An Insiders Guide to Barcelona’s El Born Neighbourhood
The El Born neighbourhood is one of three neighbourhoods that make up the “Ciutat Vella” Old city of Barcelona. Starting from the left, looking from the sea is Raval, Gothic Quarter and lastly Born. A favourite amongst locals and in the know explorers, this neighbourhood has it all, cute shops, bo-ho attitude, artisan shops, an inexplicable multitude of tattoo parlours, delicious restaurants, and the best bars in Barcelona. Created with the help of our local insiders, this El Born neighbourhood guide will shed the light on everything there is you need to know and see, next time you pop through when in Barcelona.
Walk Into the Past
Now a burgeoning bohemian neighbourhood of Barcelona, the narrow streets of the Born hide many secrets of it’s past. During medieval times, it gained notoriety for hosting tournaments between knights, festivities, and other processions. Over time, it’s narrow streets became home to a cornucopia of social and economic activities. In fact, this is still seen reflected in the street names, such as Calle dels Mirallers (glass workers), dels Argenter (silver workers) and dels Sombrerers (hat makers).
Initially, the Born-La Ribera neighbourhood was outside of the city walls, however as it fast became the epicentre of the city´s economy, it was incorporated inside. Subsequently, it became the home of wealthy aristocrats, whose homes oozed grandeur and beauty, but still, stand today but now museums, restaurants shops, and residents alike.
Things You Must See
For the perfect afternoon take a stroll through Park de la Ciutadella, and cross through the Arc de Triomf, then wind your way through the little streets of the Born, to soak in all of its charm. The narrow passageways and cobbled paths of this area are home to so many amazing sites that you should definitely see. Check out our top picks, as reccomended by our local insiders.
Santa Caterina Market
The Santa Caterina Market heads the list as it was the first-ever covered food market in Barcelona, dating back to 1845. Post the Spanish civil war, when there were food shortages people from surrounding towns took the tram to this very market to stock up on supplies that couldn’t reach them. In 2005 it was refurbished with a bright mosaic roof (best seen from the rooftop bar of the next door Edition Hotel).
El Born Market
Located at the very end of Paseo del Born, El Born Market is one of the most unique landmarks in Barcelona. As the name suggests, it first opened in 1876, as a local market for the people of the area, and was also the first large scale cast-iron building in Barcelona. However, after growing in popularity became the main wholesale fruit and veg market in the city around 1921. However, if you walk in today, there’s no local produce to be seen. This is because, in 2002, excavation work on the subsoil of the market unearthed an exceptional roman archaeological site, which has been beautifully restored. Definitely worth checking out.
The Picasso Museum is a popular spot for people to visit when in town, but despite its popularity is a definite must-see. The museum features over 3,500 works by the iconic artist and houses the largest collection of Picasso’s early work. Aside from the amazing art on display, they also have regular exhibitions, events and live performances. So check out their calendar to see what’s going on.
Palau de la Musica Catalana
One of the real hidden gems of the Born is the Palau de la Musica Catalana, or as it’s known in English, the Palace of Catalan Music. Although this place is quite well known to some travellers, others tend to never find their way here since the streets around it are so small no one expects to find such a marvellous hidden gem. This stunning building has stolen the hearts of the people of Catalonia, just like the Sagrada Familia and FC Barcelona, it is also considered a Catalonian national symbol. From the grand main hall to the ornate glass roof, it’s quite the sight to behold. Oh and If you look closely you’ll see similarities between the music hall and Gaudí´s work, as the designer of this building, Domenech I Muntaner, was one of his contemporary followers.
Santa Maria Del Mar
Barcelona is a city home to so many amazing churches, each with its own unique element of beauty. However, there are only three cathedrals in the city, one you should definitely pass through is Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar. This 14th Century cathedral is a stunning example of the gothic architecture, crafted so meticulously by the most skilled builders of the time. Architecture aside, the special thing about this cathedral is that hidden in a stained glass window you can find the FC Barcelona logo. As the mayor of the city, who was an ardent fan of FC Barcelona, offered to replace the windows that had been damaged by a lightning storm, only if the coat of arms from his beloved team were featured.
Where to Shop
Barcelona has always been a design hub, and nowhere is this more evident as when you stroll through the streets of El Born. This bohemian neighbourhood is home to some of the city’s best shops and design studios, with something to suit everyone at every corner you turn. To cut through the noise, here are the top picks for truly magical stores, selected by our local insiders.
Let us take you through the design shops, like Wo Design Studio & Store, a place which personifies the free spirit and ethos of letting one’s imagination runs wild. Here you can find all kinds of weird and wonderful things for your wardrobe or house. The perfect place to go if you’re looking for a souvenir with a bit of a twist. Looking for a cool pair of shades? Maybe a fun tee that you’ll never come across on anywhere else? Oxigeno Store Barcelona is the spot. They boast a carefully selected array of shades paired with small accessories and of course wild shirts.
In the neighbourhood, you can also find art shops and galleries like Artshopbarcelona, where artists like Hector Fernandez paint and sell their works. Continuing with the theme of supporting the locals, head over to Ozz Barcelona. This shop sells exclusive, one of a kind pieces from local designers and creatives. Right around the corner, you´ll stumble upon the most charming leatherworking store called Rossymina, all family-owned, with a passion for creating unique pieces. Another great little boutique is Colmado, boasting a gorgeous array of home design, shoes, dresses, and even beachwear.
If you’re fancy being a bit adventurous, head over to Moss Olfactory Lab and make your own perfume. The perfect gift for friends, family and even yourself. As by now you have already come to see Sunglasses are quite big, which is no surprise in a city with such stunning beaches. For something local, high quality, and great craftsmanship check out Etnia´s Flagship Store, which not only promises great sunnies but an almost clubbing experience while you shop.
Barcelona also boasts rapidly expanding Vintage and used clothing store scene. The best ones can be found in the Raval, but recently some have emerged in the Born as well. Check out Magpie Vintage is for all the hippies, and exotic lovers, while Kabuki is a Japanese inspired techno lovers dream.
Where to Eat
Food, Food, Food and more Food. It seems as if every storefront you stroll past in the Born is serving something tasty. If you’re a foodie, going through the multi-cultural Born neighbourhood is a gastronomical escapade where you’re taste buds will be taken on a trip around the world. trip around the world. There are so many awesome eateries to choose from, but with the help of the locals, we’ve narrowed down the ones you should check out for sure.
Traditional and Local
If you want to get a real cultural culinary experience, then El Chigre is the ideal place to go. Not only is it a restaurant, but it’s also a cider and Vermouth bar offering a dining experience of two different styles. “Catarian”, a mashup of traditional Catalan and Asturian cuisines. The mission is simple, preserve the Catalan and Asturian gastronomic pleasures and helping people enjoy them in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Be sure to try the octopus with a chimichurri dressing, and the sardines with roasted peppers.
Keeping with that local Spanish trend, be sure to check out Santa Agustina if you’re feeling peckish. This lovely little spot serves the most delicious traditional tapas that will leave your taste buds tingling. If you do pop down here, make sure to try the grilled octopus, it’s divine. If you want to wash it all down or just fancy a nice glass of wine, this spot has a huge selection to choose from. They have an awesome terrace, but if there is no space do not fret, the terrace right beside belongs to Bar Joanet, another delicious authentic Spanish spot.
Jumping right to the other side of the Atlantic, you have Tlaxcal, a magnificent Mexican spot, which locals describe as “taqueria como dios manda” (as god would´ve made it). Get yourself a mouth-watering taco and washed down perfectly with a margarita. They also have a sister restaurant called Costa Pacifico, which only serves seafood tacos. So head there if seafood is more your thing.
If you’re in the mood for a bit Asian fusion, next door you can find Koku Kitchen Buns, Barcelona’s first bao spot and the latest addition from the Koku brand. Everything here is delightful, from the bao which feels like a fluffy pillow on your mouth, to succulent spare ribs. Absolutely delicious. If you aren’t in the bao mood but more of a sushi type person, head over to Nakashita to quench your sushi cravings. The selection of sushi is huge, so choose what you like and enjoy some grub on the gorgeous terrace whilst watching the world go by.
If you’re a veggie or just prefer that type of food, get yourself down to La Hamaca. This spot is a favourite amongst the locals, operating a juice bar, organic fruit market and healthy food kitchen under one roof. Try an acai bowl for breakfast, a vegan burger if you’re down later on in the day, and if you’re in a rush get a smoothie to go. Mmmmm.
If you are looking whisk you’re loved one away to a wonderful spot for a romantic date night, then check out El Salero. Since opening, this spot has become an institution, for its minimalist decor and flavourful high-quality food. It offers a delicious fusion tapas and charming ambience. If you are looking for budget-friendly but gourmet, then the chicken shop A Pluma has it all, don’t let the rotisserie fool you.
El Born is a place for all hours of the day, however, once the sun goes down, this quaint neighbourhood comes alive. The narrow streets are home to some of the most amazing bars, clubs and drinking dens in the city. So if you’re in the mood to have a few bevvies, you’re in the right place. Even if you don’t drink, it’s totally worth checking out to experience the atmosphere and people.
Start of the night at Porteño, a cosy little spot with great cocktails and friendly staff who will make you feel right at home. Another great spot for drinks is No.9 from the same family that brings you Mr.Robinson (in between the Born and the Barceloneta), these two places are the perfect spot for both a pre-drink or a way to pass the night, with great music, chilled vibes and awesome people.
Right on the Paseo del Borne, you can find the local favourite bar, Creps al Born. This drinking den is infamous for its inimitable ambience, cracking cocktails, wild parties and most of all their crepes, which are the best enjoyed for a weekend brunch. Right across the street, you can find their sister bar, Bar Sauvage. A jungle-themed, a bad-ass cocktail bar that has quite the reputation for serving scrumptious cocktails and holding wild parties.
Bar hopping in the Paseo is quite common, take a moment to check out Stereo 18, a red neon palace for a cocktail and their famous hot dogs. Oh, and if you love a good toilet self, then this one will be epic as they have the coolest toilets. Another great spot is Pax 49, an unpretentious and friendly bar right off the corner at Carrer Rec. Surprisingly their new menu is based on superfoods, balancing your quench for cocktails and conscience for keeping healthy. For a trip back to the future check out Club Haus, a restaurant with a basement that any fraternity would have envied back in college. If you’re not in the mood for ping pong or karaoke, have a cocktail and try your luck in the bathroom mini golf.
Once the residence of Barcelona’s aristocrats, the born has transformed into hidden gem haven, with the cobbled paths and narrow walkways concealing so many amazing things to see, places to eat/drink and things to do. Hopefully, this guide will help you navigate through the noise and discover the iconic and secret spots which make El Born special. Stay tuned for more Barcelona content on the way. Oh and if you can’t wait, make sure to download the Like Locals app to discover some more hidden gems in Barcelona. Available to download now on IOS and Android devices.