelona.
One of the prettiest structures in El Born is the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. I often run into this church while doing a Gothic Quarter walk. This one is recognisable because of its octagonal towers and its massive rose-shaped stained glass window.
Now, it is time for me a tell a story. This story is quite familiar to anyone living in Barcelona, perhaps in Spain overall. One day, a company decides to build an apartment building or even a parking garage. They hire a contractor to manage the construction phase. Whilst digging up the ground to prep the foundation, the construction workers come across some ancient stone walls. Consequently, city officials said the project must stop and the ruins must be protected. This is how El Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria was created.
Like other areas of Barcelona, El Born has some important artistic buildings. My very first tourist attraction in Barcelona (back when I visited in 2015) was the Picasso Museum. As you might expect, the museum houses one of the most extensive Picasso collections in the world (one of the most extensive means 4,251 works). It opened to the public on 9 March 1963, becoming the first museum dedicated to Picasso’s work and the only one created during the artist’s life.
Moving from paintings and drawings, El Born also dedicates itself to music. Besides being one of the most beautiful buildings, the Palau de la Musica Catalana puts on musical performances that range from symphonic and chamber music to jazz and Cançó (Catalan song).
Designed in the Catalan modernista style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, it was built between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeó Català, a choral society founded in 1891 that was a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement that came to be known as the Renaixença (Catalan Rebirth).
The number of colourful and beautiful details in this building is astounding. My personal favourites parts include the female musicians coming out of the wall in the main performance area as well as the balcony area with those tiled columns!
As if El Born didn’t offer enough, it also has some great places to eat! My first restaurant in the area was Tlaxcal, a Mexican restaurant, and even today I would still recommend it.
If you’re looking for something straight from the golden modernisme age of Barcelona, then look no further than El Xampanyet. It is very traditional, with its ornate tiles and dark wooden interior. You come here for the cava, the anchovies, and for a great time. It’s noisy, crowded, but full of excitement.
For something a bit more, well, refined, check out Tapeo for amazing tapas. The ingredients are of a very high quality, as are the cooking methods. Check out my review here.
For a more casual tapas experience, check out Mercat de Santa Caterina for a wide range of options. It’s always fun to stop by the market anyway, so why not eat something while you’re exploring?
El Born is stock full of cocktail bars. It seems to be ever more popular in this area as they just keep popping up! A cult classic is Míramelindo, an old school cocktail bar along the main strip in El Born. It really sends you back in time but has a romantic feel that oozes coolness.
Another great bar is also along the main strip, simply called Bar El Born. It’s this tiny place — you may have to sit very close to others, but the vibe is like any other bar. It’s intimate, cool and mysterious.
For something a bit more unusual, Dr. Stravinsky is a modern take on a traditional laboratory. It’s cool, it’s fun, and it’s full of awesome bartenders.
As you can probably tell, I’m very fond of this lovely area of Barcelona. It’s always a lot of fun to explore and pick a new bar or cafe to relax. There’s a bohemian sort of vibe in the air, and just really feels like the charm of old school Barcelona has never left.
What do you think? Has El Born charmed you?