El Born area used to be the place where fishermen lived for centuries. Actually, I can tell you that for sure as my family lived in the Born area from the 19th century until 20th century.
They sold fish around Santa Maria del Mar church in little stalls, my grandma used to sell fish when she was young as well as my great grandma and they had a family stall near the church.
I have learnt a lot about El Born since my family was from there. This is the story of the area, the fishermen area of Barcelona and also how Santa Maria del Mar's church was built.
Passeig del Born is the core of El Born area, is where all little narrow streets start to go to the Ciutadella Park, to the Picasso Museum, to Santa Maria del Mar etc... I have so many memories of El Born, I used to go to school at Carrer Princesa, but now my school is a hotel, true story!
The neighbourhood has changed so much, everything that was local started to change into a touristy kind of shops and places of interest. I still remember when these trendy expensive clothes shops we have now in carrer el Rec for Eixample is where my granny would buy the groceries every day. Very few local business survived the transformation in El Born, and I feel that the area has become a store window full of the fake Barcelona but that's how I see it, I saw the before and after.
This doesn't mean that El Born is not an amazing area to explore, it is, and you should definitely go there but you need be aware of what is authentic and what is not and this why we are here for, let me show you what to do on the local side of things in El Born.
What to do in el Born
Santa Maria del Mar: the people's church
The cathedral of La Ribera as it is called Santa Maria del Mar's church, was built by the people of Barcelona and local people from the area. Santa Maria is one of the best examples of Gothic style architecture in the city.
The church was built in only 55 years, quite fast for the time and by the population entirely, it is an achievement. It is the only surviving church in the Catalan Gothic style. The Basilica was designed by Berenguer de Montagut, was the place of worship for the shipwrights and merchants of the Gothic area.
Learn about Catalan culture: 1714, Fossar de les Moreres
In El Born area there are important spots for catalan culture, you should stop in front of Born Centre Cultural: 1714. El Born centre cultural is an exceptional place that brings together three centuries of catalan history. The Barcelona of 18th century is in the underground, right below the 19th century market place that is the Born Centre Cultural.
All remains of the city of 1700 you can visit it when you enter El Born CC. The city suffered the siege of 1714, this is the year Catalonia lost the war, fighting to protect Catalonia's liberties. That is why 11th September of 1714, the date the war was lost is Catalonia's national day. This is an important day for catalan history and when we lost part of our liberties as from that moment on, the new king centralized everything into Castilla, our parlament/institutions were abolished and our language banned.
In Born, there is also another place important for catalan identity, which is el Fossar de les Moreres. It is the war memorial for 1714 honoring the dead in the war that defended the city during the siege. There is a flame always burning in El Fossar to honor the dead.
Craftsmen settled in Born in medieval times
In El Born in medieval times when the city was surrounded by a fortress, craftsmen settled in this area, and as a consequence we see the streets named after their profession or material they worked with.
You will find the glass street, candle street, silver street etc...Actually not that long ago, 20 years ago I still remember when I was little a glass shop in the glass street where artisans still worked glass. Nowadays, the area tries to bring back that artisan essence and different artisans shops have settled in the area. However they are a different kind of shops, very tourist focused and expensive prices, but still it is good that they try to find that essence as a neighbourhood.
Pass by Carrer Montcada, is one of the most known streets in the area as Picasso museum is located in there, the museum is beautiful inside out, not only because of the art collection but because the buildings that hold it are palaces. In carrer Montcada is where the bourgeois of town settled, those merchants that made their money from trading and were considered high class bought palaces in that area. Nowadays most of them are restored and they are museums now, trendy opera or flamenco bars, cool shops, restaurants etc...If you have the chance to stop by it is very interesting to get inside one of them.
The Picasso museum is unique and started in a difficult time, after Franco won the Civil war. Following Picasso's wishes, his personal secretary Sabartés opened a collection with his art pieces called Sabartés Collection. Picass'os was an outspoken critic of Franco's, that is why he couldn't name the collection with the artist name while the dictator ruled.
A local tip is to visit a restaurant called Els 4 gats, it is the place all intellectuals and painters of Barcelona gathered when Picasso lived here, and he was no exception. Actually you will see the restaurant menu, that was designed by Picasso.
My advice is to do a tour around the Gothic Area, you will need at least two days to visit the most important spots. See the ancient tour you can do in the
gothic area in Barcelona. You can also follow the steps of my
Barcelona slow route, to visit Barcelona like a local.
Where to eat in El Born:
La Pizza del Born
That restaurant used to be a Galician restaurant when I was little, the pizzeria opened in 1999 so it has been around for some time, they sell pizza al taglio, they sell them per portions and they have 28 different types of pizzas. They also have pasta, salads and pies. Passeig del Born, 22, 08003
This is a classical in the area, excellent for fish and paellas, come early to get a seat or book a table in advance otherwise you don't stand a chance to get in. It is a traditional restaurant, very known by locals and lately also by tourists since started to appear in well-known tourist guides. Plaça de les Olles, 8, 08003
My favorite, perfect vermouth place in Barcelona, they have a wide selection of cured meats, anchovies, pintxos -bread with something on top-, Spanish omelette, olives etc...It is a very traditional place as well and i has been there for ages, since 1929, my great granma used to go there when shew as young. Different generations of the family work in the bar, the parents and sons, in El Born everyone know the bar by the name "los 7 machos" which means the 7 men, they were 7 brothers it seems... You can't book, it is a tiny place so coming early is a must. Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003
El senyor de Perellada
A restaurant that has been opened for a long time in the neighbourhood, they offer catalan cuisine at good prices. They offer catalan casseroles, paellas, cod a la llauna, "esqueixada de bacallà" -cod salad with beans- etc...
The decoration is very authentic, a wooden style and glassdoorway, the tables have white tableclothes and there is a romantic atmosphere helped by this orange lighting. Book in advance, it gets full easily! Carrer de l'Argenteria, 37
Princesa market, it is not a food market as you might think by its name but it is a XIV century palace where you can find 16 different restaurants in it, all of them share a room full of tables and chairs to enjoy your meal. That is a great option for people with different tastes as you can be eating japanese food while your partner is having a selection of spanish tapas, all in the same place.
It is a great option for friends, couples and if you are visiting town it is certainly a place to step in even if it is to have a look at the stands of food. The place where it is located is beautiful, an amazing palace tyipical from the Gothic area.
There are 16 different restaurants in Princesa market, we tried some of them, if you are looking for potatoes, Patates is your place they have a wide selection of potatoes, from the traditional bravas to potatoes with caramelized onions. Por + Huevosis a place where everything is done with eggs, omelettes, scrambled eggs with ham, with seafood, with boletus etc...This is the one I tried, scrambled eggs with morcilla, yummy!
Do you have any recommended places for El Born? Comment!