Barcelona is a city of contrasts, where the old and the new Spain live together side by side and where its disparate elements combine to form an engaging whole. El Born is no exception. Sandwiched between Via Laietana and Barceloneta, it is a historically rich part of the city with a vibrant shopping, eating and drinking scene.
This area has a charming allure with its chic scruffiness, fashionable boutiques and top-quality restaurants. It feels like people know how to enjoy the fine things in life here but also want to keep a little bit of an edge to their lifestyle. The hip factor here is high, making it the place to come for those one-of pieces of clothing or home wares.
It's also the place to experience Barcelona’s fine food scene without going too upmarket. Much of the credit for contemporary Barcelona's dynamic culinary scene goes to Ferran Adrià, the founder of famed restaurant El Bulli, and his breed of deconstructivist cooking.
Several El Born restaurants are also in the forefront of new Catalan cuisine. First is Santa Maria on Comerç 17. Down the street is Comerç 24, Carrer Comerç 24.
Wear good walking shoes and watch out for pickpockets.
Architecture fans will lose their hearts in Barcelona, perhaps starting with this stunning early 20th century music hall. The Modernista facade of bright mosaic pillars and brick arches is awe inspiring. Note lavish details such as the floral-tiled columns topped with the busts of Bach, Beethoven and Palestrina on the main façade and Wagner on the side. Inside the decoration is no less appealing: Winged horses fly over the upper balcony and the stained glass ceiling delights with the sun bursting out of a blue sky.
Address: c / Palau de la Música, 4-6
08003 BARCELONA 08003 BARCELONA
Phone: 902 442 882
The covered market, part of Barcelona daily life, is where people go to buy everything from ham to jam and often stay to eat, too. This magnificent structure has been architecturally restored and revamped in recent years and newly designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabu. It now sports a stunning, undulating colored roof. Inside are a number of stylish eateries.
Avinguda de Francesc Cambó 16
Christopher Columbus sailed into the port of Barcelona with an exotic cargo of foodstuffs from across the globe, including a few sacks of cacao beans. Chocolate making has been part of the Spanish culture for centuries and now gourmet chocolate is on the ascendancy in chic boutiques and cafes in a city known for its high-quality food culture.
Audio-visual shows and touch-screen computers help children navigate their way through the history of the cocoa bean. Impressive chocolate models of famous architecture intrigue the eye and whet the appetite.
Plaça Pons I Clerch S/N
Phone: 932 687 878
The medieval street of Calle Montcada is now home to the Picasso museum, housing the world's largest collection of the artist's early works in a beautiful medieval palace.
The city's famous adopted son spent formative years mixing with Catalonia's fin-de-si-cle avant-garde. The fine collection includes works from his famious Blue Period as well as mature Cubist paintings.
Calle Montcada 15-23
Phone: 932 563 000
Admission: 10 Euro
This is a traditional working man's venue for a bite to eat and some fizzy stuff in old-fashioned champagne glasses. Run by the jovial Esteve family for three generations, you can get real insight into the tapas culture of this city: fresh anchovies, succulent grilled peppers on toast, spicy sausages and slices of Serrano ham.
Address: Montcada 22
Phone number: 34 933 197 003
The heart of this community is the wide open, tree-lined Passeig del Born. As this area has become increasingly fashionable, the street has become synonymous with stylish bars and trendy boutiques. A good place to shop, window shop and break for refreshments.
Barcelona is a gourmet's delight with foodstuffs ranging from chocolate to chacutarie. La Botifarrería de Santa María is just behind the Santa Maria del Mar church. Its specialty is homemade "butifarras," Catalan sausages based on pork loin, bacon, salt and pepper. The attention to detail is evident in sausage varieties ranging from classic flavors to exotic choices such as apple with curry or chocolate for dessert.
Address: Carrer de Santa Maria 4
Phone: 93 3199123
The beautiful Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most popular religious centers for the city's inhabitants. The feeling that it is an authentic, functioning place of worship is apparent when you step inside to glimpse a baptism or a wedding service or witnes someone pausing on their way home to pray.
The sense of serenity a visitor feels comes in part from this almost perfect example of the Catalan Gothic style. Lose yourself in its horizontal lines, pleasingly plain surfaces, elegant buttresses and flat-topped octagonal towers.
Plaza de Santa Maria 1
Monday-Saturday 9am-1:30pm, 4:30-8pm
Pictures in this guide taken by:
Inkiet, Oh-Barcelona.com, puroticoric, christine zenin, Dotorious, Salim Virji, winyang, WordRidden