I think El Born would have to be my favourite neighbourhood in Barcelona. It’s absolutely stunning. It can be a bit touristy at times but there are quiet streets to escape from the hustle and bustle. It is one of the smaller neighbourhoods, part of La Ribera which itself is part of the old town, Ciutat Vella. If you see a beautiful photo of a narrow Barcelona street in the sunlight, then chances are it will be from somewhere in El Born.
The food market for this neighbourhood is Santa Caterina with its beautiful mosaic tiled roof by the architects famous for the Scottish Parliament building. El Born also has my favourite church in Barcelona, Santa Maria del Mar, with its high vaulted ceilings and fascinating history. This church was the subject of the book Cathedral of the Sea. Set in 14th century Barcelona the construction of the church provides the backdrop to a story set at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.
More recently there is the new Born Cultural Centre and the surrounding pedestrianized area. When they renovated this beautiful 19th century market building they found 17th century ruins underneath. A raised floor was put in so visitors can see the ruins below. It is a great example of how Barcelona does the old and new very well.
El Born is home to a large number of boutiques and artisanal shops. The area bordered by Carrer Princesa, Carrer Montcada and Carrer de l’Argenteria is easy to miss if you stick to these main surrounding streets. But enter the warren of tiny streets within and you will find a plethora of artisans at work in their small shops as well as a number of much quieter cafes and restaurants.
El Born is right next to one of my favourite Barcelona parks, Parc de la Ciutadella. This area was once an 18th century military fortress but the area was completely transformed in preparation for the 1888 Universal Exposition. The park is a real oasis in the city and houses museums, a boating lake, the Catalan Parliament building and Barcelona Zoo.
El Born has a wonderful array of bars and restaurants too. The main thoroughfare of Passeig del Born is where it’s happening at night with the bars not getting busy until gone 11. So beforehand, stop by any of my pick of El Born restaurants. There’s a Japanese and Catalan fusion thing going on at Nakashita; Carles Abellan has a place at Comerç 24 (temporarily closed unfortunately); Saboc is a revelation situated by the new cultural centre; and Tantarantana delivers excellent seasonal tapas. Mosquito is all about dim sum; Lonja de Tapas is another excellent tapas place; Kiosko is the king of Barcelona when it comes to burgers; and Big Fish is the place for seafood.
El Born really does have it all!