Neighborhoods of Barcelona: Exploring the Unpolished Charm of El Born

Neighborhoods of Barcelona: Exploring the Unpolished Charm of El Born

There are many wonderful neighborhoods in Barcelona that make it the great city it is, but one of our favorites – if not our favorite – has got to be El Born. Located in between the Gothic Quarter and Ciutadela Park, El Born has all the charm and history of medieval Europe, yet also the artsy, modern cool of current times, including hip boutiques, cutting edge art galleries, and trendy restaurants.

Narrow cobble stone streets and tree-lined squares characterize El Born, making it one of the most picturesque parts of town. Walking around the neighborhood was one of our favorite things to do, whether it was to pop into some shops or people-watch from one of the many outdoor cafes. El Born has a low-key bohemian vibe, with balconies decorated in green plants, laundry drying in lines above, and pops of color wherever you look. Funky stores line the streets, and restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops can be found on practically every block.

Walking through the narrow streets of El Born

Looking at the charming quirkiness of El Born in Barcelona.

The restaurant scene is quite amazing in Barcelona, particularly in El Born, where all the innovative food shops and restaurants seem to be. We had some excellent meals in El Born and all catered to kids. One of our favorite restaurants was called Cuines Santa Caterina – right next to the Santa Caterina market – and the menu was incredible. Everything from tapas to chicken curry to cheeses to yummy veggies and salads were on the menu and it was the best meal of our trip. Alsur Café was another amazing restaurant, with a healthy, mediterranean slant.

Colorful El Born in Barcelona.

One of the other great things about El Born is that despite its hip vibe, it’s completely family-friendly. There are kids everywhere…on the streets, in the restaurants, playing soccer in the squares. Parents tote their kids around with them everywhere, even at night, when the neighborhood is really hopping. I think this was a major reason why we practically dined out every night in El Born – it was so easy with the kids. It sort of felt like a slice of Brooklyn in Barcelona.

Besides walking around and relaxing over a leisurely lunch or dinner, El Born is home to a few major popular Barcelona attractions as well:

Picasso Museum

One of the most extensive collections of Picasso’s work, the Picasso Museum is particularly rich in works of the artist’s early years. To see his art work from when he was 8 – teenage years was of particular interest to my girls, because it was so much more relatable. We loved the Picasso museum. During high season, make sure to book tickets ahead of time online.

Santa Caterina market

Shopping at the Santa Caterina market in El Born.

Known just as much for its funky roof (a wave-life structure in the shape of a magic carpet ride) as its food, the Santa Caterina market should not go unnoticed in the shadow of the Boqueria market! Fresh produce, poultry, meats and cheeses and so much more can be found here. I actually preferred this market because it doesn’t have the crowds that Boqueria has.

Ciutadela Park

Father-daughter row boat ride at the lake in Ciutadella park in Barcelona.

Barcelona’s oasis in the city, Ciutadela park is a nice respite from the crowds. There is a lake with row boats, and the city’s zoo is located here as well. We wound up here after being on our feet for a while at the Picasso Museum and it was the perfect break.

Basilica Santa Maria

This Catalan Gothic church, built in the 14th century, is in the heart of El Born and beautiful to look at on the inside as well as outside. There are a number of cafes right outside, where you can enjoy a glass of cava with a view of the basilica.

Chocolate Museum

This museum on all things chocolate takes you through the history of the sweet. We didn’t visit it as it wasn’t on the top of our list, but hear it can be fun for the kids.

We absolutely loved spending time in El Born during our 5 day trip and made time to walk through it almost every day we were there – it was our kind of vibe and not quite as touristy as other areas of the city. I highly recommend checking it out, even if for just a stroll through.

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Where to go and what to see in El Born in Barcelona

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14 Comments

  1. September 14, 2017 / 6:34 am

    I love those old streets with the buildings so close together and washing everywhere – so gorgeous. We stayed near the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, not sure if we explored El Born – we may have and not realised but I love your recommendations, particularly the market having experienced those crowds at Boqueria.

    • September 16, 2017 / 11:11 pm

      Joy – you probably walked through El Born if you stayed in the Gothic Quarter. They’re right next to each other. They’re both all about the windy, cobblestone streets!

  2. September 14, 2017 / 9:25 am

    Never heard of this area, but there is a wonderful restaurant in Brooklyn which shares the name! Planning a trip to Spain soon, will have to explore it.

    • September 16, 2017 / 11:12 pm

      Oh I don’t know that restaurant in Brooklyn!

  3. September 14, 2017 / 6:39 pm

    I love the El Born! Looks like you discovered some great places to eat, and I’m definitely going to keep this post handy when I’m next in the city… which sounds like it could be sooner then I thought! One of the things I love most about Barcelona is wandering the neighborhoods, even the same street at different time of day can feel like an entirely new place! #farawayfiles

    • September 16, 2017 / 11:19 pm

      Yes, that’s so true! We would wander the streets from morning to night, and some favorite blocks were totally deferent depending on what time of day you went :).

  4. Ruth
    September 14, 2017 / 10:29 pm

    I walked around this area on my last trip to Barcelona but didn’t get to see the narrow alleys and charming streets. The area is uncrowded compared to other parts of the city. It is a great stop for those who want to see a different side of Barcelona. The market is fabulous (and an option to La Boqueria). #FarawayFiles

    • September 16, 2017 / 11:22 pm

      We loved the market – Boqueria was just too many people for me. I don’t do well in crowds!

  5. pigeonpairandme
    September 15, 2017 / 6:13 am

    I love the fact that such a central location is so child-friendly. That really isn’t the case here in London. You’re tempting me back to Barcelona! #FarawayFiles

    • September 16, 2017 / 11:24 pm

      Actually, all of Barcelona is so child-friendly, but El Born in particular. It reminded me of our days in Brooklyn!

  6. Clare Thomson
    September 19, 2017 / 8:57 am

    I just love wandering the streets in places like El Born – it doesn’t feel as if you’re in a huge city centre at all! You’ve really captured the magic of the area. I haven’t spent much time in the park there. It would be fun to go rowing on that lake. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  7. September 20, 2017 / 3:30 am

    How do they make their higgeldy piggeldy washing and plant pots look so picturesque?! El Born is lovely and I am so glad to see all those smiling faces having a wonderful time. Mind you, a chocolate museum would put all bad memories in a box! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  8. September 21, 2017 / 6:05 am

    Oh I love Barcelona! We spent our first European adventure here and spent my birthday at a restaurant in this area. Adored it as well! Love your perspective Corey – thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • September 21, 2017 / 9:12 pm

      What a perfect place for your first European adventure with the fam! #lovebarcelona

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