El Born

El Born is often used to refer to the areas of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera and is one of the oldest and most interesting neighbourhoods in Barcelona. Legend has it that the name El Born comes from the Catalan word bornejar which means to joust and that jousting took place on what is now Passeig del Born which is why it is a wide, straight street in contrast with the narrow winding streets more commonly found in the area. Originally outside the city walls, the area began to be populated as far back as Roman times but it wasn’t until the 10th and 11th Century that formal settlements sprung up and by the 13th Century the area was one of the most important and highly populated in the city. At that time the sea actually reached the edge of El Born (what is now La Barceloneta was just an island) and it became a hub of mercantile activity filled with fisherman and rich merchants who built their palaces (palaus) on Carrer Montcada. In 1329 work began on the construction of Santa Maria del Mar church and this beautiful example of Catalan gothic architecture showed the power and wealth of the inhabitants of this neighbourhood. El Born continued to thrive until the 16th Century when a new port was built which took the main sea trade away from the neighbourhood. After Catalonia´s defeat in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714 it was ordered that over 1000 homes in the La Ribera district were to be demolished to make way for a military garrison. This hated symbol of oppression was finally demolished in 1869 and is now the site of the Ciutadella park and the remaining buildings serve as the Palau del Parlament de Catalunya (Palace of the Catalan parliament), a church for the military and a high school. During the 20th century El Born was a neighbourhood in decline with overcrowding and poor living conditions. In the 1980s the city of Barcelona launched an initiative to clean up the area and over the past 30 years the barri has changed immensely. Now one of the most fashionable addresses in town, El Born has undergone a renaissance while maintaining the spirit of Medieval Barcelona with its narrow winding streets to lose yourself in.