A delightful small town feel in the middle of the big city.
Art, independent clothing stores, cutting-edge restaurants, chic wine bars and late-night dance clubs are all within walking distance of the La Rambla tourist trap. The heart of the neighbourhood is the open, tree-lined Passeig del Born. A former home of jousting tournaments, carnivals and even the burning of heretics during the Inquisition, Passeig del Born is now the place to be seen.
The narrow streets surrounding Passeig del Born open out into various squares full of cafes with outdoor seating and a festival vibe any time of day. But by night is when El Born truly comes alive, with cocktail bars and wine bars seemingly appearing out of nowhere and a curious mix of locals, expats and tourists creating a lively, international atmosphere.
Mercat del Born
Although the Boquería on La Rambla is the city’s most famous food market, wholesale business was always done here at El Born. The impressive metal and glass structure from 1870 is the largest covered square in Europe and marked the start of the Modernisme movement in Catalan architecture. The rectangular market has two large domed, intersecting buildings, and 4 smaller naves.
In 2002, work was began to convert the space into a library, but extensive ruins of the medieval city were discovered during excavations. The library project was relocated, and the subterranean ruins have been preserved and exposed for visitors to enjoy. The perimeter of the building is used as a cultural centre and also a museum about the War of Succession.
Santa Maria del Mar
One of the most important Gothic churches in all Catalonia. Known as the People’s Cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most frequented religious centres by locals. Built in the 14th-century, the building has been beautifully maintained and preserved, although restoration work on the mural paintings and stained-glass windows is ongoing.
Whenever you visit, you’ll understand this is an authentic place of worship rather than a tourist attraction. Having said that, guided tours are available that give visitors access to the Cathedral, from the crypt right up to the rooftop. From here, you’ll enjoy one of the best views in all of Barcelona. The 45-minute tours (€8) are held several times a day during the afternoons.