Trendy and posh, funky yet chic- these are just a few of the words that can be used to describe one of the most treasured neighborhoods in Barcelona- El Born. From designer boutiques to hip nightclubs, El Borne is THE place in Barcelona to see and be seen at any time of day and all year round. Just minutes away from the chaos of Las Ramblas and the crowded coastline of Barceloneta, El Borne is a sanctuary for tourists and locals alike.
The centerpiece of this historical neighborhood is the famous Passeig del Born. Historically, this tree-lined street once functioned as the epicenter of all public festivities in Barcelona, ranging from jousting tournaments and holiday celebrations to the burning of religious dissenters during the Spanish Inquisition. Don’t worry though- these days you’ll need only to concern yourself with dodging the light-up-propeller-helicopter-toy-things (you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you see them for yourself) as they fall from the sky back into the hands of the men who will try to sell them to you for a euro just as their toys smack you in the head. No thanks buddy, I think I’ll spend my euro on the Estrella beer that your friend is trying to sell me instead.
Passeig del Born by Day
The great thing about Passeig del Born is that there is literally ALWAYS something to do here. Although the ambiance during the day is much more laid back before the dark sets in and the party begins, some sort of excitement can be found around every corner. The benches on Passeig del Born are undoubtedly one of the best places in Barcelona to sit and enjoy some gelato or a slice of pizza, and “discretely” stare at the well…interesting.. crowd of people as they pass by.
Another one of my favorite places on Passeig del Born to partake in the extreme sport of people watching would have to be the ledge along the “Fossar de les Moreres,” a Catalan monument directly across from the Santa Maria del Mar church. While you’re at it, take in a bit of history by reading the poem enscribed on the torch of eternal flames. It’s dedicated to the soldiers who defended Catalonia against the invasion of King Felipe V’s troops in 1714, and written in three languages if like me, you’re amongst the unfortunate, non-Catalan speaking crowd.
Time will fly by as you take part in the fun of “observing” while simultaneously being “observed” by other El Borne visitors. Before you know it, the sun will be setting over Passeig del Born, as it transforms into it’s nighttime alter ego.
There is absolutely no better place to be in the city as the afternoon fades to evening, than sitting at one of Passeig del Born’s numerous outdoor cafes, enjoying a Clara or glass of wine and chatting with friends or that special someone (if you’re so romantically inclined). Although I’m cheating because it’s not technically ON Passeig del Born, the outdoor tables at the Bubo Wine bar, located right in front of the Santa Maria Del Mar Church, are best location to do just this. Watch the street performers- from guitar and violin players to salsa dancers- as they display their craft against the beautiful backdrop of the immense basilica church that lights up the sky at night.
As the sun sets, you’ll slowly notice the bars, restaurants, and the street itself filling up with people. Sunday through Monday you can find groups of friends sitting or standing in groups right in the center of Passeig del Born, talking, laughing, and drinking. The energy is electric on even the slowest of summer nights, as Passeig del Born offers a little something for everyone.
Passieg del Born “Must See’s”
Now that you’ve got an idea of what you can expect upon visiting this lively street, here are a list of places you absolutely MUST visit while you’re there.
PIZZA DEL BORN
Although for personal pride reasons, my visits here slowly decreased upon being offered a “frequent customer card,” I have to insist that you go Pizza del Born and try one of everything. Often referred to as “the best pizza in Barcelona,” Pizza del Born offers a flavor of deep-dish pizza for any set of taste buds. And with a “happy hour” deal of 3.50 for two slices of pizza and a beverage of your choice, you can’t go wrong. Sit inside amongst tourists and local hipsters or take your pizza to-go and enjoy the summer breeze outside on the stone benches. Personal favorites: Jamón y piña (throwback to an American staple: the Hawaiian pizza) MMMM my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
CREPES AL BORN
They had me at “cocktails and crepes.” With a menu that offers a wide array of both sweet and savory crepes and cocktails that are potent and delicious at the same time, this bar located centrally on Passeig del Born is a no-brainer. Sit at the bar and watch the attractive staff mix up €5 mojitos right in front of your eyes, and enjoy yourself amongst a lively and diverse crowd. If you’re feeling crazy, you can throw a €3 tequila shot into the mix. After all, what goes better with a banana and nutella crepe then a little bit of tequila? I’m joking!! But seriously…
This restaurant gets so packed on the weekends that they need 2 locations onPasseig del Born just to meet the demand. I love this place for a few reasons- the first being that the staff is EXTREMELY friendly and attentive. On one of my first visits, the owner himself came out and showed me and my friend exactly how to eat toast the “Catalan way.” Additionally, the extensive menu describes the history of every dish that is offered, so there’s always something to talk about if you experience a lull in conversation! Personal favorite: La ensalada de frutas secas y queso de cabra. Don’t miss it.
DE TOT AL BORN
This reasonably priced supermarket in El Borne has a little bit of everything, from some tasty pre-made meals, to food on the shelves that hasn’t actually passed the expiration date!! Not to mention, (lovers of odd soda flavors rejoice): they even have Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke-a-Cola. Woo hooo!
SANDWICH AND FRIENDS
Calm down, food snobs- give me a chance to explain myself. Although it is sometimes regarded as Spanish “fast food,” the menu at El Borne’s Sandwich and Friends has some hidden gems if you know where to look (Personal favorite: La Oliva). And might I remind you that quick service isn’t all that bad!!!! During the summer the tables outside are always packed with extremely posh looking diners, snacking on their salads and looking through their Ray Ban Wayfarers at their undoubtedly cool blog articles that they’re browsing on the Google Reader of their iPhone 4Gs. And shhhhh you didn’t hear it from me, but if you don’t feel like eating or drinking, the WiFi password normally rotates between “bocadillos” and “cristina”
Side note: CASA DELFIN is also another good choice if you’d like to sit outside on Passeig del Born and enjoy some tapas or a glass of wine.
RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER….
There’s just too much going on around Passeig del Born not to mention a few of the neighboring “MUST SEES.” I’ll keep the list very short, as I don’t want to blow your mind with too much Bornformation. (too cheesy?)
Museums are a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, but do you know what’s even better than viewing the famous collection of one of the most renowned artists of all time? Answer: Viewing said collection FOR FREE. Entrance is free after 3 PM every Sunday and all day on the first Sunday of the month. So go to El Borne and get yourself a free dose of culture this Sunday!
An authentic Catalan tapas experience. Heart of El Borne. Friendly staff. €6 bottles of Cava. Need I say more?
With the red interior, dim lights, and comfy couches and sofa beds, it’s clear why this El Borne bar lands on SuiteLife’s list of TOP 25 First Date Spots in Barcelona. Get there early if you want a sofa bed, because this place gets PACKED on the weekends. The food is mediocre, but for €3 you’ll get one of the biggest glasses of wine that I’ve ever been served in this city. The mojitos are also a crowd favorite, so check it out!
There are literally so many cool places on Passeig del Born, and El Borne in general, that I feel guilty only including a few. This street and those around it can provide any wanderer with endless hours of entertainment. So whether you’re drawn to El Borne for the food, shopping, or the culture, be sure to spend a large chunk of you time on Passeig del Born!