El Born is one of Barcelona's oldest neighborhoods and, many would argue, its prettiest. A leisurely stroll around its mostly pedestrian streets reveals a treasure trove of Gothic churches, quirky bars, and fascinating museums.
La Palau de la Musica Catalana
If the chief purpose of an opera house is to enhance the music by soaring visual effect, then Domenech i Montaner's modernist Palau de la Musica is a masterpiece. It's encrusted with colorful mosaics and busts of Beethoven and Wagner. Inside, the glass cupola and paintings take your breath away, not to mention the acoustics.
Discover Spain's most celebrated painter at this converted palace on a delightful medieval backstreet. The museum contains an extensive collection of early sketches and later cubist paintings.
The Passeig del Born
Once the site of medieval jousts and tournaments, the promenade stretching from the Church of Santa Maria del Mar to El Born's market is one of those places where you can't help sitting down and people-watch. In the backstreets just off it is a pantheon of trendy boutiques.
Medieval Palaces on Carrer Montcada
Threading through the center of the El Born, this street is where many of the richest nobles lived in medieval times, and that's reflected in the impressive architecture of the palaces lining it.
Cocktail Bars of El Born
At night, El Born's streets fill up with the stylish and the beautiful. Dipping into the area's chic cocktail bars, their preferred habitat, is a great way to meet them. A good place to start is La Fianna, which has two-for-one happy hours, on Carrer dels Banys Vells.
Evoke maximum gluttony for cocoa lovers at this house of indulgence on Carrer Comerç.
Santa Caterina Market
Finished in 2005, Enric Miralles' curving mosaical structure looks more like an Olympic stadium than a market. But go inside and find yourself taking in the amazing sights and odors of an astonishing assortment of fruit, cured meats, cheeses, and fresh fish from the Mediterranean.
Deep in the basement of a beautiful 18th-century building overlooking Ciutadela Park, this spa is a luxury take on Arabian baths. Very relaxing after a busy day.
Seafood at La Paradeta
There are few restaurants like La Paradeta, located just behind the Mercat del Born. It's fronted by a market stall, where you pick out the most appetizing looking fresh fish, and then wait your turn at a table. Try the navajas—razor clams soaked in a deliciously rich sauce.
Santa Maria del Mar
It's difficult to believe that the sea once lapped at the foot of this Gothic Basilica—one of Catalonia's must-visit churches—but that was the case back in medieval times before Barcelona's expansion, hence its name, Saint Mary of the Sea.