Explore El Born district in Barcelona

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Once the meeting point for merchants and traders during medieval times, El Born in central Barcelona is still a thriving hub and favourite district for those in the know. Close to Barri Gòtic and Las Ramblas, El Born may not have the touristic pizzazz of other areas, but that just adds to its charm. Instead, you are met with themed bodegas, unusual museums, chic hotels and a whole host of speciality shops. What more could you ask for?

Learn about Cubism at the Picasso Museum

The museum of Pablo Picasso in El Born focuses on his formative years. Picasso lived in Barcelona for several years as an apprentice artist and the thriving city roused his interest in new methods and techniques prior to the Cubism era. He began by painting people and scenes that he was familiar with, streets, farmhouses, families and views from his artist’s studio, before delving headfirst into pioneering the Cubism movement. This was his response to a fast-changing environment. Picasso’s new way of seeing things reflected the modern age and perspectives, depicting the different ways people perceive the world and people around us. This fascinating museum allows insight into his life and work during this time and helps visitors gain greater understanding of events which caused a shift to his radical art pieces of the early 1900s and beyond.

Discover Plaça de Sant Pere – the Heart of El Born

Even though on the edge of the barri, Plaça de Sant Pere could be described as the beating heart of El Born. Alfresco dining tables line the square as the impressive Romanesque church offers a glimpse into the district’s rich heritage. During the day, Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona’s oldest park can be reached in a few minutes on foot, where you can picnic, enjoy a boat ride or visit the Catalan Parliament building. Alternatively, browse the back streets and try your hand chocolate making at a workshop in Museu de la Xocolata. Early evening is the time when you can really envelop yourself in the heady Catalan atmosphere of El Born. Terraces are packed with homeward bound locals enjoying a drink after work. Clinking glasses, animated chatter and laughter reverberates all around as the city square springs to life. As you settle down with friends to enjoy tapas accompanied by a glass of Rioja, you’ll immerse yourself in all that is Barcelona - past, present and future. 

Visit Palau de la Música Catalana

There are many examples of Catalan modernism in Barcelona – Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia Cathedral and Casa Batlló to name a few. However, none of these buildings have interiors to match Palau de la Música Catalana. Located on the periphery of El Born, the concert hall was built between 1905 and 1908 to the design of Lluís Domènech i Montaner for local choral group Orfeó Catalá. The architects work was characterised by rationalism and a combination of Hispano-Arab design, paying attention to new technologies and materials of the time. You may not see the true majesty of the concert hall from the foyer, but as you ascend the sweeping staircase adorned with arches and bas reliefs, you are captivated by the intricacy and beauty of its evolving design. The concert hall’s Antoni Rigalt stained glass skylight dome is a highlight, reflecting a spectrum of colours across the venue as peacock ceiling fans glow with light from Art Nouveau chandeliers. If you only visit to marvel at the architecture, you won’t regret it, but if you decide to stay for a performance, you’ll be watching a stage once graced by musical greats such as Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta and Maurice Ravel. 

Bar Hop the Bodegas in El Born

When it comes to Barcelona nightlife, El Born is the master. Away from hustle and bustle of the tourist traps, El Born boasts hidden bodegas, lively samba bars and retro tapas venues. If you enjoy your privacy, Tuxedo Social Club hidden behind a library façade of novels ticks all the boxes. This creative speakeasy harks to a simpler time - members are always required to be polite, only cash is accepted at the bar, plus you can’t take photos or make calls while inside. Its motto of ‘an Old Fashioned a day keeps the doctor away’ tempts you to try the clubs signature drink before sinking into an armchair and browsing a book or socialising with friends. Tuxedo Social Club access is members only, but you can apply online and gain your membership card when you visit. If you’re interested in sampling local cuisine, visit Restaurant Cal Pep. This old school style eatery serves innovative tapas and sharing plates created with fresh produce from local markets. Alternatively, if it’s just a drink you’re after, enjoy a glass of natural wine or two in trendy Can Cisa Bar Brutal next to the Picasso Museum.

Stay in a Unique Boutique Hotel

On the edge of Barri El Born, 5-star luxury boutique hotel The Barcelona EDITION awaits your arrival. A short walk from Barcelona Cathedral, Santa Caterina Market and a few minutes’ stroll from golden sandy beaches, it’s the ideal place from which to explore the city. Guest suites are designed with peace and tranquillity in mind, decorated in neutral colour palettes, punctuated with signature pieces by Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets and Spanish artist Chema Madoz. If you wish to indulge in the finer things in life, reserve the Barcelona or Santa Caterina Penthouses. They boast spectacular vistas of the city and have their own private terraces where you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast as the sun rises. If you don’t wish to venture too far during the day, The Barcelona EDITION hotel offers low-key activities with a cocktail bar, sun loungers and an outdoor swimming pool, however, it’s after sundown this hotel really excels. You can step into Cabaret, a clandestine supper club with an impressive cocktail bar shrouded by thick red velvet curtains. The bar hosts live entertainment with DJ sessions and renowned musicians throughout the year. Alternatively, enjoy 5-star dining at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Bar Veraz or join Barcelona’s glitterati on the rooftop for alfresco cocktails. Afterwards, retire to the Punch Room – a speakeasy-inspired lounge/bar with comfortable leather armchairs, a granite fireplace and pool table. It’s the perfect way to conclude an evening with friends in Barcelona.

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