- Born is a picturesque part of Barcelona to stay in. A lot of money has been poured into its upkeep, and the area is very well turned out. It was originally the main trading area of the city, and you can still see hints of its mercantile history in various street names alluding to trades and guilds. Nowadays, it’s become one of the coolest places to live in the city – so much so that Javier Bardem rented a flat here while in town filming Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Trendy without being overtly touristy, Born’s atmospheric streets, cultural attractions and chic boutiques make it a compelling choice for many visitors.
Know your neighbours
The main street in the district is the Passeig del Born. This is a broad, cobbled, tree-lined boulevard that has seen real estate prices shoot up in recent years as the area has become the height of fashion. Born gets its name from the word ‘borneo’ in Catalan, which means ‘jousting’. In fact, the Passeig del Born was the site where jousting tournaments were held in the middle ages. Nowadays, the neighbours are a much more peaceful bunch. The area attracts a lot of international residents, keen to make the most of the nightlife and trendy vibe, and who fit in easily with the sophisticated locals. Expect to see glamorous Catalan women out walking their Afghan hounds – on high heels, of course.
Above the Carrer de la Princesa, the atmosphere changes quite a bit, and the streets take on a more congested and run-down feel.
Born is great for the more discerning shopper. If you’re looking for the usual tourist tat, you won’t be disappointed, but this is balanced out by unique boutiques full of bijou goods and vintage gems. The long Carrer de la Princesa and Carrer de l’Argenteria are particularly good for such finds. La Lentejuela (‘the sequin’) is cute and unusual, selling gorgeous vintage pieces and trinkets, while you’ll find antique furniture, clothes and jewellery at Francesc Raich.
When it comes to food shopping, the local market is the colourful Santa Caterina, named after the convent that used to stand here in years gone by. It’s a vivid and unmistakable place, set under a swashbuckling roof, and great for picking up some sardines for your supper. (There’s also a brilliant restaurant right across from the market - the Cuines Santa Maria.) We can also recommend the 19th-century delicatessen Casa Gispert, which sells wine, coffee, chocolate, nuts and organic produce.
Born’s unique identity gives it quite a self-contained feel, and although some of its streets are narrow, it’s pleasant to wander around without being claustrophobic. The nearest metro stops are Jaume 1, on Via Laietana, Arc de Triomf, near the top, and Barceloneta to the south. One of the city’s main stations is located in the area – the Estació de França (train station). Born also has the advantage of being within walking distance of Barceloneta beach, and about a 10 to 15-minute walk to the Ramblas (depending on what side you’re coming from).
- Born is an area suited to a relaxed pace of life, whether it’s soaking up the atmosphere at one of its pavement cafés or packing an afternoon picnic for a leisurely lunch in Ciutadella Park. It also offers a surprisingly diverse range of things to do…from immersing yourself in the history (and taste!) of chocolate at the Museu de la Xocolata to taking in exhibitions of Barcelona in the photo archive (Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona). This is a really interesting place that has pictures of the city spanning the last two centuries.
The magnificent basilica of Santa Maria del Mar dominates the ‘to see’ list in Born. With its Gothic façade and elegant interior, it’s regarded by many as the most beautiful church in Barcelona. It’s also a fully functioning parish, and you might be lucky enough to witness a wedding taking place at the altar. With a complete collection of the artist’s early works, the Museu Picasso is another star attraction. The same street, Montcada, also holds two other interesting museums – the Disseny Hub and another showing off pieces of art from pre-Hispanic American civilisations.
Up at the top end of Born is the Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall that announces itself in a riot of architecture, which becomes even more exuberant when you step inside. Concerts are held here frequently, and if you can get hold of tickets for one it would make for a memorable night out. Heading south again from here, you could head along to see the Arc de Triomf. Not as famous as the Parisian version, but an impressive structure nonetheless.
Follow the wide promenade south and you’ll be at one of main entrances to Ciutadella Park. This is a large space with a waterfall, boating lake and lots of grassy verges to sunbathe on. It’s also the grounds of Barcelona’s zoo, which would be a good option if you’re staying in the city with children.
The first place we must mention is a Barcelona classic – the seafood restaurant La Paradeta. The concept is simple – fresh, quality produce caught by the staff’s own boat, and then laid out for you to choose from as you enter. Get there early, though, as the queues outside are legendary. Then there’s Mosquito, an Asian tapas/dim sum bar, whose strapline is “life without dumplings is not worth living”. For the more traditional tapas route, you can’t do better than Cal Pep. If you manage to get a seat at the bar you’ll be able to watch the chefs in full Mediterranean flow. Finally, there’s the ceramic-tiled El Xampanyet, on Carrer Montcada (and quite close to the Picasso Museum, if you were trying to kill two birds on the same street). The name refers to the restaurant’s home-made sparkling drink, which is rather like sweet champagne. Wonderful tapas and a very homely atmosphere mean people keep coming back.
The whole Born district is choc-a-block with trendy bars and sophisticated hang-outs, which draw an even mix of locals and foreigners. Mudanzas (which means ‘moving’) in Spanish, ironically isn’t somewhere people tend to want to move on from. Good drinks and attentive service make sure this comfy spot is always popular. Just around the corner from the Museu Picasso you’ll find Bar Rubi, a decadently decorated lounge bar that offers a decent selection of wines and Cava. If you fancy a mojito al fresco, Cactus Bar has a nice terrace and offers a relaxed atmosphere with good-value drinks. Cocktail enthusiasts will also love Coppelia Club, which is a swankily clad venue designed by a celebrated fashion photographer. It attracts an upmarket, well-dressed crowd eager to recline on the leather sofas with a heady gin mix and enjoy the music.
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