The district of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina and La Ribera is one of the oldest in the city. Here's a few of our favourite places to visit there...
El Born CC
Plaça Comercial, 12
The Mercat del Born was once a wholesale food market, catering to the various markets, restaurants and bars around the city supplying them with fresh produce. It had long been lying empty having closed in 1977 when the wholesale market moved to Zona Franca to be closer to the port. The building itself was designed in 1873 by Antoni Rovira i Trias and opened in 1878 in the metal and glass style common of many markets in Barcelona. Having laid abandoned for 25 years, in 2002 a plan was made to rehabilitate the building and house the Library of Barcelona there however these plans were derailed when work began and excavations unearthed extremely well preserved remains of the neighbourhood in the 18th Century. On seeing the quality of the remains and their historical importance the plan was changed and the Mercat del Born is now a Cultural Centre where you can see the remains of how life was like in the area over 300 years ago. This is extremely important due to the amount of homes (over 1000) that were demolished to build the Cuitadella Fortress after the defeat of the Catalans in 1714. It also gives us a glimpse of street patterns, some having been the same since Medieval times and since lost due to endless refurbishment of the neighbourhood. The centre hosts guided tours and also has exhibitions that can take you back in time and experience life in Barcelona in the 1700s.
Santa María del Mar
Plaça de Santa Maria, 1
Santa María del Mar, often considered El Born’s very own cathedral, is an outstanding example of Catalan gothic architecture. The site had already been used for various scared building before the current church was built. Between the 4thand 6th centuries it was the site of a Roman necropolis and the first mention of a church on the site is in 998AD. In 1329 construction started on the current church with the foundation stone laid on the 25th March by King Alfonoso IV of Aragón. The architects were Berenguer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig, and all the guilds of the neighbourhood were involved as well as the city porters who brought down stone from Montjuïc on their backs to be used in the construction. Both of these events are commemorated in the stonework of the church. Santa María del Mar was finished extremely quickly, in just 55 years, and was consecrated in 1384. The church has withstood earthquakes, fires and anarchists to be still standing in all its glory over 650 years since the first stone was laid. The slender columns and width of the church make the sense of space and majesty even more impressive. Just outside the church is the Fosar de les Moreres (Grave of the Martyrs) where the defenders of the city during the siege of 1714 were buried. There is a flame which burns day and night to remember their sacrifice.
Palau de la Música Catalana
C/ Palau de la Música, 4-6
The incredibly ornate Palau de La Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan music) was built between 1905 and 1908 and desgined by the celebrated architect Lluís Domènech I Muntaner. It was commissioned by the Orfeó Català, a choral society, but has since seen hundreds or world class musicians, singers and dancers perform on its stage, and is the only concert hall in the world with UNESCO World Heritage site protection. Designed and built during a time when Catalan culture was undergoing a renaissance the decorative elements of the building are used to depict typical Catalan scenes using local materials, craftsmen and designers. The concert hall itself is one of the few in the world that doesn’t need to be lit during the day, instead it is filled with natural light thanks to an enormous and incredibly beautiful stained glass skylight. Words simply cannot do justice to this masterpiece of design, the best way to experience the Palau de la Música Catalana is to enjoy a concert in these most opulent surroundings.
Parc de la Ciutadella and Arc de Triomf
Passeig Lluís Companys
Here’s the short fact every Barcelonin pulls out of the bag as you walk past the Arc de Triomf; it is one of the few triumphal arches in the world not built to celebrate a victory. In fact it was built to be the entrance to the 1888 World Fair held in Barcelona and there is a frieze on the arch which reads Barcelona rep les nacions (Catalan for "Barcelona welcomes the nations"). Walking under the arch and down Passeig de Lluís Companys and we reach the Parc de la Cuitadella. Once the site of the hated Ciutadella fortress built by the Bourbon forces after Barcelona’s defeat during the War of Spanish Succession, it is now home to a beautiful park and Barcelona Zoo. The Fortress was demolished in 1868 and for the coming World Fair in 1888 it was decided to use the site to build gardens, to create a ‘green lung’ in the middle of the city and commissioned Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domenèch I Muntaner and Antoni Rovira I Trias amongst other to design various buildings in the park as well as the impressive fountains. The park also has a boating lake and many green spaces which in the warmer weather are full of people relaxing, having picnics or even trying their tightrope walking! Barcelona Zoo has its entrance inside the park and was once home to the world famous Snowflake, the world’s only albino gorilla who died in 2003.
Carrer de Montcada
The street of Montcada is one of the most important historical streets in El Born. Carrer de Montcada is where you can see the luxurious medieval palaces and mansions the rich merchant classes built for themselves during the Middle Ages. Many are still well preserved and show the classic architecture of the time; arched entranceways leading to a central courtyard with stone staircases sweeping around the sides up to the living quarters. These buildings show us just how prosperous the neighbourhood was in the medieval period and how the new rich, mercantile classes lived.