When you say Barcelona, I immediately start dreaming about sangrias on a sunny terrace, cocktails at the beach and Gaudi monuments that take my breath away! Truth be told, not exactly the destination I had in mind for a winter getaway. However because of a very cheap Ryanair flight, my friend A. and I decided to go to Barcelona after all… and guess what?? Even in winter the city is wonderful (well winter… let’s say that the 16degrees were very welcome after the snow we had in Belgium)! It goes without saying that we’ve visited the amazing Gaudi architecture and Barrio Gotico, but as I already covered that in a previous Barcelona post, I’d like to tell you about this fun part of town we’ve discovered: El Born.
La Ribera (and El Born – it’s ‘neighborhood within a neighborhood’- is called the Brooklyn of Barcelona by locals. That said (and read) we had to go out and wander. But as it was already noon by the time we arrived in El Born and we were hungry (what else is new?), we had lunch first.
I read online about Mercat Princesa, a tapas food market, located in a 14th century palace! Inside there are 17 different food stands, going from croquettes and patatas bravas to burgers and sushi. The latter struck me quite weird, being in a tapas food market and all, but oh well guess that way there’s something for everyone. We had the sepia and gambas a la plancha, patatas bravas, a meat and cheese plate and typical Catalonian croquettes! Yum!
And then it was time for some sightseeing. At first glimpse El Born, seemed like a true Walhalla for hipsters; lots of cozy coffee bars and cafés, fashion brands of the unique and alternative kind, Scandinavian interior stores and lots of street art and graffiti. I loved it! The best way to discover this not so touristy part of town, is to wander around the streets and spent some time on the beautiful squares like Plaça de Sant Augusti Vell. This while making your way to the tourist draws.
The first highlight we came across was the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. This graceful looking church is almost 700 years old and is a perfect example of a unique Gothic design.
Equally impressing is the El Born Centre Cultural i de Memoria, located in the old Market del Born. Inside this beautiful market hall they organize exhibitions about the history of Barcelona. The most interesting thing you can see there are the archeological remains of how the neighborhood looked like back in 1700.
Art lovers have to visit the Picasso Museum. We didn’t as we rather explored the area than spent hours in a museum, but from what I’ve heard it’s worth a visit. The museum contains more than 4000 works. So if you have the time why not?
Did you know that Barcelona has it’s very own Arc de Triomf? It was built as the entrance passage to 1888 World’s Exhibition and nowadays it’s the entrance to Park Ciutadella.
Also not to miss is The Convent de Sant August, a gothic convent, which has been restored, and is now used as a civic center. It’s also home to the Barcelona Chocolate Museum.
The restaurant scene in El Born is pretty amazing too, as this is the place where all the innovative food shops and restaurants come together. We saw so many places we would have love to go for lunch, cocktails and dinner, but hey you gotta make a choice at some point! As I already mentioned above, a great place for lunch is the tapas food market Mercat Princessa. Perfect for when you don’t feel like picking out anything in particular, but would like to have a little something of everything.
In the afternoon we both got a little craving for something sweet, but as A. has a gluten intolerance it’s not always easy to find a place where she finds something that will not make her sick the entire day. I remembered reading about Flax and Kale, and was happy when we came across one of the outlets when we needed one. At Flax & Kale they serve flexitarian, healthy food, like veggie raw options, some oily fish dishes and great cold-pressed juices. And also a lot of yummy gluten- and lactose free desserts and cakes. Exactly what we needed at the time. FYI, the plant-based chocolate banana cake is too good to be true!
For dinner we went to Casa Lolea (thanks again @zeg.maar.babs for recommending this place to me), where they serve the most delicious tapas and the best patatas bravas we’ve ever had! No kidding! The interior is also very pretty and cozy.
Casa Lolea produces it’s very own Sangria. You can choose between red, white, rose and sparkling. I had the rose and loved it! I really wanted to buy a bottle of each to try at home, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible as I was traveling with hand luggage only. So here goes my search for a vending point in Belgium! Get in touch, if you know a place where I can find it!
It’s been great fun exploring a not so touristy area of Barcelona. Especially one where food is so important! If you are interested in getting to know parts of Barcelona that aren’t filled with packs of tourists and like to explore the unknown parts of town this area is a must do!