El Born Identity
If La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter, with their tourist traffic and petty peddlers, proved a bit too circus-like for your refined tastes then you might find what you're looking for in the district of El Born instead. This delightful corner of Barcelona has all the beauty of the Barri Gotic, with those characteristic narrow streets and quaint cafe-covered squares, but it just far enough removed from the beaten track to maintain a bit of calm, charm and dignity. Despite the popular tourist attractions of Picasso Museum, Ciutadella Park (also home to Barcelona Zoo) and the recently opened Mammoth Museum, the area has maintained a high degree of local life and you won't be surrounded at every corner by English-speaking voices alone.
Above: A stroll on the Passeig del Born
The heart of the district is undoubtedly the picturesque Passeig del Born 'square' (in fact it's an oblong). Once the site of medieval jousting competitions, nowadays this tree-lined street is a nightlife hub which comes alive with hip 20-something locals from the early evening onwards eating crepes, nibbling on tapas and imbibing beers and cocktails in the area's abundance of natty little bars. On warm nights many folk will purchase cans of beer from plastic-bag wielding Pakistanis and drink for cheap on the benches and pavement, giving the place a Bohemian and laidback street party vibe.
At one end of the Passeig Del Born (known as the Paseo del Born in Spanish) rises the district's most famous building, the wonderful Santa Maria del Mar church, instantly recognisable by its octagonal towers and large rose-shaped stained glass window. At the foot of this Gothic great you'll find a smaller square, offering one of the most picturesque places to lunch al fresco in the whole of Barcelona... if you can grab a seat at the in-demand cafes.
Other than the joys of medieval architecture, and the aforementioned Picasso Museum (another Barcelona highlight, and one that reveals sides of the great artist many visitors won't be familiar with), El Born is characterised by its little treasures. This fashionable district is the place where you'll chance upon innovative boutique shops selling recycled bags, champagne bars serving up first class Cava (El Xampanyet is something of a legendary stop-off in Barcelona!), or discover the joys of Lomo photography. Other treasures include the Chocolate Museum, the ever-popular Cal Pep restaurant, and - if you're liberal with your estimation of Born's boundaries - the amazing Palace of Catalan Music.
No doubt there are also scores of up-and-coming hotspots garnering their reputations as we speak... if you have favourites please comment below! Meanwhile for hotels in Born check in on our Sleep page, whilst our Eat and Drink sections have some more recommendations on Born bars and restaurants!
And if you want a truly in-depth look at Barcelona's El Born district we suggest you book a walking tour with our friends at Walking Planets. They'll take you to hidden monasteries run by feminist nuns with a penchant for Japanese tea, tell you the controversial affair of the Palau de la Musica and show you some of the arty stores and boutiques.
For more of BCN's best barrios check out our Barcelona districts guide.