The Borne neighborhood, or “EL BORNE” as it is called in Spanish, is one of the oldest parts of Barcelona, with remains from the Roman period still visible. Its proximity to the sea and to the port led to this neighborhood becoming the stronghold of the merchants and guilds of Barcelona in the middle ages. The ancient neighborhood is wonderfully described in a best seller book called The Cathedral of the sea (El Catedral del mar) written by Ildefonso Falcones, a local lawyer from Barcelona who spent many years investigating Catalan legal texts from the first millennium and the middle ages.
From a modern perspective the Borne refers to the area between Via Laietana, Paseo Picasso, Calle Princesa and the Old Port of Barcelona. The section above Calle Princesa is also referred as “El Borne” or “Ribera”, but it is a different neighborhood with a distinct character.
The history of El Borne
For many visitors to Barcelona, EL BORNE seems to be an extension of the Gothic quarter, and in many ways it is. It is composed of many small, narrow pedestrian streets and alleys, ancient buildings, some dating from the middle age period, plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and other tourist attractions. The occasional visitor to Barcelona perhaps won’t notice much of a difference between the two quarters but in fact it is different.
While the Gothic quarter and parts of the Raval has maintained its middle-high class residential character, the Borne area was in decline over the last few centuries and only recently, since the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, has seen a revival which has converted this part of the old city (especially from Princess street to the Port) in the most chic and trendy of all neighborhoods in Barcelona. Prices of real estate clearly reflect this reality. Up until the burst of the economic crisis in Spain in 2008, the prices per square meter of residential properties in the Borne were the highest in all Barcelona and perhaps in the entire country. It is hard to determine what were the reasons that have converted the lower Borne into the most demanded residential and commercial area of the city. Perhaps it is its proximity to the Port or maybe the relatively easy access to the neighborhood, but there is no doubt that these days El Borne is the most stylish part of the old city.
Together with some streets in the Gothic area, the born has became a home for many of the independent designers of Barcelona, where they exhibit their vanguard work in small shops and workshop studios. In many shops, the front part is dedicated to product presentation, while in the back part the designer works and produces the products. The contact with the artist is direct and if you have the patience you can find yourself tangled in a long conversation with them, on practically any subject.
What to do in El Borne
El Borne has a long tradition as a gastronomic center, with some of the most popular restaurants in Barcelona. For Catalans, the Borne is synonymous to tapas, mainly because of the great amount of tapas bars and Basque tapas called montaditos which are spread all around the small streets of the neighborhood. If you browse our Restaurants section of the web (Link to Barcelona guide/restaurants) you will find some of these most impressive establishments.
Apart from shopping and eating, El Borne offers visitors some of the most popular sight seeing in Europe, among them worth mentioning the Picasso museum, the recently renovated Market (Mercat del Born), the ancient Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar, Ciudadela Park and next to it the Barcelona Zoo. The upper Born area offers one of the most amazing architectonic monuments of Spain, the Music Palace (Palau de la Musica Catalana), a concerts hall which is a masterpiece of one of the most prominent architects of Catalunya: Lluis Domenech i Muntaner. The renovated Santa Caterina food market is also a place worth a visit.
The Borne is also an attractive place to go to visit at night. Visit one of the many cocktail bars along the Paseo del Borne, which is the main street of the neighborhood. The atmosphere in those bars is different from the typical tourists bars in the Gothic quarter as this is where the locals hang out.
El Borne from the accommodation and rental perspective
There is no doubt among experts in short and middle term rentals in Barcelona that the Borne is the best place to rent your apartment, especially if you are looking for monthly rentals. As a tourist you can always visit the Borne but for those who are planning on spending larger period of time in Barcelona, the Borne is definitely the place to live.
Prices of vacation rental apartments are higher than other areas of the city but it is worth every euro spent on accommodation. The overall holiday lettings offer in the neighborhood is somewhat reduced but still you can find some of the best short term accommodation for fairly reasonable prices.
How to get there
The main access to the Born by foot is walking from Ferran street until Via Laietana, then crossing the street you enter Calle Argenteria, which turns into Paseo del Borne, the main avenue of the neighborhood. If you arrive by Metro, you should take the Yellow line and get off at Jaume I station. You can also access the area walking from the Arc del Triumph, near the Ciudadela Park. It is within walking distance from the Gothic quarter and from Plaza Catalonia.