Barcelona is easily Charles’ favourite city, and it would be mine too if Paris wasn’t in the picture. We keep looking back on our trip there wondering what made it so special. Was it the 17 course meal we had? Was it the flea markets? Was it our market tour or cooking class? Was it the beautiful Retrome or El Palauet hotels we stayed in? Sure. Those were incredible experiences, but the one thing that stood out the most, was the neighbourhood where we rented an apartment for most of our stay. El Born. Unlike any neighbourhood, anywhere in the world. Read on to find out why we send all our friends visiting Barcelona into this quirky area!
5 reasons to explore El Born
El Born is laid out in the most mind boggling manner. Prepare to amble, getting lost in skinny, criss- crossing alleys that aren’t wide enough for cars. Keep an ear out for the sound of wheels though – cyclists and skaters rush through, so be prepared to jump out of the way. Look up at the beautiful old buildings, noticing that the balconies reduce in width as they go higher, giving the illusion of all being parallel. Watch out for the Catalonian flag fluttering from windows and balconies as you pass by. But look down too. And left and right. And straight ahead. Peppered with interesting graffiti and tiles, etc, you’ll want to know the stories behind each one of them. We loved the sidewalk tiles outside the old shops, recognising their years of service to the City of Barcelona.
El Born’s narrow lanes are stuffed with more shops than you’ll have time to discover. Hip boutiques with vintage fashion (where Kate Winslet’s Titanic outfits were sourced), handmade shoes, Lomography gear, artisan cheeses, handmade soaps there’s no limit to what you could find.
3. Food and Drink
Where do most tapas tours land up? That’s right. El Born it is. The easiest reason to explore El Born is to because you must eat your way through it. Take your pick of the millions of small tapas and pinxtos bars, get ready to walk in, order a bottle of Cava (some cost less than a glass of wine elsewhere in Europe), and pick up an empty plate. Then proceed to lift individual tapas off the buffet, and leave the toothpicks in your plate. When you leave, you’ll pay for the wine, and the number of toothpicks sitting in your plate. It isn’t all gritty like the iconic and very crowded El Xampanyet. Taller de Tapas, Sagardi and the Basque Euskal Etxea are all incredible. Discover the world’s best chocolate cake at Bubo and the world’s best Croissant at Hoffman. Our favourite spots include Carrer Argenteria (all the way to the Plaça Santa Maria del Mar) and at the end of Passeig del Born where a cluster of terrace cafes and restaurants serve some delicious chorizo. A local secret? Check out Petra. This tiny establishment that serves delicious octopus carpaccio and house wine, is hidden away behind a small door opposite the Santa Maria del Mar and is usually full, so book ahead.
El Born is such a bustling neighbourhood, you’ll never be deprived of entertainment. From the violinists serenading you as you sit enjoying a meal in an outdoor cafe, to buskers with all sorts of tricks up their sleeves, there’s so much to look at. We even had our own local hunchback of Santa Maria del Mar who sat on the church steps each night and were lucky enough to catch a gorgeous wedding at this beautiful church too.
There’s no shortage of historical sights in El Born either. Among these reasons to explore El Born, discovering its rich history is something you’ll definitely do during your time in Barcelona. From the stunning Palau de la Musica Catalan (where we insist you try and catch a Flamenco show) to the (very crowded) Picasso Museum (book online) or the Eternal Flame that will keep you spellbound, there’s just so much to see. And some of it, will creep up on you when you least expect it. We discovered these old cannon balls sitting under a bench at Passeig Del Born and were thrilled to discover the history behind them.
So there you have it, our favourite neighbourhood in Barcelona, one we’d move to in a heartbeat! Have our reasons to explore El Born convinced you? Do you have more to add? Take a stroll beyond El Born into the Barri Gothic too! To discover the other neighbourhoods and for inspiration on other things to do, check out our Barcelona Guide.