El Born, Barcelona – Like a Local

by LIZZIE DAVEY  |  Published January 3, 2016

El Born has grown from a medieval settlement into a flourishing and flavourful part of Barcelona, maintaining its impressive age-old architecture and rich traditions.

A Street in El Born (Photo: Carlos Lorenzo via Flickr)

A Street in El Born (Photo: Carlos Lorenzo via Flickr)

Throughout the maze of winding streets, there is a lazy, artistic vibe that runs in and out of the boutique shops, family-run cafes, and tapas bars that have been voted some of the best in the city.

Despite its humble start in life, El Born is now one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Barcelona, with a blossoming art scene and a passion for experimenting with new ideas.

During the day, locals chatter away on café terraces, shotting espressos and watching the world go by. At night, the crowds flock to the Passeig de Born (an ancient jousting site), where there are a collection of trendy bars and cocktail joints huddled together.


The nightlife in El Born deserves its own feature, thanks to a never-ending supply of low-lit lounge bars, haunts that serve local wines and unusual cocktails, and decades-old joints that keep giving until the early hours of the morning.

El Born exposes the quirky side of Barcelona. Down the hodgepodge streets there’s an eclectic mix of architectural styles and communities. Bar Mercaders taps into the rock’n’roll market of Barcelona, with a grungy, chic interior that lends itself perfectly to head-banging punters. Here, you’re likely to see the other side of local lawyers and suit-wearing professionals come to life after dark.

For something a little more contemporary, there’s Pitin Bar. Though this trendy hangout is more hip than many of the other hotspots in the area, it’s actually been the go-to cocktail joint for many for more than 20 years. During the day, there’s an open terrace to sip coffee on, while after dark it turns into the perfect place for a late-night drink.

Barcelona is a wine-lover’s heaven, and La Vinya del Senyor might just be the gateway to super Spanish tipples. Dubbed one of the best wine spots in the city, its collection of 300 worldwide wines and Cavas are a firm favourite amongst locals and tourists. Its small interior gives it an intimate atmosphere, but it’s the stunning view of the Santa Maria del Mar Church from the terrace that’s the main draw.

And for the cool kids, there’s Collage. Kind of a cross between an art gallery and a cocktail bar, this experimental venue is a huge hit with artsy city dwellers and local hipsters, but its creative ambiance certainly isn’t to be sniffed at. Classic cocktails make up the backbone of the menu, but the flourishes of quirky flavour combinations are what make it special. The vintage design and tasteful art displays are a nice touch too.

Placa de Santa Maria (Photo: Jorge Franganillo via Flickr )

Placa de Santa Maria (Photo: Jorge Franganillo via Flickr )


El Born’s fashionable vibe seems to be getting stronger by the day. A new boutique store seems to pop up every week, but there are still some firm favourites that have stood the test of time – and rightly so!

Step back in time at Casa Gisbert, a vintage delicatessen that bursts with treats from all over the Mediterranean. Sporting a dark wood interior and old-fashioned details (like the 150-year-old roaster), it’s a fun way to explore El Born from a historic perspective. Be prepared to inhale the spicy scents of herbs and be tempted by deluxe chocolates, rich coffee, and delicious wines.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Lomography, a shop dedicated to the quirky camera. As well as accessories and add-on gadgets, the shop is also a hub for photography workshops, activities, and meet-ups.

La Lentejuela is a must-visit for the beauty-lovers in El Born. Serving up a stylish selection of vintage pieces and charming trinkets, it’s a luxurious heaven set amongst the rough and ready lanes of the neighbourhood. As well as some great souvenir fodder, it also specialises in running make-up courses.

If a theatrical set masquerading as a shop is what you’re after, hotfoot it to Natalie Capell. This one-woman spectacle doubles up as a workshop, where Natalie herself works away creating handmade silk and lace clothing. The interior could easily be mistaken for the set of a play, but it’s the romantic dresses and vintage blouses that really steal the show.

Concept stores are all the rage in Barcelona, and Nuovum is one of the best. Its Nordic-inspired design is evident in the strange (but stylish) honeycomb shelves that line the walls, where each chamber offers a different set of goodies – from jewellery and art, to accessories and home ware.

Market in El Born (Photo: SuiteLife Barcelona via Flickr)

Market in El Born (Photo: SuiteLife Barcelona via Flickr)


With a rich creative scene that’s spurred on by the area’s history and cultural offerings, it’s no wonder El Born has number of fascinating galleries to its name. As well as being home to the big guns like the Picasso Museum, there are also plenty of independent spaces that showcase the latest talent.

Head straight to the heart of El Born’s art scene at StudioStore; an eclectic space that serves as both a gallery and a studio for local artists. There’s also a store tacked on, which sells all kinds of creative treats, from design gifts and one-of-a-kind home ware, to prints and materials. It also plays host to a unique Bazaar event, which sees a curated selection of local designers come together to collaborate and create something for the community.

Named after Marchel Duchamp’s pseudonym (R. Mutt), the MUTT Bookshop & Art Gallery has rocketed in popularity since it opened in 2010. Today it’s a creative concoction that’s made up of part bookshop, part gallery, and part event space – a temple for contemporary culture lovers.

Galeria CMTV is another multi-tasking art space. As well as boasting a gallery room that leans towards contemporary, urban delights, it is also home to a sweet little shop that sells quaint prints and fascinating knickknacks. With an open plan layout, it’s the perfect place to while away an hour or two.

El Xampanyet (Photo: Salim Virji via Flickr)

El Xampanyet (Photo: Salim Virji via Flickr)

Tapas Bars

El Born wouldn’t be where it is today without its hardy selection of tapas bars. The narrow streets lend themselves perfectly to the traditional Catalan style of eating, and there are plenty of options to choose from.

Family-run El Xampanyet often takes the crown for best tapas restaurant in El Born. For over three generations, it has welcomed customers with a menu jam-packed full of traditional tapas treats and a heady selection of cava and wine. It has a humble interior, but it’s the bustling atmosphere that really brings the show to life.

At Ziryab Fusion Wine & Tapas Bar dishes are made using the finest, freshest ingredients, combining both the flavours of traditional Catalan tapas and the rich flavours of Middle Eastern cuisine. Expect things like Lebanese pita, experimental halloumi dishes, and Arabian medjoul served alongside local and Lebanese wine from the Beka Valley.

Dating back to the late 60s, La Champaneria is one of the best-loved hangouts in the entire city. Prepare to queue, though, as everyone wants a slice of the action. When you do manage to muscle through the crowds, the homemade Cavas and authentic tapas dishes are well worth the wait – even if you have to spill out onto the street to enjoy them.

Contemporary Barcelona meets age-old tradition in Bormuth, a trendy little joint nestled down the backstreets of El Born. Its laidback interior that’s set to a soundtrack of chilled house music is often packed out with punters on the prowl for delicious traditional tapas and a relaxing place to have a drink.

For a fun fusion of Asian cuisine and tapas, grab a table at Mosquito (if you can – it’s often booked out). The selection of tasting plates that combine the rich flavours of Asia with the traditional techniques of Catalan are a unique way to enjoy the foodie scene in El Born. Expect the menu to be packed full of sharing dishes, like shrimp and pork dumplings and ribs.