Moving to...El Born

El Born: At the gateway of the Cuitadella Park, just a Via Laietana away from the Gothic Distric and fifteen minutes' walk from the beaches of Barceloneta, few districts in Barcelona are so well placed. But you'll have to earn your little piece of Born. It's expensive, space is at a premium and every fashionable thirty-something with a couple tattoos and a little dog wants to live there. Historical charm, an infinite array of dining and drinking spots and a relative lack of corporate tack - although is that really a Real Madrid superstore on Carrer Argenteria? - mean El Born is an uncommonly seductive barrio to live in.

Monumental appeal: Barcelona's finest Gothic church, Santa Maria del Mar, erected by the local fishermen's guild and immortalized by Ildefonso Falcones' steamy epic, The Cathedral of the Sea. Gaudi's obscenely operatic Palau de la Musica. Or the renaissance palaces of Carrer Montcada, five of which constitute the much-vaunted Picasso Museum. El Mercat del Born, the old food market transformed into one of Europe's most interesting inner-city archaeological sites, with a cross-section of the city as it was in 1714.

What's on offer: Wonderfully characterful medieval and reniassance houses split into cute but mostly light-starved apartments - particularly in the backstreets close to Santa Maria. Elsewhere 18th-19th century apartment blocks; wooden beams, exposed brickwork, pithy balconies with views into neigbours' living rooms. Original hydraulic tiles in some of the larger modernista apartments close to the park. Around the Mercat del Born chances increase of a a spacious apartment and a nicely painted facade with ornate balconies and modernista flourishes. In a densely compressed district, an atico with a terrace is gold dust. There's lots of them. But you'll have to pay for it.

Precios: All of the general sexiness described above, combined with an overload of chiqui apartments, means El Born has one of the highest average precios por metro cuadrado. For a one-bed you'll mostly fork out upwards of 600€ a month, though there are mini-studios (20-35 m2) to be had for 400-500€. For a two-bed you're looking at 800-1200€/month. Anything over 70 m2, even if it's only a one-bed, and it's mil per month minimum. To buy, it's upwards of 200,000 for anything over 50 m2, while something decent approaching 100 m2 will go for half a million.

On the downside: An over-abundance of independent businesses incorporating the word 'Born' into their name. Hence 'Born-eo'. 'Bormouth.' 'El Caso Borne.' 'Born to Cook.' It can get quite borning. Also, you'll have to learn to live with noise. It's a twenty-four barrio. That means intoxicated street-singing beyond midnight, noisy product delivery vans at six in the morning and muggings throughout the day. Also, a lot of apartments - especially the ones in narrower edifices - have airless, windowless bedrooms crammed into the back of them and extremely cramped staircases where you'll be hard pushed to squeeze a sofa or a bed.

Did you know: Until it was partly demolished by Felipe V in 1714, Passeig del Born - now an open-air catwalk for the city's fashionable young things - was Barcelona's main square. In medieval times it held jousting tournamants. Imagine that the next time you're sat on a terrace there with a bottle of Moritz.

Hot spot: Portal Nou. Cheapish and most definitely cheerful, this cobbled, colourful street leading from the delightful Plaça Sant Agustí Vell to the park has an ever-spicier mix of boutique bars and shops. You can decorate your flat with hand-made ceramics from Blue Pottery and cool miniature framed pictures of Barcelonese bars and buildings from Galeria Maxo. Pony Bar is the spot for a bit of indie music and tattoo parlour chic. For tasty no-frills, hipster-free platos de pulpo, check the rusticated Rincon de Galicia on the corner next to the park.

Forget about it: Anywhere near the revamped Mercat del Born - Passeig de Picasso, Fusina, Ribera. Why? a) You'll be lucky to find anything. b) If you do, it's likely to be well over budget.

Final word: The Born Identity is still intact. But, thanks to escalating prices, encroaching souvenir shops and Air B'n B, it could soon be on the run.

#spain #spaintravel #barcelona #catalonia #renting

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